New extract from Richard Morgan's THE DARK DEFILES


Richard Morgan just posted a new extract from the upcoming The Dark Defiles on this website. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold meets George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones in the final novel in Richard K. Morgan’s epic A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, which burst onto the fantasy scene with The Steel Remains and The Cold Commands.

Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions—Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth—Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.

Follow this link to read the extract.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time only, you can download Brave New Worlds, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From Huxley's Brave New World, to Orwell's 1984, to Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, dystopian books have always been an integral part of both science fiction and literature, and have influenced the broader culture discussion in unique and permanent ways. Brave New Worlds brings together the best dystopian fiction of the last 30 years, demonstrating the diversity that flourishes in this compelling subgenre. This landmark tome contains stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, M. Rickert, Paolo Bacigalupi, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and many others.

Hannu Rajaniemi contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive my review copy of Hannu Rajaniemi's The Causal Angel! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Blake Williamson, from Detroit, Michigan, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Lauren Beukes' Zoo City for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty online 419 scam habit – and a talent for finding lost things. But when her latest client, a little old lady, turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job: missing persons.

An astonishing second novel from the author of the highly-acclaimed Moxyland.

Kushiel's Dart


Okay, as I said before, I know I'm late to this party. Thirteen years late, to be exact. But better late than never, or so the saying goes.

Since all the recent/new SFF releases I've read since returning from the Middle East have more or less killed my reading pleasure, I wanted to try something different. Something tested and true. I had been meaning to read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books for years, so this seemed to be as good a time as any. Problem is, like many of you, I buy lots of books. Add to those all the review copies I receive and that makes for hundreds of works awaiting my attention. The shelves of my apartment are full of books. My locker is full of boxes of novels and I also have boxes and boxes full of them in storage elsewhere.

Try as I might, I was unable to locate the first trilogy. I had the two subsequent Kushiel series on hand, but there was no sign of the first one. When asked if I could jump into the story by reading the second series, Carey replied that it wouldn't work that well. And thanks to the author, she cobbled together a set of the first three installments that she sent my way. When I received the package containing a note telling me that she hoped I would enjoy the books, Kushiel's Dart immediately went to the top of my "books to read" pile.

And since Jacqueline Carey's debut ended up being the very best fantasy debut I have ever read, I felt quite stupid for waiting this long to read it. So if like me you haven't read Kushiel's Dart yet, you need to remedy that situation ASAP!

Here's the blurb:

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

Jacqueline Carey's debut is fantasy on a grand scale. In terms of scope and vision, Kushiel's Dart is as impressive as Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, and Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. Time will tell if the rest of the trilogy and the subsequent series will show as much depth, but this first installment is a dense and complex novel that delivers on all fronts.

The worldbuilding is amazing. The backdrop for this tale isn't the traditional European medieval setting. It is more akin to the Renaissance era and it is set in an alternate version of Western Europe. Terre d'Ange occupies the territory which we know as France and was founded by Elua and his Companions, all of them fallen angels. Elua's motto was "Love as thou wilt." Which means that love and physical pleasure are important facets of D'Angeline society. Sexuality lies at the heart of this story, and service to the angel Naamah is one of the most important religious institutions of Terre d'Ange. Kushiel's Dart is a sprawling novel, more far-reaching than most fantasy debuts. Beyond the alternate France, other countries such as Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Germany are explored or play a role as the tale progresses. Richly detailed and imagined in terms of cultures, religions, and politics, this is a textured and sophisticated novel that hits all the right buttons. The web of murder and political intrigue woven by the author is as impressive and unanticipated as the politicking of such masters as George R. R. Martin and Katherine Kurtz. Every revelation unveils yet more layers and Kushiel's Dart is almost impossible to put down.

I don't believe I have ever encountered such a well-written fantasy debut. Jacqueline Carey's write with an elegance that reminded me of Guy Gavriel Kay. Even the darkest and more shocking scenes are written with the same literary grace, making them even more powerful. The author's spellbinding prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty that never fails to fascinate. Carey also possesses a human touch akin to that of Robin Hobb, which imbues certain sequences with even more emotional impact.

