Since more and more people seem to be discovering this blog of mine, I've decided to write a list of last year's book reviews. That seems to be the main reason why people lurk around here. Yet it could be the interviews. And the contests!;-)




- Children of Amarid (David B. Coe)
- The Outlanders (David B. Coe)
- Eagle-Sage (David B. Coe)


- Shadowmarch (Tad Williams)
- Ship of Magic (Robin Hobb)
- Mad Ship (Robin Hobb)
- Ship of Destiny (Robin Hobb)


- The Runes of the Earth (Stephen R. Donaldson)
- The Silences of Home (Caitlin Sweet)
- Quicksilver (Neal Stephenson)


- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Matthew Stover)
- The Confusion (Neal Stephenson)
- The System of the World (Neal Stephenson)


- The Darkness that Comes Before (R. Scott Bakker)
- The Warrior-Prophet (R. Scott Bakker)
- Fool's Errand (Robin Hobb)
- Golden Fool (Robin Hobb)


- Fool's Fate (Robin Hobb)
- It's Only Temporary (Eric Shapiro)
- In the King's Service (Katherine Kurtz)
- The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold)
- Paladin of Souls (Lois McMaster Bujold)


- The Years of Rice and Salt (Kim Stanley Robinson)
- Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)


- The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman)
- The Subtle Knife (Philip Pullman)
- The Amber Spyglass (Philip Pullman)
- Dune: The Butlerian Jihad (Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)


- Dune: The Machine Crusade (Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)
- Dune: The Battle of Corrin (Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)
- Shaman's Crossing (Robin Hobb)


- One Palestine, Complete (Tom Segev)
- Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)
- Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan)
- Legacies (L. E. Modesitt, jr.)
- Bloodline of the Holy Grail (Laurence Gardner)


- Darknesses (L. E. Modesitt, jr.)
- Scepters (L. E. Modesitt, jr.)
- Thud! (Terry Pratchett)
- Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Carrie Vaughn)


- The Thousandfold Thought (R. Scott Bakker)
- The Radioactive redhead (John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem)
- Giants of the Frost (Kim Wilkins)
- Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)
- Lord of Snow and Shadows (Sarah Ash)



- Prisoner of the Ironsea Tower (Sarah Ash)
- Children of the Serpent Gate (Sarah Ash)
- The Amber Wizard (David Forbes)


- Gardens of the Moon (Steven Erikson)
- The Rule of Four (Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason)
- Talon of the Silver Hawk (Raymond E. Feist)
- Deadhouse Gates (Steven Erikson)
- King of Foxes (Raymond E. Feist)

George R. R. Martin Contest!

Here we go again, folks!;-)

I know I promised you guys something huge. Well here it is. The mother of all contests! The Big Daddy of them all! As a matter of fact, if I ever manage to get a better prize for you participants, it will verge on the miraculous!:-)

So what makes this contest so special!?! Well, to coincide with our GRRM interview which will appear this spring, Bantam Dell were gracious enough to support this little contest of mine by offering a full hardcover set of A Song of Ice and Fire. Which means that the lucky winner will get A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows delivered right to their door! Moreover, each volume is signed by GRRM!!! Many thanks again to Bantam Dell for doing this.

The rules are quite simple. First, you need to send an email containing your full name and mailing address to reviews@(no-spam) Don't forget to remove the no spam thingy. The header must read "GRRM." Let's get one thing straight, since a lot of people appear to have a problem understanding this. If your email doesn't include your full mailing address, it will be deleted. And multiple entries will get you disqualified -- this one's for you Josh! Don't forget to include your screenname and the message boards where you usually hang out, so I can know from where the winner comes from.

There might be another prize added to this one. I'll let you know as information becomes available. The contest will run for about a month, at which point the name of the winner will be drawn. That person's contact information will then be forwarded to the publisher. Shortly after that, he or she will receive the books! Yes, it's that simple.

While you're at it, I also have other contests which are still running. So why not register for those as well!?! If you'd like to get your hands on a couple of signed David Eddings novels, follow the same instructions but the header must read "EDDINGS." And I still have a copy of the upcoming The Amber Wizard by David Forbes. I reviewed it at the end of January, if you are interested. For this particular contest, the header must read "THE AMBER WIZARD."

Good luck to all the participants!;-) And yes, it's open to ALL!

King of Foxes

In my last review I claimed that Talon of the Silver Hawk was Raymond E. Feist's worst novel to date. I take it back! King of Foxes now holds that dubious honor. How the author managed to produce an inferior sequel is beyond me. Feist had certainly not set the bar too high with its predecessor. Hence, to have failed to raise the level of quality of Conclave of Shadows with this second volume does say a lot about this series.

To be blunt, the book would probably have been rejected by the editors of Wizards of the Coast, who would have deemed it unworthy of their Forgotten Realms line. In all honesty, no editor would have gone through this manuscript had Feist not written it. A submission consisting of a few sample chapters sent to a literary agency would indubitably have generated a "Don't quit your day job" response.

Yes, unfortunately, it is that bad. Take Feist's name away from the cover and it's well nigh impossible to even consider that the person who has written this novel has sold more than 12 million books worldwide. Feist has a number of NYT bestsellers under his belt, but there is a very good reason why this one doesn't figure among them.

The worldbuilding is practically non-existent, adding nothing to the already well developed world of Midkemia.

Every single character is a cardboard cutout. Having created such endearing characters such as Arutha, Jimmy the Hand, Admiral Trask, Pug, Nakor, Macross the Black, etc, this is unacceptable for a notorious author like Feist.

The narrative is bland and, for the most part, uninteresting. The dialogues don't ring true and appear to have been taken out of a bad Hollywood production.

Frankly, if fans were not adamant about the fact that Feist's latest, Flight of the Nighthawks, is quite a good yarn, I'm persuaded that I wouldn't even bother with the third installment of this mediocre trilogy. I know I always try to bring out every novel's strengths and weaknesses when I write a book review. Sadly, there is nothing good to say about this one. . .:-(

I need a break from this series. Which means that I'll be reading Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon/Temeraire next at work. At home, I am savoring Steven Erikson's Memories of Ice. What a pleasure. . .;-)

The final verdict: 6/10

Deadhouse Gates

When I finished reading Gardens of the Moon, I felt like an idiot for not reading that book sooner. Especially since it had been patiently sitting on my shelves for about 5 years. Admittedly, I was more than a little impressed by Erikson's incredible debut. And yet, fans of the series kept affirming that the sequels were even better.

Such hype is always a double-edged sword, for it makes it easy for people to generate expectations that are, ultimately, too high and thus unfulfilled. But have no fear, the sequel doesn't disappoint. Needless to say, Deadhouse Gates is a superb novel. Steven Erikson offers a spectacular virtuoso performance, establishing himself as one of the most gifted fantasy authors to ever see the light.

Fans have compared Gardens of the Moon as a train wreck. Perhaps it is, but what a ride!;-) In Deadhouse Gates, however, Erikson is in perfect control. The narrative is more structured, which makes the tale easier to follow.

