More inexpensive ebook goodies!


Tad Williams' modern classic The Dragonbone Chair is available for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

With The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams introduced readers to the incredible fantasy world of Osten Ard. His beloved, internationally bestselling series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn inspired a generation of modern fantasy writers, including George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini, and defined Tad Williams as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time.

This edition features a brand-new introduction from Tad Williams' editor as well as the original introduction from Williams himself!

BOOK ONE: THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR

A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard.

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.

After the landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, the epic saga of Osten Ard continues with the brand-new novel, The Heart of What Was Lost. Then don’t miss the upcoming trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, beginning with The Witchwood Crown!

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

In hardcover:

James Luceno's Star Wars: Catalyst debuts at number 10.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is up one position, ending the week at number 8.

Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life and Others is up seven spots, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!



You can download James S. A. Corey's excellent Leviathan Wakes for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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Don't know for how long, but you can now download Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

WINNER OF THE 2015 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL

#1 New York Times bestseller! In a high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. “Mr. Mercedes is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses” (The Washington Post).

The stolen Mercedes emerges from the pre-dawn fog and plows through a crowd of men and women on line for a job fair in a distressed American city. Then the lone driver backs up, charges again, and speeds off, leaving eight dead and more wounded. The case goes unsolved and ex-cop Bill Hodges is out of hope when he gets a letter from a man who loved the feel of death under the Mercedes’s wheels…

Brady Hartsfield wants that rush again, but this time he’s going big, with an attack that would take down thousands—unless Hodges and two new unusual allies he picks up along the way can throw a wrench in Hartsfield’s diabolical plans. Stephen King takes off on a “nerve-shredding, pulse-pounding race against time” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) with this acclaimed #1 bestselling thriller.


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of The Living Dead, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth!" From White Zombie to Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil to World War Z, zombies have invaded popular culture, becoming the monsters that best express the fears and anxieties of the modern west. Gathering together the best zombie literature of the last three decades from many of today's most renowned authors of fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror, including Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, George R. R. Martin, Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Joe R. Lansdale, The Living Dead covers the broad spectrum of zombie fiction.

Quote of the Day

Trust is fleeting, while betrayal is timeless. Alas, life is crowded with lies. So be bloody, be brave, be happy. For at the end of every tale, nobody is who they seem to be. . .

- BRIAN LEE DURFEE, The Forgetting Moon (Canada, USA, Europe)

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Today only, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Hill's The Fireman for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

Musical Interlude



This one will play at every office Christmas party this year!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Robert McCammon's Swan Song for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

McCammon’s epic bestselling novel about a girl psychic struggling to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

Something flashes in nine-year-old Swan’s brain, telling her that trouble is coming. Maybe it’s her mother, fed up with her current boyfriend and ready to abandon their dismal trailer park and seek a new home. But something far worse is on the horizon. Death falls from the sky—nuclear bombs which annihilate American civilization. Though Swan survives the blast, this young psychic’s war is just beginning.

As the survivors try to make new lives in the wasteland, an evil army forms, intent on murdering all those tainted with the diseases brought by fallout. When Swan finds a mysterious amulet that could hold the key to humankind’s salvation, she draws the attention of a man more dangerous than any nuclear bomb. To rescue mankind, this little girl will have to grow up fast.

The Heart of What Was Lost


Right off the bat, let me tell you just how great it was to finally return to the world of Osten Ard! I read To Green Angel Tower when it initially came out in 1993, so I've been waiting for over two decades to discover what happens next. Many thanks to Tad Williams and his wife Deborah for sending me a set of page proofs of The Heart of What Was Lost a couple of months ago so I could have an early read of one of my most eagerly anticipated speculative fiction titles of 2017! I knew that bottle of wine I supplied for a dinner a few years back would pay off one day!

One thing about the cover blurb before I begin this review, though. Williams mentioned that this tale was meant to be a novella which ultimately grew in size and became a short novel. With the blurb stating that The Heart of What Was Lost is the perfect introduction for new readers, I was afraid that the story would have been padded with material meant to refresh readers' memories and provide newbies with enough information to understand what is going on. Thankfully (or not), for Williams fans at least, absolutely no effort is made to reacquaint readers with the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn storylines. The page proofs I read contained no "what has gone before" section, but here's to hoping that the final version will. As it was, I had to go back and reread the notes I took when I first read the series back in the 90s.

