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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is up one position, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down three positions, ending the week at number 13. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House maintains its position at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is up six spots, finishing the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down six positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Nora Robert's Of Blood and Bone debuts at number 11 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



The most powerful and haunting piece of what could be the very best movie soundtrack ever produced. Hans Zimmer truly knocked it out of the park.

I'd usually go for the musical score, but I find this live performance to be amazing.

Cold Days


After a number of more straightforward and episodic installments, with Dead Beat the Dresden Files shifted into high gear. Followed by Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, and Turn Coat, Jim Butcher elevated his game with basically every new volume. As I mentioned in previous reviews, far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

Changes, the very best installment yet, proved to be the culmination of a panoply of interwoven plotlines introduced in previous novels. It raised the bar higher than ever before and nothing will ever be the same for poor Harry Dresden from here on out. A major turning point for the series and its characters, no doubt about it. For its part, Ghost Story felt like a transition novel meant to bridge what happened before with whatever will come next.

And if the plot of Cold Days is any indication, it appears that the Dresden Files has plenty of drama and fireworks left in store for its readers.

Here's the blurb:

You can't keep a good wizard down - even when he wants to stay that way.

For years, Harry Dresden has been Chicago's only professional wizard, but a bargain made in desperation with the Queen of Air and Darkness has forced him into a new job: professional killer.

Mab, the mother of wicked faeries, has restored the mostly-dead wizard to health, and dispatches him upon his first mission - to bring death to an immortal. Even as he grapples with the impossible task, Dresden learns of a looming danger to Demonreach, the living island hidden upon Lake Michigan, a place whose true purpose and dark potential have the potential to destroy billions and to land Dresden in the deepest trouble he has ever known - even deeper than being dead. How messed up is that?

Beset by his new enemies and hounded by the old, Dresden has only twenty four hours to reconnect with his old allies, prevent a cataclysm and do the impossible - all while the power he bargained to get - but never meant to keep - lays siege to his very soul.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Right off the bat, though I'm all for authors reminding readers of what has gone before, I feel that Butcher went all out in Cold Days. I mean, this is volume 14, right? True, minor or obscure or distant plot points should be re-introduced so as to not confuse fans who have no reread the whole sequence recently. However, there was no need to remind us of who Bob the skull is. We know about Thomas, Murphy, Molly, etc. There's no need to describe Harry's old apartment and his patched-up VW car. I doubt that newbies are jumping into the Dresden Files by reading the 14th installment. And there is so much good stuff taking place that such redundant info-dumps actually slow down the momentum of the novel. This could be construed as nitpicking, I know, but I just feel that such unecessary sections should have been removed during the editing process.

Harry Dresden's life has always been complicated. If ever there was someone who deserved to rest in peace, it was Harry. Unfortunately, he immediately discovered that the afterlife wasn't all it's cracked up to be. And if the afterlife was no walk in the park, coming back to life will come with even more challenges. Assuming the mantle of the Winter Knight could potentially change Harry and turn him into a monster like his predecessor. As if that wasn't enough, he must now find a way to kill an immortal while various factions are trying to kill him. Oh and he has about 24 hours to save the world from a magical threat that could wipe out the entire American Midwest. No pressure.

As a matter of course, Cold Days features the first person narrative of Harry Dresden. His voice as the only POV continues to be witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle in every chapter. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files installments, it's the supporting cast that helps make this one another great read. Harry's death had a profound impact on those who were close to him, and his coming back to life will come as a shock to many of them. Once again, there are some truly touching moments involving them. Like he did in Changes and Ghost Story, Jim Butcher played the emotional impact card rather well on a number of occasions, which really made you feel for Harry and the rest of the gang.

Cold Days quickly turned into another extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that linked that novel with plotlines from basically every other volume that came before. Revelations about the Summer Court, the Winter Court, Merlin, the Demonreach island, the Outsiders, other deities and immortals, and lots of other things make for some compulsive reading. Hints have always been there, yet in Ghost Story it became evident that Harry was a pawn in a game played by higher powers. We see evidence of that again in this 14th volume.

