More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download Justin Cronin's international bestseller, The Passage, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's a blurb:

'It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.'

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear - of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he's done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey - spanning miles and decades - towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Win a copy of Charlie Jane Anders' ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY


I'm giving away a copy of Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

From the editor-in-chief of io9.com, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

Follow this link to read an extract from the novel.

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


For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Ian Tregillis' The Mechanical for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina -- but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn't long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world's sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men -- flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne.

Win a copy of Peter Straub's GHOST STORY


I have three copies of Peter Straub's Ghost Story up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Berkley. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past…

What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?

In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.

But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury the past forever…

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "GHOST." 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 download a combo of James S. A. Corey's excellent Leviathan Wakes and Daniel Abraham's The Dragon's Path for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb for Leviathan Wakes:

Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe
.

And here's the blurb for The Dragon's Path:

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war
.

Two full-length novels for 1.99$??? It doesn't get much better than this! ;-)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.


You can now download Glen Cook's A Shadow of All Night's Falling, opening chapter in the first Dread Empire series, A Cruel Wind, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Across the mountains called Dragon's Teeth, beyond the chill reach of the Werewind and the fires of the world's beginning, above the walls of the castle Fangdred, stands Windtower. From this lonely keep the Star Rider calls forth the war that even wizards dread, fought for a woman's hundred-lifetime love. A woman called Nepanthe, princess to the Stormkings...

Quote of the Day

All warriors needed to remember what they were fighting for, but it didn't change what the warrior had to do to win the fight. War was monstrous. To win, you had to be a monster.

- MYKE COLE, Javelin Rain (Canada, USA, Europe)

Just finished this one and it's pretty damn good!

Avery Cates: The Walled City


With The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe), The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe), The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe), The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe), and The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe), Jeff Somers introduced us to Avery Cates, a not very likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Down on his luck most of the time and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the opening chapter of the very first volume.

If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you probably remember that I promoted Somers' series as much as I could every time a new novel was released. And though it's been five years since the last installment, it was fun to be reunited with Avery Cates in "The Shattered Gears", the first short story that chronicles the aftermath of the original book sequence.

The last volume, The Final Evolution, appeared to bring the overall story arc to an end and no other misadventures seemed to be forthcoming for our favorite gunner. But now, someone appears to be looking for Cates. Someone set up a trap to capture him. And in "The Shattered Gears" we found out that the answers he's looking for might be in Moscow. Only Moscow got turned into slag during the war. Now in "The Walled City", Cates knows that some people are after him and he's trying to discover who they are and why they're searching for him. But first, he needs to survive in a world where mankind seems to be on the brink of extinction.

Here's the blurb:

Continuing Avery Cates' story from "The Shattered Gears," "The Walled City" sees the aging Gunner tangle with a psionic who has set himself up as a City Lord in the crumbling remnants of civilization.

As usual, the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is a nice touch giving the series its own flavor. This being a piece of short fiction means that this facet remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the tale itself. Still, readers will definitely feel on familiar grounds. Now that the entire world order has collapsed, powerful individuals are manoeuvering to carve up small kingdoms and city-states for themselves. With most technology no longer working, psionics are gradually coming into power around the world.

The first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for an enjoyable reading experience. As I mentioned before, Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor sod.

You can always count on Cates to somehow find himself in deep trouble, even when he's not looking for it. And now that he's actually looking for it, you can be sure that he's going to find it! Add an extremely gifted psionic and his henchmen, as well as former Stormers from the System, to the mix, and you have the habitual recipe for disaster for Cates. Which bodes well for us!

Following on the heels of "The Shattered Gears", "The Walled City" shows that even though Avery Cates is an old man past his expiration date, and even though it appears that this is mankind's final generation on this Earth, it looks as though fate still has a lot in store for him. Whether he likes it or not.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

You can download this piece of short fiction for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the book trailer:

Musical Interlude



I've always had an interest in the Pacific War, an interest that increased last year when I visited the Philippines, and even more so this year when I visited Pearl Harbor. I've been meaning to watch the HBO mini-series The Pacific for quite a while now, and I've begun doing just that when I returned from Hawaii last weekend.

