Game of Thrones, Season 5 trailer



April can't come soon enough!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 26th)

In hardcover:

Dean Koontz’s Saint Odd debuts at number 3.

Stephen King's Revival is down four positions, ending the week at number 14.

Pierce Brown's Golden Son debuts at number 20.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is down three spots, finishing the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down four positions, ending the week at number 18.

Extract from Myke Cole's GEMINI CELL


Here's an extract from Myke Cole's excellent Gemini Cell, courtesy of the folks at Ace. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Here's the blurb:

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with GEMINI CELL, an all-new epic adventure in the highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe.

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself – and his family – in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

It should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty – as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realises his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark – especially about the fates of his wife and son…


Enjoy!
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“Sarah has been working for four years to get this show.” Though Biggs was his lieutenant, James Schweitzer didn’t call him “sir.” They didn’t stand on formality in his corner of the navy. “I thought we were stood down. This will kill her.”

He glanced over his shoulder at his wife. Sarah had noticed the call, but was doing her best to keep the irritation from her face.

“That was before I got word that our ship might be coming in.” Lieutenant Biggs sounded grim. “Now, suit up. We’re mustering.”

“Might be coming in, or is coming in? Damn it, she’s already on her last nerve with the pace of operations. Do you know how hard it is to get an art showing in Norfolk? There are critics here from every paper in the Tidewater. She needs me. I can’t leave unless it’s going to count.”

Biggs was silent a moment. “Still waiting on the intel watchstander. If this is the right one, we’re going.”

“Then call me when you’re sure it’s the right one.”

“God fucking damn it, Jim, I am not . . .”

“I’m a fifteen-minute drive from Station. I can be there before you finish boat checks. Call me when you know.” Schweitzer killed the call and stuffed the phone in his pocket before Biggs could say anything else.

Schweitzer took a deep breath, willing the knot in his stomach to settle. This was Sarah’s first show in Norfolk, and she was nervous as hell. Hopefully, the watchstander would be slow in confirming the target, or Biggs was wrong altogether. Schweitzer turned, putting on a smile, shaking his head as he walked to where his wife leaned against the art-gallery door.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

“Biggs dug himself another hole. This is the thing about junior officers, they need us to keep them from walking off a cliff. It’s fine.”

She frowned at him, her dark eyes narrowing beneath her bright pink bangs, the two purple streaks framing her face, so beautiful she still made his breath catch after all these years. “If he needed help, why didn’t he go to Chief?” she asked.

Schweitzer winced internally, struggled to find words.

“Jim.” She spoke as if to a little boy. “Do you know where liars go?”

“To the movies?”

“To the couch for the night. Without getting any.”

“You are a coldhearted woman.”

“I am a beautiful angel who can see through your bullshit like it’s clean glass.”

Schweitzer sighed. Lying to her was a necessity of his job, but he knew better than to think it would ever work. “You need to focus on your opening. We can talk about it when we get home.”

She drew her lips into a hard line and breathed out through her nose. “So, that means we’re going home together. As in, you’re staying for the whole event.”

“We’ve only got the babysitter until eleven. You know Patrick isn’t really going to sleep until you come in and kiss him good night.”

She grimaced. “Oh, right. Let me call before we go in.”

He touched her elbow. “Babe, you called her ten minutes ago.”

She looked up at him. “I did? I did.”

He pressed his forehead to hers, inhaled her rosewater perfume. “You know what you’re doing?”

“What?”

“You’re trying to get your mind off this opening by worrying about something else. That’s fear talking. Mission first. Focus.”

“Mission first.” She was smiling now.

“Mission first,” he said, “and people always. You are a fantastic mother and a better wife than I could ever hope for. I love you so much it hurts. Now, get in there and show them what I see every day.”

“Love you, too,” she answered. Her face composed, the smile smoothed.

They turned together and stepped into the gallery.

The crowd inside applauded as Sarah entered. Her paintings lined the walls, hanging from clear line, looking as if they were floating amid tastefully arranged sprays of white orchids. Schweitzer caught himself scanning the crowd for threats, noting the exits and blind corners. Stop it. You’re not at work. This is for Sarah. Be present.