A woman who embraces her sexuality can be quite intimidating to men. Even more so, I reckon, to male SFF geeks. And Phèdre's disturbing sexuality (tinged with sadomasochism) most probably has something to do with the fact that Kushiel's Dart is not held with such high esteem as some of the boys' club favorites like Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself, etc. Truth to tell, as a younger man I most likely wouldn't have ever gotten into Carey's debut. To understand and appreciate Phèdre's psyche and motivations, I do believe one must be part of a more mature audience. But it would be too easy to simply focus on the sexuality which permeates every aspect of this novel. Yes, sexuality lies at the heart of Kushiel's Dart, no question. But there is much more than that. Kushiel's Dart is a remarkable and intricately plotted story featuring an unforgettable cast of characters.

The novel features the first person narrative of Phèdre nó Delaunay. The problem with single-POV narrative structures is that if one doesn't like the main protagonists, then it's pretty much game over. Phèdre is a deeply flawed character. Yet her strengths and weaknesses make her genuine and her perspective, that of an older Phèdre relating the story of her past, misleads readers on numerous occasions by playing with their expectations. The supporting cast is comprised of various three-dimensional men and women, and in their own way, through their interactions with Phèdre, they add even more layers to an already multilayered plot. Although it is Phèdre's POV which gives the book its unique flavor, Kushiel's Dart would never have been such a memorable read without the presence of such characters as Anafiel Delaunay, Alcuin, Melisande Shahrizai, Hyacinthe, Joscelin Verreuil, and Waldemar Selig. And thankfully, à la Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, and L. E. Modessit, jr., Carey doesn't follow the path of least resistance and her characters remain true to themselves.

The structure of the novel follows the cover blurb for the most past. Kushiel's Dart begins with Phèdre's childhood and the years following her dedication to the service of Naamah. The second part focuses on the betrayal that will see Phèdre sold into slavery and its aftermath. The final part focuses on her attempt to save her homeland from certain ruin. This work is a doorstopper of a book, yet it's a veritable page-turner. There is not one dull moment to be found within its pages. If anything, I was disappointed when I reached the end because I couldn't believe it was already over. Fortunately, I have an additional eight volumes set in the same universe to read and enjoy! Being too dumb to read the novels as they were released means that I don't have to wait for them to be published, so that's that!

In a nutshell, Kushiel's Dart is a sophisticated and convoluted read full of wonder and sensuality. Written on an epic scale and with an elegance seldom seen in this subgenre, Jacqueline Carey's first novel is the best fantasy debut I have ever read. Yes, it is edgy and sexy. But it is also as complex, satisfying, and rewarding as any of the best works epic fantasy has to offer. Simply put, it's an awesome read!

The final verdict: 9.5/10

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

Teaser extract from Tad Williams' SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY


Here's a little teaser excerpt from Tad Williams' Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, compliments of the author himself! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Where does an angel go when he’s been to Hell and back?

Renegade angel Bobby Dollar does not have an easy afterlife. After surviving the myriad gruesome dangers Hell oh-so-kindly offered him, Bobby has returned empty-handed – his demon girlfriend Casmira, the Countess of Cold Hands, is still in the clutches of Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. Some hell of a rescue.

Forced to admit his failure, Bobby ends up back at his job as an angel advocate. That is, until Walter, an old angel friend whom Bobby never thought he’d see again, shows up at the local bar. The last time he saw Walter was in Hell, when Walter had tried to warn him about one of Bobby’s angel superiors. But now Walter can’t remember anything, and Bobby doesn’t know whom to trust.

Turns out that there’s corruption hidden within the higher ranks of Heaven and Hell, but the only proof Bobby has is a single feather. Before he knows it, he’s in the High Hall of Heavenly Judgement – no longer a bastion for the moral high ground, if it ever was, but instead just another rigged system – on trial for his immortal soul…

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day is the third installment of Tad Williams’ urban fantasy Bobby Dollar series!

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

I went and fixed myself that drink Caz had suggested. I could hear the winged snotbag muttering away underneath my jacket, and it occurred to me that I might be able to use the same creature to send a message back to her. I had no idea if it would actually work, but as someone once said, Fortune favors the brave. Sam usually added, “And stomps on the stupid,” but I don’t think that’s entirely true. I’ve done all right so far, and nobody’s ever called me smart without tacking “-ass” onto the end.

