More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Orbit is having its New Voices 2023 ebook sale for 2.99$ each until December 14th. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's what they say about it:

From epic space opera and gritty cyberpunk to witchy dark fantasy and more, these books are a perfect introduction to the authors you’ll be reading for years to come.

Sale ends December 14, so act now!

Here are the titles on sale:

- The Lost War
- The Combat Codes
- The Jasad Heir
- The Sun and the Void
- The Phoenix King
- No Coincidence
- Shield Maiden
- These Burning Stars
- Tonight, I Burn

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Stephen King's If It Bleeds for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Readers adore Stephen King’s novels, and his novellas are their own dark treat, briefer but just as impactful and enduring as his longer fiction. Many of his novellas have been made into iconic films, including “The Body” (Stand by Me) and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (Shawshank Redemption).

The four brilliant tales in If It Bleeds prove as iconic as their predecessors. In the title story, reader favorite Holly Gibney (from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider) must face her fears, and possibly another outsider—this time on her own. In “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” an intergenerational friendship has a disturbing afterlife. “The Life of Chuck” explores, beautifully, how each of us contains multitudes. And in “Rat,” a struggling writer must contend with the darker side of ambition.

If these novellas show King’s range, they also prove that certain themes endure. One of King’s great concerns is evil, and in If It Bleeds, there’s plenty of it. There is also evil’s opposite, which in King’s fiction often manifests as friendship. Holly is reminded that friendship is not only life-affirming but can be life-saving. Young Craig befriends Mr. Harrigan, and the sweetness of this late-in-life connection is its own reward.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Sebastien de Castell's Spellslinger for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is fading.

Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything - even his own life - in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.

One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.

The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.

Quote of the Day

Silences were hard to read, but sometimes they said more than words could.

- MICHELLE WEST, Firstborn

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

About 300 pages into this one and it's the best House War book thus far! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download all three volumes of Katherine Kurtz's The Legends of Camber of Culdi for only 8.83$ if you buy them as a set by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale. It's the perfect starting point for anyone interested in discovering the Deryni saga! For my money, even though it was a bestselling series in the 70s and the 80s, it's one of the most underrated fantasy sagas out there.

Here's the blurb:

Three fantasy novels of intrigue, betrayal, and magic in medieval Gwynedd by the New York Times–bestselling author of the Deryni series—bonus story also included.

Camber of Culdi: Long before Camber was revered as a saint, he was a Deryni noble, one of the most respected of the magical race whose arcane skills set them apart from ordinary humans in the kingdom of Gwynedd. Now, the land suffers under the tyranny of King Imre, whose savage oppression of the human population weighs heavily on Camber’s heart—a heart that is about to be shattered by a tragic loss that will lead him to confront the usurpers whose dark magic haunts the realm.

Saint Camber: The yoke of tyranny has finally been lifted in Gwynedd, but Camber’s job remains unfinished. The dangerous remnants of a conquered enemy still mass at the borders, and the new ruler is desperately unhappy wearing the crown. With the stability of a fragile kingdom at stake, its greatest champion must make the ultimate sacrifice: Camber of Culdi must cease to exist.

Camber the Heretic: The king’s heir is a mere boy of twelve, and the malevolent regents who will rule until young Alroy comes of age are determined to eliminate all Deryni. Suddenly, the future of Gwynedd hangs in the balance, and Camber—once adored as a saint, but now reviled as a heretic—must find a way to protect his people before everything and everyone he loves is destroyed in the all-consuming flames of intolerance and hate.

Filled with mysticism and magic, these sagas reminds us that “Kurtz’s love of history lets her do things with her characters and their world that no non-historian could hope to do” (Chicago Sun-Times).

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 5th)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing is down one position, ending the week at number 2.

Stephen King's Holly is down 2 spots, finishing the week at number 5.

Cassandra Clare's Sword Catcher is down six positions, ending the week at number 10.

In paperback:

Rachel Gillig's Two Twisted Crowns debuts at number 3.

Dead Things

I discovered the Eric Carter series in a Daw Books Facebook post announcing new relases a few weeks back. Not sure how this could happen, but I had never heard of Stephen Blackmoore prior to seeing that post. Even worse, I was kind of shocked to find out that Cult Classic was the 9th volume in a series which debuted in 2013. Read the blurb for the first installment and got in touch with the folks at Daw to see if they could hook me up with a copy. They were happy to oblige and I'm glad I gave this book a shot.

