Musical Interlude

God knows that John Williams created numerous masterpieces during the course of his career, but the Imperial March just might be his best! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download George R. R. Martin's Dying of the Light for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In this unforgettable space opera, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin presents a chilling vision of eternal night—a volatile world where cultures clash, codes of honor do not exist, and the hunter and the hunted are often interchangeable.

A whisperjewel has summoned Dirk t’Larien to Worlorn, and a love he thinks he lost. But Worlorn isn’t the world Dirk imagined, and Gwen Delvano is no longer the woman he once knew. She is bound to another man, and to a dying planet that is trapped in twilight. Gwen needs Dirk’s protection, and he will do anything to keep her safe, even if it means challenging the barbaric man who has claimed her. But an impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounds them all, and it’s becoming impossible for Dirk to distinguish between his allies and his enemies. In this dangerous triangle, one is hurtling toward escape, another toward revenge, and the last toward a brutal, untimely demise.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

Song of Blood and Stone

I'm always a little bit wary of SFF titles that get published by imprints which don't normally, or rarely, release fantasy or science fiction works. More often than not, it means that the novel shows mainstream appeal, but might not please more demanding genre fans. Hence, L. Penelope's Song of Blood and Stone sat on my pile of books to read for a long time. What ultimately encouraged me to give it a shot was the fact that the press release claimed that it featured superior worldbuilding akin to that of Brandon Sanderson. Well, that was a crock of shit and no question about it.

Although adult themes are explored throughout the narrative, Song of Blood and Stone was little more than a generic YA fantasy offering featuring a doomed star-crossed love story. Everything was black and white, and I have a feeling that the corny romance will appeal more to teenagers and young adults. For people expecting depth and shades of gray, you may have a hard time getting into this one.

Here's the blurb:

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive--an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack's mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and its people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda's Earthsong to do it. They escape their vicious captors and together embark on a perilous journey to save the land and to uncover the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Penelope's Song of Blood and Stone is billed as an epic fantasy tale, but it is anything but. The worldbuilding of Brandon Sanderson? Are you kidding me!?! Alongside Erikson, Martin, and Bakker, I'd say that Sanderson is one of the very best worldbuilders writing today. Not so with Penelope, I'm afraid. The countries of Elsira and Lagrimar don't resound with any sort of depth. White people as pale as Scandinavians and Dutch on one side of a mountain range and black people on the other. Genetically speaking, I'm not sure this is even possible. Truth be told, had this book not been written by an African American woman, I have a feeling that this would have been considered more than a little half-assed. The magical system, with its Earthsong and Earthsinger, appeared quite interesting. Alas, though certain sequences are flashback scenes elaborating on how a schism divided Earthsingers from the rest of the population, we don't learn as much as I would have liked about how magic actually works and where it comes from. At least, the author eschewed the conventional European medieval fantasy setting. Instead, L. Penelope's universe features a level of technology similar to that of the 20th century, with cars, trucks, planes, firearms, etc.

Jasminda is well-drawn protagonist and her POV, especially early on, made for a good read. The same can be said of Jack, at least until his true identity was revealed. Problem is, from then on the doomed star-crossed love story imbued every single plotline with a corny romance that pretty much killed the story for me. Perhaps I'm too old and cynical to believe in such perfect fairytale kind of romance? Also, I could have done without the chapter-long sex scene. And since their perspectives are the only points of view of the novel, other than that of the flashbacks, there are no other POVs to help Song of Blood and Stone reach another level. In any event, the supporting cast didn't feature any truly compelling men and women that could have helped in that regard.

The politicking aspect of this book, especially, left a lot to be desired. A refugee crisis is a complicated event, not a simple black and white matter. But the way it was portrayed, with Jack the sole honorable person in the country, willing to beggar the realm to welcome the refugees of Lagrimar, it made little sense. No wonder the entire government turned against the endeavor. I was expecting shades of gray associated with the moral dilemma that such a human crisis represents, something along the lines of C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. And although serious adult themes such as sexism, racism, abuse, rape, etc, are explored throughout the storylines, the black and white approach made this one read more like a YA novel.