I polished off the vodka-tonic pretty quick, then lifted the jacket. The nasty little thing was trying to fly again but of course not succeeding much, just bimbling around against the metal cage of the strainer while repeating its message like a broken toy. I lifted the strainer and reached in, and was surprised by how hot the thing was, like Silly Putty sau- teed in butter. I dropped it, almost sucked my fingers until I realized what I’d be putting in my mouth, then grabbed a kitchen towel and tried again.

“...Don’t worry how...” it was saying as I lifted it up, but it was squirming a bit, too.

“Shut up,” I explained, and gave it a nasty squeeze, but not so roughly that it would pop or anything.

“. . . Got out of Hell . . .” it said quietly. I squeezed it again, harder. “Shut up, you flying turd!”

After a few rounds of this merry game, the little blotch finally got the hint and stopped muttering Caz’s message. It sat in the towel, three red eyes staring at me, looking like something that a dog had eaten and then put back into play. I leaned in close to feel the heat coming off it. “I’m going to get you out,” I said as slowly and clearly as I could. “Pack a suitcase. I don’t know how long it will take, but I am going to get you out. I swear by the Highest.”

The nizzic stared at me, but I had clearly convinced it not to make any noise at all. I gave it the message again, this time with another squeeze, then again and again. After about the fifth time it goggled its eyes, opened its mouth, but instead of repeating what I said, it let out a belch like the tiniest corpse-fart you can imagine. It was still enough to make me lean back, eyes watering.

“All right, you little fuckstick,” I said. “You want to play with the big boys? You want to step to me?” I wrapped it in the towel like put- ting Frances Farmer in a straitjacket, then carried it into the kitchen. “Last chance. Repeat after me. I’m going to get you out . . .” But the nizzic only looked at me without a glimmer of understanding, like the world’s smallest complaints department employee, so I opened my refrigerator and shoved it into the freezer, towel and all, and went back to pour myself a second drink.

Five minutes later I opened the freezer door. The thing was lying on its back, gasping like a landed fish, and something steaming hot was running out of its mouth and earholes and nostril slits. I held it while it shivered and crawled around in circles on my hand—it was much easier to hold now—and then gave it the message again. It didn’t do anything useful, so I put it back in the freezer.

This process went on for about an hour. I put the sports news on the television and tried to make myself relax, but it didn’t work. Too many crazy things had been happening lately—armed Amazons, weird warn- ings, Dear John snotgoblin messages from the woman I loved, not to mention Nazi thugs and demonic arm-spiders, all shoving to get onto my calendar. I was tired, confused, and mad as hell. I was pissed off.

After I took it out for maybe the fourth time, the nizzic seemed to be getting the picture. It lay panting in my hand, sucking back in the hot liquids it had sweated out in an attempt to keep itself from freezing, and when I tried my message again it actually opened its mouth and croaked, “I’m going . . . I’m going . . . I’m going . . .” I thought it was just being melodramatic until I realized those were the first two words of my message.

That was all it would give me, though, so I shot it a stern look. “Any man don’t keep order gets a night in the box,” I warned, then I shoved it back in the freezer, but I didn’t leave it in too long this time.

I had downed maybe four vodkas by the time the turdball finally managed to repeat the whole message to me. I’m sure Caz had some better way to program the ugly bastard, but we all make do with what we have, and I was determined to let her know not only that I had heard the message, but that it didn’t change anything important. I was a little wobbly on my feet—I haven’t been drinking that much lately, as I think I said—but feeling more than a bit triumphant when someone knocked on the door.

I wrapped the towel around the flying hobgoblin so I could peek out and see who it was, then opened the door. Sam walked in. He looked me up and down and said, “You look weird. What’s that in your hand?”

I looked down at the squirming kitchen towel. “Hang on,” I said. “I’m almost finished here.” I opened the towel and the nizzic sat up, still shivering, its wings like crumpled cellophane. “What do you say, you ugly little fartsparrow? What do you say?”

“I think you need professional help more than you need a new pet, but I’m glad you’re trying to give your life meaning,” said Sam.

“Shut up,” I told him. “Any man talking loud gets a night in the box.”

“Oh, lord, it’s the Cool Hand Luke thing.” Sam shook his head and stared at the nizzic. “What is that?”

“Hold on. Like I said, I’m almost done.” I made the tiny monstrosity repeat the entire message through without mistakes, then took it to the window and stuck my hand out. It sat there on my palm for a moment, then spread its wings and buzzed off in awkward circles like a dangerously overloaded helicopter.