Hence, I must stress out the fact that this book is not meant for anyone not familiar with the characters and plotlines of the original trilogy. If you have yet to visit Osten Ard, then The Heart of What Was Lost is definitely not for you. Read The Dragonbone Chair and its sequels. This one is a vignette of sorts focusing on the aftermath of the fall of Ineluki and the events which will come to be known as the Siege of Nakkiga. Without any context, it would likely make for a lackluster read. But for fans who have been waiting for years for exactly this, this book is a doozy!

Here's the blurb:

New York Times-bestselling Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle! • Perfect beginning for new readers!

The perfect introduction to the epic fantasy world of Osten Ard, The Heart of What Was Lost is Tad Williams’ follow-up to his internationally bestselling landmark trilogy. Osten Ard inspired a generation of modern fantasy writers, including George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini, and defined Tad Williams as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time.





 A NOVEL OF OSTEN ARD

At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi.

In the wake of the Storm King’s fall, Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, dark cousins to the Sithi, choose to flee the lands of men and retreat north to Nakkiga, their ancient citadel within the hollow heart of the mountain called Stormspike. But as the defeated Norns make their way to this last haven, the mortal Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur leads an army in pursuit, determined to end the Norns’ attacks and defeat their ageless Queen Utuk’ku for all time.

Two southern soldiers, Porto and Endri, joined the mortal army to help achieve this ambitious goal—though as they venture farther and farther into the frozen north, braving the fierce resistance and deadly magics of the retreating Norns, they cannot help but wonder what they are doing so very far from home. Meanwhile, the Norns must now confront the prospect of extinction at the hands of Isgrimnur and his mortal army.

Viyeki, a leader of the Norns’ military engineers, the Order of Builders, desperately seeks a way to help his people reach their mountain—and then stave off the destruction of their race. For the two armies will finally clash in a battle to be remembered as the Siege of Nakkiga; a battle so strange and deadly, so wracked with dark enchantment, that it threatens to destroy not just one side but quite possibly all.

Trapped inside the mountain as the mortals batter at Nakkiga’s gates, Viyeki the Builder will discover disturbing secrets about his own people, mysteries both present and past, represented by the priceless gem known as The Heart of What Was Lost.

In terms of worldbuilding, I was aware that the format of this book would probably preclude much depth. Surprisingly, Tad Williams nevertheless managed to imbue this one with lots of layers. True, most of the groundwork has been laid out in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. But this one focuses on new players for the most part, so I was pleasantly surprised that The Heart of What Was Lost could pack such a powerful punch as far as worldbuilding is concerned. This is mostly due to the fact that we get a Norn point of view, which was great. The Sithi and the Norn are not your typical elf-like race, and for some reason Williams is the only fantasy author who can bring out the darker nature of the fairy folk in such a fashion. To finally get the opportunity to discover more about the inner workings of the Norn society was doubtless the most fascinating aspect of this novel. As far as geography is concerned, the tale occurs in the far north. It begins on the Frostmarch Road as Duke Isgrimnur's army is pursuing what is left of the Norn troops fleeing back to Nakkiga, where a brutal siege will take place. The duke and his men will soon find out that, cornered with nowhere else to go, the Hikeda'ya will sell their lives dearly. Sadly, this book features the same old map from the original trilogy. Let's hope that The Witchwood Crown will sport a new, more detailed map of Osten Ard.

