Guest Blog: Paul Kearney

To help promote Paul Kearney's latest, The Wolf in the Attic, I invited the author to write a guest blog for the Hotlist. For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien... and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.


So I’m sitting here puffing on a pipe and looking out at the sea (grey, whitecaps, unseasonably grim), and the only noise aside from the waves outside is the ticking of a clock and the occasional mmmpf and snuffle from the two dogs asleep at my feet.

As I type, it’s the day before the publication of The Wolf in the Attic, which will be the twelfth book of mine that Solaris have published, and the one which, far and away, I am most nervous about. Even after twenty-five years in this game (now there’s a number to make me pause), I can still get that light-in-the-stomach tightness at the thought of a story of mine going out there into the big bad world, like a man sending his daughter off to college in the sure knowledge that all men are bastards.

And there’s the rub – in the end, writing is about the reader as much as the story or the person who writes it. It’s a two-way street, and I’m riding up it on a tricycle while my potential readership is thundering towards me in a Mack truck, tooting the horn and throwing empty beercans out the window.

Advance copies of the book have been sent out to quite a few folk via NetGalley, and I have definitely noticed a change in my audience with this one. For one thing, the vast majority of those who have reviewed the novel thus far have been women, which is a new phenomenon for me, it must be said. In my past books, mostly about soldiers, kings, armies and wide-spanning wars, the female readership was in a minority. And I have been accused of misogyny before this, a charge which I hope this book refutes for good. I didn’t set out to appeal to a certain audience; I never have. I just had a story that was in my head and had to get out.

All authors go through this moment of profound doubt as the work they have painstakingly slaved over is about to be pushed off the diving board (I’m really mixing up the metaphors this morning). Up to now they have seen it as a work of profound genius (usually while writing the last line), or as time goes on and the revisions are piled in, it descends into a noisome swamp of mediocrity.

For the vast majority of pen-jockeys the truth of course lies somewhere in that vast darkling space in between. (Having said that, some writers really are geniuses, and many are hopelessly mediocre.)

The key point is; the writer has no idea. It’s impossible to judge one’s own work, unless after a long remove of time. (I picked up my first novel The Way to Babylon recently and leafed through it for the first time in twenty years. Finally able to muster some objectivity, I saw paragraphs of Really Nice Stuff interlaced with other passages that made me want to throw the book at the wall.)

So, dear reader, as you pick up a novel in a dusty old bookshop, (or download it to your kindle), no matter what you end up thinking of the story, spare a thought for the poor old author who took the time to sit alone day after day, for months on end in this gregarious world, and laboriously type out one word after another in the hope that they might somehow make sense to someone, anyone – that an anonymous, unknown reader out there would see those words and go; Yes! That’s right!

That’s pure alchemy, when that happens, the little miracle which makes it all worthwhile.

Now off you go, and remember, every time you read a book, you are treading on someone’s dreams...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Brandon Sanderson's Perfect State for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the author of Legion and the #1 New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive comes an action-filled novella about privilege, culture clash, and expectations.

God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world.

Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.

Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal—a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man in the world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman in the world?

Myke Cole contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the author, this lucky winner will receive an autographed copy of Myke Cole's Javelin Rain. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Scott Knight, from Greenfield, Indiana, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Greag Bear's Eon for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author’s science fiction thriller about a world on the brink of nuclear war—and the appearance of a mysterious asteroid.

Perhaps it wasn’t from our time; perhaps it wasn’t even from our universe. But the arrival of the three-hundred-kilometer-long stone was the answer to humanity’s desperate need to end the threat of nuclear war. Inside the deep recesses of the stone lies Thistledown—the remnants of a human society versed in English, Russian, and Chinese. Their artifacts foretell a great Death caused by the ravages of war, but the government and scientists are unable to decide how to use this knowledge. Deeper still within the stone is the Way. For some, the Way means salvation from death; for others, it is a parallel world where loved ones live again. But, unlike Thistledown, the Way is not entirely dead, and its inhabitants hold the knowledge of a present war, over a million miles away, involving weapons far more deadly than any that mankind has ever conceived.

An epic near-future adventure, New York Times–bestselling author Greg Bear’s Eon is classic hard science fiction at its best.

Quote of the Day

Madness is often the only sanity left, when hope alone serves the living..

- R. SCOTT BAKKER, The Great Ordeal (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Thousandfold Thought

The long-awaited (and what should have been the final installment in The Aspect-Emperor trilogy, but has since then been split into two volumes) The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker will finally be released this summer. It's been five years since The White-Luck Warrior, the second volume, saw the light, so you can understand why Bakker fans are rejoicing. Problem is, it's been a very long time in between books. And for a midlist genre author, one that never was marketed much by his publishers to begin with, this can make things difficult. Sadly, it appears that an entire generation of SFF readers have never heard of him and some of us have been wondering about what we can possibly do to give Bakker some much-deserved exposure.