As always with urban fantasy series featuring a male lead, I was afraid that it could be a Dresden clone. Yey though there are similarities between Butcher's Dresden Files and this one, such as a powerful mostly self-taught young magic-user with ex-girlfriend issues, with few friends and plenty of enemies, and with untapped power levels that he is unaware of, who has come to the attention of higher beings who may seek to recruit or kill him, Eric Carter is no Harry Dresden. Even though Dead Things may read like the episodic early Dresden Files installments, the novel is more of a paranormal and gritty noir murder mystery work than anything else. Expect more blood and gore and a somewhat engaging protagonist, but not as endearing as Harry Dresden turned out to be. I have a feeling that this is intentional and that Eric Carter will grow on the audience as the story unfolds through the sequels.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen Blackmoore's dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He's turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he'd never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister's been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it's the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who's taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter's going to find out who did it, and he's going to make them pay.

As long as they don't kill him first.

What I probably hate the most about urban fantasy works is that the market demands that they be short and relatively fast-paced reads. As a result, the opening chapter of any series in this subgenre is always parsimonious on the worldbuilding front. That aspect is built upon with each subsequent novel, sometimes reaching amazing and unanticipated heights. It's too early to tell whether or not this aspect of the Eric Carter series will echo with the sort of depth that has come to characterize urban fantasy series by authors such as Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, or if worldbuilding elements will always remain in the background, with the author providing just enough information for the reader to understand what's going on and little else. Blackmoore does a good job explaining how necromancy works and how Carter can use his powers. The same goes for his surprisingly powerful magical toys, which give him a few aces up his sleeve. However, very little is said about how the magical world at large actually works. The same goes for the theology behind said world. Sure, there are gods, goddesses, monsters, etc, but exactly where they fit in the greater scheme of things remains to be seen. Making the death goddess Santa Muerte, patron saint of the Narcos, part of the story gave it a new flavor and will likely have important repercussions down the line. In the end, though the worldbuilding needs a lot of fleshing out, the ideas and concepts introduced by Stephen Blackmoore are intriguing enough to make me want to discover more. As with any other first volume in urban fantasy series, that's all that matters.

As a do-gooder at heart but with a knack to see most of what he touches turn to shit, Eric Carter is an easy protagonist to root for. True, he's a foul-mouthed smartass who gets beaten to a pulp way too many times in the span of such a short book, but there is something about him that makes you care for the poor sod. Imagine if Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad was a badass necromancer. Again, Dead Things doesn't allow for any character development and he's mostly an idiot because he's trying to protect those he loves without realizing that he's alienating them in the process. But as is usually the case for any urban fantasy main character, there seems to be much more to him than meets the eye. Time will tell if that's the case or not. Carter has been running from his past for a long time and now it's catching up to him. The supporting cast is made up of an interesting bunch and like everything else they would benefit from some fleshing out as well. Still, Vivian, Alex, Tabitha, and the immortal bartender Darius all add layers to this story.

Blackmoore captures the LA noir setting extremely well and he keeps the tale moving at a good clip. Pace is never an issue from cover to cover, and it's quite entertaining to follow Carter's first person narrative as every stupid decision he makes forces him to find new ways to get out of the mess he made again and again. Such a structure might get old fast if the main protagonist doesn't wise up at some point. And yet, for the duration of the revenge plot that is Dead Things, it made for a fun ride.

If you are looking for a gritty urban fantasy novel featuring a deeply flawed male lead, Dead Things is for you. There is definitely potential for bigger and better things to come. It remains to be seen whether or not Stephen Blackmoore can up his game and elevate this series to another level.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download RJ Barker's Age of Assassins for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A young apprentice to an assassin becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that could destroy a kingdom in a brilliant epic fantasy debut by David Gemmell Award-nominated author RJ Barker.

To catch an assassin, use an assassin...

Girton Club-foot has no family, a crippled leg, and is apprenticed to the best assassin in the land. He's learning the art of taking lives, but his latest mission tasks him with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life.

Someone is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder.

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies, Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.

You can also download K. J. Parker's Devices and Desires for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance -- one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others. . .

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker's embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion -- his devices and desires.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 29th)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Stephen King's Holly maintains its position at number 3.

Cassandra Clare's Sword Catcher debuts at number 4.

Alix E. Harrow's Starling House is down four spots, finishing the week at number 12.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood maintains its position at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

There are a lot of Black Friday deals on Amazon, but here are 3 that are great buys! =)

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts' Daughter of the Empire, first installment in the excellent Empire trilogy, for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

An epic tale of adventure and intrigue, Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.

Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan. Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni. While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir. Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival. But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy. Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all—in his own impregnable stronghold.

You can also download Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A major new work from "a writer to make readers rejoice" (Minneapolis Star Tribune)— a moving story of memory, magic, and survival.

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

If you can't afford a physical copy of the gorgeous Assassin's Apprentice: The Illustrated Edition by Robin Hobb, you can now get your hands on the digital edition for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A gorgeously illustrated anniversary edition of the book that launched the epic Farseer Trilogy, praised by George R. R. Martin as “fantasy as it ought to be written” and Lin-Manuel Miranda as “an incredible series,” featuring a new foreword by Robin Hobb and ten illustrations.

Twenty-five years ago, Robin Hobb’s first novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Thus began a beloved saga spanning multiple series, full of adventure, magic, and sinister plots. To celebrate a quarter-century of wonder, this special edition of Assassin’s Apprentice presents a modern classic as it’s never been seen before, with ten beautiful illustrations by Magali Villeneuve.

Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill—and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.

As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

System Collapse

You probably recall that I enjoyed the first four Murderbot Diaries novellas, but I felt that too much of the plot always involved Murderbot saving a bunch of clueless and often stupid people. As fun and entertaining as these novellas turned out to be, it was all becoming a little redundant. In the future, I was hoping that Wells would elevate her game and bring this series to another level.

Which she did in Network Effect, the first novel-length project featuring Murderbot. At first, it felt a little like more of the same. But when the author kicked the story into high gear, the book became a thrilling ride that made you want to beg for more.

Then came Fugitive Telemetry, which takes place before Network Effect. This was a little disappointing because the new novella couldn't move the story forward. Moreover, Martha Wells went for more or less the same recipe and this is getting a old. It still was as fun to read as the original novellas, but the novel proved that the author could push the envelope further and add layers to this tale and its characters. In that regard, I felt that Fugitive Telemetry was a backward step, relying on the same ingredients that made the past installments a commercial success instead of trying to move toward bigger and better things.

As the direct sequel of Network Effect, I was hoping that this new Murderbot story would raise the bar higher than ever. Alas, it's becoming clear that the Murderbot Diaries are a cash cow for Tordotcom and that they have no intention of making this series reach new heights. Unless it's by small and relatively expensive increments, that is. Indeed, System Collapse reads like the second part of Network Effect, and it's evident that these two books should have been a single novel. Like its predecessors, System Collapse is an engaging read. But the magic has worn off. It feels like Wells is microwaving leftovers and rehashing the exact same plotlines over and over again.

Here's the blurb:

Everyone's favorite lethal SecUnit is back in the next installment in Martha Wells's New York Times bestselling Murderbot Diaries series.

Am I making it worse? I think I'm making it worse.

Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.

But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!

Yeah, this plan is... not going to work.

For the most part, System Collapse deals with the aftermath of the events covered in Network Effect. As such, the worldbuilding aspect is once more kept to a bare minimum. There's very little in terms of revelations or new concepts/ideas and this newest work maintains the episodic format of the Murderbot Diaries. As always, there seems to be more than meets the eye. As mentioned in my previous reviews, as limited in scope and vision as all these novels/novellas/short stories appear to be, numerous signs hint that there is a depth to the storylines that will be explored in the future. Network Effect was definitely a step in the right direction. Still, just how ambitious and multilayered the Murderbot Diaries will turn out to be remains to be seen. Problem is, Martha Wells and Tordotcom appear to be in no hurry whatsoever. As I've said before, I'm well aware that this is more about Murderbot's perspective and its interactions with humans and non-humans. But at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, the overall story arc will have to gain definition and substance. Unfortunately, System Collapse did nothing to push the series in that direction. If anything, it's another step backward.

First-person narratives are always tricky, but Martha Wells created an extremely endearing main character. Murderbot's POV definitely gives these works their unique flavor and makes this antisocial SecUnit one of the most interesting protagonists in science fiction today. Murderbot's perspective, full of sarcasm and social awkwardness, is as fun to read as it's always been. The return of ART, whatever form it takes, is also a pleasure. The supporting cast in this one seemed to be a little better than before, though I still have a hard time differentiating one character from the next. So much focus is put on Murderbot's point of view that the human characters, with a few exceptions, sort of feel interchangeable and it's difficult to keep track of them all.