The characterization was a bit uneven. It was a pleasure to have Duke Isgrimnur back as a POV protagonist. His storyline creates a continuity between The Heart of What Was Lost and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, so it was nice to have him back. The story takes place a few weeks following the events chronicled in To Green Angel Tower, so the man is the same character we have come to love in the first series. Porto's point of view, however, was often a bit extraneous. I understand that both he and Endri are meant to convey the rank and file's perspective and allow us to witness events through the eyes of someone other than the duke. And yet, as the plot moved forward, I found that Porto's sections occasionally got in the way of the important stuff. Also, as far as striking a balance between the various perspectives, I felt that it might have worked better with only Isgrimnur and Viyeki had been POV protagonists. Speaking of the Builder, his point of view is by far the most interesting, for it offers readers a wealth of information regarding the Norn and Nakkiga. Problem is, although intelligent and talented, Viyeki is a brown-nosing sycophant. And even if he grows a backbone before the end, it's hard to root for him. Especially given that the book features a number of captivating Hideka'ya, chief among them Yaarike, High Magister of the Order of Builders, General Suno'ku, and Akhenabi, Lord of Song. The same goes of Ayaminu, the mysterious Sitha-woman observer sent to accompany the duke's army.

There are a few slow-moving parts here and there, but the pace is never really an issue. Given the length of this one, I expected no less. But it will be interesting to see if Tad Williams has learned from his errors of the past and if he'll keep the rhythm more or less fluid in what will certainly be the doorstopper installments of The Last King of Osten Ard. He proved that he could do so in the Bobby Dollar books, so here's to hoping that he'll manage to dodge the bullet that prevented many a reader from enjoying The Dragonbone Chair and the subsequent volumes of the first trilogy.

As I mentioned earlier, The Heart of What Was Lost is nothing more than a vignette, a brief episode focusing on the Siege of Nakkiga. And though it's a satisfying read, it doesn't capture the imagination the way Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn did. What it does, however, is set the stage perfectly for The Witchwood Crown and its sequels. Viyeki's point of view, especially, unveils so much information about the Hideka'ya factions and their plans of vengeance against the mortals. The Storm King is no more and Queen Utuk'ku has yet to regain consciousness, but it is obvious that the Norn will not go quietly into the night. I can't wait to find out what happens next!

So much so that if George R. R. Martin's The Winds of Winter and Tad Williams' The Witchwood Crown came out on the same day (not going to happen, but just for the sake of argument), right now I'd probably read the latter first.

In the end, The Heart of What Was Lost is the perfect companion book for anyone who loved Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and the perfect setup book for The Last King of Osten Ard. Read it and try to contain your excitement as we wait for The Witchwood Crown to be published. God knows I can't!

As an aside, I'm wondering if Williams still plans to release A Chronicle in Stone, a collection of short stories set in Osten Ard, now that he is hard at work on the second series. Haven't heard anything about it for years, so I figure that this project has been postponed for the immediate future.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

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

In hardcover:

David Weber's At the Sign of Triumph debuts at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down three positions, ending the week at number 9.

Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life and Others debuts at number 15 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can once again get your hands on N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, recent Hugo award winner, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS... FOR THE LAST TIME.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Alex Marshall's A Crown For Cold Silver for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

"It was all going so nicely, right up until the massacre."

Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

FIVE VILLAINS. ONE LEGENDARY GENERAL. A FINAL QUEST FOR VENGEANCE.

Win a copy of Brandon Sanderson's ARCANUM UNBOUNDED


Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, I have two copies of Brandon Sanderson's Arcanum Unbounded for you to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

An all-new Stormlight Archive novella, "Edgedancer," will be the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first book of short fiction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson.

The collection will include nine works in all. The first eight are:

“The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris)

“The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn)

“The Emperor's Soul” (Elantris)

“Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn)

“White Sand" (excerpt; Taldain)

"Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody)

“Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun)

“Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn)

These wonderful works, originally published on Tor.com and elsewhere individually, convey the expanse of the Cosmere and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect, including the Hugo Award-winning novella, “The Emperor's Soul” and an excerpt from the graphic novel "White Sand."

Arcanum Unbounded will also contain the Stormlight Archive novella "Edgedancer," which will appear in this book for the first time anywhere. It is a story of Lift, taking place between Words of Radiance and the forthcoming Oathbringer.

Finally, this collection includes essays and illustrations for the various planetary systems in which the stories are set.

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

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Gregory Maguire's After Alice for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the multi-million-copy bestselling author of Wicked comes a magical new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis’s Carroll’s beloved classic.

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”

Win a copy of Ken Liu's THE WALL OF STORMS + Extract


I have a copy of Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Saga Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

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

And here's an extract from the book for you to enjoy!