I'm not sure what sort of impact this will have down the line, but I've decided to reprint my reviews of R. Scott Bakker's first two series to help raise awareness in what I consider to be one of the more ambitious fantasy sagas ever written. Hence, every couple of days for the next little while I'll post reviews of all three installments of the Prince of Nothing trilogy and the first two volumes of The Aspect-Emperor series.

Hopefully, these reviews will entice potential readers to give these novels a shot. Love them or hate them, these are powerful works of fiction that deserve to be more widely read than they are at the moment. Check them out!

So here's my review of Bakker's third volume in the Prince of Nothing trilogy, originally posted on December 1st, 2005.

Here's the blurb:

The Darkness That Comes Before, R. Scott Bakker's magnificent debut, drew thunderous acclaim from reviewers and fellow fantasy authors, such as Steven Erikson and Kevin J. Anderson. Readers were invited into a darkly threatening, thrillingly imaginative universe as fully realized as that of any in modern fantasy and introduced to one of the genre s great characters: the powerful warrior-philosopher Anas rimbor Kelhus, on whom the fate of a violently apocalyptic Holy War rests.

Bakker s follow up to The Darkness That Comes Before, The Warrior Prophet enticed readers further into the richly imagined world of myth, violence, and sorcery. With the ultimate battle drawing near, Anas rimbor Kelhus closed in on the elusive goal of reuniting with his father, mastering the ancient arts he will need to prepare himself for the encounter. Will Kelhus be able to rise to claim his role within the ascendancy, or will he be overtaken by his enemies both within and without Will he reach the ancient city of Shimeh and reunite with his father Upon the apocalypse, will there be survivors left to write the history of the Holy War.

The startling and far-reaching answers to these questions, left hanging at the conclusion of The Warrior Prophet, are brought into thrilling focus in The Thousandfold Thought, the conclusion to the Prince of Nothing series. Casting into question all the action that has taken place before, twisting readers intuitions in unforeseen directions, remolding the fantasy genre to broaden the scope of intricacy and meaning, R. Scott Bakker has once again written a fantasy novel that defies all expectations and rewards the reader with an experience unlike any to be had in the canon of fantasy literature.

Understandably, it was with great eagerness that I wanted to sink my teeth into this book, the last volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. Although very sluggish in rhythm at times, The Warrior-Prophet had the sort of ending that set the stage for so much more. Hence, the question was whether or not Bakker could close the show with a flourish.

Believe me when I tell you that The Thousandfold Thought doesn't disappoint! Simply put, it's brilliant!

As was the case with its predecessors, it is an intelligent work, in every run of the mill. This novel, in my humble opinion, will satisfy purists and aficionados in a manner that will certainly make you beg for more.:-) Again, the psychological, philosophical, and religious aspects of this grand epic will undoubtedly prevent this incredible trilogy from ever becoming mainstream. Yet now, more than ever, I'm convinced that this state of affairs will allow The Prince of Nothing and its sequels to retain their uniqueness in the fantasy genre. Which, in the end, is probably priceless.

Bakker's original Mideastern setting continues to be fascinating, as well as a breath of fresh air compared to what is currently on the market. Once more, the worldbuilding is of the first order. It's pure delight to be drawn into this richly detailed universe. In addition, The Thousandfold Thought contains an encyclopedic glossary, a good portion of which I read during my lunch break today. Over 100 pages of pertinent information! I have to admit that I'm more than a little surprised that his publishers elected to include such a detailed glossary. Indeed, it has to be the most comprehensive one since the appendices found within the one-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings.

The most enjoyable facet of this novel is the fact that R. Scott Bakker turns everything around, demonstrating just how good a storyteller he can be. So expect the unexpected. And throughout the entire tale, everything resounds with a depth which we rarely encounter in today's fantasy market.

In The Darkness that Comes Before and The Warrior-Prophet, it was the tapestry woven by the characters and their actions that kept me turning those pages. The Prince of Nothing is populated by a cast of deeply realized characters. And nowhere is it more apparent than in The Thousandfold Thought.

If you believe that you know where Bakker is going with everyone, then you are sadly mistaken. The storylines take various unanticipated twists and turns, surprising the readers on more than one occasion. The characterizations, which were so impressive in the first volume, didn't progress as much in the second one. However, there is evident character growth in this one, enough to please even the most demanding fans.

As impossible as it may sound, just about every character has a role to play in the outcome of the Holy War. And you better buckle up, for Bakker has a lot in store for Achamian, Esmenet, Kellhus, Conphas, Maithanet, Proyas, and all the others. They are all, in different degrees, important.