“So this is how you spend your evenings now?” Sam asked. “Professing your undying love to random snotbugs?”

“ ’S not a snotbug,” I said grumpily, then laughed. “ ’S not. Snot. No, ’sa snotgoblin. Incredibly huge difference.”

“Shit, B, how many drinks have you had?”

“Hardly any. Four. Maybe seven or eight if you count beers. Doesn’t matter. That was from Caz. She sent me a message.”

“And spared no expense, clearly. Whatta gal!”

“You . . . are an asshole.”

“Coffee,” he said. “You’ll still be an idiot, but you’ll be an alert idiot.”

I knew there was something I wanted to talk to Sam about, but damned if I could remember. Actually, I realized, I was pretty much damned no matter what. I laughed again.

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

In hardcover:

Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life maintains its position at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land is down nine spots, finishing the week at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Robin Hobb's Fool's Assassin debuts at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Diana Gabaldon's Written in My Own Heart's Blood is up four positions, ending the week at number 14.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is down three positions, ending the week at number 18.

Terry Goodkind's Severed Souls is down fifteen spots, finishing the week at number 19.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down one position, ending the week at number 5.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is up one position, ending the week at number 7.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up two positions, ending the week at number 8.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings maintains its position at number 13.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is down one position, ending the week at number 18 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is down five positions, ending the week at number 21.

Lev Grossman's The Magicians returns at number 25 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb event in London



Nice! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


I don't know for how long, but right now you can download Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire, her first epic fantasy novel which has everyone talking, for only 5.79$ here!

Here's the blurb:

A stunning new epic fantasy from two-time Hugo Award winner Kameron Hurley.

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father's people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise - and many will perish.

Steven Erikson contest winners!

These lucky winners will get their hands on a copy of Steven Erikson's The Wurms of Blearmouth, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Milad Fereshtehnezhad, from Lubbock, Texas, USA

- Alok Talekar, from Long Island City, New York, USA

- Nate Pruett, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time only, you can download Laird Barron's The Croning for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us...

Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret...

...of The Croning.

From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.

Rogues


I've always been reticent to read anthologies because they seldom deliver on all fronts. The problem with most of them is that they usually contain a number of very good short stories, while the rest seems to consist of half-assed and uninspired stuff. The only anthology I've read which turned out to be good from start to finish was Warriors, another anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

Hence, when it was announced that both GRRM and Dozois would team up with another cast of big names to produce Rogues, I had high hopes that it would be a quality read as good as Warriors was. But when the table of contents was released, it became obvious that Rogues wouldn't benefit from the all-star cast of contributors that made Warriors such an awesome read. Still, you'd figure that with such authors as Neil Gaiman, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Daniel Abraham, and Carrie Vaughn contributing material, you couldn't possibly go wrong. Right?

Though there is a central theme to the anthology -- rogues -- once again George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois envisioned a cross-genre work that would be comprised of short stories and novellas in various styles and tones. A brief look at the table of contents shows that, although many of these writers are bestselling authors in their own genre or sub-genre, compiling fiction from each of them could make for a disparate and dysfunctional work. Yet again, that was probably my biggest concern.

And unlike Warriors, which was able to dodge that bullet and allowed the anthology to stand well on its own, as the sum of all its parts, it's unfortunately not the case with Rogues. After a strong start, Rogues peters out and loses steam with each new piece of short fiction. So much so that by the time I reached the middle of the anthology I had completely lost interest and was simply going through the motions. Even short fiction by Gaiman, Rothfuss, and GRRM failed to reel me back in. Sadly, there is way too much filler and not enough killer material for Rogues to capture the imagination and satisfy readers the way Warriors did a few years back.

Here's the blurb:

A thrilling collection of twenty-one original stories by an all-star list of contributors—including a new A Game of Thrones story by George R. R. Martin!

If you’re a fan of fiction that is more than just black and white, this latest story collection from #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois is filled with subtle shades of gray. Twenty-one all-original stories, by an all-star list of contributors, will delight and astonish you in equal measure with their cunning twists and dazzling reversals. And George R. R. Martin himself offers a brand-new A Game of Thrones tale chronicling one of the biggest rogues in the entire history of Ice and Fire.