The pace was fluid enough, which made for an easy read. L. Penelope's prose can be evocative, creating a beautiful imagery from time to time. However, she lays it a bit thick with the romance, which gets old real fast. All in all, Song of Blood and Stone was never truly boring. It's just that it was a generic fantasy offering with star-crossed lovers taking center stage, with a plot that was nothing special. Hence, though it made for a quick read, it left me totally indifferent to the characters and their plight. Summer vacations are approaching. So if you are looking for a light fantasy read to bring to the beach, this book might do the trick.

The impossible love story between a white man and a black woman might appeal to "the future that liberals want" memes crowd, yet one has to wonder if this manuscript would have been picked up had it featured Caucasian lovers. The ending of the book left the door open for many things to come in the upcoming sequel, but I wonder if I'll be giving it a shot. Time will tell. . .

Well-written with some good ideas and concept, but in the end a more or less forgettable novel which relied too much on romance. That's Song of Blood and Stone in a nutshell.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

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

Follow this link to read an extract.

Quote of the Day

Funny thing about officers; the fewer men they command, the more sense they tend to have.

- ED MCDONALD, Blackwing (Canada, USA, Europe)

This book did not quite live up to the potential it showed early on, but it was nevertheless a good read. Will definitely give the second volume a shot.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Elizabeth Bear's first New Amsterdam omnibus for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

New Amsterdam

Abigail Irene Garrett drinks too much. She makes scandalous liaisons with inappropriate men, and if in her youth she was a famous beauty, now she is both formidable and notorious! She is a forensic sorceress, and a dedicated officer of a Crown that does not deserve her loyalty. Sebastien de Ulloa is the oldest creature she has ever known. He has forgotten his birth-name, his birth-place, and even the year in which he was born, if he ever knew it. But he still remembers the woman who made him immortal. In a world where the sun never sets on the British Empire, where Holland finally ceded New Amsterdam to the English only during the Napoleonic wars, and where the expansion of the American colonies was halted by the war magic of the Iroquois, they are exiles in the new world - and its only hope for justice!

Garrett Investigates

The following five stories comprise some of the matter surrounding the life of Lady Abigail Irene Garrett, Th.D., sometime Crown Investigator. They are previously uncollected. One is new; the others were only previously available as bonus chapbooks with the limited editions of various novellas.

You can also download the second New Amsterdam omnibus for only 3.99$ here.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 1.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download M. R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge, prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada. And it's £0.99 in the UK.

Here's the blurb:

From the author of USA Today bestseller The Girl With All the Gifts, a terrifying new novel set in the same post-apocalyptic world.

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Timothy Zahn's Star Wars: Thrawn for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

Quote of the Day

Real power shows itself through the disregard one has for those that defy it.

- ED MCDONALD, Blackwing (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin!

An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language.

It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu—a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.

You can also download Alastair Reynolds' scifi classic, Revelation Space, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The highly-acclaimed first novel in the Revelation Space universe.

When human colonists settled the Amarantin homeworld, few of them bothered to question the disappearance of its native population almost a million years before. But in the year 2551, one man, Dan Sylveste, is convinced that solving the riddle of the Amarantin is vital to human survival. As he nears the truth, he learns that someone wants him dead. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason. And if that reason is made public, the universe—and reality itself—could be forever altered. This sprawling operatic novel ranges across vast gulfs of time and space to arrive at a terrifying conclusion.

Alastair Reynolds, who holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy, has written a vivid and action-packed story that will linger in the minds of its readers.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse: Dune for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Frank Herbert's Final Novel in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time.

The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. The remnants of the Old Empire have been consumed by the violent matriarchal cult known as the Honored Matres. Only one faction remains a viable threat to their total conquest—the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune’s power.

Under the leadership of Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, the Bene Gesserit have colonized a green world on the planet Chapterhouse, and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile. And once they’ve mastered breeding sandworms, the Sisterhood will control the production of the greatest commodity in the known galaxy—the spice Melange. But their true weapon remains a man who has lived countless lifetimes—a man who served under the God Emperor Paul Muad’Dib...