“Sarah!” squealed a tall woman wearing diamond earrings likely worth more than their car. She stretched her arms to embrace his wife, and Sarah returned the hug with precisely the correct blend of affection and forbearance, turning to Schweitzer as they parted. “Jim, this is Bethany Charles. This is her gallery.”

Schweitzer smiled, extending a hand. “Thanks so much for hosting us.”

Bethany dragged the proffered hand until Schweitzer was wrapped in a tight hug. Her pale neck smelled like oranges and alcohol. He met Sarah’s eyes over Bethany’s shoulder and made a face. Sarah rolled her eyes and grinned.

“Sarah’s told me all about you,” Bethany said when she finally released him. “She says you’re in the navy, but absolutely will not talk about what you do! I’ve been in Norfolk long enough to know how it is with you intel folks.”

Schweitzer let her error pass as she put the back of her hand to her mouth and spoke in a stage whisper. “Your secret’s safe with me!”

A man approached out of the crowd. He wore too-thick glasses and a beard that rivaled Schweitzer’s own. “Ms. Schweitzer,” he began.

Sarah took a step toward him and shook his hand. His smile froze at the close contact. Schweitzer winced internally. Guy was the shy type, liked more personal space. Sarah immediately released his hand and took a step back, smiling as if that was her intended approach all along. “Sarah Schweitzer, nice to meet you.”

The man’s face relaxed, and his smile turned genuine. “Leo Volk, I write for the Virginian Pilot.”

“Oooh,” Bethany whispered to Schweitzer as Sarah and Leo spoke. “That was a good save. He’s not one you want to disappoint.”

Schweitzer shrugged. “She’s a natural. She should have joined the navy. We could have used her in intel.” He smirked internally. No harm in perpetuating Bethany’s assumption. .”

“Well, one sailor per family is plenty.” Bethany gestured to Schweitzer’s chin. “Don’t they give you grief about letting your beard grow?”

Schweitzer smiled. “I’m on leave,” he lied. “I’ll shave it when I get back to base.”

Bethany followed Schweitzer’s gaze to his wife. “She really is quite socially adroit.”

“She’s had a lot of practice.” It was a gross understatement. The practice was born of years of dedication to her craft and the networking that surrounded it, until it had become as natural as breathing.

Sarah wrapped up her conversation with Leo and headed into the crowd. She looked over her shoulder at Schweitzer, cocked an eyebrow.

You’re good, he mouthed.

I know, she mouthed back, gave an exaggerated wink.

He missed Bethany’s next question, intent on Sarah, circling and smiling and engaging with such ease that you’d never know this was her first big show, her “coming-out” in the Mid-Atlantic arts scene. The stakes were high.

But that was when Sarah Schweitzer locked on. When it mattered. She was a professional.

Like him.

“I’m sorry?” he asked Bethany.

“I was asking if you like art?”

“Depends on what you mean by ‘art.’ I like her paintings,” he answered. And I love the painter.

Sarah was speaking to another man now, Schweitzer recognized him as an art critic from one of Sarah’s magazines. She was matching his style effortlessly, leaning in at the same angle, nodding recognition at a point he was making. He laughed like an old friend, put unconsciously at ease by her smooth reading of his signals. Sarah looked lit from within, like she was having the time of her life.

But Schweitzer caught a glance out of the corner of her eye, then another. She was looking to see if he was still there.

He could stare down a gun barrel. He could run until his lungs burst. He could always find a way. But to give Sarah what she needed, he’d have to stay, really stay. And that would mean giving up the one thing that made him as powerful as she was.

Sarah was approaching him now, her hand on the elbow of a man in his midthirties, a mop of Dylanesque curly hair hanging in his face. He wore a corduroy jacket and an expression of cool boredom. “Honey, do you remember the sculptor I was telling you about?”

Schweitzer did, the man made scale replicas of major monuments entirely out of gun parts. His work was amazing. What was his name . . .

