Win an Advance Reading Copy of R. A. Salvatore's THE DAME

My days of reading R. A. Salvatore may be behind me, but the author is as popular as ever. Hence, I'll be giving away my ARC of The Dame to one lucky winner! For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The vast road network of Honce, completed a decade before, had brought great optimism to the people of the land. Commerce could travel more freely and so could armies, and those armies, it was hoped, would rid the land at long last of the vicious, bloody cap dwarfs and goblins. For the first time, the many individual kingdoms, the holdings of Honce, would be brought closer together, perhaps even united. For the last few years, those promises had become a nightmare to the folk, as two powerful lairds fought for supremacy of a hoped-for united kingdom.

Bransen Garibond, the Highwayman, held little real interest in that fight. To him the warring lairds were two sides of the same coin. Whichever side won, the outcome for the people of Honce would be the same, Bransen believed. A journey north, however, taught Bransen that his views were simplistic at best, and that some things--like honor and true friendship-- might truly matter.

In The Dame, Bransen's road becomes a quest for the truth, of Honce and of himself, a quest to put right over wrong. That path is fraught with confusion and fraud, and a purposeful blurring of morality by those who would seek to use the Highwayman's extraordinary battle skills and popularity among the commonfolk for their own nefarious ends.

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

Vegas rocks!

2 Pac Feat. Dr Dre - California Love
envoyé par Momo59-93. - Regardez la dernière sélection musicale.

Well, I've been having fun in Vegas thus far! Haven't been on the internet, for the rates here are crazy. Five dollars for 5 minutes!!!:-( Writing this on the sly at the Apple Store in Caesar's Palace's Forums Shops...

Still sick, but I'm getting better every day. It's 95 degrees here, so it's a world away from San Francisco.

I haven't really gambled yet, but I'm spending a small fortune. Went to see Cirque du Soleil's Mystere the night I arrived, and saw Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity last night. Have tickets for tonight's performance of O, and will likely go see Ka tomorrow night at the MGM Grand when I return from my excursion to the Grand Canyon. Add to that the 200$ I just blew at Abercrombie & Fitch, and this Las Vegas stint is starting to cost me a bundle! But I'm having fun, so what the fuck!?!

Got to sign out, as the security guard is giving me the evil eye...

Win a copy of Karen Traviss' STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS: NO PRISONERS

Since I won't be reading this novel, I'm giving someone the chance to win Karen Traviss' Star Wars: The Clone Wars: No Prisoners. For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Clone Wars rage on. As insurgent Separatists fight furiously to wrest control of the galaxy from the Republic, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine cunningly manipulates both sides for his own sinister purposes.

Torrent Company's Captain Rex agrees to temporarily relieve Anakin Skywalker of Ahsoka, his ubiquitous-and insatiably curious-Padawan, by bringing her along on a routine three-day shakedown cruise aboard Captain Gilad Pellaeon's newly refitted assault ship. But the training run becomes an active-and dangerous-rescue mission when Republic undercover agent Hallena Devis goes missing in the middle of a Separatist invasion.

Dispatched to a distant world to aid a local dictator facing a revolution, Hallena finds herself surrounded by angry freedom fighters and questioning the Republic's methods-and motives. Summoned to rescue the missing operative who is also his secret love, Pellaeon-sworn to protect the Republic over all-is torn between duty and desire. And Ahsoka, sent in with Rex and six untested clone troopers to extract Hallena, encounters a new and different Jedi philosophy, which shakes the foundation of her upbringing to the core. As danger and intrigue intensify, the loyalties and convictions of all involved will be tested. . . .

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

Sick in San Francisco

David lee roth-california girl
envoyé par Docbuzz. - Regardez plus de clips, en HD !

I left Los Angeles last Thursday morning, sunburned and exhausted. That pub crawl really did me in, and that early wake up to catch that bus to the airport was brutal. But at 75 cents only to reach LAX airport, I couldn't pass it up.

I was aware that temperatures were a bit cooler in the San Francisco area to the Bay and all that. Touched down at San Francisco airport on Thursday a little past noon, and it was a glorious day. The sun was out, and there was a slight breeze blowing. All in all, it looked as though my stay in San Francisco, at least weather-wise, would be a wonderful as in L. A. Unfortunately, that was to be my last sighting of the sun. I was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a T-shirt. When the clouds moved in as my shuttle took me to my hostel near Union Square, temperatures dropped down to about 63 degrees. Don't know how much that amounts to in Celsius, but it was definitely on the chilly side. All of a sudden, I felt as though I had landed in the UK.

The boozing of the night before and the lack of sleep coupled with that dramatic drop in temperatures hit me like an uppercut. That evening I knew I was going to be sick, and by the time I went to bed the cold symptoms were already making themselves known. To my consternation, I spent the last three days with a sore throat, headaches, runny noise, coughing, and a bit of fever yesterday. I haven't been this sick while traveling since I went to Amsterdam in 2004.

What the fuck!?! Isn't this supposed to be California??? It's hotter in Montreal, for crying out loud! Fuck me, people are wearing boots and tuques on the streets, and that's no fashion statement! Of course, since I was coming to California, I didn't bring any warm clothes. Hence, I only have a long-sleeve shirt and a windbreaker with me, which likely didn't help improve my condition.

Being this sick (I got so much stuff coming out of my noise that I borrowed a roll of toilet paper from the hostel to carry around in my backpack -- nothing is more chic than grabbing that roll and blowing what feels like all my bodily fluids in that toilet paper!:-/), I sadly lacked the energy to do everything I wanted to do in San Francisco. Which is too bad, because this could well be the most beautiful city in the USA. After visiting ulgy and dirty Los Angeles, it was great to wander around what appears to be a gorgeous blend of Paris and New York City.

Met three French guys in L. A. who were staying in San Jose for a couple of days before returning home, so we hooked up to visit Alcatraz. At 26$ it's an expensive attraction, for sure, yet it's a cool and interesting visit. The audio tour is just long enough to be informative and entertaining. Pier 39 is a bit of a tourist trap, but everything is well-done. To a certain extent, wandering around the city is one of the best things to do in San Francisco. The area around Union Square is very nice, and walking around Market Street reminded me of my travels to Paris. Understandably, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to witness the Powell Street cable-car turnaround. Weird that for all the technology in the world, a burly black man and a small Asian guy (don't know if it's for show, but it's always an unlikely pair) turn the trolley around by hand on a revolving wooden platform.