Cover art and extract from Terry Brooks' STREET FREAKS

The folks at have recently unveiled the cover art for Terry Brooks' upcoming Street Freaks. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

"Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks." his father directs Ashton Collins before the vid feed goes suddenly silent. The Red Zone is the dangerous heart of mega-city Los Angeles; it is a world Ash is forbidden from and one he knows little about. But if he can find Street Freaks, the strangest of aid awaits―human and barely human alike. As Ash is hunted, he must unravel the mystery left behind by his father and discover his role in this new world.

Brooks has long been the grandmaster of fantasy. Now he turns his hand to science fiction filled with what his readers love best: complex characters, extraordinary settings, exciting action, and a page-turning story. Through it, Brooks reimagines his bestselling career yet again.

Follow this link to read an extract from the book.

Quote of the Day

I hollered at my boys, and they almost looked like they were paying attention. How I'd managed to pick up such worthless gutter rats I couldn't recall. Out of brandy, twenty miles into the Misery and a troop of vermin at my heels. Somewhere in my life, things had gone very, very wrong.

- ED MCDONALD, Blackwing (Canada, USA, Europe)

Enjoying this book thus far. Has an Abercrombie vibe to it.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ann Leckie's Provenance for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:



Ann Leckie returns to the world of her record-breaking Imperial Radch trilogy, which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards, with an enthralling novel of power, privilege, and birthright.

A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.

Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray's future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider debuts at number 1.

Dean Koontz' The Crooked Staircase is down four spots, finishing the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down six positions, ending the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 1, anthology for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

To keep up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more—a task accomplishable by only the most determined and voracious readers. For everyone else, Night Shade Books is proud to introduce the inaugural volume of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, a new yearly anthology compiled by Hugo and World Fantasy award-winning editor Neil Clarke, collecting the finest that the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to the most exciting new writers. The best science fiction scrutinizes our culture and politics, examines the limits of the human condition, and zooms across galaxies at faster-than-light speeds, moving from the very near future to the far-flung worlds of tomorrow in the space of a single sentence. Clarke, publisher and editor in chief of the acclaimed and award-winning magazine Clarkesworld, has selected the short science fiction (and only science fiction) best representing the previous year's writing, showcasing the talent, variety, and awesome "sensawunda" that the genre has to offer. Neil Clarke is the award-winning publisher and editor in chief of Clarkesworld magazine, winner of three Hugo Awards for Best Semiprozine, and the editor of the 2014 cyborg-themed original anthology Upgraded. Clarke lives in Stirling, New Jersey.

The Midnight Front

After Ian Tregillis' excellent Milkweed Triptych trilogy and Kay Kenyon's compelling Dark Talents series, which both combine magic and World War II, comes David Mack's Dark Arts sequence. And although the premise was similar to those of the other series, I was nevertheless intrigued by The Midnight Front and decided to give it a shot.

Sadly, though Mack's worldbuilding was well-done, this novel wasn't as captivating as the Tregillis or Kenyon books. There is definitely room for improvement in the upcoming sequel, The Iron Codex, yet there is no denying that the opening chapter of the Dark Arts wasn't as interesting as Bitter Seeds and At the Table of Wolves turned out to be.

Here's the blurb:

On the eve of World War Two, Nazi sorcerers come gunning for Cade but kill his family instead. His one path of vengeance is to become an apprentice of The Midnight Front—the Allies’ top-secret magickal warfare program—and become a sorcerer himself.

Unsure who will kill him first—his allies, his enemies, or the demons he has to use to wield magick—Cade fights his way through occupied Europe and enemy lines. But he learns too late the true price of revenge will be more terrible than just the loss of his soul—and there’s no task harder than doing good with a power born of ultimate evil.

This is an alternate history novel, and David Mack managed to integrate the magical elements of his tale with the important historical details of that period. The author did a great job depicting the atrocities committed during World War II. The Midnight Front covers the six years of the war and takes readers across Europe, from occupied France, to the Auschwitz extermination camp, and to the heart of Nazi Germany. Mack came up with a new magical system in which the practitioners, called karcists, can summon and harness demons from Hell and their powers. The same can be done with angels, but the process is more difficult. These rituals and their repercussions were quite interesting, but too many scenes were only meant to show the protagonists blow stuff up. There were also countless massive info-dumps pertaining to how the magic works and these bogged down the narrative in many a chapter. I understand that Mack needed to convey the information to his readers, but I wish he could have found a way to do it in a more seamless fashion. Such scenes got in the way of the storytelling time and time again, and that definitely took something out of the overall reading experience.