Another fascinating aspect of this book turns out to be the many revelations pertaining to the Apocalypse, the Consult, the Inchoroi, the Nonmen, the No-God, the Gnosis, the Cishaurim, etc. The glossary also contains a wealth of information concerning these things and a lot more.

Bakker maintains that almost poetic way he has with battle narrative. There is a certain sense of wonder with the way the author depicts battle scenes. And with the battle of Shimeh comprising about 100 pages of this final volume, fans of action should be more than satisfied!

As for the meeting between Kellhus and Moënghus, I will say nothing. This book review will not contain any spoilers. Read the book if you wish to find out! One thing is for sure, the last 2 chapters of The Thousandfold Thought set the stage for the upcoming series. And I just can't wait to get my hands on it!

As for the mechanical aspects of the novel, the prose is impeccable. The narrative is concise and flows seamlessly. The dialogues are genuine. And the pace is crisp. To tell the truth, I can't really find any negative comment to offer. It's that damn good! And the author manages to cap it all off with the sort of ending that's well worth re-reading a time or two.

The Thousandfold Thought will -- at least until a new contender makes its presence known -- be the book to beat this year. Having set the bar rather high, Bakker may have written what could possibly be the best fantasy novel to be released in 2006. This book deserves the highest possible recommendation. This saga is definitely a "must read" work.

So pre-order it, or buy it as soon as it becomes available. It will be released in hardcover by Overlook and in trade paperback by Penguin Books Canada.

The final verdict: 9.5/10

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

Quote of the Day

We are the antithesis of the God, not the reflection.

- R. SCOTT BAKKER, The Great Ordeal (Canada, USA, Europe)

Yeah, so I did stop reading Erikson's Fall of Light in favor of the new Bakker. . . About 100 pages into it and it's been good thus far! =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 25th)

In paperback:

Stephen King's Finders Keepers maintains its position at number 3.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One returns at number 11 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is down one position, ending the week at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Christopher Moore's The Serpent of Venice for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy from the Queen of Britain: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters—the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago—have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio's beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn't even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he's got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.

Greed, revenge, deception, lust, and a giant (but lovable) sea monster combine to create another hilarious and bawdy tale from modern comic genius, Christopher Moore.

Look what the cat dragged in!!!


This was waiting for me when I got home from work! =) Now, should I stop reading Steven Erikson's Fall of Light and jump to the Bakker immediately???

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download J. M. McDermott's Never Knew Another for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer to the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother Djoss, she hides out in their squalid apartment, living in fear that someday, someone will find out that she is the child of a demon. Corporal Jona Lord Joni is a demon's child too, but instead of living in fear, he keeps his secret and goes about his life as a cocky, self-assured man of the law. The first book in the Dogsland Trilogy, Never Knew Another is the story of how these two outcasts meet.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Don't know for how long, but right now you can get your hands on the digital edition of Katherine Kurtz's excellent Camber of Culdi, first volume in The Legends of Camber of Culdi trilogy and perfect jump-in point for anyone interested in the Deryni saga, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A Deryni nobleman seeking justice faces a tyrannical king in the magnificent first book of this acclaimed classic fantasy series.

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 medieval kingdom of Gwynedd. For nearly a century, Camber’s family has had little choice but to loyally serve the ruling Festils, Deryni usurpers who employed dark magic to wrest the throne from the rightful Haldane liege. 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 shattered when the despot and his evil mistress-sister, Ariella, cause the death of Camber’s beloved son.

Once he sought nothing more than a peaceful retirement and an uneventful old age, but the grim demands of justice and vengeance drive Camber far from his family’s estates in search of the last of the Haldane line. This descendant of kings will not be easily persuaded to accept Camber’s unthinkable plan. But with the kingdom in turmoil, the aging mage and the reluctant Haldane heir must confront together the awesome, terrible might of the Festils for the good of all.

You can also download The Bishop's Heir, opening chapter in The Histories of King Kelson, for the same price here.

This is the second trilogy featuring young King Kelson and probably not as good a book to begin one's journey in the Deryni saga. And yet, this series has Katherine Kurtz at the top of her game and is truly amazing. I'm persuaded that you can nevertheless enjoy it, though you would be missing on some nuances for not having read the previous series.

Dancer's Lament

At first, I wasn't sure whether or not I'd be reading Ian Cameron Esslemont's Dancer's Lament. Sure, a prequel trilogy focusing on how an assassin and Kellanved Ascended and became Dancer and Shadowthrone was intriguing. But given how disappointing Esslemont's last three Malazan books turned out to be, I was afraid to get burned again. The advance reviews were quite positive, yet they mostly came from fans who loved everything the author has published thus far. Hence, against my better judgement, I finally decided to give this novel a shot. And barely 15 pages into it, I realized that it had been a mistake. I elected to persevere, but to no avail. . .