Follow along with the likes of Gillian Flynn, Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Cherie Priest, Garth Nix, and Connie Willis, as well as other masters of literary sleight-of-hand, in this rogues gallery of stories that will plunder your heart—and yet leave you all the richer for it.

The anthology opens up with "Tough Times All Over" by Joe Abercrombie. It's an entertaining piece that could be summed up with the classic "shit happens" proverb. It changes perspectives numerous times as we follow one rogue after another trying to get away with the prize. It may not be Abercrombie's best piece, but it is a fun read from beginning to end.

"What Do you Do" by Gillian Flynn was a well-written piece about a prostitute turned false psychic who gets into trouble. The whole ghost story angle doesn't work all that well throughout, but it is a good contribution to the anthology. It's followed by "The Inn of the Seven Blessings" by Matt Hughes, a short story about a rogue who becomes possessed by a god. This one was pretty much a failure to launch

Things get back on track when a man sets out to rescue his stepdaughter from sexual slavery in Joe Lansdale's "Bent Twig." Michael Swanwick's "Tawny Petticoats" features two rogues being outfoxed by a female rogue in a zombie-filled New Orleans. It's nothing to write home about, but it is a fun, if light, read.

"Provenance" by David Ball features an unscrupulous art dealer trying to sale a rare painting looted by the Nazis. When I started reading it, I had concerns that this was going to be the story that would be too disparate and could potentially kill the vibes of the anthology. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Ball's piece could well be the very best found within the pages of Rogues. Carrie Vaughn seldom disappoints and "Roaring Twenties" was another fine read featuring two magic-wielding women during Prohibition. Times are changing and they are aware that they need to adapt or all could be lost.

In Scott Lynch's "A Year and a Day in Old Theradane," a retired rogue is blackmailed into resuming her former career by a crafty wizard. I was looking forward to this new Lynch story, but it never really delivers and from that point everything goes downhill with the anthology. "Bad Brass" by Bradley Denton features high school students stealing brass instruments from school and trying to sell them on the black market. Pretty much half-assed and boring. . . "Heavy Metal" by Cherie Priest is about man who exorcises a demon from an abandoned mine in rural Tennessee. This one really had potential, but it fails to live up to it for some reason. Another disappointment. I absolutely loved Daniel Abraham collection of short fiction, and yet "The Meaning of Love", in which a prince in hiding falls in love with a beautiful young lady, was totally forgettable.

In Paul Cornell's "A Better Way to Die" an alternate universe interacts with our own reality as well as other alternate universes. It felt intriguing at the beginning, but the execution was rather flat and I couldn't finish it. "Ill Seen in Tyre" is Steven Saylor's attempt to weave the tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser with our own history and it turns out the be a rather pointless failure to launch. "A Cargo of Ivories" by Garth Nix goes nowhere and is uninspired throughout.

"Diamonds from Tequila" by Walter Jon Williams turns things around and is definitely one of the highlights of the Rogues anthology. When there is a murder during the shooting of a movie in Mexico, the star must solve this mystery before someone else gets hurt. It's fun and cynical and I had a blast reading that one. Sadly, "The Caravan to Nowhere" by Phyllis Eisenstein, in which a minstrel with the ability to teleport travels as part of a caravan through the desert with a shrewd merchant and his drug-addicted son, also feels like an half-assed effort and can be considered nothing but filler material.

Things do pick up a little bit in "The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives" by Lisa Tuttle. It features a Victorian detective hired to find a missing person who is dead and buried. It is a little weird, to be sure, but it does work out in the end. Neil Gaiman's "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" is set in London Below and features the unforgettable Marquis. It's a fun and entertaining read, yet not good enough to help save this anthology. I had high hopes for award-winning Connie Willis' short story, "Now Showing." It's about a girl and her ex-boyfriend, as they uncover and unravel a conspiracy at a multiplex movie theater in the future. It's okay and cute at times, but it's too long and lackluster in the end.

Patrick Rothfuss' "The Lightning Tree" features Bast and it was interesting to have a novella based on him. I have to admit that I was expecting more out of Rothfuss, but he still managed to write something fun and interesting. The premise of the tale is that Bast grants wishes and fixes children's lives in return of favors. For a while it all feels pointless, but the author wraps everything up at the end in an unanticipated and quite satisfying fashion. The last piece and the pièce de résistance was of course George R. R. Martin's "The Rogue Prince, Or, A King's Brother," which is not a short story per se. As was the case with "The Princess and the Queen" in the Dangerous Women anthology, it reads more like an extract from the forthcoming A World of Ice and Fire. Hence, although it does shine some light on past events which led to the Dance of Dragons, it doesn't grab hold and suck you into the tale the way the Dunk and Egg adventures.