The characterization left a lot to be desired and was the aspect that prevented me from fully enjoying this book. The old trope of the Chosen One was taken up a few notches too far with Cade Martin. And as the central protagonist of The Midnight Front, I just couldn't connect with him. The author made him dense and stubborn to compensate, but that did not quite work. The same could be said of Adair MacRae, the novel's badass alcoholic Gandalf analog. Other than complaining non-stop using old British slang from the 40s and the 50s, the sorcerer's main task was to train Cade before all is lost. His backstory was fascinating, but I felt that his characterization fell rather flat. Stefan and Niko were more likeable, true, but acted in decidedly stupid ways when the fate of mankind was at stake. Anja Kernova was by far the most engaging protagonist of the bunch, yet Mack was unable to make her really shine through. Another problem was the fact that Kein Engel and his acolytes were often depicted as generic bad guys with no substance.

The pace can be very uneven. At times, the rhythm can drag dreadfully. Especially when you get caught up in a chapter featuring one of those huge info-dumps, or an action sequence showcasing Cade and the others duking it out with inferior German karcists. David Mack has a cinematographic eye for detail when it comes to battle scenes and I have a feeling that some readers might enjoy those magical showdowns a lot more than I did. And yet, there is no denying that if you take away all those battles, in the end The Midnight Front has little else to offer. On the other hand, sometimes everything was rushed for no apparent reason.

Still, the endgame and the finale were exciting enough. Mack tied everything up a little too neatly for my liking, but I still might read The Iron Codex when it gets published. The sequel will deal with the Cold War and I'm curious to see if the author can elevate his game and avoid the pitfalls that plagued this novel.

Some cool concepts and ideas that were spoiled by poor execution and lackluster characterization; that's The Midnight Front in a nutshell.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

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

Follow this link to read an extract.

Bumblebee trailer

Didn't know Bumblebee was getting his own movie. And Starscream's in it.

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Robert Jackson Bennett's FOUNDRYSIDE

Now that I've read it, I'm giving away my advance reading copy of Robert Jackson Bennett's Foundryside to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

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


Oh my God, this one was a doozy!

I've said this many times, but I'm running out of superlatives regarding Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. This series has definitely become one of my favorite SFF reads and Changes was the very best one yet!

As mentioned in past reviews, if Dead Beat turned out to be the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear, for its part Proven Guilty did build on the storylines introduced in basically every other volume and pushed the envelope even further. Far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

White Night had lofty expectations to live up to. But even if it was a fun and entertaining read in its own right, it was not as good as its last few predecessors. The novel was not as intricately plotted and satisfying as Dead Beat and Proven Guilty turned out to be, yet it nonetheless set the stage for another chapter in the Dresden Files. One that would undoubtedly raise the series to another, deeper and more complex, level. And Small Favor was definitely a return to form for Jim Butcher. The book elevated the series to an even higher level, with several hints of an even bigger and more ambitious story arc that is gradually becoming more and more discernible. Given its predecessor's quality, Turn Coat had big shoes to fill. But Butcher upped his game yet again and came up with his best effort thus far.

To all ends and purposes, Changes proved to be the culmination of all these interwoven plotlines. It raised the bar higher than ever before and nothing will ever be the same for poor Harry Dresden from here on out. Doubtless, this is a major turning point for the series and its characters.

Here's the blurb:

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.

Once more, I was hooked by the premise of this book from the very beginning. An unexpected phone call from Susan Rodriguez, Harry's ex-girlfriend who was turned into a vampire by the Red Court earlier in the series. He is shocked to discover that he has a daughter, Maggie, kept secret from Harry for the child's protection. And Arianna Ortega, a Duchess of the Red Court, somehow learned of her existence, kidnapped her, and now plans to use Maggie against Harry as revenge for the death of her husband. Arianna also managed to manoeuvre the White Council into an uneasy truce that could end the war, which means that Harry finds himself without powerful allies. With his back against the wall, he has no choice but to make decisions he knows he will later regret. But he was dealt a bad hand and his options are few and far between. Needless to say, Harry will risk everything to save his daughter.