Convoluted and entertaining, Cold Days elevates the Dresden Files to yet another level and opens the door for so much more. Looking forward to Skin Game!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 4th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is down four positions, ending the week at number 9. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down two positions, ending the week at number 10. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brent Weeks' The Burning White debuts at number 11.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House is down five spots, finishing the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is up four positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is down one spot, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get your hands on Suyi Davies Okungbowa's fantasy debut, David Mogo, Godhunter, for only 3.77$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Nigerian God-Punk - a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the excellent The Briar King by Greg Keyes for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Two thousand years ago, the Born Queen defeated the Skasloi lords, freeing humans from the bitter yoke of slavery. But now monstrous creatures roam the land—and destinies become inextricably entangled in a drama of power and seduction. The king’s woodsman, a rebellious girl, a young priest, a roguish adventurer, and a young man made suddenly into a knight—all face malevolent forces that shake the foundations of the kingdom, even as the Briar King, legendary harbinger of death, awakens from his slumber. At the heart of this many-layered tale is Anne Dare, youngest daughter of the royal family . . . upon whom the fate of her world may depend.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 28th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute maintains its position at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments maintains its position at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House is down five spots, finishing the week at number 9.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep returns at number 12 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is down four positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



Blast from the past!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get your hands on the digital edition of David Walton's The Genius Plague for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

THE CONTAGION IS IN YOUR MIND.

In this science fiction thriller, brothers are pitted against each other as a pandemic threatens to destabilize world governments by exerting a subtle mind control over survivors.

Neil Johns has just started his dream job as a code breaker in the NSA when his brother, Paul, a mycologist, goes missing on a trip to collect samples in the Amazon jungle. Paul returns with a gap in his memory and a fungal infection that almost kills him. But once he recuperates, he has enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. Meanwhile, something is happening in South America; others, like Paul, have also fallen ill and recovered with abilities they didn’t have before.

But that’s not the only pattern–the survivors, from entire remote Brazilian tribes to American tourists, all seem to be working toward a common, and deadly, goal. Neil soon uncovers a secret and unexplained alliance between governments that have traditionally been enemies. Meanwhile Paul becomes increasingly secretive and erratic.

Paul sees the fungus as the next stage of human evolution, while Neil is convinced that it is driving its human hosts to destruction. Brother must oppose brother on an increasingly fraught international stage, with the stakes: the free will of every human on earth. Can humanity use this force for good, or are we becoming the pawns of an utterly alien intelligence?

A Memory Called Empire


Something about Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire piqued my curiosity and I purchased the digital edition when it was on sale earlier this year. Given some of the rave reviews, I was expecting a richly detailed work in terms of culture, plot, and characterization.

Alas, this novel failed to deliver on basically all fronts. And even though things took a turn for the better toward the end, overall this turned out to be an underwhelming space opera work.

Here's the blurb:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

A fascinating space opera debut novel, Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire is an interstellar mystery adventure.

Everyone has heard of the "Show, don't tell" rule. It's a technique used to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description. It feels as though Arkady Martine and her editor forgot all about this rule, or simply elected to throw it out the window. Indeed, it appears that about 90% of the plot unfolds through conversations between the characters. Info-dumps and lengthy explanations make up a good chunk of the dialogue in this novel, which sinks A Memory Called Empire early on and prevents the book from ever truly gaining any sort of momentum. Through these conversations, the author tells us all about what seems to be a rich alien culture, with complex political intrigue, and a looming war that could change everything. Unfortunately, Martine fails to "show" readers these concepts and plot twists time and time again. This, more than anything, will likely make or break this novel for readers. Space opera aficionados who relish great worldbuilding, lots of action, and three-dimensional characters will probably have a hard time getting into A Memory Called Empire. I know I did.

The forever expanding Teixcalaanli Empire considers itself to be pinnacle of intellect, the arts, and culture. I was expecting this alien civilization to really come alive through the pages of this book. And it does, to a certain extent. But the worldbuilding is mostly revealed through the dialogue and not the plot itself. I definitely could have done without all the poetry, that goes without saying. The imago technology was interesting, especially once you realize that this it at the heart of the political intrigue. But as was the case with a lot of other cool concepts and ideas, I felt that Martine neglected to elaborate on them.