Did the Lonely Planet walking tour in my guidebook, which took me across Chinatown, Italian North Beach, up the Greenwich Street Steps to the top of Telegraph Hill (sick as I was, this probably wasn't a great idea), and then on to the top of Russian Hill and Nob Hill. Somehow, temperatures found a way to go down to 61 degrees that day. The skies remained overcast, and the French guys and I didn't see a single ray of sunshine the entire afternoon we spent at Golden Gate Park. Similar to Central Park, it's a neat place to visit. But we figured it must be grand when the sun is out.

They wanted to go out on both Friday and Saturday night, but I elected to sit these ones out, hoping to get better in the process. My condition has indeed improved as I write these lines, but I'm far from feeling good. And since it's going to be suffocating when I land in Las Vegas tommorow afternoon, I'm hoping that taking it easy tonight will help this unit get back to full capacity or close to it. Shared a drink with the guys at the Urban Tavern at the Hilton Hotel, but that's as much action as I've gotten in San Francisco, I'm afraid. . .

Since it was gray and cold and foggy every fucking day since I got here, I kept my visit to the Golden Gate Bridge till the very end. Feeling a bit better, I started my day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art this morning. By the way, can anyone tell me how a urinal placed on a pedestal can be considered art. Then I made my way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It would surely have been wonderful had the sun been out, but it nevertheless was quite an experience to cross what just might be the most popular bridge in the world. The views are not as great as those from the Brooklyn Bridge, but it certainly was a cool afternoon.

Though the weather did everything it could to make me hate San Francisco, I ended up enjoying it immensely. And I will be returning, for sure. Just have to figure out when I have to bring my ass over when it's warm enough to wear shors and flip-flops. How can it feel like the beginning of April when we're a day away from June!?! Being sick prevented me from doing as much as I initially planned to do, so I will definitely come back. There are other parts of California I wish to see, so I guess a return trip to San Francisco will be in order.

Next stop: Las Vegas!;-)


Since there was some interest in this book during my last poll, I'm giving away one of my copies of James Enge's Blood of Ambrose (Canada, USA, Europe).

Here's the blurb:

Behind the king's life stands the menacing Protector, and beyond him lies the Protector's Shadow...

Centuries after the death of Uthar the Great, the throne of the Ontilian Empire lies vacant. The late emperor's brother-in-law and murderer, Lord Urdhven, appoints himself Protector to his nephew, young King Lathmar VII and sets out to kill anyone who stands between himself and mastery of the empire, including (if he can manage it) the king himself and his ancient but still formidable ancestress, Ambrosia Viviana.

When Ambrosia is accused of witchcraft and put to trial by combat, she is forced to play her trump card and call on her brother, Morlock Ambrosius—stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk.

As ministers of the king, they carry on the battle, magical and mundane, against the Protector and his shadowy patron. But all their struggles will be wasted unless the young king finds the strength to rule in his own right and his own name.

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

Underwhelmed in L. A.

When you've traveled around as much as I have, you are aware that few destinations can actually meet the expectations you have. It's a fact of life, and no worries about it. Actually, most of the time the city/region, while not being what you thought it would be, will nevertheless amaze you in ways you could not have foreseen.

Hence, I never make a big deal about expectations and I try not to have too lofty ones when I board a plane for a new destination. Some cities like New York City, Paris, Berlin, London, Riga, yada yada yada, will blow your mind, whatever you expected. Others, like Brussels and Zurich, leave more than a little something to be desired.

Los Angeles falls into a special category. No matter what you think it's going to be, it's far from that. We all have that glamorous image of the city in our minds, but L. A. is everything but that. Every traveler you meet prior to getting here tells you not to expect too much or you'll be sorely disappointed. Those who are visiting L. A. right now are all a bit underwhelmed. With the thousands of tourists who visit L. A. every day, it strike up conversations with dozens of random strangers all the time. And what we all have in common is a mild to a major disappointment in what L. A. turned out to be.

It's not all bad, mind you, and I'm having fun nonetheless. It's just that Los Angeles is nowhere near the sort of city I envisioned. Which is partially my fault, and partially the fault of the media who sell us the glamorous, star-studded image of an amorphous giant of a city that is dirty and ugly for the most part.

For that reason, man am I happy to have book accomodation in gorgeous Santa Monica, two blocks from the beach. In a way, the oceanfront portion of Santa Monica is the Los Angeles everyone comes to see and experience. Ask everyone staying here, and they'll tell you that it's the shit. But go up Santa Monica Boulevard toward the L. A. proper, and things quicky dissolve before your eyes. Plus, the public transportation, though cheap and efficient, takes forever to go anywhere because we have to rely on buses that get stuck at every fucking traffic light. From Santa Monica to Hollywood, a mere 12 miles will set you back about an hour. An hour!!!!:-( And that's with the express bus, no less! Wherever you go, it will take you quite a while to get there. And driving is not much better, what with all the traffic you encounter along the way.

Still, for all the time it takes us to get somewhere, everyone here is happy to stay in Santa Monica. And I would recommend it to anyone planning on coming to Los Angeles. The pier is neat, though nothing to write home about. But you have long stretches of sandy beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Bars and restaurants along the 3rd Street Promenade. And the hostel, the H. I. Los Angeles-Santa Monica is a real bargain at about 34$ a night.

Spent my first afternoon exploring Santa Monica. Then made my way to Venice Beach. You know when you get there immediately. The Oceanfront Promenade becomes dirty, everything feels like an open-air flea market, and you can't really tell who's homeless and who's a resident. Tacky and kitch to an extreme seldom encountered, it nevertheless remains a must see. Just so you can realize how weird everything feels. And Muscle Beach was a major disappointment as well. Feels like a gym that has not changed its inventory since the 70s.