Sarah was smiling as the man’s hand came up to shake Schweitzer’s. “This is my husband, Jim.”

The pride in Sarah’s eyes sounded in her voice. She wasn’t just showing off for her husband, she was showing her husband off. Schweitzer blinked.

“I’ve heard great things about you. My name is . . .” the sculptor began.

Schweitzer’s pocket buzzed. The bosun’s pipe ringtone sounded.

Sarah’s expression changed as Schweitzer lifted his phone to his ear, sliding from shock to recognition to hurt to anger and back to composure in an instant.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Schweitzer said as he hit the ANSWER button, his stomach doing somersaults.

“It’s fine,” she was saying, the professional mask already back in place. “Do your job.”

Her big night. The one she had worked four long years to get.

Schweitzer prayed it was a wrong number, or the babysitter calling to say Patrick wouldn’t go to bed.

“It’s our ship,” Biggs said. “We’re going.”

“It’s fine,” Sarah said again, reading Biggs’s words in Schweitzer’s expression.

But it wasn’t fine.

It wasn’t fine at all.

Half the World


When I learned that Joe Abercrombie would be writing a YA series, I was a bit worried. After all, the author has established himself as one of grimdark's biggest draws and I was afraid that switching gears to appeal to a different market could well take away most of what made his books so enjoyable. Oddly enough, Half a King was marketed differently on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, it was published as a YA offering, while in the USA Del Rey was marketing the book as they would any other speculative fiction work. And in the end, although it may not have been Joe Abercrombie doing what he does best, Half a King remained a brutal, engaging, entertaining, and satisfying fantasy novel featuring an interesting band of misfits.

For some reason, Del Rey used a totally different approach to market the sequel, Half the World. Last year, the Advance Reading Copy I was forwarded contained absolutely no mention that Half a King was even aimed at a younger audience. But for Half the World, the American edition does mention that this new novel will appeal to YA fans and teen readers. Which kind of scared me, for I was afraid that this would be the least Abercrombie-esque work of the author. Reaching the book's ending left me perplexed as to this different marketing approach, for Half the World was no less dark and violent than its predecessor.

Here's the blurb:

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Half a King was a rather slim volume, the shortest written by Abercrombie thus far. The smaller wordcount precluded much in the way of worldbuilding. This sequel is about a hundred pages longer, which is great. That and the presence of a map of the Shattered Sea help readers visualize the various kingdoms and flesh out the land. The cast's long voyage throughout a variety of countries and locales permits readers to find out a lot more about the universe. A few tantalizing glimpses of elf relics and technology hint that this tale might be taking place in a far-future dystopian Earth. It will be interesting to see if Abercrombie will shine some light on the elves and how they disappeared from the world in the third installment. The longer length of this work allowed Abercrombie to imbue this one with more depth than its predecessor, true, yet it features the same tighter focus on the narrative that made Half a King so enjoyable. This keeps the pace crisp and this one is as much of a page-turner as the first volume.

The characterization was fantastic in Half a King and I was looking forward to discovering the cast of this new book. Familiar faces such as Father Yarvi, Rulf, and Sumael return in this sequel. It was fun to see how they have evolved as characters and where fate has taken them. Half the World features two main protagonists: Thorn and Brand. The role reversal, with Thorn being the extremely badass girl trained to be a weapon and Brand as the more thoughtful and quiet yet incredibly strong boy,  is clichéd through and through. And yet, I was expecting Joe Abercrombie to use our own preconceptions against us, the way he has often done in the past, and surprise us when we least expected it. Sadly, this was not the case and you can see where the story is going from a mile away. That was a disappointment, to be sure. It's not that Thorn and Brand aren't three-dimensional characters. Both are genuine and well-designed protagonists who have been dealt a bad hand and who attempt to go through life as best they can. Both are characters you can easily root for. Trouble is, you know exactly how their fates are intertwined from the very beginning and the culmination of that particular plotline was so predictable as to be dismaying when everything occurred just the way you thought it would. Maybe that's why Half the World is billed as YA? I have no idea. . .