As usual, the Hans Zimmer soundtrack is amazing! And the intro is so haunting, so beautiful.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

For the first time ever, award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan has assembled the best science fiction and the best fantasy stories of the year in one volume. More than just two books for the price of one, this book brings together over 200,000 words of the best genre fiction anywhere. Strahan's critical eye and keen editorial instincts have served him well for earlier best of the year round-ups in the Best Short Novels, Science Fiction: Best of and Fantasy: Best of series, and this is his most impressive effort yet.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 25th)

In hardcover:

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens is down one spot, finishing the week at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down four positions, ending the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Dean Koontz’s Ashley Bell is down two spots, finishing the week at number 17.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is down one spot, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is up two positions, ending the week at number 8.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


Mistborn: Secret History, a new novella by Brandon Sanderson, can be downloaded for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Mistborn: Secret History is a companion story to the original Mistborn Trilogy.

As such, it contains huge spoilers for the books Mistborn (The Final Empire), The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. It also contains very minor spoilers for the book The Bands of Mourning.

Mistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best.

In short, this isn't the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy--but it has been a while--you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.)

Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story's existence is, in a way, a spoiler.

There's always another secret.

Alan Dean Foster contest winner!

This lucky guy will receive my copy of Alan Dean Foster's The Force Awakens! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Jonathan Tucker, from Albany, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Neal Stephenson's excellent Quicksilver, first volume of The Baroque Cycle, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe, in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

It is a chronicle of the breathtaking exploits of "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe -- London street urchin turned swashbuckling adventurer and legendary King of the Vagabonds -- risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox.

And it is the tale of Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe through the newborn power of finance.

A gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive novel that brings a remarkable age and its momentous events to vivid life, Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.

And it's just the beginning ...

The Rogue Retrieval (reviewed by Kay Kenyon)


Kay Kenyon recently got in touch with me to inquire if I'd be interested in a guest review for a soon-to-be-released SFF debut. I was intrigued by Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval, so I was happy to oblige. As a big fan of Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose, I encourage you to give it a shot ASAP! The series is comprised of Bright of the Sky, A World Too Near, City Without End, and Prince of Storms.

And since Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval just came out last week, the timing was perfect to post this review.

Here's the blurb:

Sleight of hand…in another land.

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into this debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

Enjoy!
----------------------

An appealing mix of fantasy and science fiction, The Rogue Retrieval offers up a Las Vegas magician, corporate power brokers, and a high-tech team trying to pass as indigenous wayfarers on a world where magic is real.

One night on the Las Vegas strip, showman Quinn Bradley receives an offer he can't refuse from a CIA-like duo: a hard-nosed woman named Kiara, and her sizable partner, Logan, a big man with obvious military chops. Lured by an extravagant fee, Quinn learns they work for CASE Global, a company preparing a mission to extract a rogue executive from an area they consider their private domain. That real estate happens to be another world accessed through a portal that only the company knows about and commands.

CASE wants Quinn because he has a skill that will round out the mission in a way only a seasoned magician can--with slight-of-hand expertise and an instinct for dramatic magic tricks. Once the team is assembled on a secret island in the Pacific-- where the portal (somehow) exists--Quinn is trained in hand-to-hand fighting and tech-enhanced magic displays. There he learns that the mission's goal is to exfiltrate from CASE's private reserve--a land called Alissia--a researcher who went rogue, crossing through the portal. Quinn's role is to bolster a three-person team and its cover as they penetrate potentially hostile territory and bring the employee back.

First time novelist Dan Koboldt shows us a Star Gate-type portal and the land beyond. Worldbuilding is not a strength of this story, with its generic medieval culture of rival feudal kingdoms. The most interesting feature of the world is that here, magic is real. Thus The Rogue Retrieval straddles the land between science fiction and fantasy in a quirky, pleasing blend that freshens the milieu. Koboldt obviously is having fun exposing the likable team--especially Quinn--curious, ironic and determined to put on a good show--and the sarcastic, likable Logan. The fun of this story is watching the team dodge, lie and fight their way across a medieval world where their charade could cost them their lives.