Vast in scope and unbelievably imaginative, the Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is a superior fantasy epic. Spanning continents, Deadhouse Gates takes us to the Seven Cities sub-continent, where a prophesied rebellion known as the Whirlwind is about to erupt from the Holy Desert of Raraku. The narrative makes the Seven Cities' landscape and cultures come alive. Erikson's impeccable prose is rich and evocative -- a sweet treat for any aficionados of the genre!

Steven Erikson shows just how much of a master storyteller he is, displaying what can only be described as uncanny control over an immense plot. From what is gradually unfolding as the story progresses, I perceive that this could well be the most ambitious work of fantasy ever written.

The characterizations are of the first order. Although one misses many of the great characters found within the pages of its predecessor, Deadhouse Gates marks the return of a few of them, and introduces us to yet another cast of fully realized characters. And the fact that the Malazan series is the most multicultural work of fantasy out there adds another distinctive touch to a saga which stands head and shoulders above almost everything else on the market today.

Erikson's masterful action and combat narrative should satisfy all battle fans out there. And his sense of humor brings a certain balance to what is a very dark tale.

Deadhouse Gates brings this series to a new level. The sheer scale of the author's vision is nothing less than astonishing. And the ease with which he seems to navigate through this grand epic of mortals and gods never ceases to astound me.

If Steven Erikson keeps this up, by the time I'm through with The Bonehunters, he will certainly rank as my favourite fantasy author. Yes, the man is that damn good!:-) Deadhouse Gates stands on a far higher plane than most fantasy novels. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, it is one of the best fantasy books I've ever read!

I was a complete fool to wait this long to give this series a shot, and I admit it. Hence, my only advice is: Don't be a fool. If my reviews have any shred of influence in your choice of novels, give both Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates a shot. If those two books don't make you a Steven Erikson fan, nothing on this earth will!

The final verdict: 9,5/10

Let's talk about hockey for a moment. . .

Ah, Canada. . . It sucks to be a Canadian right now. Losing 2-0 to Russia this afternoon means that our team won't even be part of the medal round at the Olympics. And in this country, where anything less than a gold medal in that event is an aberrant failure, this means a lot. I guess you have to be Canadian to truly understand what this defeat means. To understand what hockey means.

Canada is a strange place. In a country where there is no veritable national identity (we're probably the only country in the world without a "true" national identity), a majority of people identify themselves by what they are not -- Americans. The East despises the West, and vice versa. Collectively, we all hate the province of Ontario, or more exactly the city of Toronto. The provinces blame the federal government for every ill in this country, while the federal throws the ball back to the provinces, claiming that they can't even govern themselves in their own jurisdictions. The anglophones hate the francophones, and the francophones dislike the anglophones. And oddly enough, within the confines of these circumstances, people actually wonder why nothing ever gets done. Talk about voluntary blindness. . .;-)

As for me, well as a French-speaking Québécois, half of the country probably hates my guts for the sole fact that my mother tongue is different than theirs. And because I read in English, write in English, and watch tv in English, other Québécois see me as a traitor. And being a right-wing kind of guy, I'm also considered a fascist. So in a nutshell, no one likes me!;-)

Anyway, in light of all this, there is one common denominator that unites this disparate nation. Simply put, it's the sport of hockey. When it comes to hockey, there is no barrier. Of course, we have our own rivalries. What would an NHL season be without a good scrap between Edmonton and Calgary, or Toronto and Montreal, or the more recent Toronto and Ottawa rivalry? In Canada, the sun rises and sets with our hockey teams. Born and raised in the suburbs of Montreal, my earliest memories are of two things: the Montreal Canadiens and Star Wars.

Hockey is like a religion in most Canadian cities. But in Montreal, it's even worst. Only the New York Yankees have won more championships than the Montreal Canadiens -- in the whole world. Time was, the Stanley Cup parade used to be an almost annual event in the streets of this city.

And Canadians from coast to coast are proud to say that hockey is OUR game. You watch Off the Record and other such sports shows, and the message is always the same: WE OWN THIS GAME! I've always believed that it's more than a little arrogant, especially since these shows are always quick to show spotlights of Canada's greatest victory -- namely when we defeated the then USSR in 1972. Wow! That was 34 years ago! But the way they keep bringing it up, it's as if it happened last night.

The truth of the matter is that Canada is no longer the lone powerhouse on the planet. The fact that we have only a single medal to show for our troubles in the last 3 Olympic Games should be ample proof of that. Sweden, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and the USA are just a number of countries who have now challenged us and joined us at the top of the moutain. And as far as the sport is concerned, it's a great thing.

Today it sucks to be Canadian, that's for sure. But while other countries were assembling teams that would pack speed and firepower, we decided that we needed players like Doan, Draper and Bertuzzi. No, those guys are not bad players, but they certainly did not deserve to be on the national team. Where were guys like Crosby, Staal and Tanguay? We were told that we needed leadership more than we needed the speed of youth. Funny that in a team packed with All-Stars we needed so much leadership. Heck, most of the players of Team Canada are captains or assistants on their respective teams. Problem is, the coaching staff never could get them to play as a team. And where were our snipers? We packed enough firepower to annihilate any team, yet we were shut out three times in four games.

The long and short of it is this: We no longer own this game. So all you "old school" people who watch replays of the 1972 Summit Series every night need to wake up and smell the coffee. We can no longer steamroll through our opposition with ordinary teams. There was a time when hockey was "our" game. But this year, we were beaten at our own game. And it cuts a bit deep because since the player nominations were announced, there was a lot of talk concerning the presence of some "undeserving" players. And now we've been eliminated from the tournament.

Tonight, there are millions of people in Canada who are still wondering what could possibly have happened. The answer, in the end, is quite simple. Other countries sent the very best team they could put on the ice. We didn't. . . Case closed!

Okay, rant's over! Don't even get me started on the Habs or I'll bitch all night! Back to fantasy. . .:-)

The Tears of Artamon contest winners

Hi guys!

Here are the lucky winners who'll each receive a full set of Sarah Ash's The Tears of Artamon trilogy. We had both the US and UK editions up for grabs, so many thanks to Transworld and Bantam Dell for supporting this contest!

Winner of the US edition: Josh Able, from McArthur, California.

Winner of the UK edition: Emmanuel Chastellière, from Sorbiers, France.

Thanks to all the participants!:-)

Don't forget, if you scroll down you'll see that I still have those signed Eddings books up for grabs. The same goes for David Forbes' The Amber Wizard and Tad Williams' Shadowplay.

As for that secret contest of mine, stop asking because I'm not telling!;-) But I'm willing to give you a clue. Since it will coincide with that upcoming interview, it has something to do with a little known author who goes by the name of George R. R. Martin. Some of you may have heard of him. People say he's good.;-)

As I said, the mother of all contests so far. . . Stay tuned!

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

In hardcover:

Timothy Zawn's Outbound Flight drops 2 positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 9.

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams somehow hangs in there, up 2 spots, finishing its 17th week on the NYT list at number 29.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Wolves of Calla is down 7 positions, ending its third week on the prestigious list at number 31.

Accepting Questions for a Paul Kearney Interview

Hi there!

Transworld contacted me last week to let me know that they had set up an interview with Paul Kearney for me. His last book, The Mark of Ran, was well received, and its sequel will be released this summer.