As was the case with the first installment, though there are no major changes in terms of style and tone compared to the author's "adult" works, Half the World is different to a certain extent. The wit, cynicism, and dark humor that characterize Abercrombie's backlist are all present, if a little subdued. Unlike Half a King, this one does feature sex, however. Once more, the violence is not as graphic as usual, with less blood and gore. Half the World is definitely a Joe Abercrombie novel, but again it shows a more self-restrained Joe Abercrombie, one that pulls some of his punches and doesn't go all out the way he did in books like A Red Country and The Heroes. As such, Half the World, although it is a good read, doesn't satisfy the way the grimdark Abercrombie titles habitually do.

Even though some storylines are relatively predictable, as is usually his wont Joe Abercrombie pulls a few unanticipated surprises out of his hat, especially at the end. All in all, Half the World may be a bit weaker than its predecessor, but the novel is nevertheless a worthy addition to this new trilogy and it does set the stage for what should be a very good third and final volume. I'm really looking forward to discovering how Abercrombie will bring this one to a close next year!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download N. K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

The Poisoned Crown


Even though I'm French Canadian, it's thanks to George R. R. Martin that I recently discovered the excellent The Accursed Kings by French author Maurice Druon. Having enjoyed both The Iron King and The Strangled Queen, I was curious to see what the third installment would have in store for readers.

But unlike its predecessors, The Poisoned Crown failed to live up to expectations, through no fault of the author. Indeed, it has more to do with the fact that the book focuses on Louis X's brief reign. A feeble and arrogant man, the Hutin is far from an engaging character and his many ineptitutes signal the beginning of the end of an era for the kingdom of France.

Here's the blurb:

No man is impervious to the poisons of the crown…

Having murdered his wife and exiled his mistress, King Louis X of France becomes besotted with Princess Clemence of Hungary and makes her his new Queen.

However, though the matter of the succession should be assured, it is far from so, as Louis embarks on an ill-fated war against Flanders.

Where his father, Philip IV, was strong, Louis is weak, and the ambitions of his proud, profligate barons threaten his power and the future of a kingdom once ruled by an Iron King.

Having had his wife murdered to pave the way for his marriage to Clemence of Hungary, King Louis X doesn't seem to realize that he needs more than secure the succession to restore order within the borders of his kingdom. Famine plunged France into chaos and his inability to hold in balance the infighting between the ambitious factions undermining his reign has brought France on the brink of collapse. As always, Maurice Druon demonstrates that he has an incredible eye for historical details and his narrative truly comes alive as you read along.

Once more, I found the translation to be quite good. As was the case in the first two volumes, it is at times literal, creating occasional odd turns of phrase here and there. But other than that, nothing to complain about. As is usually his wont, instead of relying on info-dumps, Druon opted for footnotes sending you to the back of the novel for more historical background and clarification. This maintains a fluid pace throughout, and one reaches the end all too quickly. In a day and age when SFF and historical novels are veritable doorstopper works of fiction, these books are decidedly short. Too short, if you ask me. They are episodic in nature, and instead of a seven-book cycle the reissue of The Accursed Kings should probably have been released as a trilogy. Given the price of novels, this may have worked better with a few omnibus editions instead of going for the original seven installments.

The structure of these works revolves around a number of disparate POVs which allow readers to witness events through the eyes of a variety of protagonists. This help generate more emotional impact, as you see the web of scandal and intrigue which weaves itself around the Louis X and his entourage from both sides of the conflict. The king's POV, though a necessary evil as the tale focuses on his short reign, is not as interesting as other points of view. Louis X is not the sharpest tool in the shed and he spends most of the book digging his own grave, so to speak. To give you an example, imagine being forced to wade through a Lancel Lannister POV in the ASOIAF books. Pious to a fault, the young Clemence of Hungary is another protagonist whose POV isn't as compelling as I thought it would be. As was the case with the previous volumes, the often amusing POV of Guccio Baglioni helps create a bit of a balance with the darker elements of the main story arc.