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

Mother and Daughter

Pan: The Fourth Month in the Ninth Year of the Reign of Four Placid Seas.

“The emperor agrees with me that adding more biography to our curriculum is a good idea,” said Zato Ruthi.

A spring breeze wafted through the instruction hall, bringing with it the fragrance of early-blooming flowers.

“As the sons and daughters of the emperor, it is my hope that the great deeds of important historical figures will inspire you to greater virtue and that the patterns of the past will warn you of pitfalls for the future. I want each of you to spend the next month focusing on a figure of your choice from the recent past. You will study that person’s life in detail and explain his rise and fall, connecting that experience with the broader patterns of history.

“Fara, why don’t we begin with you? Who do you want to study?”

“I want to hear stories about Lady Mira,” said seven-year-old Fara. Three years had passed since the first Grand Examination of the Reign of Four Placid Seas. Though she had lost the baby fat that had once charmed the Lords of Dara, her eyes remained full of mischief and insuppressible delight.

“The Hegemon’s consort?” Ruthi pondered this request and then nodded approvingly. “Lady Mira tried to mitigate the Hegemon’s more volatile tendencies, and in the end she died to demonstrate her faith to her beloved husband. She was a paragon of virtuous womanhood, and a fit choice for a young lady to study. Now, Prince Timu, who is your favorite?”

Timu, now sixteen years of age, knelt up very properly, placed his hands together one behind the other, and slid them up the opposite forearms so that the owing sleeves covered both—this was a formal gesture he had learned from reading old books, as it showed respect for the teacher by not sullying the teacher’s eyes with leftover wax and stray ink on the student’s fingers. He bowed his handsome face.

“Master, I would like to study the deeds of King Jizu.”
Phyro rolled his eyes. Fara giggled and covered her mouth.

“Ah.” Ruthi’s eyes glowed with pleasure. “That is an admirable choice. Of all the Tiro kings during the rebellion, Jizu was certainly one of the most virtuous. He loved the people more than life itself, and his sacrifice is rightfully celebrated by poets and wandering story- tellers alike. Designating him as a model for emulation speaks well of your character. What about you, Prince Phyro?”

“I want to hear all about the Hegemon and Queen Gin,” said the stocky twelve-year-old, who had grown much taller and more muscular in the last three years.

Ruthi hesitated. “The Hegemon did have nobility of character—a fact that the emperor recognized in his eulogy; I can understand the appeal. But why Queen Gin?”

“The Hegemon was the greatest warrior of Dara, yet Queen Gin defeated him—what tales of daring must lie behind that fact! Uncle Yemu and Duke Kimo often reminisce about the time they fought with her, but I’m sure there are stories they won’t tell me. Please, Master Ruthi, you have to satisfy my thirst for knowledge!”


Ruthi sighed. “I shall do my best, but you have to do the reading! I may begin by assigning you my essay on her conquest of Rima. . . . Remember, not all the rumors you’ve heard are true.”

Théra and Phyro exchanged knowing smiles. Ruthi turned to the last student. “Princess Théra, what about you?” The fourteen-year-old princess, whose face combined the beauty of her mother with a hint of her father’s impish looks in youth, hesitated only for a moment before replying, “I want to study Princess Kikomi.”

Ruthi frowned. “Théra, Kikomi chose to betray the rebellion out of her foolish devotion to Kindo Marana, Marshal of Xana. She played upon the affections of the Hegemon and the Hegemon’s uncle, seducing both with her wiles. She was fickle of character and unwise in her actions—a most unsuitable choice.”

Théra’s eyes ashed. She took a deep breath. “I respectfully disagree, Master. I believe Kikomi was misunderstood, and I intend to rehabilitate her name.”

“Oh? How do you mean?”

“The charge that she was motivated by love for Kindo Marana is based only upon the words she uttered before her death. There is no hint in any of the records of Kindo Marana that such a romance existed between the two.”

“We know that she took him to bed after the fall of Arulugi—this was attested in the trusted memoirs of palace of officials in Amu.”