Overall, Rogues failed to come together as a whole and turned out to be a discordant and dysfunctional work. Even though every piece does feature the rogue theme, the various styles and tone never quite mesh together and make for a crooked, slow-moving, and often boring book. Especially the middle portion, which at times thoroughly kills the vibe and the momentum of the anthology.

Disappointing. . .

The final verdict: 6.5/10

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

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

In hardcover:

Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Goodkind's Severed Souls debuts at number 4.

Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life is down three spots, finishing the week at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is down three positions, ending the week at number 15.

Diana Gabaldon's Written in My Own Heart's Blood is down three positions, ending the week at number 18.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones maintains its position at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is up one position, ending the week at number 8.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game maintains its position at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up two positions, ending the week at number 13.

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is up one position, ending the week at number 16.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is down one position, ending the week at number 17 (trade paperback).

Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches is up three spots, finishing the week at number 21 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down one position, ending the week at number 24.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Help Fund My Robot Army!!!, a new anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

If you’re a regular backer of Kickstarters, you’ve probably seen some unique crowdfunding projects in your time. But one thing all of those campaigns—boringly!—had in common was: They abided by the physical laws of the universe!

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! is an anthology of science fiction/fantasy stories told in the form of fictional crowdfunding project pitches, using the components (and restrictions) of the format to tell the story. This includes but is not limited to: Project Goals, Rewards, User Comments, Project Updates, FAQs, and more. The idea is to replicate the feel of reading a crowdfunding pitch, so that even though the projects may be preposterous in the real world, they will feel like authentic crowdfunding projects as much as possible.

The anthology features original, never-before-published fiction by Bradley Beaulieu , Veronica Belmont, Brooke Bolander, Maurice Broaddus, Tobias S. Buckell, Harry Connolly, Monte Cook, Matt Forbeck, Jason Gurley, Kat Howard, Jonathan L. Howard, Vylar Kaftan, Jake Kerr, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mur Lafferty, David D. Levine, Heather Lindsley, Carmen Maria Machado, David Malki!, Seanan McGuire, Samuel Peralta, Tim Pratt, Andy Penn Romine, Scott Sigler, Michael J. Sullivan, Jeremiah Tolbert, Genevieve Valentine, Derek Van Gorder, Chuck Wendig, Matt Williamson, Daniel H. Wilson, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley. Plus, a reprint of the eponymous story that inspired the anthology by Keffy R.M. Kehrli, for a total of 33 crowdfunding-style stories.

So if what you’ve always been looking for in a Kickstarter—and couldn’t find—was a project that allowed you to protect yourself from spoilers, buy wishes, find lost objects, or support a wildlife preserve for supernatural creatures, then HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects may be just the thing you’ve been looking for.

Deborah Harkness contest winners!

Our three winners will receive a copy of Deborah Harkness' The Book of Life, compliments of the folks at Viking. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Rebekah Kati, from Cary, North Carolina, USA

- Sean Meichle, from Seattle, Washington, USA

- Bethany Cardone, from Burke, Virginia, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download A Wizard of Earthsea, the classic written by Ursula K. Le Guin, for only 4.80$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.

This ebook includes a sample chapter of THE TOMBS OF ATUAN.

Holy crap!

Turns out that today's review of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Assail was the Hotlist's 423rd review!!!

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist: Wasting technology since 2005 indeed!! :P

Can't quite believe I've read and reviewed that many books!!! Time flies. . .

Check out the Index of Reviews and Interviews to see what you may have missed!

Assail


The continent of Assail. . . Most dangerous and mysterious place in the Malazan universe, or so we've been led to believe. Ever since Steven Erikson's Memories of Ice, the mere mention of Assail and its secrets has gotten Malazan fans giddy with excitement. And now, finally, Assail's mysteries would be revealed in what is dubbed "the final novel of the Malazan Empire." Problem is, could Ian Cameron Esslemont pull it off?