As I mentioned in my review of Assail, Esslemont's writing has been divisive from the very beginning, when Night of Knives was first released as a limited edition by PS Publishing. From then on, a number of Erikson fans wrote him off and turned their backs on the Malazan co-creator. Others elected to stick with him and were rewarded with two thrilling and fascinating additions to the Malazan canon, Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder. Unfortunately, two major letdowns in a row, Orb Sceptre Throne and Blood and Bone, made even some die-hard fans lose hope in Ian Cameron Esslemont. So much so that even on, the emperor's own palace, so to speak, the biggest Malazan aficionados appear to be split into two camps. On the one hand, you have those who are happy with whatever helps further flesh out Steven Erikson's storylines, regardless of its quality. And on the other, you have those, like me, who have pretty much lost faith with Esslemont and bemoan the fact that the author seems to be unable to make his Malazan novels live up to the lofty expectations generated by his friend and fellow co-creator. Assail was Ian Cameron Esslemont's The Crippled God. The culmination of a variety of far-reaching storylines spread through his last four novels. Some of them first explored by Erikson in the original sequence, many years ago. And although many fans doubted that Esslemont could close the show the way Erikson did in the last volume of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, I would never have expected that Assail would be such a disheartening disappointment. As a matter of course, my expectations were as low as humanly possible when I set out to read Dancer's Lament. . .

So why waste my time and read it? Call my crazy, but I still harbor the hope that Esslemont can somehow return to the form that saw him write gripping yarns such as Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder. But it was not to be. Not this time.

Here's the blurb:

It was once a land ravaged by war, minor city states, baronies and principates fight for supremacy, and then the rival cities of Tali and Quon formed an alliance and so Quon Tali came into being.

However that was generations ago, that dynasty has collapsed and the regional powers are now clawing at each others throats once more. But at the heart of Quon Tali lies the powerful city state of Li Heng which has for centuries enjoyed relative stability under the guidance of the powerful sorceress known as the “Protectress”. She is not someone likely to tolerate the arrival of two particular young men into her domain: one is determined to prove he is the most skilled assassin of his age; the other is his quarry - a Dal Hon mage who is proving annoyingly difficult to kill. The sorceress and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions, so how could two such trouble-makers upset her iron-fisted rule?

And now, under a new and ambitious king, the forces of Itko Kan are marching on Li Heng from the south. His own assassins, the Nightblades, have been sent ahead into the city, and rumours abound that he has inhuman, nightmarish forces at his command. So as shadows and mistrust swirl and monstrous beasts that people say appear from nowhere, run rampage through Li Heng's streets, it seems chaos is come - but in chaos, as a certain young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity . . .

The worldbuilding is always one of the key ingredients in every Malazan installment. And in this regard at least, Esslemont doesn't usually disappoint. Indeed, even lackluster novels like Orb Sceptre Throne and Blood and Bone featured superb worldbuilding. I still remember how the author captured the Southeast Asian jungle setting to perfection in his depiction of the Himatan jungle in the latter. His descriptive narrative created an imagery that made you experience the jungle as if you were right there with the characters. This aspect doesn't play as important a role in Dancer's Lament. It's probably due to the fact that we are revisiting locales that have been seen before, albeit a few decades in the past. Not as dense as the other Malazan titles, Dancer's Lament just might be the most accessible Malazan book to date. On the flipside, however, it is also a work that lacks much in terms of depth.

Ian Cameron Esslemont's previous three novels introduced several fascinating concepts that somehow fell short due to subpar execution, and this is once again a problem in this book. The Malazan Book of the Fallen would have been a veritable train wreck had it not been written by an author as ambitious and as gifted as Steven Erikson. In the past, we Malazan fans have often overlooked Esslemont's occasional shortcomings, maintaining that he was "fleshing out" Erikson's storylines, providing answers and raising yet more captivating questions. No matter from what angle you look at them, Esslemont's last four offerings remain somewhat poor and unispired works of fantasy. Reaching the last page of Assail, it became evident that Ian Cameron Esslemont didn't have what it takes as an author to truly do justice to the storylines that were his. Though the quality of both Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder argues against such a statement, it is obvious that, unlike Steven Erikson, his skills were not necessarily up to the task. And unfortunately, the same can be said of Dancer's Lament. This new series will chronicle the genesis of the creation of the Malazan Empire, and although Esslemont shares Erikson's grand ambition, he simply doesn't possess the gift that allows his friend to work his magic and mesmerize readers the way he does in The Malazan Book of the Fallen and the Kharkanas trilogy. I'm currently reading Erikson's Fall of Light and by comparison the writing in Dancer's Lament occasionally feels like fanfic.