All in all, The Poisoned Crown doesn't stand as well on its own as its predecessors. Still, Maurice Druon weaves many threads in what is undoubtedly a great tapestry and I have a feeling that this third volume is more of a transition book meant to bridge the storylines of the first two installments with what will come after. God knows that it opens the door for countless possibilities which will certainly be explored in The Royal Succession and subsequent installments.

With family rivalries, politicking, betrayals and back-stabbings, ASOIAF fans will find a lot to love about Maurice Druon's The Accursed Kings. And considering that these books were first published in the 50s, I have to admit that they have aged well and are as easy to read as any contemporary novels on the market today.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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

Quote of the Day

Constipation was one of the things she hated most in the world, on par with despicable men who commit domestic violence and narrow-minded religious fundamentalists.

- HARUKI MURAKAMI, 1Q84 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Samantha Shannon contest winner!

This lucky gal will get her hands on my Advance Reading Copy of Samantha Shannon's The Mime Order! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Stacy Schulz, from Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time, you can download Guy Gavriel Kay's masterpiece, Under Heaven, for only 3.64$ here.

Here's the blurb:

UNDER HEAVEN will be published in April 2010, and takes place in a world inspired by the glory and power of Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century, a world in which history and the fantastic meld into something both memorable and emotionally compelling. In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire's last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle.

To honour his father's memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. At night he can hear the ghosts moan and stir, terrifying voices of anger and lament. Sometimes he realizes that a given voice has ceased its crying, and he knows that is one he has laid to rest.

The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour.

It is during a routine supply visit led by a Taguran officer who has reluctantly come to befriend him that Tai learns that others, much more powerful, have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly.

You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself back to court and his own emperor, alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses, and bringing news of the rest, he starts east towards the glittering, dangerous capital of Kitai, and the Ta-Ming Palace - and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Earth for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An unmissable milestone for fans of Sir Terry Pratchett: the first SF novel in over three decades in which the visionary inventor of Discworld has created a new universe of tantalizing possibilities—a series of parallel “Earths” with doorways leading to adventure, intrigue, excitement, and an escape into the furthest reaches of the imagination.

The Long Earth, written with award-winning novelist Stephen Baxter, author of Stone Spring,Ark, and Floodwill, captivate science fiction fans of all stripes, readers of Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen, and anyone who enjoyed the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman collaborationGood Omens.

The Long Earth is an adventure of the highest order—and an unforgettable read.


You can now download Naomi Novik's highly entertaining His Majesty's Dragon for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

THE DOORS OF STONE news


Gotcha! :P Not exactly, though it does have something to do with the forthcoming novel most fantasy fans want to get their hands on!

This picture was taken at the Daw Books annual dinner at the 2009 Worldcon in Montréal. Many of you will recall that when The Name of the Wind came out, a lot of fans thought I was Patrick Rothfuss. As you can see in the photo, we don't look alike at all, which always left me wondering how/why some people could mistake one for the other. I mean, no one has ever mistaken George R. R. Martin for George Clooney, right? So in any event, we joked about it and he gave me his blessing to autograph any of his books that came my way! ;-)

When I announced the Hotlist's 10th anniversary a few weeks back, some readers got in touch with me and wanted to know what were some of the quirky moments which left their mark in the history of this blog. There are quite a few, it goes without saying. But one of the weirdest had to do with the aforementioned The Doors of Stone. You see, though fans have mistaken me for Rothfuss on numerous occasions, it had never happened with one of his editors. Said editor will of course remain anonymous. . .

In May of 2013, I received an email asking for my input on sketches for the novel's cover art. I didn't immediately realize that something was amiss, for authors and editors do ask for my opinion on these matters from time to time. Here's the email:

Hi Pat,

The illustrator has been working on the cover for book 3 for the past few months (using the working title 'Doors of Stone' as a placeholder only, I hasten to add). She's got to the point where we have a working rough, and wanted to ask for your input. Would you mind taking a look - please remember this is only a rough, so it's less than half done! - and letting us know your thoughts?

So I got back to them, letting the editor know what I thought worked and what didn't quite work. Got this reply the next day:

Hi Pat,

Lovely to hear from you :)

I don’t think we’re wedded to orange. Let me ask the question. And I’ll pass on the badass (good point) lute (great point) and facial expression (thank you!) points to the artist and see what we can do.