Mahit Dzmare, new ambassador for Lsel Station, is the main protagonist. Like readers, she is mostly ignorant of what's going on and learns everything by small increments as the story progresses. I'm not sure if it has to do with faulty execution, or if Mahit simply isn't interesting enough to carry this tale on her shoulders, yet it was often a chore to follow her. Plot point are discussed, sometimes ad nauseam, by Mahit and two early companions, Three Seagrass and Twelve Azalea. The supporting cast is also a bit lackluster, with the exception of Nineteen Adze. Some of them grow on you, but it takes forever for the author to flesh them out. As such, I felt that the characterization was definitely subpar compared to that of quality space opera offerings by writers such as Corey, Reynolds, Hamilton, and McDonald.

The pace is absolutely atrocious. There is no way to sugarcoat this. We learn so little throughout the first 75% of the novel that I often found myself bored out of my mind. The fact that most of the plot is revealed through those aforementioned conversations doesn't help matters in the least. It takes a very long time for things to finally start to make sense. Thankfully, once you do understand what's going on and what the stakes are, A Memory Called Empire becomes a much better read. Sadly, it's a case of too little, too late. A part of me would like to read the sequel and find out what happens next. However, I'm not sure I can go through another such work.

Arkady Martine's writing is excellent and when she wants she can create an arresting imagery. Once she unveils the plot and the political intrigue which are at the heart of A Memory Called Empire, it's obvious that there is more to this novel/series than meets the eye. If the author can understand that she needs to show more than just tell readers, chances are she could elevate this series to another level. Time will tell if the next installment can do that. . .

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download The Book of Magic, an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois, for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

A new anthology celebrating the witches and sorcerers of epic fantasy—featuring stories by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Megan Lindholm, and many others!

Hot on the heels of Gardner Dozois’s acclaimed anthology The Book of Swords comes this companion volume devoted to magic. How could it be otherwise? For every Frodo, there is a Gandalf . . . and a Saruman. For every Dorothy, a Glinda . . . and a Wicked Witch of the West. What would Harry Potter be without Albus Dumbledore . . . and Severus Snape? Figures of wisdom and power, possessing arcane, often forbidden knowledge, wizards and sorcerers are shaped—or misshaped—by the potent magic they seek to wield. Yet though their abilities may be godlike, these men and women remain human—some might say all too human. Such is their curse. And their glory.

In these pages, seventeen of today’s top fantasy writers—including award-winners Elizabeth Bear, John Crowley, Kate Elliott, K. J. Parker, Tim Powers, and Liz Williams—cast wondrous spells that thrillingly evoke the mysterious, awesome, and at times downright terrifying worlds where magic reigns supreme: worlds as far away as forever, and as near as next door.

FEATURING SIXTEEN ALL-NEW STORIES:

“The Return of the Pig” by K. J. Parker
“Community Service” by Megan Lindholm
“Flint and Mirror” by John Crowley
“The Friends of Masquelayne the Incomparable” by Matthew Hughes
“The Biography of a Bouncing Boy Terror: Chapter Two: Jumping Jack in Love” by Ysabeau S. Wilce
“Song of Fire” by Rachel Pollack
“Loft the Sorcerer” by Eleanor Arnason
“The Governor” by Tim Powers
“Sungrazer” by Liz Williams
“The Staff in the Stone” by Garth Nix
“No Work of Mine” by Elizabeth Bear
“Widow Maker” by Lavie Tidhar
“The Wolf and the Manticore” by Greg Van Eekhout
“The Devil’s Whatever” by Andy Duncan
“Bloom” by Kate Elliott
“The Fall and Rise of the House of the Wizard Malkuril” by Scott Lynch

Plus George R. R. Martin’s classic story “A Night at the Tarn House” and an introduction by Gardner Dozois.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download David Hair's Mage's Blood, opening chapter in The Moontide Quartet, for 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada. All three subsequent installments are also on sale.