We suspect that a Las Vegas showman will chafe at military and corporate protocols, and it's exactly the case. Bradley Quinn is used to running his own show, and true to form, he rankles authority, takes unauthorized risks, and begins to put together an agenda of his own. His main strength is his instinct for gullible marks, and he uses this talent to hoodwink the locals and hold his own on the covert mission--all enjoyably tongue-in-cheek, as he's clearly saving his own hide as well. Even as he earns the team's grudging respect, he knows there's plenty he's not being told. What exactly does CASE have to fear from Richard Holt? What are CASE's plans for the new world, and how far are they willing to go to achieve it? And perhaps the most interesting question, one that Quinn alone can explore: Can a knack for illusion deepen into true magic?

Obvious set ups signal that a sequel is coming. One could hope that future installments will answer the larger questions such as what is this world, and what is the implication for other worlds, portals, and inter-dimensional travel? For now, these issues are airily ignored, as is the question of how the Alisians happen to be human. A few clues to these mysteries would have made the story more memorable, but Koboldt has chosen to defer them. With his science background, this author might have some intriguing answers in store.

As it stands, The Rogue Retrieval is a fast-paced, engaging read with an appealing hero and a solid ensemble cast that grows deeper with every challenge.

--Kay Kenyon

---------------------

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

You can read a sample from the novel here.

I don't know for how long, but right now you can download the digital edition for only 2.99$ here!

Kay Kenyon is the author of twelve science fiction and fantasy novels. Her latest novels are the fantasies Queen of the Deep, about an enchanted ship, both a colossal steam vessel and a Renaissance kingdom; and A Thousand Perfect Things, about a Victorian woman's bid for forbidden powers in an altered India of magic. She is currently working on a paranormal espionage novel.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Kate Elliott's A Passage of Stars for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In the crackling first book of Kate Elliott’s Highroad trilogy, strong-spirited Lily Ransome leaves her home planet—and the life she’s always known—to rescue an abducted friend.

Willful as well as physically brave, Lily Ransome is dissatisfied by the options available to her on Unruli: She can either join her family’s lucrative mining business or begin procreating. When Heredes, her beloved martial arts instructor, tutor, and father figure, is kidnapped by alien bounty hunters, Lily spurns the expectations of her home planet and ventures into space to find him. Befriending a persecuted minority class of humans called the Ridani, she becomes involved in an intergalactic rebellion and finds love in an unexpected place—as well as true strength within herself.

A Passage of Stars is the first book of the Highroad trilogy, which continues with Revolution’s Shore and The Price of Ransom.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 18th)

In hardcover:

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down three positions, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

George R. R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is up two positions, ending the week at number 14.

Dean Koontz’s Ashley Bell is down two spots, finishing the week at number 15.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is up two spots, finishing the week at number 6.

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is down one spot, finishing the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is down eight positions, ending the week at number 10.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



Watched Straight Outta Compton again on one of the flights home from Hawaii, so now I have to post Ice Cube's original NWA diss!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil. Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

Kevin Hearne contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive a copy of Kevin Hearne's Staked, courtesy of the folks at Del Rey! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Patrick Petzall, from Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Jason LaPier's Unexpected Rain for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard's Star, a recently hired maintenance man has just committed murder.

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn't commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

Proven Guilty


Yes, another Dresden Files review! As I mentioned in my past reviews, I read Blood Rites, Dead Beat, and Proven Guilty back-to-back over the course of two weeks just before the Holidays, unable to stop myself from doing so. I hadn't realized how I'd missed Jim Butcher, so I couldn't help but pick up the next book as soon as I finished the one I was reading!

With hundreds of casualties and wounded members, the White Council of Wizards has recruited Harry Dresden and named him Warden and regional commander. With the escalating war with the Red Court, this was done out of necessity, not out of respect and faith in the man. Many of Harry's peers resent his nomination. And with all eyes on him, he is acutely aware that he doesn't have much room to manoeuver.

Here's the blurb:

There's no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it's all in a day's work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob...