Maybe once we have those tweaks in place and a slightly reworked version with (in particular) different coloured fonts, we can open the flood gates. What do you think?

I’m very relieved that, broadly, this is looking reasonable to you. And I totally agree – the difference between US and UK covers can be absolutely fascinating. They’re different worlds sometimes. I just hope you like both :)

. . . I’m going to dare to ask, so please forgive me. How is the third manuscript treating you?

Ooops. . . That's when I realized that Rothfuss' own editor emailed the wrong Pat. So I contacted the editor to let them know that this was the Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, not Patrick Rothfuss. The reply was not long in coming:

Aie!!! Oh no – I’m so sorry, and what a mistake :( Wow. Oops.

I’ve passed it on to the intended recipient, but thank you for letting me know and I believe we’ll have to arrange a proper cover reveal with you when the time comes. Thank you for keeping it under your hat in the meantime and I hope you didn’t mind having an accidental sneak preview.

Best, in embarrassment,

[name withheld]

The whole thing was pretty funny! And to this day, I'm on the short list of people who have an idea of what the cover art will look like! =) Still have the two sketches on my computer. . .

Would have liked to see the editor's face when my last email got through! ;-)

The Slow Regard of Silent Things


I am aware that this review has been a long time in coming. I've been receiving a lot of emails and messages asking me when I'd review Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things since a few weeks before the novella was published. Trouble is, at first I had no intention of even reading the book. Don't get me wrong, like countless SFF readers I love Rothfuss. And I'm eagerly awaiting any news pertaining to the release of volume 3, The Doors of Stone.

The first red flag appeared when the author himself posted his "You might not want to buy this book" foreword online. Rothfuss warned readers that this was a bit of a strange story. Moreover, we were warned that it was different, that it didn't do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do. Hence, I was a bit apprehensive at the thought of reading this new novella. Then I finally received my copy and the author's endnote did nothing to reassure me. If anything, it well nigh convinced me that The Slow Regard of Silent Things wasn't for me. You know me. I'm a plot kind of guy. Always have been, always will be. And this novella didn't really have a plot to speak of. The closest thing to an action scene it features is a description of Auri making soap. All in all, it didn't seem to bode well for me. So I elected that for the good of everyone involved, I should refrain from reading and reviewing this one.

Not unexpectedly, readers' reviews have been rather mixed. Some have loved everything about it, while others have accused Rothfuss of milking his popularity for all it's worth by releasing a weird work that should have remained buried somewhere deep in his computer files. Knowing how hard to please I can be and reading those mixed reviews made me realize that this was the right course of action for me. Yet for some reason, even though everything hinted at the fact that I would in all likelihood absolutely hate everything about The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I kept thinking about the book and whether or not I should give it a go. The Holiday season was just around the corner and I wanted a quick read, so I finally caved in and decided to read the novella. And I'm glad I did!

Here's the blurb:

Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows….

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

The tale focuses on Auri, the mysterious girl that Kvothe befriends at the university, and her life in the Underthing. Forewarned by Rothfuss, one quickly realizes that there is indeed no structured plot moving the story forward. The third person narrative follows the point of view of Auri and we immediately discover -- not that we needed any confirmation -- that there is something special about this strange girl. In the main book sequence, Auri comes across as an incredibly shy, innocent, and enigmatic girl. But there is something hauntingly whimsical about her and the way she perceives the world around her. Every object and place has a special name and is even attributed feelings. Her life seems to revolve around finding a proper place for every object she comes across.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things features a story that drifts somewhat aimlessly as it follows Auri's life in the Underthing. She somehow knows that Kvothe will be visiting her in seven days and she must find a suitable gift for him. The better part of the book pretty much has to with her quest to find the appropriate place for all the inanimate object she finds, a place that suits them and won't hurt their feelings. Hence, the narrative meanders and often doesn't seem to go anywhere. Things don't necessarily make any sense, but in a way that's the beauty of the novella.