Once again, Murderbot is called upon to save people. Yes, that's pretty much all it does in every story thus far. As long as each new novella/novel/short story builds on the groundwork laid by its predecessor, I would have no problem with that. Problem is, it's not the case and this is beginning to be quite frustrating. As was the case with Fugitive Telemetry, System Collapse doesn't cover a lot of ground and seems to be yet another a example of same old, same old. As my expectations have grown with each new title, and as Network Effect sent them soaring, the last two Murderbot releases can be nothing but disappointments. No matter how charitable one tries to be, it sure looks as though they're trying to milk this series as much as humanly possible. And given the size of these books, even if you can mathematically call System Collapse a novel-length project, charging nearly as much for what is essentially little more than a novella as you'd pay for doorstoppers by Tad Williams, Brandon Sanderson, or Neal Stephenson, it makes for poor value. Especially in this economy.

Given its small size, System Collapse doesn't suffer from pacing issues. I went through it in just a couple of sittings. Though I enjoyed it, there's no denying that something's missing. Network Effect raised the bar higher than it's ever been before and I'm now looking forward to more ambitous and complex storylines. Time will tell if Martha Wells can step up to the plate and follow through with bigger and better Murderbot adventures.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Warriorborn: A Cinder Spires Novella for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

From the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of the Dresden Files comes an all-new, action-packed fantasy adventure set in the Cinder Spires universe.

Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster hasn’t even broken in his lieutenant’s insignia when he’s summoned to meet with the Spirearch of Spire Albion himself for a very special—and very secret—purpose. The Spirearch needs Benedict to retrieve a bag he’s “misplaced” on the Colony Spire known as Dependence, which has strangely cut off all contact with the outside world. It’s a delicate mission at best, a potential bloodbath at worst.

To this end, the Spirearch has supplied Benedict with backup in the form of three Warriorborn. But unlike the courageous lieutenant, this trio has formerly used its special gifts for crime, carnage, and outright bloody murder. And all of them were caught and imprisoned because of Benedict. Now, if they behave—and make it back alive—they’ll go free.

But when the odd squad reaches Dependence, they soon discover something waiting for them: a horrific weapon that could shatter the balance of power among the Spires. And Benedict will have to bring his own Warriorborn skills to bear if he, his team, and Spire Albion are to have any hope of survival . . .

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 22nd)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Stephen King's Holly is up one position, ending the week at number 3.

Kerri Maniscalco's Throne of the Fallen debuts at number 5.

Alix E. Harrow's Starling House debuts at number 8.

Thea Guanzon's The Hurricane Wars debuts at number 12.

Brandon Sanderson's Yumi and the Nightmare Painter debuts at number 13.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Sky and Breath is down six spots, finishing the week at number 7.

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood is down twelve positions, ending the week at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Finally, you can download Richard Kadrey's The Wrong Dead Guy for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

In this fast paced sequel to The Everything Box—the second entry in New York Times bestselling author Richard Kadrey’s comedic supernatural series—chaos ensues when Coop and the team at DOPS steal a not-quite-dead and very lovesick ancient Egyptian mummy wielding some terrifying magic.

Coop, a master thief sort of gone legit, saved the world from an ancient doomsday device—heroism that earned him a gig working for the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome top secret government agency that polices the odd and strange. Now Woolrich, Coop’s boss at the DOPS, has Coop breaking into a traveling antiquities show to steal a sarcophagus containing the mummy of a powerful Egyptian wizard named Harkhuf. With the help of his pals Morty, Giselle, and a professor that’s half-cat, half-robotic octopus, Coop pulls off the heist without a hitch.

It’s not Coop’s fault that when DOPS opened the sarcophagus they didn’t find the mummy they were expecting. Well, it was the right mummy, but it wasn’t exactly dead—and now it’s escaped, using a type of magic the organization hasn’t encountered before. Being a boss, Woolrich blames his underling for the screw up and wants Coop to find the missing Harkhuf and make it right, pronto.

Digging into Harkhuf’s history, Coop thinks the mummy is hunting for an ancient magical manuscript that will help him bring his old lover back to life.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t a warrior sorceress hell-bent on conquering the world with her undead armies.

Coop would very much like to run from the oncoming chaos. It’s one thing to steal a mummy, but another to have to deal with head-hunting bureaucrats, down-on-their luck fortune tellers, undead mailroom clerks, and a rather unimpressed elephant. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to run. If he wants the madness to stop, he’s going to have to suck it up and play hero one more time. But if Coop manages to save the world AGAIN, he’s definitely going to want a lot of answers. And a raise.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

Shadow Speaker

As a big fan Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix, when I found out that a new edition of the out-of-print Shadow Speaker would be published by Daw Books, I immediately requested a review copy. In my excitement, I forgot that the bulk of the author's early career years were spent writing YA material. And having been written a few years before the aforementioned novels, this one is another YA offering.