As a matter of course, the novel features the first person narrative of Harry Dresden. Harry's voice as the only POV is usually witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle every couple of pages or so. But this novel was by far the darkest installment yet and an oppressive pall hangs over everything. Striking at the heart of the Red Court in an attempt to stop a formidable ritual from taking place with nothing but a few allies, Harry is acutely aware that he might not survive to tell the tale. And even if he does, his life will no longer be his own. As has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files volumes, it's the supporting cast that helps make this one another memorable read. Even though it's a matter of life and death, the usual suspects are there for Harry; Mouse, Murphy, Thomas, and Molly Carpenter. There are some truly touching moments involving them. Jim Butcher played the emotional impact card rather well on a number of occasions, which really made you feel for Harry and the rest of the gang. Add to that Suzan and Martin and Harry's faerie godmother, as well as a slew of familiar faces from past installments, and you have all the ingredients for an unforgettable read.

Changes was hands down the most convoluted installment so far. As usual, it began as a relatively straightforward mission but quickly turned into another extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that links this one with plotlines from basically every other volume that came before. It does take a while for everything to come together, yet no other installment in the series was this complex and unveiled that many secrets which keep readers begging for more. Not even Turn Coat. Revelations about the White Council, the Red Court, the Winter Court, other deities and immortals, the war, and Harry's past make for some compulsive reading.

Changes is another fast-paced affair, no doubt about it. And with each new chapter getting you closer to the showdown at Chichen Itzá, Butcher made this book impossible to put down! True, the groundwork had been laid over the course of over ten installment, yet the author made it all come together with panache in a grand finale that will leave no one indifferent. I wish reading could always be this amazing!

Changes delivered on all fronts and it will be a tough act to follow. The unanticipated ending signaled that the series will take an abrupt turn in the next book, aptly titled Ghost Story. I know that fans were not as enthused by that sequel, but I'm not sure that anything could live up to the potential showcased in Changes. One thing's for certain. Nothing will ever be the same for Harry and company, and I'm looking forward to see where Jim Butcher will take them next.

Believe you me: It doesn't get much better than this!

The final verdict: 9.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ian McDonald's Luna: New Moon for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The Moon wants to kill you. Whether it's being unable to pay your per diem for your allotted food, water, and air, or you just get caught up in a fight between the Moon's ruling corporations, the Five Dragons. You must fight for every inch you want to gain in the Moon's near feudal society. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon's newest "dragon," Adriana has wrested control of the Moon's Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family's new status. Now, at the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation, Corta Helio, surrounded by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana's five children must defend their mother's empire from her many enemies... and each other.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson returns with a bold and brilliant vision of New York City in the next century.

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear - along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building's manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don't live there, but have no other home - and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all - and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

New York 2140 is an extraordinary and unforgettable novel, from a writer uniquely qualified to the story of its future.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download volumes 2 to 9 of Glen Cook's The Chronicles of the Black Company for 2.99$ each here. There is a price match in Canada.

So if you ever thought about giving this series a shot, now's the time to do so!

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

In hardcover:

Dean Koontz' The Crooked Staircase is down five spots, finishing the week at number 10.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up two spots, finishing the week at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download the omnibus comprised of all three volumes of Katherine Kurtz's The Legends of Camber of Culdi for only 3.99$ here. It's the perfect starting point for anyone interested in discovering the Deryni saga!

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).

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When attending a Newcastle murder scene, Detective Sidney Hurst finds a dead North family clone. Yet none have been reported missing. And in 2122, twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire was horrifically murdered in the same manner on the tropical planet of St Libra. So, if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? She never wavered under interrogation, claiming she alone survived an alien attack.

Investigating this potential alien threat now becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. St Libran bio-fuel is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. A vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and experts are dispatched to the planet – with Angela Tramelo, grudgingly released from prison. But the expedition is cut off deep within St Libra’s rainforests, and the murders begin. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t sure. Did she see an alien, or does she have other reasons for being on St Libra?