As always, fans are encouraged to submit their questions. So if there is something you'd like to see in this upcoming Q&A, you know what to do!:-) The most interesting questions will be selected to comprise the interview.

Expect to see this interview posted here and on in the coming weeks!

David Eddings Interview

As promised, here is the Q&A!

Many thanks to Time Warner Books. Without their help, this interview would never have been possible.

I would have liked for Mr. Eddings to be a little more loquacious. But I knew from reading past interviews of his that he wasn't the type of author to offer "in-depth" answers. Still, he offers interesting answers nonetheless.



Dear Mr. and Mrs. Eddings, let me begin by thanking you for graciously accepting to do this interview. You are undoubtedly very busy putting the finishing touches to THE YOUNGER GODS, so we appreciate the fact that you are willing to take the time to answer these questions.

1- After what can only be called an illustrious and prolific career, what motivates you to keep on writing?

I keep writing because it’s a habit. After fifty years or so I just can’t set it aside.

2- Following a tenure of about two decades with Del Rey, you elected to put an end to that relationship and sign with Time Warner Books. Was there a reason behind that move? After so long, was the decision to part ways with Del Rey a difficult one to make?

After the German Company Berstelsmann bought Random House, they decided to cut back the amount of money they were willing to pay authors for new books (so the publisher would make more profit.) My agent put “The Dreamers” up for offers. Bertelsmann didn’t offer much, but Warner Books did.

3- With the release of THE YOUNGER GODS, the series THE DREAMERS will reach its end. Any future projects on the horizon?

Nothing very specific. I’m looking into several possibilities.

4- How strong is the temptation to return to the worlds of your previous series? Do you have any plans to do so?

No. Those books are finished, so I won’t tinker with them.

5- What advice would you give a younger David Eddings concerning his writing career? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

I think a passage from “THE RIVAN CODEX” (a non-fiction book) should give you an answer:

This is what I was talking about earlier when I suggested most aspiring fantasists will lose heart fairly early on. I was in my mid-teens when I discovered that I was a writer. Notice that I didn’t say “wanted to be a writer.” “Want” has almost nothing to do with it. It’s either there or it isn’t. If you happen to be one, you’re stuck with it. You’ll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won’t be able to help yourself. When it’s going well, it’s like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It’s better than any dope you can buy. When it’s not going well, it’s much like giving birth to a baby elephant. You’ll probably notice the time lapse. I was forty before I wrote a publishable book. A twenty-five year long apprenticeship doesn’t appeal to very many people.

6- In light of the current market, are you tempted to write one of those enormous fantasy epics which continue to be the most successful series at the moment?

I’ll turn 75 in July this year, so I won’t attempt any multi-book stories. “One book” is the rule now. When I was writing “The Redemption of Althalus” I had a large note pinned to the wall above my desk that said “ONE BOOK!!” Althalus proved to me that I can tell a story in a single book.

7- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Characters. My people are as real as I can make them.

8- After producing all those bestsellers and selling millions of copies worldwide, is there added pressure when it comes to writing new series/novels, knowing that the expectations will always be high?

I’m not an egomaniac. I’ll write what I want to write. If the readers don’t like it, tough noodgies.

9- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE BELGARIAD, THE MALLOREON, THE ELENIUM, THE TAMULI, and THE DREAMERS?

I think it’s time to go back to “THE RIVAN CODEX:”

I was convinced that I was a “serious novelist,” and I labored long and hard over several unpublished (and unpublishable) novels that moped around the edges of mawkish contemporary tragedy. In the mid 1970s I was grinding out “Hunsecker’s Ascent” a story about mountain-climbing which was a piece of tripe so bad that it even bored me. (No, you can’t see it. I burned it.) Then one morning before I went off to my day-job, I was so bored that I started doodling. My doodles produced a map of a place that never was (and is probably a geological impossibility). Then feeling the call of duty, I put it away and went back to the tripe table.

Some Years later I was in a bookstore going in the general direction of the "serious fiction." I passed the science-fiction rack and spotted one of the volumes of The Lord of the Rings. I muttered, “Is this old turkey still floating around?” Then I picked it up and noticed that is was in the seventy-eighth printing!!! That got my immediate attention, and I went back home and dug out the aforementioned doodle. It seemed to have some possibilities.

10- Were you asked to participate to the LEGENDS anthology?

No. They wanted short fiction, and I write long fiction.

11- Is there a reason why there is no "official" website dedicated to your work? With so many authors with their own websites, many fans find it odd that there is nothing out there about you and your books.

I don’t own (or want) a computer. I don’t even use a typewriter. (Maybe that made her sulky and she shut down to get even with me.) You’re looking at the form of copy I send to my typist. She has no trouble with it. I’ve been using this form for years. (I can’t even read my script writing.)

Note from interviewer: Interview was received handwritten, via fax)

12- PAWN OF THE PROPHECY was first published in 1983. How does it feel to see it still in print and on bookstores' shelves after more than 20 years?

Lester del Rey told me, “You’ve written a classic.” It will probably still be in bookstores long after I’m gone.

13- THE SEERESS OF KELL hit number 1 on the NYT list. A select few fantasy authors have achieved this feat since then. Describe how you felt when the book topped the charts.

After the success of “The Belgariad” I wasn’t at all surprised when “Seeress” hit the top. The popularity of the previous books made “The Seeress” almost inevitable for number one.

14- Do you read a lot of fantasy? If so, what authors/series rank among your favorites?

I do not read other fantasy books. I have a sub-conscious burglar lurking in my mind. If I read a good fantasy, six months later it’s mine, and it’s likely to show up in my next book.

15- How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

My books will be around for a while, but the opinion of the readers is up to them, not me.

16- THE DREAMERS was not welcome with the same sort of enthusiasm habitually associated with your books by both the fans and the critics. Was there ever a time when you considered making certain changes to the series based on readers' feedback, or was such a thought never even an alternative?

I don’t take orders from readers. The multi point of view in “The Dreamers” was derived from “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durell. It does get a bit repetitious (as my editors have all advised me). Durell’s quartet involved politics, but mine involved war. It’s been cleaned up, but it was very tedious in the original form.

(Nobody’s perfect.)

17- Readers from the 80s hold you and a number of other authors in high esteem. But the "new" generation of fantasy readers doesn’t always consider your novels with the same regard. Admittedly, the fantasy market has changed dramatically since the emergence of writers such as Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, George R. R. Martin, Terry Goodkind, and many others. But do you feel that this "new" generation gives your books and those of Raymond E. Feist, Terry Brooks, etc, the respect they deserve? Because without such authors to pave the way, there is no Jordan, Martin, Erikson, etc.

As I said in #14, I do not read fantasy books by other authors, I’m not equipped to answer this point.

18- There's always a sense of camaraderie pervading your books, with people you genuinely care about because they genuinely care about each other. How do you go about infusing your works with this bantering energy? What part of your own life do you draw from to create this atmosphere?

I listen carefully when people talk to each other, so I recognize various attitudes. “I like you” is a good approach to conversation. (But so is “I hate you.”) Conversations in books must be realistic, or the book will collapse. The characters must have their own peculiarities.

19- After creating a number of fantasy universes, what part of world building do you enjoy the most?