It is unfortunate, for a number of storylines could have been enthralling. I mean, not only do we have young men destined for greatness in Dancer and Kellanved, but there is so much more. Shalmanat, the Protectress of Li Heng, and her back story and her relationship with Ryllandaras. Sister Night and K'rul. Dassem as a young man. Silk. Shimmer. Smokey. The Crimson Guard. With elements such as these, one would expect this book to be a homerun. Sadly, the execution is such that it prevents the tale from truly lifting off.

As was the case in Esslemont's last three novels, the characterization is by far the weakest aspect of this work. How it could once more be that bad, I have no idea. While the plotlines don't necessarily lack any sense of direction the way they did in Blood and Bone, they are uninvolving for the most part, and most of the characters remain flat, generic, cardboard cutout characters. Dancer's Lament features three principal POV protagonists. Dorin Rav, a young assassin trying to make a name for himself in Li Heng and who will one day become the legendary Dancer, takes center stage. Iko, one of the Kanese Sword-Dancers, is a young woman destined to become Shimmer. And Silk, a city mage in the employ of the Protectress of Li Heng with his own secrets. I was so looking forward to discovering more about the younger version of Dancer, yet his interaction with Wu, the enigmatic Dal Hon mage who is in truth Kellanved, was quite lame. More often than not, once again the dialogue between the characters is adolescent and puerile. Iko's storyline is there to show how events unfold through the eyes of the enemy troops, while Silk's plotline allows readers to witness what is taking place through the eyes of the defenders of Li Heng. There are plenty of familiar faces showing up throughout the book, some more obvious than others. And that can be interesting, but overall the execution leaves a lot to be desired. It's evident that there was not enough material here to warrant a full novel, so expect more filler than killer as you read along.

Like a majority of Malazan fans, I relish any opportunities that can help shed some light on past events, characters, and secrets from Erikson's magnum opus. Sadly, it has now become quite obvious that Ian Cameron Esslemont cannot match Steven Erikson as far as writing skills are concerned. Problem is, there are a panoply of storylines that "belong" to him, which means that he can never do them justice and come up with something that lives up to the hype. Were Return of the Crimson Guard and Stonewielder just flukes, or can the author one day return to form and write another thrilling addition that will be a worthy addition to the Malazan canon? Only time will tell. . .

So will I read the next two installments in the Path to Ascendancy trilogy, or am I through with Esslemont? Hard to say. When I reviewed Assail, I told myself that I was done. But as a big Malazan fan, I was really intrigued by the blurb for Dancer's Lament. And even though I'm well aware that the second volume will miserably fail to satisfy me, chances are that I'll end up reading the next installment, secretly hoping that it will be more akin to Stonewielder instead of sucking like Blood and Bone.

Another major disappointment. . .

The final verdict: 5.5/10

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

Joe Hart contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on a copy of Joe Hart's The Last Girl, courtesy of the folks at Thomas and Mercer. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Jeffrey Tufano, from Rochester, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ian McDonald's Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone for only 6.15$ here. Not that cheap, I know. But like Guy Gavriel Kay, most of McDonald's ebooks go for about 10$ each, so this is actually a good deal!

Here's the blurb:

Two works in one volume: An innovative science fiction novel about an inventor’s quest for redemption across a cyber-feudal Japan, plus a Hugo Award–nominated novella.

Design student Ethan Ring has created the next wave in military technology. Fracters are computerized images that can control the minds of others, giving their users the power to hypnotize, hurt, and even kill.

The reigning intelligence agency forces Ring to use the technology for their own ends by tattooing the most potent images on the palms of his hands. After witnessing the destruction his invention has wrought, Ring embarks on a Shikoku pilgrimage of redemption through the eighty-eight sacred sites of Shingon Buddhism across twenty-first-century Japan.

With the help of his friend Masahiko, Ring tours this strange new Japan in search of ways to rid himself of the curse he has unleashed—or a way to use it for the greater good by eliminating a terrorizing crime syndicate.

In Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone, author Ian McDonald has created an indelible cyberpunk adventure that mixes Kabbalah, manga, pop culture, and Zen in a superbly realized high-tech contemplation of good and evil.

Also included in this volume is McDonald’s The Tear, a stunning novella set in a far-future world, whose inhabitants develop multiple “aspects”: completely separate personalities that take over when required. The story follows young Ptey as he comes of age, takes on new aspects, looks for love, and plays a vital role in a battle against an implacable enemy. The resulting work is tragic, hopeful, and expansive.

Readers of William Gibson and Peter F. Hamilton will revel in this fascinatingly inventive work from a celebrated multiple-award-winning science fiction author.

Steven Erikson contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive a copy of Steven Erikson's Fall of Light , compliments of the folks at Transworld! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is.