Esslemont's writing has been divisive from the very beginning, when Night of Knives was first released as a limited edition. From then on, a number of Erikson fans wrote him off and turned their backs on the Malazan co-creator. Others elected to stick with him and were rewarded by two thrilling and fascinating additions to the Malazan canon, Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder. Unfortunately, two major letdowns in a row, Orb Sceptre Throne and Blood and Bone, made even some die-hard fans lose hope in Ian Cameron Esslemont. So much so that even on malazanempire.com, the emperor's own palace, so to speak, the biggest Malazan aficionados appear to be split into two camps. On the one hand, you have those who are happy with whatever helps further flesh out Steven Erikson's storylines. And on the other, you have those, like me, who have pretty much lost faith with Esslemont and bemoan the fact that the author seems to be unable to make his Malazan novels live up to the lofty expectations generated by his friend and fellow co-creator.

Understandably, my expectations were as low as humanly possible when I set out to read Assail. For some reason, it appears that the epilogue novel(s) is/are no longer scheduled to be published. Hence, Assail, to all ends and purposes, will likely be the last Malazan installment covering the main story arcs introduced by Steven Erikson. Early on, when the novel was slow-moving and focused on extraneous plotlines, it was obvious that Assail would fail to wrap everything up in true Malazan fashion. And in the end, this book miserably failed to meet even my oh-so low expectations. . .

Assail is Ian Cameron Esslemont's The Crippled God. The culmination of a variety of far-reaching storylines spread through his last four novels. Some of them first explored by Erikson in the original sequence, years ago. And although many fans doubted that Esslemont could close the show the way Erikson did in the last volume of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, I would never have expected that Assail would be such a disheartening disappointment. . .

Here's the blurb:

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait - hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.

Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers that Shimmer, second in command, feels should not be sought. Also heading north, as part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. With him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past and yet commands far more power than he really should. It is also rumoured that a warrior, bearer of a sword that slays gods and who once fought for the Malazans, is also journeying that way. But far to the south, a woman patiently guards the shore. She awaits both allies and enemies. She is Silverfox, newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, and she will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond. Casting light on mysteries spanning the Malazan empire, and offering a glimpse of the storied and epic history that shaped it, Assail brings the epic story of the Empire of Malaz to a thrilling close.

The worldbuilding is always one of the key ingredients in every Malazan installment. And in this regard at least, Esslemont doesn't usually disappoint. Almost nothing is known with certainty about Assail, and like all fans I relished the idea of getting an opportunity to explore this mysterious corner of Wu. Sadly, unlike Blood and Bone, in which I felt the author captured the Southeast Asian jungle setting to perfection in his depiction of the Himatan jungle in Jacuruku, Assail feels more or less like Northern British Columbia or Alaska. And yet, it's not the imagery that's the problem. Esslemont's descriptive narrative is probably as good as in any of his other novels. It's the essence of Assail, its mysteries, its aura, its dangers; all of these the author failed to convey. We are talking about a continent which the Emperor and Dancer steered clear of, for it was deemed too dangerous. A place where human rulers supposedly not only stood up against legions of T'lan Imass, but destroyed thousands of them in the process. But for all that, there is nothing in the narrative that conveys that aura of utmost danger. Frankly, Erikson's depiction of Seven Cities felt a hundred times more perilous. Readers looking forward to revelations about Assail's numerous secrets will also be disappointed. The book offers very little in that regard, which makes me wonder how/why Assail could ever be the final volume of the Malazan Empire.

The characterization is by far the weakest aspect of this work. How the hell it could once again be that bad, I'll never know. While the plotlines don't necessarily lack any sense of direction the way they did in Blood and Bone, they are nevertheless uninvolving for the most part, and most of the protagonists remain flat, generic, cardboard cutout characters. Especially anything involving the members of the Crimson Guard, which is reminiscent of inane Forgotten Realms-like crap. How unimpressive, boring, and pathetic have they all become. . . And the dialogue? As was the case in Blood and Bone, too often is the back-and-forth between the protagonists adolescent and puerile. In addition, the unexpected romance between two members turned out to be a little lame. The plotline exploring Silverfox and the T'lan Imass is by far the least exploited. Which is odd, as I expected it to lie at the heart of the tale. One of Assail's biggest shortcomings is the inexplicably high number of points of view. With so little taking place throughout this book, one has to wonder why Esslemont felt the need for readers to witness events occur through the eyes of so many characters. Following several extraneous plotlines that often bring little or nothing to the overall story arc killed the flow of the novel and slowed the rhythm to a crawl in various portions of the story. I could have done without many of the sailors' POVs. Other than Cartheron Crust, who somehow stole the show in every scene in which he appeared. Still, way too much "air time" was devoted to Kyle and Orman. Fisher and Jethiss' storyline proved to be one of the most interesting, and kudos to Esslemont for the unanticipated surprise at the end!