I create people and places that I find very interesting (almost always derived from real places). I like some people and places and I hate some of the others. For some reason the ones I like always win. Isn’t that odd?

20- What do you think draws people to fantasy? Is there something people can get from this genre that they can't get otherwise? That is, does fantasy offer something no other genre can?

Fantasy takes people away from the real world and almost everybody dislikes the real world.

Once again, many thanks for accepting to do this. We wish you continued success and best of luck with the release of THE YOUNGER GODS. In addition, when posts were made inviting fans to submit their questions for this interview, a multitude wished to simply thank you for all the wonderful stories you have shared with us in the last two decades or so. May you continue to capture our imagination for years to come!

My "scoring" system

Hi there,

Ever since I began reviewing novels, many people here have asked me how I rate the books I read. Like in boxing, I use a 10-point must system. There is no science to it. I just go with how the novel made me feel. Book reviewing is a very subjective process, I'm afraid.

Sometimes a particular score can mean different things. When I gave Tad Williams' Shadowmarch a 7/10, it was because I was clearly disappointed by the book. Knowing that Tad can write books that usually score an 8 or 9, Shadowmarch was, in my humble opinion, below what I have come expect from such a fine author. Same thing goes for my most recent review, the one of Feist's Talon of the Silver Hawk. On the other hand, I've given 7/10 to books that were pleasant surprises, when I did not expect to enjoy them as much. The Radioactive Redhead comes to mind. . .

So to satisfy those who have been asking this question for a long time now, here is, more or less, what a particular score means.

- 5/10 or less: Indicates different levels of crap. Not worth reading, at least in my opinion. Many will realize that I have never given such a low score since I've created the blog. And the reason is simple: I will simply not finish a book which is that bad. I barely manage to read all the "good" novels awaiting my attention in my "books to read" pile, so I'm not going to waste any time on such shitty works. So when I mention that I couldn't finish a book, you should easily infer the meaning behind my giving up.;-)

- 6/10: You should really consider skipping this one. . .

- 6.5/10: Barely worth my time. Passable at best. . .

- 7/10: Okay

- 7.5/10: Not bad at all

- 8/10: Good

- 8.5/10: Very Good

- 9/10: Exceptional

- 9.5/10: Great

- 10/10: Unreal!

Okay, back to the hockey game. Can't believe that Canada is losing 2-0 to Finland!

Talon of the Silver Hawk

I've waited quite a while to begin Raymond E. Feist's Conclave of Shadows series. The reason for this is quite simple: Even Feist fans unanimously agree that it's his weakest effort yet. Hence, all three hardcover volumes remained on my shelves, untouched. And because of that negative feedback, I was in no hurry to read them.

However, last fall something occurred which more or less forced me to move up the trilogy in the batting order. When Feist's newest installment, Flight of the Nighthawks, had a stronger debut than George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows in the UK, I knew I needed to get through this series before I could tackle this latest addition in Feist's Midkemia universe. And since I require something "light" to read at work while I go through Steven Erikson's Malazan novels at home, Conclave of Shadows appeared to be just what the doctor ordered.

But even as forewarned as I was that the series was not up to the author's standards, Talon of the Silver Hawk was still a major disappointment. It's not that it's that bad. It's just that it's not good. And since Feist has always been one of my favorite fantasy writers, I could not help but feel that this novel was a serious letdown.

Almost every book in this long saga adds a little more to the world of Midkemia. Over the years, this universe has proven to be quite a piece of work when it comes to worldbuilding. Talon of the Silver Hawk allows us to catch our first glimpse of the Eastern Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Roldem. Yet instead of delving a little deeper to truly catch our interest and capture our imagination, Feist's rendering of this portion of Midkemia is static at best.

Very few characterizations are okay. Most leave a lot to be desired. Talon showed some potential at the beginning of the tale, but the manner with which he was built up sort of dashed all my hopes that he could become a fully realized character. Magnus and Caleb also showed some potential, but we'll have to wait and see. . . Brief cameo appearances by Pug, Nakor and Miranda were clearly not enough to save this one. Truth be told, we are a world away from Arutha, James and company! In addition, the dialogues made me cringe at times. . .

There is no problem with the pace of this book, other than the fact that very little actually happens. In some instances, you can see where the storylines are headed from a mile away.

After writing what became the classic Riftwar saga and the enjoyable Serpentwar saga, I never thought I'd see Raymond E. Feist sink so low. If I was to sum up this novel with one word, it would have to be "uninspired."

At times clichéd, predictable and unimaginative, Talon of the Silver Hawk is unmistakably Feist's weakest book to date. Hopefully the sequels will show a little more depth. But I'm about a hundred pages into King of Foxes and if it's any indication, I should not get my hopes too high.

The final verdict: 6,5/10

Links. . . Finally!

Hi there!

According to the statistics, I have an IQ surpassing that of 97% of the population. No kidding!;-) And yet, 97% of the population would have taken a lot less time than I did to FINALLY figure out how to put a list of links on my blog. What can I say!?! I'm simply a computer illiterate dumbass! Heck, I barely managed to find the porn when the internet came out!

The good thing, however, is that I ultimately found that porn.:-) And I have now, with my friend Patrick's help (who is not much better than I am around computers, I may add), discovered the way to put up those links on the blog! About time, I know. But better late than never, as the old saying goes. . .

I'm persuaded that I have forgotten some people and some websites. Yet fear not, now that I know the code and where to put it in my template, I will add them periodically.:-) Many thanks to all you people who have added my blog to their links. I'll do my best to keep up the good work and deserve to remain there!


Win free signed copies of David Eddings' THE ELDER GODS and THE TREASURED ONE

Hi there!

Time Warner Books have been kind enough to offer us a couple of signed copies of both The Elder Gods and The Treasured One. This contest will coincide with the recent interview I did with David Eddings, and which will soon be posted here.

As always, registration is quite easy. The only thing you need to do is send an email with "EDDINGS" in the header to reviews@(no-spam) Be sure to remove the no-spam thing. Your email must contain your full name and mailing address. Any message lacking these will automatically be deleted. I can understand that some people are reticent to leave their contact info. But if you're not comfortable with the idea, then you simply cannot participate to these contests. Also, be sure to include your screenname and the forums on which you hang out.

In other related news, Transworld has contacted me to inform me that the copies of Paul Kearney's The Mark of Ran have been sent to the four lucky winners, and the copy of Steven Erikson's The Bonehunters should reach the winner's mailbox soon!

Good luck to all the participants!

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

In hardcover:

Timothy Zawn's newest Star Wars novel, Outbound Flight, debut at number 7.

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams returns to the NYT list for a 16th week, ending up at number 31.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Wolves of Calla is up one position, finishing its second week on the prestigious list at number 24.

Brandon Sanderson Interview

Hi guys!

The author of Elantris drops by to answer a few of my questions. . .:-) By the way, Brandon and I are already trying to cook up a contest for the release of Mistborn this summer. We're gunning for a signed copy, so we'll see how things turn out!


Dear Brandon,

Let me begin by thanking you for being gracious enough to take some time off your undoubtedly busy schedule to answer a few questions.

- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is Elantris.