Here's the blurb:

For years the Leviathan Bridge was a boon for prosperity and culture. But when the Rondian Emperor turned his avaricious eyes toward it, peace became war. In successive crusades the Imperial legions and their mighty battle-mages plundered the East unopposed.

Now the Moontide has come again, the Bridge is rising from beneath the waves, and the Third Crusade is poised for release. The board is set and the pieces are moving. But three lowly pawns, barely regarded, threaten the game: A failed mage, a jaded mercenary and a lowly market-girl are about to be catapulted into the maelstrom. Their choices and their courage are about to change the world.

Come to Urte, where the moon covers half the sky and the tides render the seas impassable. Where windships ply the skies and magi with god-gifted powers rule the earth. Where East and West are divided by colour, creed, language and the sea, but drawn to each other irrevocably in a dance of life and death. The Moontide is coming, to sweep away all in its path.

Mea culpa


Mea culpa: I have yet to read a single book in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

I know, I know! I've reviewed over 650 novels since I created my blog in 2005. I always said that I would wait until the author had completed her saga before starting it.

And now, years later, I'm finally giving it a shot. Better late than never, or so they say, right?

I probably won't be reviewing these books, for there is little point in doing so. But I'm looking forward to actually discovering what the enormous buzz was all about. :D

I've seen the first 4 movies back in the day, but I remember very little in terms of details. So it's almost as if I'm going into this fresh.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Stephen R. Donaldson's The Real Story: The Gap Into Conflict, opening chapter in what could be the best grimdark space opera ever written, for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Author of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson retums with this exciting and long-awaited new series that takes us into a stunningly imagined future to tell a timeless story of adventure and the implacable conflict of good and evil within each of us.

Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate and a murderer; even the most disreputable asteroid pilots of Delta Sector stayed locked out of his way. Those who didn't ended up in the lockup--or dead. But when Thermopyle arrived at Mallory's Bar & Sleep with a gorgeous woman by his side the regulars had to take notice. Her name was Morn Hyland, and she had been a police officer--until she met up with Thermopyle.

But one person in Mallorys Bar wasn't intimidated. Nick Succorso had his own reputation as a bold pirate and he had a sleek frigate fitted for deep space. Everyone knew that Thermopyle and Succorso were on a collision course. What nobody expected was how quickly it would be over--or how devastating victory would be. It was common enough example of rivalry and revenge--or so everyone thought. The REAL story was something entirely different.

In The Real Story, Stephen R. Donaldson takes us to a remarkably detailed world of faster-than-light travel, politics, betrayal, and a shadowy presence just outside our view to tell the fiercest, most profound story he has ever written.


You can also get your hands on the digital edition of William Gibson's The Peripheral for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of Neuromancer and Agency presents a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that takes a terrifying look into the future...

Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she’s trying to avoid. Her brother Burton lives on money from the Veterans Administration, for neurological damage suffered in the Marines’ elite Haptic Recon unit. Flynne earns what she can by assembling product at the local 3D printshop. She made more as a combat scout in an online game, playing for a rich man, but she’s had to let the shooter games go.

Wilf Netherton lives in London, seventy-some years later, on the far side of decades of slow-motion apocalypse. Things are pretty good now, for the haves, and there aren’t many have-nots left. Wilf, a high-powered publicist and celebrity-minder, fancies himself a romantic misfit, in a society where reaching into the past is just another hobby.

Burton’s been moonlighting online, secretly working security in some game prototype, a virtual world that looks vaguely like London, but a lot weirder. He’s got Flynne taking over shifts, promised her the game’s not a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.

Flynne and Wilf are about to meet one another. Her world will be altered utterly, irrevocably, and Wilf’s, for all its decadence and power, will learn that some of these third-world types from the past can be badass.

Quote of the Day

My brother the vampire, whose kiss was a slow death sentence, had a stable and loving relationship with a girl who was crazy about him. By contrast, I could barely talk to a woman, at least about anything pertaining to a relationship. Given that my only long-term girlfriends had faked their own death, died, and broken free of enslaving enchantments to end the relationship, the empirical evidence seemed to indicate that he knew something I didn't.