The second day was spent visiting Hollywood. They tell you that the best view for the Hollywood sign is at the end of Beachwood Drive. Don't believe that crap. Continue on to Ledgewood Drive till you reach its end, and then make a left on that street for unencumbered views of the famous sign on the adjacent hill. The Walk of Fame is nothing special, though it does feel kind of cool to be there and soak up the atmosphere. For the first time in my life, I actually caved in and had my picture taken with a pair of Stormtroopers in front of the Chinese Theatre.

The third day was devoted to Downtown Los Angeles. Most people told me to skip it, as it was supposed to suck big time. But I wanted to find out for myself, so I want. . . And realized that they were right on all accounts. Other than Grand Street and the Financial District and the area around Staples Center, L. A.'s downtown is quite lame. Fortunately, the day was saved when I elected to go to Beverly Hills. It's quite fun to walk along Rodeo Drive and the surrounding streets where all the posh shops are situated.

Though it cost a fortune, I went to Disneyland yesterday. Yeah, it was 117$US in total with the shuttle, but let me tell you that it was worth every penny. It sure did bring the kid out of me, and I had a total blast. Too bad the lines are so long that you can't go on all the rides. Yet we did more than enough to enjoy it to a degree that we had eyes as big as any child there!

Spent most of the day at the beach in Malibu today, and I unfortunately have the sunburns to show for it. We played volleyball and made the most of our time there. Sadly, no celebrities were spotted there, nor in Beverly Hills, or anywhere else.

In the end, although Los Angeles was nothing like I thought it would, I still managed to have a great time. I probably won't be coming back, though. But one can never say never, as the old saying goes. So who knows. . . L. A. might yet grow on me.

Flying to San Francisco tomorrow morning, and there's a pub crawl tonight. God I hope I'll get up on time to catch my flight!

Win a copy of Bruce Sterling's THE CARYATIDS

I've been intrigued by this book ever since I received the ARC. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear much about it. Which means that the novel is either flying under the radar, or it sucks. . . But the premise sounds quite interesting!

And since I own two copies, I'm giving one away! For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Alongside William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling stands at the forefront of a select group of writers whose pitch-perfect grasp of the cultural and scientific zeitgeist endows their works of speculative near-future fiction with uncanny verisimilitude. To read a novel by Sterling is to receive a dispatch from a time traveler. Now, with The Caryatids, Sterling has written a stunning testament of faith in the power of human intellect, creativity, and spirit to overcome any obstacle-even the obstacles we carry inside ourselves.

The world of 2060 is divided into three spheres of influence, each fighting with the others over the resources of fallen nations and an environment degraded almost to the point of no return. There is the Dispensation, centered in Los Angeles, where entertainment and capitalism have fused with the highest of high-tech. There is the Acquis, a Green-centered collective that uses invasive neurological technology to create a networked utopia. And there is China, the sole surviving nation-state, a dinosaur that has prospered only by pitilessly pruning its own population. Products of this monstrous world, the daughters of a monstrous mother, and-according to some-monsters themselves, are the Caryatids: the four surviving female clones of a mad Balkan genius and wanted war criminal now ensconced, safely beyond extradition, on an orbiting space station. Radmila is a Dispensation star determined to forget her past by building a glittering, impregnable future. Vera is an Acquis functionary dedicated to reclaiming their home, the Croatian island of Mljet, from catastrophic pollution. Sonja is a medical specialist in China renowned for selflessly risking herself to help others. And Biserka is a one-woman terrorist network. The four 'sisters' are united only by their hatred for their 'mother' -and for one another.

When evidence surfaces of a coming environmental cataclysm, the Dispensation sends its greatest statesman-or salesman-John Montgomery Montalban, husband of Radmila, and lover of Vera and Sonja, to gather the Caryatids together in an audacious plan to save the world.

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

Tad Williams and Deborah Beale contest winners!

Our winners will receive a copy of Tad Williams and Deborah Beale's YA novel, The Dragons of Ordinary Farm, compliments of the folks at Harper Collins. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Beth Paulhus, from Ellington, Connecticut, USA

- Tammy Williams, from Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA

- Teresa Mayle, from Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Excerpt from David J. Williams' THE BURNING SKIES

Here's a teaser extract from David J. Williams' action-packed The Burning Skies (Canada, USA, Europe), sequel to The Mirrored Heavens (Canada, USA, Europe).

For more info about the author and this series, check out Williams' website.


Claire Haskell sits within a container within some spaceship. Darkness sits within her. The conversation with Matthew Sinclair has left her feeling sick. She thought she would have left the wreckage of her past life behind her by now, but it's only growing ever more insistent--Jason's face in the throes of passion, Jason's face as she killed him, his body contorted on the SeaMech's floor--all of it keeps replaying in her mind, and she wishes she could undo all of it. Her own weakness appalls her. But she can't deny that she'd sell out the whole world just to put the clock back three days. She'd throw in her lot with the Rain just to keep Jason alive.

But now he's dead. And she's thankful. Because it means the key to her heart's been thrown away forever. No one can hurt her anymore. No one can second-guess her while she takes stock of the whole game: the superpowers as they shore up their defenses, the endless gates of both those zones, those endless eyes scanning endlessly for Rain.

And for her. She can't see the Rain, though. She hasn't seen them since their defeat four days ago--in the minutes after that defeat, she got a read on them receding into zone like a leviathan fading beneath the waves: just a quick glimpse of scales and teeth, and then it was gone. She saw enough to realize just how much of a threat they still were. It worries her that she hasn't seen them since. It worries her even more that they might have seen her. That they might have found some way inside her, and she might not even know it. Even if she is Manilishi--that doesn't mean she can't lose.

So she takes what precautions she can. If the Rain retain some secret thing inside her--some secret key to her, in spite of all her precautions--they might see what's in her brain's software. They might see what's in her mind.