All right. ELANTRIS is the story of a city, once considered the city of the gods, that has fallen.

In the kingdom of Arelon there was a force that would randomly choose members of the population and grant them divine powers. These people would move to Elantris and there become the rulers of the kingdom. However, ten years ago, this magical force inexplicably stopped blessing people, and instead started cursing them. The Elantrians lost their magical powers, and they also gained this terrible curse, which made them into something akin to lepers.

The kingdom just about collapsed. The normal people of the kingdom were terrified of the disease, and locked all of the cursed Elantrians inside of their massive city of Elantris. Elantris became a prison city for everyone who caught this disease. Yet, it’s not really communicable--it comes randomly upon people, given by the same magical force that once blessed the population.

In chapter one, Raoden--a prince of the new kingdom that has risen up--catches this disease and gets thrown into the lawless city filled with bitter ex-deities. His half of the story centers around Raoden trying to discover what happened ten years ago to make the city fall, while at the same time trying to help those who live inside Elantris to recapture some of the humanity they have abandoned.

Meanwhile, Raoden’s fiancée shows up on the docks to his city, expecting to get married. As a princess from another kingdom, she had entered into a political treaty/marriage with Raoden sight-unseen. Since the king of Arelon doesn’t want anyone to know that his son caught the terrible curse, he told the kingdom that Raoden had died--and that left Sarene without a man to marry. However, since it was a political marriage, the treaty states that the wedding is in force even if one of the parties dies before the actual ceremony takes place. So, Sarene’s story centers around her trying to figure out the mystery behind Raoden’s disappearance, while also trying to protect her new homeland from political turmoil from hostile forces.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

I have a couple things that I seem to be particularly good at. The first is really less of a skill and more of tendency. I’ve read so much in fantasy that I’ve grown tired of a lot of the standard plots and contrivances. I enjoyed reading the standard ‘epic’ quest fantasies when I was younger, but I’m really not looking to read--or write--books that simply mimic what has come before.

I’m not the only one doing this, thank goodness, but those who read my books will not find elves and dwarves. Neither will they often find young peasant boys who go on quests to defeat dark lords. I don’t really like travelogues or stories that focus around collecting magical relics. My general inclination is that if I’ve seen it done--especially in fantasy--I’ll want to avoid doing it myself. Yet, I do want to write fantasy that FEELS like fantasy, and has the resonance of magic, wonder, and grand scope that made me fall in love with the genre. It’s a fine line to walk!

Getting more specifically to the question, there are several things I think I do very well. I like to do a very intensively deep third person viewpoint, which really lets me get inside my character’s heads. So, I’ve been told that I can draw some very sympathetic characters. Hrathen--the antagonist from ELANTRIS--is an example of this. I also like to develop plots that build slowly, with lots of twisting pieces, that come to dramatic (hopefully surprising!) conclusions. People who know me have affectionately called this the ‘Brandon Avalanche’, referring to the section of my books where everything starts to fall apart and comes together at the same time.

(Of course, both of these ‘strengths’ can be weaknesses too, if you look at them the right way. For instance, some people find that my method of plotting too slow at the beginning and too rushed at the ending--there tends to be a lull in my books at about page 200. As for the characters, I’ve sometimes had complaints from readers that one character speaks so well to them that they become disinterested in the other viewpoints by comparison!)

- What author makes you shake your head in admiration?

Just one? There are so many that do such a good job. Recently, I’ve been wishing I had Victor Hugo’s depth of characterization and Orson Scott Card’s ability to plot. Yet, I admire people like L.E. Modessitt Jr. for their ability to work hard, and long, to establish themselves as a consistent force in the genre. I greatly admire George R. R. Martin’s ability to storytell without actually enjoying his stories, and I think that Neil Gaiman is the most amazing genre-hopper that has ever existed! And, of course, for pure fantasy writing, Robin Hobb and Tad Williams never cease to impress me.

- You're headed for "Survivor Island" for a year. You get one book, one movie and one CD. What do you choose?

Ha! Well, I’d have to go with the Robert Jordan omnibus edition (it has to be forthcoming, right?) because that thing will be big enough to make into a raft in case I get trapped on the island. Movie will be Emperor’s New Groove, because it has a magical ability to be watched a million times without getting old. CD would be Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf, because if you’re going to be trapped on an island for a year, you’re gonna want something you can really sing along with.

- Tor is now recognized as the very best fantasy publisher and has been for years. L. E. Modesitt, jr. once told me that Tom Doherty is probably the most underappreciated man in fantasy. Do you agree with that?

Most definitely. People don’t understand just how much of the soul of that company IS Tom Doherty. He started the company with a dream, and made it into what it is today--a huge force in the market that still has the feel of a ‘mom and pop’ style publisher.

Tom just a class act. He’s the CEO and founder of the company, but he read ELANTRIS to give me editorial advice--me, a nobody with a tiny contract that had been picked up by one of the editorial assistants. He knew how much it would mean to my editor, and to me, and so he read the book. Plus, I’m sure he wants to keep an eye on his company and maker certain the work getting published lives up to his vision for the company.

Do you think the presidents of Random House or Pocket read and give advice on the books by their best-sellers, let alone their new authors?

- I have to admit that the reason which compelled me to pick up Elantris the first time was the distinctive cover art. How important is cover art to you, in terms of a marketing tool?

Ha! I think you probably just hit upon the most stressful thing for authors in the publishing process. We have control over pretty much all of the content except the cover, and--as you can imagine--we worry about how things are going to turn out.

For my first book, Tor let me see some of the artists they were considering, and I was able to suggest the one I liked the best--and they ended up picking him. I was very pleased with the way the ELANTRIS cover turned out. Stephen Martiniere is a brilliant artist, and I was amazed by the cover the first time I saw it.

Anyway, back to the question at hand, I think that cover art is very important. Books are sold in two ways: Through word of mouth, and through browsing. The cover art has a great deal to do with that second one. Perhaps more, even, than the content.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write Elantris in the first place?

Here’s the thing about my writing process--I don’t write a book off of one spark. That’s, perhaps, why I like to post story ideas on my blog. I give those away to people, letting them read the kinds of ideas I have so that they can, perhaps, get a boost in their own writing.

For me, a book comes from the interesting combination of a number of ideas. For instance, in ELANTRIS, I had a number of ideas combine in an interesting way. The first was the idea to write a story about someone thrown into a magical leper colony. The second was the idea for a person who was bound to a wedding contract when her ‘husband’ died before she even met him. Another was the idea of an ‘evil missionary’ working to convert for numbers, not for faith. Then there was the idea of the language, which was separate from the idea of drawing runes in the air. It all came together, and I had a novel!

- How does it feel to now have the possibility to share your books with people from around the globe, in different languages?

Awesome! Really, I didn’t expect to have foreign sales. After all, this was my first book, and I expected it to take some time before foreign publishers were interested. However, I guess the buzz was good, because we’ve sold in twelve languages so far. (This still stuns my agent. It’s rare for a new author to have so many foreign sales.)