Janne Prusti, from Gothenburg, Sweden

Many thanks to all the participants!

I'm not watching Game of Thrones, Season 6

I have made a decision. I will not watch Game of Thrones, Season 6. At least not until I've read The Winds of Winter. Maybe never.

Two of my favorite authors, Frank Herbert and Robert Jordan, passed away before they could finish their signature series. The completion of the Dune saga was a travesty, and that of The Wheel of Time was decidedly subpar.

Season 5 of GoT was atrocious. The writing sucked (You need a good woman but a bad pussy), the pace was abominable, the decisions made by the production team now going their own way and no longer following the essence of the books were crap, and the actors doing what they could with inferior scripts turned what was doubtless the best show on television into a massive turd.

Hence, I don't want a crappy TV show to spoil the books for me. George R. R. Martin is still alive and writing, and I want my first exposure to the rest of the story to be from his vision of what it was always meant to be.

Of course, I'm aware that I likely can't avoid all the spoilers that will be everywhere. But I've unliked all GoT-related Facebook material and will stay away from FB every Sunday night and Monday morning. I'll stop visiting any GoT-related websites for the next few weeks and will do my best to protect myself from possible spoilers.

I've waited this long for The Winds of Winter. I can wait a little longer. . . =)

Sorry HBO. I'm out.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Today only, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal--including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn't know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other. . .

You can also download Pierce Brown's Red Rising for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

The Warrior-Prophet

The long-awaited (and what should have been the final installment in The Aspect-Emperor trilogy, but has since then been split into two volumes) The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker will finally be released this summer. It's been five years since The White-Luck Warrior, the second volume, saw the light, so you can understand why Bakker fans are rejoicing. Problem is, it's been a very long time in between books. And for a midlist genre author, one that never was marketed much by his publishers to begin with, this can make things difficult. Sadly, it appears that an entire generation of SFF readers have never heard of him and some of us have been wondering about what we can possibly do to give Bakker some much-deserved exposure.

I'm not sure what sort of impact this will have down the line, but I've decided to reprint my reviews of R. Scott Bakker's first two series to help raise awareness in what I consider to be one of the more ambitious fantasy sagas ever written. Hence, every couple of days for the next little while I'll post reviews of all three installments of the Prince of Nothing trilogy and the first two volumes of The Aspect-Emperor series.

Hopefully, these reviews will entice potential readers to give these novels a shot. Love them or hate them, these are powerful works of fiction that deserve to be more widely read than they are at the moment. Check them out!

So here's my review of Bakker's second volume in the Prince of Nothing trilogy, originally posted on May 16th, 2005.

Here's the blurb:

"Book Two of The Prince of Nothing" finds the Holy War continuing its inexorable march southward. But the suspicion begins to dawn that the real threat comes not from the infidel but from within...Steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, Kellhus strives to extend his dominion over the Men of the Tusk. The sorcerer Achamian and his lover, Esmenet, submit entirely, only to have their faith - and their love - tested in unimaginable ways. Meanwhile, the warrior Cnaiur falls ever deeper into madness. Convinced that Kellhus will betray their pact to murder his father, Cnaiur turns to the agents of the Second Apocalypse and strikes an infernal bargain. The Holy War stands on a knife edge. If all is not to be lost, the great powers of the world will have to choose between their most desperate desires and the end of the world. Between hatred and hope. Between Anasurimbor Kellhus and the second apocalypse.

I have admit that I had very high expectations for this book. How could it be otherwise, when just about everyone told me that this sequel is much better than its predecessor? And the author himself set the bar rather high with The Darkness that Comes Before. But in all objectivity, I must say that The Warrior-Prophet did not live up to those expectations. Don't get me wrong. I thought it was a good and fascinating novel. But in my opinion, the book suffers from a number of shortcomings that prevent it from achieving greatness.

First, let's enumerate everything that is good about The Warrior-Prophet before focusing on what I didn't quite like. Again, it is an intelligent work, a satisfying treat for "deep" thinkers. And the philosophical and religious themes underlying the tale continue to give this series its unique flavor. Just for that, I would encourage readers to give The Prince of Nothing a try.:-)

The Mideastern setting continues to be a delight. It's so different than what is the norm in the fantasy genre. This is a work rich in details, which demonstrates that a vast amount of research went into its creation. But this novel doesn't resonates with as much depth as The Darkness that Comes Before. It more or less chronicles the Holy War's southward march toward Shimeh. There are a few golden nuggets of information that are truly something. But 2/3 of the novel is dedicated to the army's march through Fanim lands. And that, I think, was a bit of a mistake. Even though it is the entire backdrop of the book, I much preferred those short intervals when we learned more about the Consult, the Inchoroi, the Nonmen, the Cishaurim, the Apocalypse, etc. There are a number of unexpected plot twists involving Achamian, Maithanet, the Consult, and a few others, that leave you wanting to learn more. But unfortunately, the story revolves more about the Holy War itself and the rise of Kellhus as the Warrior-Prophet.