As I mentioned, there is something hauntingly whimsical about Auri's POV. At times, she's sweet and fragile. At others, she's driven and stronger. There is an innocence about her that I found absolutely charming. Her sweetness reminded me of my goddaughter Angélique. I remember watching her interact with the world around her while she was growing up, and then participating in her often odd adventures as she grew older, trying to understand what the heck was going on inside her head. Auri is a bit like that. Her sweetness and vulnerability draw you inside her world. And although there is indeed no plot to speak of, I found myself letting go of what a story is supposed to be about and all of a sudden I was just along for the ride. A weird and fanciful ride, no doubt about it!

Few speculative fiction authors could have managed to make a story with no plot, a story that often basically goes nowhere, something so interesting to read. But Patrick Rothfuss' prose makes this a joy to read. His evocative depiction of the Underthing as a dark and atmospheric place sets the mood perfectly.

The novella also features a number of black-and-white illustrations from artist Nate Taylor. Each help depict Auri and the various rooms of the Underthing and its many corridors, capturing the often claustrophobic feel of those places. In a strange way, the Underthing almost becomes a character in its own right throughout this book.

So no, if you are looking for more about Kvothe and the Kingkiller Chronicle, this novella is not for you. Nothing much happens and chances are that you won't enjoy it. But if you want to read something different, something special, about a broken girl making her way through a broken world, then The Slow Regard of Silent Things might be for you.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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


Quote of the Day

Sometimes great rights must be stitched from little wrongs.

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, Half the World (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Dan Simmons' Hugo award-winning classic, Hyperion, for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope--and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.


You can also get your hands on another science fiction classic, William Gibson's Neuromancer, for only 4.59$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus-hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century’s most potent visions of the future.

Gemini Cell


Right off the bat, let's get one thing straight: Myke Cole is the shit! All three installments of the Shadow Ops series were fresh and unlike anything else I had ever read. Control PointFortress Frontier, and Breach Zone were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads, each with a generous dose of ass-kicking! Too bad the author signed a mass market paperback book deal and doesn't get a whole lot of marketing to help promote his books, for his first trilogy is as accessible as it is compelling. It's been years since I last encountered a fantasy series with so much mass appeal and there's nothing I would like more than to see these books get more widely read and enjoyed.

Having said that, Cole closed the show on the Shadow Ops series last year, capping everything off with style and aplomb. So that story arc is over and this new trilogy will focus on the early days of the Great Awakening, when magic first returned to the world and changed everything. Hence, Cole couldn't build on existing storylines and was forced to start from scratch, with brand new characters, new realities as the world order begins to unravel, and totally different plotlines. Could he do it again? Could this new series live up to the lofty expectations created by the way the author set the bar so high with the Shadow Ops series? Well, I'm please to report that once more, the answer is a resounding yes! At least as far as this first volume is concerned, in any case.

Here's the blurb:

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with GEMINI CELL, an all-new epic adventure in the highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe.

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself – and his family – in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

It should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty – as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realises his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark – especially about the fates of his wife and son…


As was the case in his last offering, Myke Cole seems more mature as a writer and in better control of his craft. And as always, having served in the military allows the author to imbue his books with a credibility regarding the realism of the use of magic in military operations and its ramifications up and down the chain of command. I feel that it gives any Myke Cole work its unique "flavor" and remains what sets them apart from everything else on the market. With magic returning to the world, it was interesting to see how the US military tried to take advantage of these new powers in the early days of what would come to be known as the Great Awakening. I'm particularly looking forward to finding out how the top secret unit known as the Gemini Cell will grow to become the SOC.

All three Shadow Ops volumes were character-driven affairs and the same can be said of Gemini Cell. This may be military fantasy, yet Myke Cole has a knack for creating genuine three-dimensional protagonists with absorbing back stories. I feel that Cole never did receive the credit he deserves for having a deft human touch which allows him to come up with unexpected emotional scenes packing a powerful punch. Jim Schweitzer is an easy character to root for and I enjoyed how the author brought him back to life and how he portrayed his struggles to maintain his identity. I felt that there was a good balance between his POV and that of his wife Sarah, who's been told that her husband has passed away. The hopeless love affair with Steve made me groan in frustration, but I should have known that Cole wouldn't go for the path of least resistance. Scenes with Eldredge, Jawid, and Ninip gave us a fascinating glimpse of the repercussions engendered by the return of magic and I'm really looking forward to more of that in the upcoming installments.