In the past, we have often overlooked Esslemont's occasional shortcomings, maintaining that he was "fleshing out" Erikson's storylines, providing answers and raising more questions. No matter from what angle you look at it, Assail remains a somewhat poor and unispired work. As was the case with its two predecessors, with Assail it is evident that Ian Cameron Esslemont didn't have what it takes as an author to truly do justice to the storylines that were his. Though the quality of both Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder argues against such a statement. Now that his arcs are done, it is obvious that, unlike Steven Erikson, his skills were not necessarily up to the task. Which is a shame, as he had some awesome plotlines to work with, chief among those the Crimson Guard, the T'lan Imass, and the mysteries of Assail.

The only positive facet of Assail would be its ending. It was a good ending. Not great, but good. In no way a fitting end to the Malazan saga, however. Truth to tell, it wasn't even an ending per se. Hence, without the epilogue book(s), it makes very little sense for the saga to end this way. There was no major convergence, no mindfuck, no proverbial shit hitting the fan. It is decidedly anticlimactic, but it does tie up all the Ian Cameron Esslemont books. So does the ending save the entire book? No way. Not by a long shot. Assail is 80% filler material, bloating up the book between the scenes that actually matters.

So in the end, Assail is not a total loss. No matter how anticlimactic the endgame proved to be, Esslemont closed the show on a high note. But for the most part, Assail can be nothing but another major disappointment. . .

The final verdict: 6/10

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

Quote of the Day

It is a fine line, in all of us, between civilization and savagery. To any who think they would never cross it, I can only say, if you have never known what it is to be utterly betrayed and abandoned, you cannot know how close it is.

- JACQUELINE CAREY, Kushiel's Dart (Canada, USA, Europe)

Only a little over 100 pages remaining. And unless the author finds a way to screw it up at the end, Kushiel's Dart will indeed stand as the best fantasy debut I have ever read. Awesome read thus far!

Kevin J. Anderson contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, our winner will receive a copy of Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Laura Miller, from Macomb, Michigan, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download Jay Kristoff's Stormdancer for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.

A DYING LAND

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST

The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A HIDDEN GIFT

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

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

In hardcover:

Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life is down two spots, finishing the week at number 4. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is down two positions, ending the week at number 12.

Diana Gabaldon's Written in My Own Heart's Blood is down two positions, ending the week at number 15.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down two positions, ending the week at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down four positions, ending the week at number 9.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down one position, ending the week at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down five positions, ending the week at number 15.

Kim Harrison's The Undead Pool debuts at number 16.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is up four positions, ending the week at number 16 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is down six positions, ending the week at number 17.

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is up one position, ending the week at number 11.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down eight positions, ending the week at number 23.

Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches is down thirteen spots, finishing the week at number 24 (trade paperback).

Scott Lynch's The Republic of Thieves debuts at number 24.

Ian Cameron Esslemont contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Transworld, this lucky winner will get his hands on a copy of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Assail for you to win. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Daniel Messmer, from Zürich, Switzerland

Many thanks to all the participants!

Musical Interlude



A cool tune to brighten up your day on this rainy Wednesday morning!

Quote of the Day

That which yields is not always weak.

- JACQUELINE CAREY, Kushiel's Dart (Canada, USA, Europe)

Now more than 400 pages into this book and it remains the best fantasy debut I've read thus far. . . =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, opening volume in the incredible Malazan Book of the Fallen series, for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order--an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering


If you are in the London area tomorrow (actually today on the other side of the pond), you probably don't want to miss out Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering event! =) I mean, who wouldn't want to meet Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, Myke Cole, and Mark Lawrence, right!?!

It's free of charge and promises to be one cool evening! Follow this link for all the details. . .

Robin Hobb contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my ARC of Robin Hobb's Fool's Assassin! In case you missed it, the novel came out today! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Diego Benitez, from Houston, Texas, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!