But they won't see what's on her own skin. They won't see what she's drawn upon it. Across the hours, in the oily darkness of the holds of spaceships, surrounded by the clank of machinery: she's pricked maps upon that skin, scarred that skin, painted it all in her own blood, all her calculations, all her strategy, whole swathes of the blueprint of zone upon her limbs and chest--both zones, and the neutral ones too . . . endless geometries of virtual architecture, endless coordinates in no-space. Insight's a myriad of bloody slashes all across her. Knowledge is no longer fleeting now it's etched upon her. She studies endless patterns. She's looking for what all the others may have missed. Twenty-four hours since the thwarting of war, and a nagging disquiet is stealing through her. Forty-eight hours, and that disquiet has become a fear unlike any she's ever known.

Now it's been ninety-six hours. The conversation with Sinclair's confirmed what she's been thinking. Now she's certain. She's so scared she feels like her mind's coming apart. Worse, as long as she was slicing herself, she was forgetting Jason. But now she's got nothing more to cut.

She's got nothing more to learn either. She knows exactly where she needs to be. Right where she is now. Crosshairs slide together in her mind. She feels herself start gliding forward.

Thanks to the folks at Pyr, I have 5 copies of the mass market edition of Joel Shepherd's Breakaway. The sequel to Crossover, Breakaway is another quality read! I've said it before and I'll say it again, give this series a try if you have yet to do so! For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

Brian Ruckley contest winners!

Our three winner will receive a complimentary copy of Brian Ruckey's Fall of Thanes, courtesy of the folks at Orbit. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Khaled Hassan, from Pasadena, California, USA

- Allan Wells, from Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland (Rulkez on

- Valerie Smart, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!;-)


Follow this link to a PDF download of the prologue and the first seven chapters from Tad Williams and Deborah Beale's The Dragons of Ordinary Farm:

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

Win a copy of Joe Abercrombie's BEST SERVED COLD

I have three copies of Abercrombie's latest for you to win, compliments of the cool folks at Gollancz. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

Jacqueline Carey contest winners!

Thanks to the folks at Grand Central Publishing, each of our winners will receive a copy of Jacqueline Carey's Naamah's Kiss (Canada, USA, Europe).

The winners are:

- Charlotte Bloebaum, from Portland, Oregon, USA

- Cathy MacDonald, from Martinez, California, USA

- Brenda Carre, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

- Natalie Collins, from Bakersfield, California, USA

- Beatrice Chan, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!

Best Served Cold

Having thoroughly enjoyed The First Law trilogy, I was eager to discover where Joe Abercrombie would take us next. A stand-alone novel set in the same universe and focusing on revenge seemed to be just what fans were clamoring for. And believe me, Best Served Cold is all fans want it to be. And then some!

Abercrombie raised the bar high when he brought The First Law to a close in Last Argument of Kings. With three quality yarns under his belt, I felt that the author really needed to push the envelope in Best Served Cold. And he certainly did! Abercrombie's latest is his most ambitious work to date. Moreover, if it's any indication of what he is capable of, it bodes well for the future indeed. His accessible style could make him one of the biggest names in the genre in the years to come.

Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins and the Butcher of Caprile, is the most feared and efficient mercenary general in Grand Duke Orso's army. Her many victories have made her famous in Talins and infamous in the rest of Styria and beyond. So much so that her employer fears that her sight might be set on his own throne. Betrayed by her closest allies, Murcatto is stabbed to death and thrown down a mountain for good measure. Somehow, she barely survives and lives another day, her desire for vengeance the only thing allowing her to cling to life as her body slowly heals, leaving her hobbled and scarred for the rest of her days. With revenge the only thing left for her to live for, Monza Murcatto will give new meaning to the adage «Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.» Seven men were there when she was betrayed and thrown off that terrace. Seven men she counted among her friends and allies. Seven men who must now pay the price and die by her hand.

Best Served Cold is an excellent tale of murder and vengeance. It's a morally ambiguous work with many shades of gray. The good guys become the bad guys, and vice versa, and back again. There are more twists and turns than in The First Law, and I get the feeling that Joe Abercrombie truly came into his own while writing this one. Best Served Cold is filled to the brim with all the elements that made The First Law such an enjoyable reading experience, yet it is definitely the work of a more mature author.

Abercrombie's black humor is present throughout, and to a certain extent it helps create a balance with the more violent and gruesome scenes. As was the case with Charlie Huston's latest book, I felt that Abercrombie's witty and humorous style and tone allow him to get away with sequences of graphic violence other fantasy authors such as Terry Goodkind were denounced for. Still, although Best Served Cold is dark, brutal, and gritty, every chapter contains several moments that will make you chuckle out loud in spite of everything. For instance, the entire Sipani sequence is a classic.

Joe Abercrombie upped his game in the worldbuilding department as well. Styria's Mediterranean setting is well-done, and each city/region comes alive through the imagery of the narrative.

Characterization remains the author's bread and butter, and Abercrombie doesn't disappoint. Monza Murcatto could well be his most fully realized character to date. And yet, it's the interesting cast of secondary characters which make Best Served Cold so memorable. Many characters from The First Law show up, so I will refrain from elaborating on this aspect to avoid any spoilers. But you know you're in for a wild ride when Murcatto's allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, its most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers, and a barbarian trying to become a better man.

The pace is crisp throughout, though things slow down a bit in the last portion of the novel. I loved the way Abercrombie closed the show, and how many storylines are tied with the quite a few plotlines from the original trilogy. Best Served Cold features a body count that would make George R. R. Martin clap Abercrombie in the back in approval. My advice: Don't get too attached to anyone. . .

If you are one of those poor drifting souls who have yet to give Joe Abercrombie a shot, Best Served Cold is your opportunity to get acquainted with the author's style. For fans of Abercrombie, it will scratch that itch and more.

Hard to put down.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

Musical Interlude

GUNS N ROSES - Paradise City
envoyé par GunsnRoses. - Regardez la dernière sélection musicale.

What better to put a ray of sunshine into your day than by playing Guns N' Roses best track ever!?!

The funny thing is that growing up I always thought Montreal was the asshole of this world. When I started traveling, to my dismay I discovered that Montreal could well be one of the nicest and coolest places in the world. Thirty countries under my belt, and I can count the cities where I'd rather live on the fingers of one hand. Without using them all. . .

I needed to experience what all those other places had to offer to realize just how great things could be in my neck of the woods. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, sure, but the Paradise City just might be the where you're at right now. . .