In the interest of keeping my head from swelling too much, I suspect that a lot of that success comes from the fact that ELANTRIS is a stand-alone epic fantasy, something very rare nowadays. I think a single book like that encourages publishers to take more of a chance on me. Plus, Tor picking up a new author tends to turn a few heads. We sold our first foreign sale to Russia, and they’d never even seen the book--they’d simply heard that Tor had bought a stand-alone from a new author, and they wanted it.

- Without giving anything away, what can you tell us of Mistborn? Are you satisfied with the way the book turned out?

Well, I’m posting the sample chapters on my website

However, let me tell you a bit about the book. The idea process for this one was a little more distinct than the one for ELANTRIS. This book (the plot at least) came from two ideas.

The first part came from watching Ocean’s Eleven. I’ve always liked movies like this--heist movies like Sneakers and the Italian Job. I wondered why nobody had ever done a fantasy version of this--a kind of Mission Impossible plot where you have a very specialized group of characters, each with a different magical skill.

The second concept that sparked my interest is this recurring theme in fantasy of the young hero who saves the world from a dark power. We’ve all seen it a dozen times over. My thought was “Well, what if he failed? What if the Dark Lord killed the hero, and then took over the world?”

So, MISTBORN is a book about a world where the dark lord won. The prophecies failed mankind, and a thousand years have passed with the world being ruled by a dark god-emperor. A group of con-men decide that they’ve had enough, and come up with a plan to overthrow the emperor: They’re going to rob his treasury, then use the money to bribe his armies away from him.

The book turned out better than I could have hoped. It really does show off what I can do--it’s now been seven years since I wrote ELANTRIS! I think I’ve gotten better with characters, and my magic in MISTBORN is the best I’ve ever written. The ideas above were just the spark. As I wrote the book, I found myself focusing more on a couple of the characters, as opposed to writing a true ‘heist’ book, which would have been more of an ensemble that focused primarily on the plot. Instead, I have that heist as the backdrop to a couple of very interesting characters. The result is something I’m very proud of.

(The book comes out in July 2006. It’s already up for preorder on Amazon.)

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

Whew! You ask hard ones, Pat. Let’s see. . . .

I’ll go for bestseller. I’ve always fallen a little bit on the popular, as opposed to the literary, side of arguments. I do have a Master’s in English, so I’m familiar with the literary/award side of things. However, I just would rather have more people reading my books. The bestseller thing would be less about the money, and more about the knowledge that my books are finding their audience.

- Honestly, do you believe that the fantasy genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

I think it will. You’re right about what’s happening in fantasy right now, but the thing is, this is still a young genre. We had the 80’s and 90’s, where a lot of fantasy really was a bit derivative (which I saw with the utmost fondness and respect for many of those authors.)

We’ve slowly seen sf being accepted, and I think we’ll see fantasy gain the same respect. The problem is, we’re just do darn popular. If you look at pop media--movies, video games, and the like--sf and fantasy make up the bulk of the top money-makers. That success means that the genres are being accepted by the public more and more, meaning that fantasy and sf readers are becoming more and more mainstream. That kind of success in the currently literary community is a little detrimental.

However, give us a hundred years or so, and I think people will look back on this era and see sf/f as one of the main dominant literary forms of our generation.

- Elantris is the living proof that the internet can provide a lot of exposure for a book. Do you feel that most publishers don't yet understand the full potential of this tool, in terms of exploiting the wealth of fantasy-related websites, message boards, and blogs?

Oh, I’m sure of it. That’s not surprising, though. You see, publishers have generally been a bit behind when it comes to marketing and the like. It’s just a factor of the business. The Tor publicity department is actually rather small.

The problem is that spending lots on promoting a book--especially a genre book--has proven to provide few returns. However, I think that a little could go a long way in the internet area. The big problem, I guess, is that the editors and publicists are already swamped!

- Since you already have a vast number of books already written, are you shopping those manuscripts around as we speak?

Well, here’s the thing on that. I always want to be publishing my most current, and therefore best, work. So, I kind of look at those old books as places from which to mine ideas (I stole the magic for MISTBORN, for instance, from one of those books.) However, I think that if I published them, people would notice the decrease in quality, and that would be bad for my career.

I’ve toyed with posting them on my website. That may still happen. However, for right now, I’m only shopping manuscripts I wrote in the last few years.

- What current fantasy authors do you read and enjoy?

Robin Hobb, L.E. Modesitt Jr., David Farland, George R. R. Martin, and Orson Scott Card are just a few. Recently, I’ve been reading in young adult, since I feel I don’t know enough about that genre. I recently read and enjoyed The Golden Compass and Howl’s Moving Castle.

- Are there any lesser known or new writers you'd like to tell us more about?

Sure. Check out Tobias Buckell if you want another good, original new fantasy author. Also, someone to watch for is Eric James Stone. He’s primarily a short story writer, but each story I’ve read by him has been excellent.

Many thanks again for doing this. I wish you continued success with your career, and may the paperback release of Elantris bring you even more readers!

Thanks for asking me! This was a great interview.


The Rule of Four

From time to time, I like to read works outside speculative fiction. And when I do, thrillers are something I enjoy reading. To me, thrillers are like quickies. Not necessarily very fulfilling, but nevertheless satisfying. It's fast, fun, and it brings a certain satisfaction!;-) You get your fix, and then you move on. Okay, so enough of this poorly devised sex life analogy.:-) I enjoy thrillers because they keep you turning pages, always eager to discover what happens next.

Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason's The Rule of Four garnered mixed reviews. Yet the novel has gathered an impressive number of rave reviews. One claims that it's a «The Da Vinci Code for people with brains.» I bought this book last year, but waited all this time to read it. I needed something "light" to read at work as I was going through Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon at home. Yes, it does say a lot about what I think of my fellow colleagues, but what the heck!?!

Well, if anyone is purchasing The Rule of Four hoping to be served a fair similar to that of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, they will be sorely disappointed. Other than an ancient riddle to solve, this book is in no way akin to the aforementioned titles.

I won't dwell too much on that aspect, but let's just say that those who found this book profoundly erudite and a brilliant accomplishment were a bit overexcited. Truth to tell, the whole riddle storyline ends in rather lame fashion.

No, what makes this novel «compulsively readable» is the coming-of-age storylines involving the four Princeton roommates. They are the heart of this book. The characterizations are superior to most of what you can find on bookstores' shelves in today's market. The relationships between Paul, Tom, Gil and Charlie are what makes this such an enjoyable story.

The authors demonstrate a human touch that is seldom seen. The narrative explores what they are going through on the eve of graduation, and this is the facet of the novel which is truly inspiring. Forget the hype. Forget the riddle. Forget that it's a thriller, for it's not truly a thriller. The Rule of Four won't make history. Indeed, it likely made it to the NYT bestseller list riding on The Da Vinci Code's coat-tails.

But if you need an interesting book to read on the plane, the train, or on the beach, this one should do the trick!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

Naomi Novik Interview

Naomi Novik's Temeraire has taken the UK by storm, it appears, and it will be released next month in North America with the title His Majesty's Dragon. The buzz surrounding this new series is quite strong, and I'm expecting an advance reading copy of the first volume any day now.

Meanwhile, the author has been kind enough to answer a few questions. Check this out, for Naomi Novik could be, at least according to some, one of the best new talents in the fantasy genre.

- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon.