- JIM BUTCHER, Cold Days.

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet: Dauntless for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The first novel in the New York Times bestselling Lost Fleet series!

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century—and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who's emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief....

Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance Fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend....

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 21st)

In hardcover:

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House debuts at number 4.

Stephen King's The Institute is down three positions, ending the week at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down two spots, finishing the week at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is down five positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Bradley P. Beaulieu's With Blood Upon the Sands for only 5.99$ via this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

With Blood Upon the Sand is the second book in the Song of Shattered Sands epic fantasy trilogy.

Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable.

Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Çeda’s friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades.

When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her…

The Immortal Conquistador


I know that I have yet to read the last two Kitty Norville installments. But when Carrie Vaughn announced that The Immortal Conquistador would reveal Rick the vampire's origin story, I knew I wanted to sink my teeth into this one ASAP! Portions of this work first appeared as short fiction pieces in SFF magazines, with new ones added on to cobble up a book that stands rather well on its own.

Needless to say, this one is for readers familiar with the original book sequence. Rick is an important character and I relished the opportunity to discover the backstory of this mysterious vampire. The Immortal Conquistador is the perfect companion book for fans of Vaughn's signature series.

Here's the blurb:

Discover the thrilling, deadly chronicles of the noble immortal who becomes Rick, ally to bestselling author Carrie Vaughn’s fan-favorite, Kitty Norville.

Ricardo de Avila would have followed Coronado to the ends of the earth. Instead, Ricardo found the end of his mortal life, and a new identity—as the Vampire Conquistador.

For over five hundred years, Ricardo keeps unwillingly upsetting the established order. He has protected his found family from marauding demons, teamed up with a legendary gunslinger, appointed himself the Master of Denver, and called upon a church buried under the Vatican. He has tended bar and fended off werewolves.

As the Master vampire of Denver, Rick is a major player in the Kitty Norville books. Although we know that Rick has traveled with Coronado’s expedition as a young man, thus making him more than five centuries old, little else is known about him. Rick has dropped a few hints in various Kitty installments, but he has mostly kept his past to himself. Much to Kitty's disappointment, it goes without saying! Yet here is our chance to discover how he was turned into a vampire and what ultimately led him to Denver.

The Immortal Conquistador starts off with Rick flying to Rome. During this visit to the Vatican he will meet with the Abbot of the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows. These scenes occur following the events of Kitty Rocks the House, when Father Columban traveled to Denver to try to recruit him into the order. It turns out that the enigmatic Rick is an anomaly in the vampire world and the abbot would like to hear his tale. Hence, those sequences act as interludes meant to bridge the various pieces of Rick's backstory so they can form a more or less self-contained whole.

"Conquistador de la Noche" is Rick’s origin story and recounts Ricardo de Avila's early years in New Spain. It focuses on how he was turned into a vampire and the repercussions this had on his life. "El Hidalgo de la Noche" picks up years later and recounts Rick's first encounter with other vampires since being turned into one himself. His visit to Mexico City will make him realize that he's an unusual vampire and will set him on a path that will change his life forever. "Dead Men in Central City" picks up in 1848. It begins by recounting Rick's meeting with Doc Holliday, the infamous gunslinger and gambler. But it soon grows into something much bigger and it tells the tale of what forced Rick to move on to Denver.

As Carrie Vaughn explains in her author's notes, she inadvertently made Rick a witness to the entire history of European colonization and settlement of the American West. And this is what makes the inscrutable vampire such a fascinating character. My only complaint would be that Rick's backstory stops there, with just a hint that he ended up in Virginia City in 1860, running The Bucket of Blood Saloon. There is obviously a lot more to Ricardo de Avila's tale and I would have loved at least another piece taking place closer to the events of the Kitty books. Alas, it was not to be. Still, The Immortal Conquistador was a captivating read that finally shed some light on one of the most interesting and secretive characters from the Kitty universe.

This book is sure to please all the Kitty Norville fans out there!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.