Joe Abercrombie contest winner!

Our winner will receive an ARC of Joe Abercrombie's excellent Best Served Cold, courtesy of Yours Truly! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

As a matter of course, every time I pay for shipping the winners live at the other end of the planet. . .

The winner is:

- Aki Lee, from Osaka, Japan

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

California Dreaming. . .

Well, this year was meant for me to visit Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Alas, I got fucked up the ass at work and was unable to put my 4 weeks of vacation time together, which means that Eastern Europe will have to wait.

I contemplated traveling to Egypt, but the price tag was too big for such a relatively short vacation. The Pyramids and the Sphinx will, sadly, have to wait as well.

In need of something to fill two weeks, I turned to the West Coast of the USA. So I'm flying to California on Saturday, where I'll spend 5 nights in Los Angeles, 4 nights in San Francisco, and another 4 nights in Las Vegas. I daresay it will be a fun-filled adventure!

No need to worry, as I have a number of giveaways and additional material on tap for you while I'll roast under the Californian sunshine!;-)

Mark Charan Newton contest winners!

These five lucky winners will receive a complimentary copy of Newton's Nights of Villjamur, compliments of the folks at Pan MacMillan. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Iain Fleming, from Dunmurry, Northern Ireland

- Mark Redman, from Oakes, Huddersfield, England

- Shane McGrath, from Cork, Ireland

- Alicia Hurley, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England

- James Ross, from Cork City, Ireland

Thanks to all the participants!

Man, it may not be St. Patrick's Day, but the Irish got lucky this time around!

Oh, before I forget, there will be a second excerpt from Newton's Nights of Villjamur as we get closer to the release date. . .:-)

Win a copy of the limited edition of China Miéville's THE CITY & THE CITY

Thanks to the folks at Subterranean Press, I have a copy of the limited edition of China Miéville's The City & the City up for grabs. Check out the Subpress website for more info about this collector's item.

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

For more info about this title (regular edition): Canada, USA, Europe.

Chris Wooding contest winners!

Our three lucky winners will get their hands on an ARC of Chris Wooding's upcoming Retribution Falls, courtesy of the kind folks at Gollancz. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Roel Tigchelaarde, from Nieuwkoop, the Netherlands

- Kamila Kudla, from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (Filippa on

- Vid Fras, from Kobilje, Slovenia

Thanks to all the participants!


As I mentioned before, Richard Morgan fans should give David J. Williams a shot! With The Mirrored Heavens (Canada, USA, Europe) now out in paperback, and with The Burning Skies (Canada, USA, Europe) about to hit the shelves all across North America, there is no better time than right now to join the search for Autumn Rain!

There is a cool book trailer for The Burning Skies at io9, and you can check it out here.


This week's New York York Times Bestsellers (May 12th)

In hardcover:

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down two spots, finishing the week at number 8.

Jim Butcher's Turn Coat is down seven positions, ending its fourth week on the bestseller list at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is up five positions, ending its fifth week on the bestseller list at number 5.

Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet: Relentless debuts at number 16.

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse is down nineteen spots, finishing its fifth week on the prestigious list at number 24.

Joel Shepherd contest winners!

Our five winners will get their hands on the mass market paperback edition of Joel Shepherd's action-packed Crossover, compliments of the folks at Pyr. Now that you can get this novel on the cheap, I recommend that you do so ASAP! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Raman Ohri, from Fishers, Indiana, USA

- Mirella Standbridge, from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

- Doug Doyle, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

- Joni Scalf, from Houston, Texas, USA

- Jonathan Sewell, from Clarksville, Tennessee, USA (Jasewell on

Thanks to all the participants!

US cover art for Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson's THE GATHERING STORM

Well, it's better than that sketch, that's for sure. . . It's not as bad as Lord of Chaos. . . But that's about as far as I can possibly stretch positiveness. . .

Still, it's what's between the pages that counts.

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

Win a copy of Brian Ruckley's FALL OF THANES

Thanks to the kind folks at Orbit, I have three copies of Brian Ruckley's Fall of Thanes up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Tension between the clans of the Black Road and the True Bloods is mounting, as each side in the conflict becomes ever more riven by internal dissent and disunity. And Aeglyss the na'kyrim continues to spread chaos in the world, exerting a dangerous, insidious influence over events both near and far. As events mount to a climax, the world will change and no side can anticipate the twisted pattern of what lies ahead.

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

Patrick Rothfuss turns in the manuscript for THE WISE MAN'S FEAR

This from Rothfuss' latest blog post:

Lastly, for those of you that care about this sort of thing, I got the first draft of book two finished Manuscript printed and mailed to my editor two hours before I got on my plane. To say it was a bit of a rush doesn't really convey the frantic nature of the past two weeks of my life.

Which means that the tentative spring/summer 2010 release date for The Wise Man's Fear (Canada, USA, Europe) could well be within the realm of possibilities!:-)

George R. R. Martin is not your bitch

Came cross this interesting post on Neil Gaiman's Journal. The author received this message from a fan:

Hi Neil,

I've recently subscribed to George RR Martin's blog ( in the hopes of getting some inside information regarding when the next "Song of Ice and Fire" book is due to be released. I love the series but since subscribing to the blog I've become increasingly frustrated with Martin's lack of communication on the next novel's publication date. In fact, it's almost as though he is doing everything in his power to avoid working on his latest novel. Which poses a few questions:

1. With blogs and twitter and other forms of social media do you think the audience has too much input when it comes to scrutinising the actions of an artist? If you had announced a new book two years ago and were yet to deliver do you think avoiding the topic on your blog would lead readers to believe you were being "slack"? By blogging about your work and life do you have more of a responsibility to deliver on your commitments?

2. When writing a series of books, like Martin is with "A Song of Ice and Fire" what responsibility does he have to finish the story? Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?

Would be very interested in your insight.



To which Gaiman replied:

My opinion....

1) No.

2) Yes, it's unrealistic of you to think George is "letting you down".

Look, this may not be palatable, Gareth, and I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.

People are not machines. Writers and artists aren't machines.

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren't coming out on time.