Théra shook her head. “She was his captive by then. Her actions might have been an attempt to seduce him to save Amu. Müning fell but wasn’t sacked, which suggests she accomplished the same feat as Jizu: a deal with the conqueror to save the city.”

“Then what of her manipulation of the Hegemon and Phin Zyndu?”

“Could the ploy not have been the price exacted from her by Marana in exchange for sparing Amu? Marana was known to press every advantage to divide and conquer his enemies.”

“But she proclaimed her love for Marana even unto death!”

“She had to! If her plot were revealed, the Hegemon would have sought vengeance upon Amu. Her dying words could be an attempt to divert the Hegemon’s rage toward Marana.”

“This is a bold theory . . . but . . .”

“It’s no bolder than the ploy of Tututika, who during the Diaspora Wars played a similar game of seduction to save Amu from the wrath of Iluthan’s armies.”

“But you’re talking about a goddess—”

“Who is also the patron of Amu. She would have served as a natural inspiration for the princess.”

“You have no evidence—”

“I have read everything I could find concerning Kikomi not written by scholars and historians: memoirs by her adoptive family as well as by mere acquaintances; everything she wrote and was said to have written; gossip, legend, and lore. Practically all these sources agree that she was devoted to her people and ambitious, and I found her essays to be full of insights on the nature of power and the path of history. Her character simply does not match that of the foolish caricature drawn by court historians.”

“Yet history is full of examples of women who have done worse for love—”

Théra shook her head. “That’s just it, Master. If Kikomi were a man, would you have been so convinced that she betrayed her people for a misguided romance?”

“Men can certainly fall prey to the same disease. Indeed, Phin Zyndu was entrapped by Kikomi’s feminine wiles.”

“But you also speak of Phin Zyndu’s bravery and long-suffering preparation for vengeance, and the Hegemon’s courtship of Kikomi is but a single episode in the storytellers’ expansive repertoire based on his life. On the other hand, the women of history are defined by the men they loved. We never hear anything about Lady Mira except that she killed herself out of love for the Hegemon—Fara, did you know that Lady Mira’s art was once desired by all the nobles of Çaruza?— and we never talk about Kikomi except as a seductress blinded by love, though she was one of the most important leaders of the rebel- lion. Talent can wear a dress as well as a robe. Why the discrepancy?”

“Hmmm . . .” Zato Ruthi was at a loss for words.

“You see the patterns you expect to see, Master, and I believe Kikomi took advantage of that tendency—not just in you, but in the soldiers who rushed into Phin Zyndu’s bedroom. To accomplish her goals, she chose to sacrifice her own good name.”

“That is an act of great courage and wisdom to attribute to a woman. . . .”

“Master, you once misjudged a woman’s ability to fight a war, and you lost your throne. I say this not as an insult, but as a reminder that the lessons of history are not always easy to see. I can never prove to the satisfaction of all that my theory is right, but I choose to believe my version because it’s more interesting.”

She sat back in mipa rari, fully expecting to be berated by her teacher for bringing up a painful episode in his life.

After a long silence, Ruthi bowed down to Théra. Surprised, Théra bowed back.

“The proudest moment in a teacher’s life,” said Ruthi, “is when he learns something new from his student.”

Excerpted from The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

© 2016 Ken Liu, Reprinted with permission from Saga Press

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 14th)

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down two positions, ending the week at number 6.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Wastelands, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams featuring short fiction by a cast of all-star SFF writers, for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Famine, Death, War, and Pestilence: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the harbingers of Armageddon — these are our guides through the Wastelands... From the Book of Revelations to The Road Warrior; from A Canticle for Leibowitz to The Road, storytellers have long imagined the end of the world, weaving tales of catastrophe, chaos, and calamity. Gathering together the best post-apocalyptic literature of the last two decades from many of today’s most renowned authors of speculative fiction, including George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Orson Scott Card, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Octavia E. Butler, and Stephen King, Wastelands explores the scientific, psychological, and philosophical questions of what it means to remain human in the wake of Armageddon.

Binti


As a fan of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix, I knew I would read Binti at some point. The more so when the novella won first the Nebula Award and then the Hugo Award a few weeks back. Too bad I never peruse reviews of works I plan on reading, for I would have known that it was a YA science fiction story. I still would have read it, mind you. But I would have gone into it with a different set of expectations.