Now a full-fledged member of the White Council, at the beginning of the novel we find Harry attending the execution of a young adolescent found guilty of black magic. Knowing that this could have been his fate at a younger age, Harry ends up in an argument with the Merlin. What is already a bad day gets worse when two members of the Senior Council approach him secretly with requests of their own. Harry's old mentor, Ebenezar, with whom Harry is no longer on speaking terms, would like him to use his Faerie connections to discover why Mab, the Winter Queen, hasn't declared war on the Red Court for their recent transgression within the realm of Faerie itself. But everything must be kept on the down low, for Ebenezar is not the only one who suspects that the White Council traitor could well be a member of the Senior Council. The older man also bears a missive from the Gatekeeper. The mysterious wizard asks Harry to investigates repeated acts of black magic around Chicago, and it appears that he must keep this to himself as well. And as if Harry didn't have enough on his plate already, as his investigation gets underway he receives an unexpected call from Molly Carpenter, daughter of his friend Michael, wielder of one of the blades of the Knights of the Cross, who ended up in jail and turns to Harry for help.

As a matter of course, one of the highlights of the series remains the first-person hardboiled narrative of the endearing, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden. Harry's heart is always in the right place, and his flawed nature definitely makes him one of the most likeable SFF characters out there. Witnessing events occurring through Harry Dresden's eyes is never dull, and Proven Guilty is another doozy!

As the only POV protagonist, Harry must take centre stage once more. And yet, it's the supporting cast which helps make this 8th volume the best one yet. The relationship between Dresden and Murphy continues to evolve and they finally face the fact that the have feelings for one another. Thomas finally moved out of Harry's apartment, but the bond between them will continue to grow. Molly Carpenter, who is no longer a little girl, plays a big role in this one, and it's obvious that Butcher has a lot more in store for her. Revelations about her mother, Charity, also have important repercussions throughout this novel. Familiar faces from both Summer and Winter make appearances as Harry gets in touch with his Faerie contacts.

Proven Guilty is the most convoluted installment yet. While his inquiry among the Faerie offers disconcerting news that could spell doom for the White Council, Harry investigates acts of black magic which have left people dead and injured at a local horror movie convention. What will follow will unveil shocking truths about Molly and will take Harry Dresden and his companions down dangerous and unanticipated paths. The endgame was the most satisfying one yet, though the novel's title makes what comes after a bit predictable. The aftermath will change both Harry and Murphy in profound ways, and it opens the door for so much more. Indeed, it appears that they were all manipulated by an unknown power that's playing for extremely high stakes.

Dead Beat was in fact the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear. Now Proven Guilty builds on the storylines introduced in basically every other installment and pushes the envelope even further. Once again, far from losing steam, this series continues to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. As things stand, the sky truly appears to be the limit for the subsequent volumes. Having grown as a writer, Jim Butcher has now hit his stride and he appears to be more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads now coming together to form a striking tapestry, the potential for what comes next is huge.

Fun, witty, entertaining, engrossing, with superior character development, and multilayered plotlines; that's Proven Guilty in a nutshell!

The final verdict: 8.75/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Dan Simmons' excellent The Terror for only 4.90$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth. As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in.When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Inuit woman who cannot speak and who may be the key to survival, or the harbinger of their deaths. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear that there is no escape. The Terror swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as "a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). With a haunting and constantly surprising story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 11th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is up one position, ending the week at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Dean Koontz’s Ashley Bell maintains its position at number 13.

George R. R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is down one position, ending the week at number 16.

Gregory Maguire's After Alice debuts at number 20.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 2.

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is up one spot, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes debuts at number 8.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is down three positions, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Stephen King's Joyland for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

Dead Beat


Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files has become one of my favorite speculative fiction series on the market today. Urban fantasy it may be, yet it is as good and convoluted as can be! Yes, I'm quite late to this party, I know. But better late than never, right? With the last couple of installments all topping the New York Times bestseller list, there is no denying that this series is now one of the most popular out there.