Both of these things make me glad that I am not currently writing a series, and make me even gladder that the decade that I did write series things, in Sandman, I was young, driven, a borderline workaholic, and very fortunate. (and even then, towards the end, I was taking five weeks to write a monthly comic, with all the knock-on problems in deadlines that you would expect from that).

Click on the link to read the whole piece. This will by no means silence Martin's detractors, but it's nice to get a number 1 NYT bestselling author's take on the issue.

War of the Words

I know I made the announcement a while back, but here's the official press release from Tor UK:

SciFiNow and Tor launch War of the Words competition

SciFiNow and Tor UK announce competition to offer a new Sci-fi writer a book publishing contract.

Leading consumer specialist magazine SciFiNow and highly regarded SF imprint Tor UK have teamed up to launch a new competition, War Of The Words, in a bid to find the UK’s best new SF writer. The partnership will be announced to readers in SciFiNow issue 28, on sale 13 May. Both SciFiNow and Tor UK are committed to celebrating the best in science fiction and fantasy literature and discovering emerging talent in the genre.

Writers will be encouraged to submit a full synopsis along with the first three chapters by 20 August. The judging panel will be comprised of members of SciFiNow magazine and Tor teams, and a shortlist of six entries will be announced before the overall winner is revealed in SciFiNow issue 35, on sale 25 November 2009.

Top Macmillan and Tor authors will offer advice and tips to competitors in exclusive interviews. The SciFiNow website will also host regularly updated author content, including podcast interviews and video clips, as well as Q&A opportunities for aspiring writers. After the winner is announced, SciFiNow will continue to follow the publishing process with interviews with the winning author and extracts in the magazine, plus a winner’s blog on The finished book will be published by Tor UK in 2010.

Julie Crisp, Senior Commissioning Editor at Tor UK, commented: “At Tor UK we’re dedicated to finding, growing and nurturing new talent. We’re very excited to be working in partnership with one of the leading specialist magazines to find a new science fiction or fantasy writer to join authors such as Neal Asher and Alan Campbell on our list.”

Aaron Asadi, Editor in Chief of SciFiNow, added: “We’re delighted to be working with Tor UK on such a fantastic competition. SciFiNow has always prided itself on championing the very best in sci-fi and War Of The Words exemplifies that.”

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Joe Abercrombie's BEST SERVED COLD

I'm about halfway through this book, and it's the shit so far! Just the right mix of violence and humor, Best Served Cold is a joy to read! And since I have an extra ARC, I'm giving one away to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

Quote of the Day

The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet.

- DARTH VADER, The Empire Strikes Back

By far, my favorite Star Wars quote ever!

Win a copy of Tad Williams and Deborah Beale's THE DRAGONS OF ORDINARY FARM

I don't normally do giveaways for YA novels, but I'm a big Tad Williams fan, and I reckon that many of you are as well. So what the heck, right!?! Thanks to the folks at Harper Collins, I have three copies of Tad Williams and Deborah Beale's The Dragons of Ordinary Farm up for grabs. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Tyler and Lucinda have to spend summer vacation with their ancient uncle Gideon, a farmer. They think they're in for six weeks of cows, sheep, horses, and pigs. But when they arrive in deserted Standard Valley, California, they discover that Ordinary Farm is, well, no ordinary farm.

The bellowing in the barn comes not from a cow but from a dragon. The thundering herd in the valley? Unicorns. Uncle Gideon's sprawling farmhouse never looks the same twice. Plus, there's a flying monkey, a demon squirrel, and a barnload of unlikely farmhands with strange accents and even stranger powers.

At first, the whole place seems like a crazy adventure. But when darker secrets begin to surface and Uncle Gideon and his fabulous creatures are threatened, Lucinda and Tyler have to pull together to take action. Will two ordinary kids be able to save the dragons, the farm - and themselves?

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

Excerpt from Jacqueline Carey's NAAMAH'S KISS

I know many of you are eagerly awaiting the release of this novel. And thanks to Jacqueline Carey, here's another excerpt from Naamah's Kiss (Canada, USA, Europe) to whet your appetite!;-)


"Naamah," I breathed.

"Naamah," Cillian agreed, his finger hovering over the page.

Our gazes met in triumph. It had taken a year for him to gain proficiency in the D’Angeline tongue and teach it to me. A year to find the right text, and for me to draw painstaking details from my recalcitrant mother. She glanced over our shoulders at the illustration of a priest in red robes, bestowing a careless remark on us.

"Oh, aye. That bears a likeness."

Cillian rolled his eyes. I giggled.

Naamah; desire. The bright lady had a name.

I studied the page. I studied all the pages. I mouthed the D’Angeline words to myself. Here was the tale my mother had sketched for me long ago, told in full.

Elua; Blessed Elua. First and foremost of their gods. All the rest had followed him. Fallen from heaven, fallen from the skies. They gave up their immortal heritage for him. Why? I traced his likeness. Born of the earth, nurtured there. Conceived of the blood of a lone deity’s mortal son and the tears of his mortal beloved, essences that mingled in the soil. Claimed by neither earth or sky, nor stone and sea.

He wandered.

The others left heaven and followed him.

I didn’t understand it; I couldn’t. It was too strange, too foreign. I couldn’t grasp the tales. Were they gods or servants? Was Elua their diadh-anam? My mother had said he wasn’t. But if not, what was he?

Why did they follow him?

When he hungered, Naamah lay down with strangers to get coin that he might eat. And then they came to Terre d’Ange, where the people welcomed them with open arms. There they stayed and got many children until the lonely god relented and invited Elua and his Companions back to heaven. But he refused, and went to a different place instead, and all his Companions went with him.

I looked at the illustrations again. One of them showed a priest in brown robes pouring out an offering of grain at the feet of a statue. The statue was of a man holding a seedling in the palm of his hand.

"Anael," I said aloud.

"’Anael, also called the Star of Love and the Good Steward,’" Cillian read. "’He gave unto them many gifts of husbandry, and taught them to grow good things and care for the land.’ What’s he to do with anything?"

"I don’t know," I murmured. I’d never told him about that small bit of magic I could do. "If my father was a priest of Naamah, do you reckon he’s descended from her line?"