Weighing in at 96 pages, Binti is a relatively fast read. It's a good little scifi tale, yet it suffers from quite a few shortcomings. Which was disappointing given how talented and original Okorafor can be. Moreover, it makes me wonder how this novella could have garnered such prestigious accolades, as it is the author's weakest work by far that I've read. I mean, Who Fears Death deserved to win the World Fantasy Award. No question. But Binti winning both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards? I'm well aware that the competition is not as fierce in the "best novella" category and I can't vouch for the quality of the other nominees. And yet, in my humble opinion, there were too many plot holes and questionable execution to make Binti an award-winning work of fiction.

Here's the blurb:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.

The short fiction format habitually precludes much in terms of worldbuilding, but Okorafor nevertheless managed to write a novella that resounds with depth and shows a lot of potential for a number of sequels. I would have liked to learn more about Binti's ancestry and how her Himba tribe remains an insular minority among the Khoush majority. I would also have liked to learn more about how the Himba became such experts in mathematics, how Harmonizing works, and why they build the best astrolabes. Hopefully future sequels will delve a bit more into these family secrets, for I found the whole concept quite fascinating.

Binti is an engaging protagonist and the author did a wonderful job making readers feel her pain/loss at leaving her family and tribe behind to go study at the distinguished Oomza University. Up until the arrival of the Meduse, I was totally enthralled by this novella. Even though this was a YA offering, it felt as though Okorafor had managed to distill everything that made Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix such memorable reads and inject it into a smaller package, thus making Binti a decidedly powerful read. And then the Meduse show up and everything goes downhill. What at first appeared to be something that would be an emotional and thought-provoking read sadly becomes a simplistic and more or less lackluster work the more the story progresses.

The set-up was about as perfect as can be, which is why seeing things go down toward an ending that felt too easy was such a disappointment. The principal themes explored would have to be self-discovery, self-acceptance, and the respect and acceptance of others. Challenging to say the least, especially given the short fiction format. Then again, if someone could pull it off, it had to be Nnedi Okorafor. The inherent message seems to be to embrace and be proud of who you are, and by the same token respect others and their different perspectives. A beautiful message, to be sure. But the overly simplistic execution lacked substance and unfortunately became YA in both style and tone.

I didn't like how Binti's edan, that strange alien device, became a deus ex machina that first protected her from the Meduse and then allowed her to communicate with them. In addition, I doubt that it's possible for someone to become best friends with the terrorist who murdered not only the guy you liked but everyone else on the spaceship taking you to the university. I mean, anything is possible. But this would require an exploration of the psychological and emotional complexity of such a difficult situation, something that was ignored in this instance. The same thing goes for the people in charge of Oomza University. How they immediately acceded to the Meduse demands without even taking into account that hundreds of their colleagues and students were horribly killed in an atrocious terrorist attack might work well in a Care Bears episode, but it made absolutely no sense in this novella. No grief, no loss, no anger, nothing to show for the mass murder of hundreds of innocent victims. Even worse, they invite one of the terrorists to come study at the university, as if the catastrophe that just took place was nothing to write home about. Finally, it was way too convenient to have Binti's otjize, her clay-based skin and hair treatment, prove to be sort of a cure-all for the Meduse. That the original version could be this potent was okay. But that the new version, the one made from ingredients found on her new home planet, could be as powerful was quite a stretch.

Hence, following a captivating start, Binti failed to live up to what appeared to be its immense potential. As a character, Binti is compelling enough for me to want to read the sequel, Binti: Home. But if Okorafor decides to opt for simplicity instead of complexity, I will realize that this series is simply not for me. And there's nothing wrong with that. Yet there's no denying that Binti could have been so much more. . .

The final verdict: 7/10

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

Ian Douglas contest winners!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Harper Voyager, these two winners will receive a copy of Ian Douglas' Altered Starscape! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- David Benavides, from San Antonio, Texas, USA

- Michael Carter, from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

Ghost in the Shell trailer



I'm sure Hollywood will find a way to fuck up this one.