As is usually his wont, Cole keeps the pace nice and crisp, and Gemini Cell is a another page-turner. You may recall that, although I loved Breach Zone, I felt that the 300-page set-up and only 30-something pages to close the show felt a bit incongruous. I am aware that mass market paperback editions habitually preclude the sort of word count that authors publishing hardbacks can work with. But these last two novels demonstrated that Cole likely needs more pages to do justice to the tale he is telling. Here's to hoping that his editors will give him a bit more freedom in the future, as once again I felt that Gemini Cell would have been stronger, especially where the finale is concerned, if Cole had had more pages to work with, thus giving him the opportunity to bring this book to an end without being forced to rush everything.

With Gemini Cell, Myke Cole proves that the Shadow Ops trilogy was no fluke. It's everything the first series was and then some! Don't feel bad if you haven't given Cole a shot yet. Rejoice, for you can now dive into no less than four engaging and entertaining novels, with more on the way!

Myke Cole's Gemini Cell is military fantasy at its best!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get all three volumes of Jeff VanderMeer's The Southern Reach trilogy for 2.99$ each.

- Annihilation
- Authority
- Acceptance

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Musical Interlude



Happy Saturday! =)

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Revival is down two positions, ending the week at number 6.

Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library is down four positions, ending the week at number 14.

Anne Rice's Prince Lestat is down seven positions, ending the week at number 18.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is up one spot, finishing the week at number 2.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down five positions, ending the week at number 7.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down one spot, finishing the week at number 11.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane maintains its position at number 19 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download John Gwynne's Malice for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon.

Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage. The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms.

Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars. High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

The Expanse Trailer



I had some doubts at first, but now that I've seen this trailer I'm excited! =) If you haven't read James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes, you should read it now!

Quote of the Day

Modesty is for folk with nothing to boast of.

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, Half the World (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time only, you can get your hands on Peter V. Brett's debut, The Warded Man, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Win a copy of Wild Cards IV: ACES ABROAD


Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, I have three copies of Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad, edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass, for you to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The action-packed alternate fantasy returns for a new generation, featuring fiction from #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin, Michael Cassutt, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Lewis Shiner, and more—plus two completely new stories from Kevin Andrew Murphy and bestselling author Carrie Vaughn. Forty years after the Wild Card Virus’s release, the World Health Organization decides it’s time to take a delegation of Aces, Jokers, politicians, and journalists on a fact-finding mission to learn how other countries are dealing with the virus that reshaped humanity. Leading the team is Gregg Hartmann, a senator with presidential aspirations and a dangerous ace up his sleeve. Joining him is a menagerie of some of the series’ best and most popular Wild Cards, including Dr. Tachyon, aces Peregrine and Golden Boy, and jokers Chrysalis, Troll, and Father Squid. From the jungles of Haiti and Peru to the tumultuous political climate of Egypt, from a monastery in Japan to the streets of the most glamorous cities of Europe, the Wild Cards are in for an eye-opening trip. While some are worshiped as actual gods, those possessing the most extreme mutations are treated with a contempt that's all too familiar to the delegates from Jokertown. New alliances will be formed, new enemies will be made, and some actions will fulfill centuries-old prophecies that make ripples throughout the future of the Wild Cards universe.

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

Michael Moorcock contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my ARC of Michael Moorcock's latest, The Whispering Swarm! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

- Bill Purcell, from Leary, Georgia, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download the entire Ender Quintet by Orson Scott Card for only 16.99$ here. That's 5 books for a little over 3$ each!

Here's the blurb:

This set contains Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, and Ender in Exile.

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

And here's the blurb for the first volume, Ender's Game:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.