Cillian shrugged. "Mayhap. After so many years, I imagine the lines are muddled. Why?"

"No reason." I closed the book. "Well. Now we know."

"I could try to find out his name for you," he offered. "I’m sure there’s a register of important foreign guests who attended my father’s coronation. Mayhap the priest’s name is recorded in it."
I glanced at my mother’s face. Her expression was unreadable. "No," I said slowly, stroking the cover of the book. "No, it’s enough to know this much. Thank you, Cillian."

He smiled. "You’re welcome, little frog."

And for a time, it was enough. Knowledge, I decided, could be a fearsome thing. I knew who I was: Moirin, daughter of Fainche. I did not wish to become other. And so I locked the name of the bright lady my father served away in my heart along with the name of the man with the seedling whom they called Star of Love and Good Steward, and I prayed instead to the Maghuin Dhonn Herself that I should be one of Her children and no one else’s.

In the autumn, Cillian began his formal studies at the Academy and I saw less of him. Still, he came when he could. By spring, he’d grown another three inches and his head was full of all manner of new tales and histories, as well as gossip about the young men and women studying with him.

"You must come when you’re of age, Moirin," he wheedled. "It’s only two years from now, is it not?"

"One," I said, offended.

"Oh, aye?" He looked surprised. "That’s right, I forgot. My sister looked older at thirteen."

It needled me that he should see me as such a child. I was old enough that I could survive in the woods alone. I could read as well as Cillian, and I’d learned D’Angeline as fast as he could teach it to me. But now he was reading works by Caerdicci scholars and learning skills like astronomy and mathematics. Wherever he was going, I was being left behind.

I said as much to my mother.

She gave me her wry look. "Wait."

"For what?"

"You’ll see."

Oengus came that summer. He’d come a few times since our pilgrimage to Clunderry. This time, he eyed me critically.

"She’s not started her woman’s courses?" he asked my mother.

She shook her head. "No. I’d have told you."

I flushed. "Whatever for?"

They exchanged a glance. "It would mean you’re eligible to be courted," my mother said. "Time enough and more for that," she added in a firm tone, putting the subject behind us.

That night, she went with Oengus. I lay awake in my nest of blankets, listening to the sounds of the night forest, trying not to think on what they did out there. When I closed my eyes, I saw the bright lady. Naamah, whose gift was desire. She held her hands cupped at her waist, then raised them and smiled at me. Soon, she said in a voice like honey, and opened her hands. A shimmering grey dove burst into the air, its fluttering wings echoing the fluttering deep in my belly.


Soon came that autumn and winter. My woman’s courses didn’t start, but my body changed nonetheless.

I grew tall; or at least taller than my mother. At first I was reed-thin with it, but then that changed, too. My breasts and hips swelled. Where once my body had been quick and nimble, it now acquired a lithe, nubile grace.

I felt strange in my skin.

Good, but strange.

A world of sensation abounded. I craved it. I could become absorbed for hours in the softness of a piece of rabbit hide, running the down-soft fur over my cheek. Drawing a comb through my hair. The way my clothing rustled against my skin. The sensual warmth of thawing my hands over the fire after a day afield could make me shiver with pleasure.

"Ah, Moirin mine," my mother murmured, watching me. "You’re a beautiful girl."

"Am I?" I asked, startled out of a reverie.

She kissed my brow. "You are."

When Cillian came that spring for the first time in long months, I saw it reflected in another’s eyes. I was boiling tender lily buds over the hearth-fire and sensed him coming long before he arrived, a trail of disruption in his wake. He bounded into our campsite on long legs, his voice turned deep and booming.

"Moirin!" he shouted. "Moirin! I’m sorry I’ve been away so long, but there’s the most amazing news-"

I stood. "Oh, aye?"

He blinked. "Moirin?"

In that moment, the balance of power shifted between us forever. I crossed my arms, folding them under my young breasts, and saw his gaze flicker over my body. "And who else might I be?"

"Ahh...." Cillian flushed. "You’ve grown, that’s all."

"So I have," I agreed.

"Aye." He stood stupidly, staring.

"What news?" I prompted him.

"Oh!" He started. "Oh, aye." He made a sweeping gesture toward the west. "There’s a whole new land that’s been discovered across the sea. An Aragonian explorer found it. It’s all the talk of the Academy."

"Is it now?"

"It is." Cillian came toward me, dropping the satchel he carried. His hand rose as though of its own accord to touch my face. "Dagda Mor!" he breathed. "Have I been gone so long?"

I leaned away from him. "You have."

"Forgive me?" he begged.

"I might." I ducked and picked up the satchel. "What have you brought me?"

It wasn’t much. Stale oatcakes; the dregs of last season’s honey, crystallized in the comb. A smoked ham that was nearly rancid. An illustrated history of the Master of the Straits.


Cillian flushed again. "I’ll bring whatever you like next time."

I stepped close to him, until we were nearly nose to nose. "What I want is my friend back."
"Moirin." His voice was husky. He clasped my upper arms, his hands strong. It felt good. His dark-grey eyes were intent on mine. I’d never noticed how handsome he was. "Have I not always been your friend?"

I shrugged. "When it suited."

"It suits."

He kissed me. His lips were firm, but softer than I expected. Over and over, Cillian kissed my mouth. And then there was his tongue, probing tentatively. At first the invasion startled me, and then I welcomed it. I teased it with my own; teased and retreated, forcing him to delve deeper into my mouth.

Yes, I thought. This.

The bright lady agreed, amused.

There was a sound of my mother clearing her throat. She was standing near the hearth, a brace of grouse dangling from one hand.

Cillian sprang backward.

I eyed her.

"So," she said wryly. "Already?"

"We were just-" Cillian began.

"I can see well enough what you were about," my mother said. "Moirin..." She sighed. "Grown as you may have done, you’re a child in a woman’s body yet. Have a care with it, will you not?"

I didn’t want to have a care with it and I didn’t want to be told I was a child. What I wanted was for Cillian to kiss me again and find out what happened next. But there was shadow of worry behind my mother’s eyes that made me nod reluctantly and keep my peace.