But based on this trailer, I have to say that it looks pretty damn good! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Genevieve Cogman's The Invisible Library for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.

London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...

FEATURING BONUS MATERIAL: including an interview with the author, a legend from the Library, and more!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 7th)

In hardcover:

Brent Weeks’ The Blood Mirror debuts at number 8.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is up two positions, ending the week at number 4.

Dean Koontz's Ashley Bell is down two spots, finishing the week at number 12.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Richard Kadrey's Butcher Bird for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Spyder Lee is a happy man who lives in San Francisco and owns a tattoo shop. One night an angry demon tries to bite his head off before he's saved by a stranger. The demon infected Spyder with something awful - the truth. He can suddenly see the world as it really is: full of angels and demons and monsters and monster-hunters. A world full of black magic and mysteries. These are the Dominions, parallel worlds full of wonder, beauty and horror. The Black Clerks, infinitely old and infinitely powerful beings whose job it is to keep the Dominions in balance, seem to have new interests and a whole new agenda. Dropped into the middle of a conflict between the Black Clerks and other forces he doesn't fully understand, Spyder finds himself looking for a magic book with the blind swordswoman who saved him. Their journey will take them from deserts to lush palaces, to underground caverns, to the heart of Hell itself.

Win a set of Ursula K. Le Guin's THE FOUND AND THE LOST and THE UNREAL AND THE REAL + Teaser Extract


Thanks to the folks at Saga Press, I have a set of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Found and the Lost (Canada, USA, Europe) and The UnReal and the Real (Canada, USA, Europe), two new short fiction collections, up for grabs!

Here's the blurb for the first collection:

Every novella by Ursula K. Le Guin, an icon in American literature, collected for the first time—and introduced by the legendary author—in one breathtaking volume.

Ursula K. Le Guin has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but never as a complete retrospective of her longer works as represented in the wonderful The Found and the Lost.

This collection is a literary treasure chest that belongs in every home library.

And here's the blurb for the second one:

A collection of short stories by the legendary and iconic Ursula K. Le Guin—selected by the author, and combined in one volume for the first time.

The Unreal and the Real is a collection of some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s best short stories. She has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but this is the first short story volume combining a full range of her work.

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

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

And here's a teaser extract from Dragonfly from The Found and the Lost.

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

“Why can’t I give myself my own true name?” Dragonfly asked, while Rose washed the knife and her hands in the salt water.

“Can’t be done.”

“Why not? Why does it have to be a witch or a sorcerer? What do you do?”

“Well,” Rose said, and dumped out the salt water on the bare dirt of the small front yard of her house, which, like most witches’ houses, stood somewhat apart from the village. “Well,” she said, straightening up and looking about vaguely as if for an answer, or a ewe, or a towel. “You have to know something about the power, see,” she said at last, and looked at Dragonfly with one eye. Her other eye looked a little off to the side. Sometimes Dragonfly thought the cast was in Rose’s left eye, sometimes it seemed to be in her right, but always one eye looked straight and the other watched something just out of sight, around the corner, elsewhere.

“Which power?”

“The one,” Rose said. As suddenly as the ewe had walked off, she went into her house. Dragonfly followed her, but only to the door. Nobody entered a witch’s house uninvited.

“You said I had it,” the girl said into the reeking gloom of the one-roomed hut.

“I said you have a strength in you, a great one,” the witch said from the darkness. “And you know it too. What you are to do I don’t know, not do you. That’s to find. But there’s no such power as to name yourself.”

“Why not? What’s more yourself than your own true name?”

A long silence.

The witch emerged with a soapstone drop spindle and a ball of greasy wool. She sat down on the bench beside her door and set the spindle turning. She had spun a yard of grey-brown yarn before she answered.

“My name’s myself. True. But what’s a name, then? It’s what another calls me. If there was no other, only me, what would I want a name for?”

“But,” said Dragonfly and stopped, caught by the argument. After a while she said, “So a name has to be a gift?”

Rose nodded.

“Give me my name, Rose,” the girl said.

“Your dad says not.”

“I say to.”

“He’s the master here.”

“He can keep me poor and stupid and worthless, but he can’t keep me nameless!”