I can do better than that; there's an excerpt of the first chapter of the book available online:

There will also be samplers available at several upcoming sff conventions, including the New York Comic-Con this February and San Diego Comic-Con in July.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

I have a deep affection for my own characters, which I try to share with the reader; I think a writer can't hope to engage her audience if she isn't herself deeply engaged with the work. I've also surprised myself, writing the Temeraire books, by discovering a real taste for battle scenes -- not something I would have expected to enjoy as much as I do, but there's a great deal of fun both in working out where to have action scenes to advance the overall work, and then coming up with twists and turns to make them interesting in their own right.

- What author makes you shake your head in admiration? Which authors have had the most influence on you?

I recently had one of those head-shaking moments reading Michael Chabon's The Final Solution; he performs a sort of virtuoso balancing act in his prose, staying just shy of too ornate, which I would love to one day master.

Patrick O'Brian has been a tremendous influence on my work; it's not too much to say that his Aubrey/Maturin series was the inspiration for the Temeraire series.

- Were you given a reason as to why the title of the first volume would be different in the UK and in North America? Was it just a question of putting the word "dragon" in the title?

The marketing folks at Del Rey came back with some useful feedback from various major buyers, who felt the title wasn't accessible enough -- and partly that's because the US launch is in mass-market, which means a much larger print run. So my US editor Betsy Mitchell asked me to come up with a new one, and His Majesty's Dragon was my choice. If I had to choose, I do like Temeraire a bit better, but I think His Majesty's Dragon also successfully evokes the setting, so it wasn't a tremendous wrench.

- Have foreign rights to the series been sold? If so, in which languages?

Yes indeed -- so far, foreign rights have been sold to HarperCollins in the UK, Random House Germany, De Boekerij in Holland, Santillana in Spain, and most recently to AST in Russia. Any forthcoming editions will be announced on my website.

- Now that this first trilogy is completed and will be published by the end of the spring, what current projects are you working on? What will be the next book/series to be published, and when can we expect that?

I am in fact already at work on the fourth book of the Temeraire series, which is tentatively slated to be out in the US in Spring 2007. I have a few other writing projects in train, but they are too amorphous to go into detail yet.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

I have to say first that I reject the idea that bestsellers can't also be "good" books, and vice versa. For me, part of the measure of a truly great book is that it is read and loved by many people, whether emotionally or thoughtfully, and that it satisfies on both levels.

If I were forced to choose, though, I would take the New York Times bestseller -- on a practical level, that kind of success opens many doors for creativity; but aside from that, much of the joy for me in writing is to share my work with many readers, to be part of a larger conversation.

- The advance praise and the critics have created a very positive buzz surrounding the release of Temeraire. How happy are you about that? Are you afraid that this might raise readers' expectations too high?

Oh, no, it's a tremendous and unalloyed pleasure to hear so many people have enjoyed the book. Of course I hope not to send any reader away disappointed, but I don't worry about backlash in a practical sense, because my feeling is, if a book is successful enough to have a backlash, you really can't complain.

As a general rule, I do try to stay open to critical as well as positive feedback, whether it comes privately from my excellent editors and first readers, or in reviews and comments from readers; I think that's the only way to keep learning and growing as a writer, which I hope to continue doing.

- Temeraire is the living proof that the internet can provide a lot of exposure for a book. Do you feel that most publishers don't yet understand the full potential of this tool, in terms of exploiting the wealth of fantasy-related websites, message boards, and blogs?

I'm not sure that it's necessarily that the publishers don't understand as that it's not as effective a tool for every author -- I think you need to already have an online presence and to enjoy communicating online for its own sake, not just because you have something to promote.

- How long did it take to write the entire trilogy? Were there any difficulties to get it published?

I began His Majesty's Dragon in January of 2004, and the galley pages of Black Powder War, the third volume, have arrived in my hands this very day, so almost two years exactly from start to finish.

I have a wonderful agent, Cynthia Manson, who is also a personal friend, and she sent the start of the book to Del Rey while I was still polishing my final draft, and I got the news they wanted it and two sequels before I had entirely finished. (Admittedly, this is partly because I am never really done with a book until it is pried out of my hands and sent off to production, and sometimes not then.)

- What current fantasy authors do you read and enjoy? Are there any lesser known or new writers you'd like to tell us more about?

I've recently been reading so much non-fiction for research that I've had an embarrassingly little amount of time for reading anything else -- for the first time in my life, I have a shelf full of books waiting to be read.

Among the small handful of fantasy books I've had time to read recently and enjoyed very much were Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness, a really fun YA fantasy set between NYC and Sydney, and Martha Wells's The Wizard Hunters, the sequel to which is taunting me from the shelf. Elizabeth Wein's A Coalition of Lions is on there waiting also, as well as Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw, and a Diana Wynne Jones short-story collection, Minor Arcana. Just the other day, I was killing some time between appointments in a Borders and picked up an older novel by Sharon Shinn to do it with, but I would rather recommend her more recent Samaria novels -- I enjoy those tremendously.

- Will there be a promo tour this spring? If so, what cities are currently on the itinerary?

Rather than doing a traditional book tour, I'll be attending a series of SFF conventions: Boskone (Boston, MA), New York Comic-Con (New York, NY) in February, Lunacon (Hasbrouck Heights, NJ) in March, Balticon (Baltimore, MD) in May, San Diego Comic-Con (San Diego, CA) in July, and Worldcon (Los Angeles, CA) in August.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you the best of luck with the North American release of His Majesty's Dragon and continued success with the rest of the series.

Thanks so much!

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows creeps back up 4 positions, ending its 12th week on the NYT list at number 31.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Wolves of Calla debuts at number 25.

The Mark of Ran contest winners!

Hi guys!

Here are the names of the four lucky winners:

Liam Clark (Liam on wotmania), from Lancaster, UK.

Elio García (Ran, admin at, from Nödinge, Sweden.

Adam Whitehead (Werthead on,, from Essex, UK.

Charles Nelson, from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Thanks to all the participants! Better luck next time around! And many thanks also to Transworld. Without their support, this contest would not have been possible.

Stay tuned for more!;-)

Accepting Questions for a George R. R. Martin Interview

Yes, that's right!!!;-)

Voyager has just contacted me, revealing the wonderful news! The interview questions will be sent to George R. R. Martin in April, so the interview will coincide with the paperback release of A Feast for Crows.

As always, the best questions from the fans will be selected to comprise the interview. To submit your questions, just click on the comment section below. Remember that questions which would receive an automatic RAFO will not be considered.

I guess it is safe to say that we have a very interesting Q&A to look forward to!

Win a complete set of Sarah Ash's THE TEARS OF ARTAMON trilogy

Hi guys!

Transworld has been kind enough to support yet another one of my contests!:-) This time around, we have a complete set of Sarah Ash's The Tears of Artamon trilogy. Which means that the lucky winner will receive Lord of Snow and Shadows, Prisoner of Ironsea Tower, and Children of the Serpent Gate.