And so I sat plucking grouse while Cillian spoke of the rumors surrounding the new land that had been discovered across the sea; of fabulous cities rising up from lush jungles, folk who dressed themselves all in jade and feathers, and gold beyond telling. It was all very interesting, but I’d rather have been kissing him.

When it came time for him to leave, I walked with him to where his mount was tethered on the outskirts of the woods, feeling my mother’s gaze boring into my back. Cillian’s stalwart pony had been replaced by a tall chestnut gelding, another sign that he was edging toward manhood.

"He’s a beauty." I blew softly into the chestnut’s nostrils. He whickered and lowered his head that I might scratch his ears. "Will you teach me to ride him?"

"Moirin." Cillian caught me around my waist. He turned me around and kissed me again. "I’ll do aught you wish, my witch-girl," he whispered against my lips. "Only tell me you’re not wroth and I’m welcome here."

"Hmm." I pulled back in the circle of his arms. "I am wroth. But only because I missed you."

"I’ll come again," he promised, pulling me toward him and showering my face with kisses. "I promise."

"Shall I make sure of it?" I teased, tasting my newfound power.


I slid my hands into his auburn hair and kissed him in reply, long and deep, pressing my body against his. Cillian groaned into my open mouth. I broke off the kiss and slipped from his arms with a deft twist. The blood was beating hard in my veins and I wanted more as surely as he did; but I knew just as surely that this was my gift and I was in control of it.

"Will that do?" I asked innocently.

"Aye," he said in a daze. "That will do it."

Nights of Villjamur

There's been an anticipatory buzz surrounding this novel ever since the synopsis appeared on the internet a few months back. Since then, advance reviews have done nothing to diminish SFF fans' interest in this book. Hence, I was quite eager to finally get the chance to sit down and read Nights of Villjamur. Of course, the first ARC sent my way got lost in the mail, so I was forced to wait a while before a copy ultimately reached my mailbox.

Mark Charan Newton is best known for his work as an editor at Solaris. And yet, the first volume of The Legends of the Red Sun is his second novel to date, with a sequel on the way.

An ice age known as the Freeze is gradually settling over the land, forcing thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Villjamur. Faced with an impending doom which is foretold to last decades, the Emperor commits suicide, thus forcing his estranged elder daughter to ascend the throne. But the manipulative Chancellor is pulling strings within the Council to assume control of the empire. Meanwhile, high-profile councillors are being murdered, and Investigator Rumex Jeryd of the Inquisition must unmask the killer. Yet as the investigation progresses, Jeryd uncovers a conspiracy that will put his own life at risk. With the coming of this long cold winter at their doorsteps, reports from the northern islands indicate that a mysterious enemy is decimating the population everywhere. Members of the elite Night Guard are sent to investigate this genocide, while secretive Cultists embark on a journey from which there might be no coming back.

With so many disparate yet linked storylines, Nights of Villjamur is an ambitious work of fantasy. The novel is heavily influenced by China Miéville, while you can see that Jack Vance's Dying Earth was the inspiration for the setting. To a lesser degree, one can also perceive the influence of authors such as George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson in various aspects of this one.

The worldbuilding is doubtless the facet in which Mark Charan Newton excels the most. À la Miéville, Villjamur, a dark and brooding metropolis, becomes a character in its own right. The city descriptions are evocative, and the author has a knack for creating adroit imagery that makes Villjamur come alive. In addition, there are a number of cool and interesting concepts in this novel, chief among those the Cultists devoting their lives to the study of ancient artifacts and technology.

Characterization is probably the aspect which sometimes leaves a little to be desired, however. On the one hand, some characters such as Brynd, Jeryd, and to a certain extent Tuya, are well-drawn and three-dimensional, while others such as Randur, Eir and Chancellor Urtica are more than a little clichéd and quite predictable. À la R. Scott Bakker in Prince of Nothing, Newton fell into the trap of bogging down the narrative with a lot of introspection and inner monologues. These musings, though not as spiritual and philosophical as Bakker's, often get in the way of what is essentially a good story by slowing down the rhythm of the book. I feel that the author may have attempted to do too much by exploring various themes and social issues while laying the groundwork for the rest of the series and mapping out a complex array of plotlines.

That introspection wasn't much of a problem early on, but it became a bit more bothersome when I realized that it was to the detriment of the story as a whole. Some characters and events could have used more work. As far as characters are concerned, the entire storyline devoted to Chancellor Urtica was way too Palpatinesque for my taste. Most elements involved in the Chancellor's storyline appeared somewhat contrived, and his machinations succeed too easily to be fully credible. The same could be said of Randur and Eir's plotline.

Some engaging ideas and concepts were introduced, but Newton doesn't elaborate a whole lot on them. I would have loved to learn more about the various sects of Cultists, which for me were the most fascinating feature found in this novel. More information about the Ovinists, the Night Guard, everything Caveside, the Realm Gate, Jurro the Dawnir, and the coming of the ice age would have added several layers to the overall plot.

Newton's noirish prose works well and sets the mood just right, especially in the scenes taking place in the city of Villjamur. But Nights of Villjamur is not a fast read. Not that it's boring, mind you, but this is not a book that grabs hold of you from the start and won't let go. This is a story that reveals itself in increments, slowly building up toward a more fast-moving finale. As I mentioned, though, the social commentary underlying the narrative and the exploration of themes such as humanitarian issues and love do slow down the pace to the detriment of the storytelling.

Having said that, Newton closes the show with a bang, setting the stage for what is to come in the sequel. Although a number of plotlines were quite predictable, Newton demonstrated that he has a few surprises up his sleeve, which bodes well for volume 2. I have a feeling that the absence of resolution at the end of the novel might bother some readers, but I don't think Newton could have brought Nights of Villjamur to a close in any other way. All in all, the ending was consistant with the structure of the tale.

Nights of Villjamur is a solid effort featuring a variety of interesting concepts and storylines. As I said, the stage is set for the sequel, and I'm curious to see where Mark Charan Newton will take this story. A little less introspection on the characters' part and a little more focus on the plot elements which give this novel its "flavor" instead of concentrating on the social commentary would make volume 2 a more compelling and page-turning read.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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