The witch sighed, like the ewe, uneasy and constrained.

“Tonight,” Dragonfly said. “At our spring, under Iria Hill. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Her voice was half coaxing, half savage.

“You ought to have your proper nameday, your feast and dancing, like any young’un,” the witch said. “It’s at daybreak a name should be given. And then there ought to be music and feasting and all. A party. Not sneaking about at night and no one knowing…”

“I’ll know. How do you know what name to say, Rose? Does the water tell you?”

The witch shook her iron-grey head once. “I can’t tell you.” Her “can’t” did not mean “won’t.” Dragonfly waited. “It’s the power, like I said. It comes just so.” Rose stopped her spinning and looked up with one eye at a cloud in the west; the other looked a little northward of the sky. “You’re there in the water, together, you and the child. You take away the child-name. People may go on using that name for a use-name, but it’s not her name, nor ever was. So now she’s not a child, and she has no name. So then you wait. In the water there. You open your mind up, like. Like opening the doors of a house to the wind. So it comes. Your tongue speaks it, the name. Your breath makes it. You give it to that child, the breath, the name. You can’t think of it. You let it come to you. It must come through you and the water to her it belongs to. That’s the power, the way it works. It’s all like that. It’s not a thing you do. You have to know how to let it do. That’s all the mastery.”

“Mages can do more than that,” the girl said after a while.

“Nobody can do more than that,” said Rose.

Dragonfly rolled her head round on her neck, stretching till the vertebrae cracked, restlessly stretching out her long arms and legs. “Will you?” she said.

After some time, Rose nodded once.

They never met in the lane under Iria Hill in the dark of the night, long after sunset, long before dawn. Rose made a dim glow of werelight so that they could find their way through the marshy ground around the spring without falling in a sinkhole among the reeds. In the cold darkness under a few stars and the black curve of the hill, they stripped and waded into the shallow water, their feet sinking deep in velvet mud. The witch touched the girl’s hand, saying, “I take your name, child. You are no child. You have no name.”

It was utterly still.

In a whisper the witch said, “Woman, be named. You are Irian.”

For a moment longer they held still; then the night wind blew across their naked shoulders, and shivering, they waded out, dried themselves as well as they could, struggled barefoot and wretched through the sharp-edged reeds and tangling roots, and found their way back to the lane. And there Dragonfly spoke in a ragged, raging whisper: “How could you name me that!”

The witch said nothing.

“It isn’t right. It isn’t my true name! I thought my name would make me be me. But this makes it worse. You got it wrong. You’re only a witch. You did it wrong. It’s his name. He can have it. He’s so proud of it, his stupid domain, his stupid grandfather. I don’t want it. I won’t have it. It isn’t me. I still don’t know who I am, I’m not Irian!” She fell silent abruptly, having spoken the name.

The witch still said nothing. They walked along in the darkness side by side. At last, in a placating, frightened voice, Rose said, “It came so…”

“If you ever tell it to anyone I’ll kill you,” Dragonfly said.

At that, the witch stopped walking. She hissed in her throat like a cat. “Tell anyone?”

Dragonfly stopped too. She said after a moment, “I’m sorry. But I feel like—I feel like you betrayed me.”

“I spoke your true name. It’s not what I thought it would be. And I don’t feel easy about it. As if I’d left something unfinished. But it is your name. If it betrays you, then that’s the truth of it.” Rose hesitated and then spoke less angrily, more coldly: “If you want the power to betray me, Irian, I’ll give you that. My name is Etaudis.”

The wind had come up again. They were both shivering, their teeth shattering. They stood face to face in the black lane, hardly able to see where the other was. Dragonfly put out her groping hand and met the witch’s hand. They put their arms round each other in a fierce, long embrace. Then they hurried on, the witch to her hut near the village, the heiress of Iria up the hill to her ruinous house, where all the dogs, who had let her go without much fuss, received her back with a clamor and racket of barking that woke everybody for a half mile round except the master, sodden drunk by his cold hearth.”

2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin under Saga Press, a Simon and Schuster imprint.

"Dragonfly": copyright 1997 by Ursula K. Le Guin and first appeared in Legends.