The author has seriously upped his game in the last three volumes, making it impossible for me not to read the next book as soon as I reached the last page of Blood Rites. And the same thing happened when I reached the end of this book! Which means that I've read Blood Rites, Dead Beat, and Proven Guilty back-to-back, and it's the most fun I've had reading since I went through the first six Malazan novels back in 2006. With a significantly larger, more convoluted, and more ambitious overall story arc, Jim Butcher has shown us that urban fantasy can be as awesome and multilayered as any other subgenre.

Here's the blurb:

There's an entire world that exists alongside the everyday life of mankind. There are powers, nations, monsters, wars, feuds, alliances - everything. Wizards are part of it. So are a lot of other things you've heard about in stories, and even more you've never heard of...Vampires. Werewolves. Faeries. Demons. Monsters. It's all real.

Harry Dresden knows full well that such creatures exist. Paranormal investigations are his stock-in-trade, and Chicago is his beat as he tries to bring law and order to a world that exists on the edges of imagination. Luckily Harry's not alone in this struggle. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don't believe in magic, there's a department that's been set up within the Chicago PD to deal with "strange" cases: the Special Investigations department.

Karrin Murphy is the head of SI and a good friend of Harry's. So when a deadly vampire threatens to destroy Murphy's reputation unless Harry helps her, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler and all the power that comes with it - but first Harry has to determine what the Word of Kemmler is. Now Harry is in a race against time - and six necromancers - to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead.

As always, the first-person hardboiled narrative of the engaging, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden remains a highlight of this series. Not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Harry's heart is unfailingly in the right place, and his flawed nature makes him one of the most likeable SFF protagonists out there. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Witnessing events occurring through Harry Dresden's eyes is never dull.

As the only POV character, Dresden takes centre stage throughout the book. But as it has often been the case in this series, it's the supporting cast which helps make this installment the best one yet. When the vampire-sorceress Mavra threatens to blackmail Murphy and possibly end her career, Harry has no choice but to go along with her request. But he'll soon find out that he may have bitten off more than he can chew. Surprisingly enough, neither Mavra nor Murphy play much of a role in this novel. Murphy is almost totally absent, what with her flying to Hawaii for a well-deserved vacation. Her absence changed the dynamics of this book, especially given how the relationship between her and Harry has evolved in the last few installments. We are introduced to a number of powerful necromancers like Grevane, Cowl, and Kumori, all of them searching for Word of Kemmler. And when the White Council of Wizards is called upon to help, we are also introduced to a number of never-seen-before Wardens, such as Ramirez, Captain Luccio, and Listens-to-Wind. Add a dangerous Faerie figure known as the Erlking to the mix, and the only wizard in the Chicago phone book soon finds himself in a harrowing ordeal he might not survive. With few allies other than Thomas and Mouse, who is no longer a cute puppy, Harry truly has his hands full in this one. We also learn more about Bob the skull's past, which was nice. Polka-loving medical examiner Waldo Butters is another nice and often hilarious addition to the ever-growing cast of the Dresden Files. Hence, even with Murphy's absence, there are more than enough people to keep things interesting.

In my review of Blood Rites I opined that in the last three volumes, the introduction of new concepts, the addition of new characters, and developments hinted at the fact that this was a series that resounded with a lot more depth than meets the eye. But it's in Dead Beat that the more ambitious and complex overall story arc I've allued to in the past really begins to unfold. Plot threads from previous installments come to the fore and we get a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Storylines such as the war between the White Council and the Red Court, Dresden's debts owed to the Faerie courts, his strange bond with the fallen angel Lasciel, his relationship with Thomas; they all start to come together in this book. New revelations about a possible traitor within the Senior Council could throw everything in jeopardy. Indeed, it does appear that the proverbial shit has truly hit the fan in this seventh volume, which bodes well for the future!

Dead Beat is definitely the point where the Dresden Files shifts into high gear. Far from losing steam, this series continues to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. So much so that it appears that the sky's the limit for the subsequent installments. Jim Butcher keeps growing as a writer, just has Harry Dresden keeps growing as a wizard. And with so many plot threads now coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what comes next is enormous.

With lots of new developments, further complications, and heart to boot, Dead Beat is impossible to put down!

The final verdict: 8.75/10

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