Once again, the prose is of high quality. I know that few readers nowadays find this aspect important, but it's nice to see an author who writes as well as Bakker.

If you are into battle scenes, then this one is definitely for you. Indeed, The Warrior-Prophet should satisfy fans of blood and gore. There are so many battle scenes in this book. . . Too many, if you ask me. I simply loved the very first encounter between the Holy War and the heathen troops. Bakker has a poetic way with battle narrative, a gift that very few writers possess. The problem is that there are so many battles in this novel that Bakker's talent loses its lustre as the tale moves forward. Or rather, it is the reader who somewhat loses that sense of wonder generated by the author's brilliant manner with which he depicts battles in the earlier parts of the book.

But let's not forget that this is a holy war, which means that violence must be omnipresent. And R. Scott Bakker doesn't sugarcoat it. The graphic violence and human suffering will not appeal to everyone, however. And although I can appreciate the gritty reality of those descriptions, even I think that at times it could have been toned down a bit. That is one of the main reasons this series will never become mainstream. And yet, no one would want this series to be any different. As a matter of fact, it is the fact that it is so different from everything else on the market that makes it so good.;-)

The aspect of this book which could alienate a majority of readers, especially female readers, has to be the explicit and brutal sexuality. Not to mention necrophilia. The fact that all female characters of note are whores cannot be overlooked. Women taken captives are routinely raped, tortured and then put to the sword. Hopefully Esmenet and the other women will play a larger role in the last volume. I am aware that this is a holy war, and that the fate of the women inhabitating the conquered lands is less than appealing. But I was expecting more of the Empress, Esmenet and Serwë. It seems that every scene in which they appear shows them getting laid. . .

The characterizations, which were so impressive in the first volume, do not progress that much in this book. The characters do not grow as they should, which is a bit of a disappointment. The Darkness that Comes Before introduced us to a number of well-drawn characters. Unfortunately, there is little progression here. Kellhus often takes center stage, and the rest of the characters are too often relegated in the background.

As was the case with its predecessor, The Warrior-Prophet is at times slow-moving. The pace can be quite sluggish, at least in certain parts of the story.

In my opinion, the one aspect that either makes or break this novel is whether the reader accepts how easily Kellhus manipulates just about everyone to take control of the Holy War. If you buy it, great. But if you don't, you will have difficulty going through this book.

In my opinion, the ending truly saves this one. I had grown disillusioned with the whole Warrior-Prophet and the Holy War. But the last hundred pages or so are great!;-) This an ending that no one can see coming, and it sets the stage for the final volume of the trilogy. And I will sure be lining up to get my hands on it!

Though I consider this book to contain a few shortcomings, The Warrior-Prophet nevertheless shows many signs of brilliance. Like its predecessor, it is not for everyone. I believe that most "mainstream" fantasy fans would have difficulty getting into this series. But for purists, it is a book to read!:-)

Even though it did not live up the high expectations I had, The Warrior-Prophet is a superior tale. And the book's ending promises a hell of a finale! I can't wait for the release of The Thousandfold Thought.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 18th)

In paperback:

Stephen King's Finders Keepers is up one spot, finishing the week at number 3.

Andy Weir's The Martian is down two positions, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is down two positions, ending the week at number 14.

New Canadian cover art for Guy Gavriel Kay's books

Over the course of the next few months, all nine Guy Gavriel Kay novels published by Penguin Books Canada will get new covers. Here are the first three! =)

Get the digital edition of Steven Erikson's FALL OF LIGHT for only 2.99$ if you have pre-ordered the print edition

Just found out about this. It appears that if you have pre-ordered a copy of Steven Erikson's eagerly anticipated Fall of Light  (Canada, USA, Europe) on, you can also pre-order the ebook edition for only 2.99$.

You can see the photo evidence here.

Not sure if this is for a limited time only, so better go for it now if you are interested!

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.

Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire

I was quite happy when I found out that Mark Lawrence had just released a collection of short fiction titled Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire. Though it is probably one of the most divisive fantasy series published in recent years, I was a big fan of Jorg's tale and relished the chance to find out more about the supporting cast. Indeed, although Jorg's companions play important roles in Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns, Lawrence is not very forthcoming about information regarding that group of hard men.

In Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire, the author offers us a closer look with back stories featuring Makin, Red Kent, Rike, the Nuban, Gorgoth, Father Gomst, and even Jorg himself. Be forewarned that this collection is for people who have read the Broken Empire trilogy and who are looking for more. It is not meant for newbies who would like to give Lawrence a shot, for each short story contains spoilers for the books.