As such, other than the Africanfuturism setting and some Africanjujuism elements, Shadow Speaker is more akin to Binti than to Who Fears Death or The Book of Phoenix. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Yet your mileage will vary based on your expectations. If, like me, you're expecting an adult SFF work, chances are you might be disappointed. Had I known that it was a YA book, I still would have read it. But I would have gone into it with a different set of expectations and might have enjoyed it more in the end.

Here's the blurb:

Deluxe, expanded edition of an out-of-print early novel from Africanfuturist luminary Nnedi Okorafor, with a brand-new introduction from the author.

Niger, West Africa, 2074

It is an era of tainted technology and mysterious mysticism. A great change has happened all over the planet, and the laws of physics aren’t what they used to be.

Within all this, I introduce you to Ejii Ugabe, a child of the worst type of politician. Back when she was nine years old, she was there as her father met his end. Don’t waste your tears on him: this girl’s father would throw anyone under a bus to gain power. He was a cruel, cruel man, but even so, Ejii did not rejoice at his departure from the world. Children are still learning that some people don’t deserve their love.

Now 15 years old and manifesting the abilities given to her by the strange Earth, Ejii decides to go after the killer of her father. Is it for revenge or something else? You will have to find out by reading this book.

I am the Desert Magician, and this is a novel I have conjured for you, so I’m certainly not going to just tell you here.

I haven't read the original version of Shadow Speaker, so it's unclear how much work the author put into this revised edition. It wasn't rewritten from the ground up, that's for sure. Indeed, it's the work of a much less mature Nnedi Okorafor and it shows. She explores many of the themes that will be at the heart of her future novels and short fiction, and the post-apocalyptic African environment is another fixture she will learn to refine and end up calling Africanfuturism. Unfortunately, though you can definitely catch glimpses of the talented writer she will become, Shadow Speaker is a black and white YA tale that doesn't resound with much depth.

The worldbuilding leaves a little to be desired. There are some cool concepts, especially the peace bombs and the Change and its aftermath. Problem is, those ideas are seldom developped adequately. I would have liked to discover more about the war that engendered the Change. The same goes for the various worlds that are now connected together. More information regarding the various metahumans and their powers would also have been appreciated. Many of the concepts Okorafor introduces are fascinating, yet she spends very little time elaborating on them and that impacts the overall reading experience in negative fashion.

As the title implies, Ejii is a shadow speaker. Her eyes are different than regular people and her special abilities allow her to talk to shadows. She's the child of two tribal leaders in her community. Her father is a Muslim fundamentalist and her mother a more compassionate and moderate woman. When her father is killed for abusing his power, the faction that supported him somewhat ostracize Ejii. Like Binti, Ejii is an engaging protagonist and Okorafor did a good job making readers feel her pain/loss at leaving her family and friends behind as she embarks on a quest to avert a war that could mean the end of everything. Still, the characterization is definitely subpar compared to that of Who Fears Death or The Book of Phoenix. Onyesonwu was brazen, confused, and alienated, which meant that it wasn't always easy to follow the first-person narrative of such a bitter, mad, and ambivalent teen girl. Although no less complex and three-dimensional, Phoenix was a much easier protagonist to root for. As an accelerated woman, in many respects she was but a child in an adult's body. But that child was forced to grow up fast and face truths that would change her life. Ejii, for all of her teenage angst, can't hold a candle to either of them. Dikéogu, the second main character, is even worse in that regard. The rest of the supporting cast, with the exception of Jaa, Buji, and Gambo, are more or less forgettable. Again, a little more depth would have gone a long way.

Weighing in at 325 pages, Shadow Speaker is a relatively short novel. Still, the pace can be an issue at times. Though the narrative flows well for the better part of the novel, the rhythm can occasionally be sluggish, especially when Ejii and her traveling companions first depart on their quest. This is nothing new, as most travelogue portions of Okorafor's past works suffer from the same shortcoming.

The endgame failed to elevate this book to another level and the somewhat lackluster ending offered little in the way of resolution. Not sure if the original ending was the same, or if it was altered because there is now a sequel about to be released. I'm currently reading Like Thunder, and it appears to be a better read. Time will tell if Nnedi Okorafor can up her game and bring the Desert Magician's duology up to par with her best works.

The final verdict: 6.75/10

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