The problem with anthologies and collection of short stories is that they usually contain a few worthwhile reads, while the rest is often half-assed and lackluster material. Not so with this one, I'm pleased to report! Some tales are better than others, that goes without saying. Yet each short story was a quality read that gave us insight into the lives of the Road Brothers. They all focus on events that helped shape them into the battle-hardened men we meet in the series.

Here's the blurb:

10 short stories from the lives of Jorg and his Road Brothers. Contains spoilers for the Broken Empire trilogy. 5 of the stories have previously been published in anthologies. Contains the short story 'Sleeping Beauty' that is also sold separately. A total of 43.000 words or just over half the length of Prince of Thorns.

Oddly enough, "Sleeping Beauty" turned out to be my favorite tale of the bunch. It's surprising because this short story was written when a reader dared Mark Lawrence to write a Jorg/fairy tale mash-up. The result was simply awesome. As the title implies, it is a nod to Sleeping Beauty and it occurs upon Jorg’s return to Ancrath from his first visit to Vyene. Jorg wakes up strapped to a table with Builder technology all around him. Ghosts from the past will discover that Jorg doesn't like to be threatened. I'm always a big sucker for back stories, so I've always loved all the glimpses from the past the author has offered over the course of both the Broken Empire and the Red Queen's War trilogies. Hence, having Jorg deal with a remnant of the Builders' era was a treat.

"A Good Name" wasn't far behind as far as quality is concerned. It is essentially the story of the Nuban and even features Snorri ver Snagason’s father. Focusing on the Nuban's development from a young man to a fearsome warrior, this short story makes us understand how he became some sort of mentor to a young Jorg.

"A Rescue" and "Mercy" feature Makin at different stages of his life. In the former, having lost his family he becomes a soldier for King Olidan. While in the latter, now a bitter and vengeful man, Makin tracks down those men who killed his family and makes them pay the ultimate price.

"Bad Seed" is the tale of a boy named Alann Oak and whose fate is to become Red Kent. "The Nature of the Beast" shows Rike being cursed by a witch and explains why he acted the way he did at the end of Emperor of Thorns. "Select Mode" is an interesting tale featuring Jorg and the Nuban, as well as a malfunctioning remnant of Builder technology which spawned a brotherhood of warriors.

"Choices" features the mutants Gorgoth and his sister Jane right before the arrival of Jorg. It explores the notions of free will and destiny, as Gorgoth attempts to be a good man in a harsh world. "The Secret" features the assassin Brother Sim posing as a storyteller. "Know Thyself" is the last short story and it brings the collection to a close with style, as Father Gomst realizes that educating young Jorg and his brother William might be the death of him.

All in all, Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire takes the focus away from Jorg Ancrath for the duration of a few short stories and by doing so adds layers to an already convoluted grimdark saga. Fans of the Broken Empire trilogy will find a lot to love about this collection, especially since you can download it for just a couple of dollars.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

C. J. Cherryh contest winner!

To help promote the release of C. J. Cherryh's Visitor (Canada, USA, Europe), the 17th installment in The Foreigner series, this lucky winner will receive a full set of the saga, courtesy of the cool folks at Daw Books! The prize pack includes:

- Foreigner (1994)
- Invader (1995)
- Inheritor (1996)
- Precursor (1999)
- Defender (2001)
- Explorer (2003)
- Destroyer (2005)
- Pretender (2006)
- Deliverer (2007)
- Conspirator (2009)
- Deceiver (2010)
- Betrayer (2011)
- Intruder (2012)
- Protector (2013)
- Peacemaker (2014)
- Tracker (2015)
- Visitor (2016)

The winner is:

- Jamieson Cobleigh, from Ashland, Maine, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY

I received a second ARC of Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky, so I'm giving it away to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "CHILDREN." 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 Trudi Canavan's Priestess of the White, first volume in the Age of the Five Gods trilogy, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In a land on the brink of peace—watched jealously by a ruthless cult from across the sea and beset by hidden enemies—five extraordinary humans must serve as sword and shield of the Gods.

Auraya is one.

Her heroism saved a village from destruction; now Auraya has been named Priestess of the White. The limits of her unique talents must be tested in order to prove her worthy of the honor and grave responsibility awarded to her. But a perilous road lies ahead, fraught with pitfalls that will challenge the newest servant of the gods. An enduring friendship with a Dreamweaver—a member of an ancient outcast sect of sorcerer-healers—could destroy Auraya's future. And her destiny has set her in conflict with a powerful and mysterious, black-clad sorcerer with but a single purpose: the total annihilation of the White. And he is not alone . . .

And you can download the sequel, Last of the Wilds, for 3.99$ here.