As always, the only thing you have to do is send an email at reviews@(no-spam) You have to remove the No-Spam thing, of course. The header must read ARTAMON, or your email will be deleted. Also, some people don't seem to understand that your email MUST contain your full name and mailing address. The name of the winner will be drawn in a couple of weeks' time, at which point the entire trilogy will be delivered right to your mailbox!;-)

Also, if you are a member of the some of the message boards I frequent, please include your screen name so I can know who you are.

In other contest-related news, the Tad William's Shadowplay contest is still on, and so is the one in which the prize is David Forbes' The Amber Wizard. Just follow the same instructions, but change the header to either SHADOWPLAY or THE AMBER WIZARD. The winners of the Paul Kearney contest will be announced soon.

In other news, I will have signed David Eddings books up for grabs when the interview is posted. . . Stay tuned!

Gardens of the Moon

To my shame, I'm forced to admit that this novel had been sitting on my shelf for about 5 years before I finally decided to read it. The reason? Honestly, I just didn't want to start yet another "ongoing" series, especially since this one was to be a ten-book cycle. But in the last 2 or 3 years, the buzz surrounding Steven Erikson's opus began to make a lot of noise. So much so that the temptation proved to be too powerful, and I ultimately caved in.

If I could sum it all up with one word, it would have to be "wow!" If Gardens of the Moon is any indication, this series will become highly addictive.

Very rarely, you read something that -- just a few chapters in -- rapidly makes you realize that it's the beginning of something truly special. I remember experiencing that unique feeling when I first sat down to read Stephen R. Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane, Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, Frank Herbert's Dune, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragon Wing, Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice and perhaps a handful of others. Gardens of the Moon belong with that elite group of novels. And moreover, it just might surpass every one of them. I can't quite believe I'm saying this, but Erikson's first Malazan book could well be the best damn debut I've ever read.

The worldbuilding is of the first order. Indeed, the universe created within the pages of Gardens of the Moon and the sequels to follow is vaster in scope than anything else I've ever seen. Steven Erikson writes with a broadness of vision that is unrivalled in the fantasy genre. The Malazan universe is a world that resounds with depth, which should please even the most demanding fans out there.

The characterizations are top notch. The story unfolds through the POVs of several characters. I would be hard pressed to name a more interesting bunch of characters than the men and women who comprise this fantastic novel. Three-dimensional doesn't begin to describe them, I'm afraid. And whether you take the Bridgeburners, the Empire's agents, Kruppe and the rest of the Phoenix Inn's regulars, the T'orrud Cabal, the Tiste Andii, the Guild of Assassins, etc, there is no clear line between good and evil. Erikson proves to be a master at walking that fine line in between, and several characterizations hover within gray areas.

The narrative draws you in and won't let go. The pace is at times brisk, and at times slower. It is a bit shocking to realize with how much ease the author controls the action. Some readers are put off by the fact that Gardens of the Moon drops you smack down in the middle of a very chaotic time for the Malazan Empire. As a matter of fact, many readers complain that they felt lost. Erikson doesn't force-feed you information in the habitual linear fashion. He seems to prefer to let the readers put the pieces of the puzzle together. And this is probably why I enjoyed the book to such a degree. Master storyteller that Erikson is, he simply plows through a vast array of storylines with disarming aplomb, baffling me at every turn with the ease with which he's steering the ship. The rhythm keeps you on your toes, never knowing what to expect next. And he manages to do it with a sense of humor which is a nice counterpoint to the darker dimensions of the tale.

Gardens of the Moon is composed of a seemingly unending number of storylines. Each one is important, but like threads they form a great tapestry. Which, in turn, will likely be only a portion of an even bigger tapestry. In a world as rich and as detailed as you'll find between the covers of this novel, every plotline appears to possess far-reaching importance in regard to the rest of the series.

Erikson's take on sorcery seems rather inventive and it lies at the heart of the story. I can't wait to learn more about the Warrens. Add to that a few tantalizing hints concerning the undead T'lan Imass, the forgotten Jaghut and the mysterious Tiste Andii, and you have me hooked! In addition, the fact that gods have never played such a capital role in a series since Weis and Hickman's The Rose of the Prophet adds yet another dimension to what might be the most multilayered fantasy epic ever written.

Imaginative on a scale that's almost frightening to consider, absorbing, thoroughly complex -- that's Gardens of the Moon in a nutshell. This, folks, is -- in my humble opinion -- about as good as it gets. This book deserves the highest possible recommendation. If you like big books with convoluted plotlines and fully drawn characters, then this one is definitely for you. Forget about the mixed reviews and give the novel a shot. Find out for yourself!

And to think that Erikson's fans clamor that the sequels are even better. . . If indeed true, which I have no reason to doubt now, I have some pretty amazing reading in front of me!

The final verdict: 9/10

Steven Erikson Interview (Bonus material)

Here it is, as promised!

The second part of our Steven Erikson Q&A. And this time around, almost all the questions came from the fans. As was the case with the first interview, the author is brutally honest and that's very refreshing. Many thanks again to Mr. Erikson for taking the time to graciously answer all these questions.




- "Slim" volumes that they are, do you still believe that you can put out one Malazan book a year?

I don't see why not. The actual writing of the novels takes about eight months or so. It's the editing and preparation that can take a while, as well as the launch windows the publishers prefers at any given time.

- Are there any tentative plans for another fantasy book/series following the completion of the Malazan saga?

I've a few thoughts on this, but nothing definitive. I know I have three independent novels on tap, but even then, I'm hardly decided on which order to write them in. It still feels far away (though it isn't).

- Many people have been complaining about your latest book tour, especially about the fact that very little was made in terms of advertisement. Hence, for future tours, many of your readers would like you to consider letting it be known as far in advance as possible. Do you have any idea where THE BONEHUNTERS promotional tour will take you? Any tour dates in Canada or Australia?

Presumably you mean the TOR release of Memories of Ice. As far as I know, the US west coast junket was first in the works the previous summer. Originally the idea was for ten days/ten cities, but to be honest I nixed that notion -- ten days away from Reaper's Gale was too long. As for The Bonehunters, I'm not aware of any touring for that one. I'm doing a local launch here in Victoria, with Scott Bakker, in March, but that's about it.

- Steve Stone's Malazan artwork is very distinctive. How important is cover art for you? Do you have any say in the matter?

I am generally asked what kind of scene I want depicted, which is nice and, I think, rather rare. And I can then comment in a limited sense on the 'first draught' of the work. This is the case with Bantam UK; with TOR I'm pretty much out of the loop which could be more my fault than anyone else's (I've not tested the extent of my influence on those and, admittedly, have no real inclination to do so). For my two cents' worth, a cover should strive to represent the tone and atmosphere of the novel in question, with an eye towards its intended audience. The problem with the first TOR edition (GoM) seemed to be (if I heard correctly) the cover gave the impression of a juvenile-audience quasi boddice-ripper with swords, plate armour and Tom Cruise. Not quite what was between the covers, alas.

- Could we get a map of the world for someone to scan and post online (obviously at Many fail to see how hiding the layout of the known continents furthers the story for the benefit of the readers.

I'm not deliberately hiding anything. The version I have of the map needs redoing, a huge task. In its present form I'd need an oversized scanner which I don't have. I'm very particular about my maps. Re-drawing the world map, which I have begun, is damned time consuming. If I could find a decent map-maker program.... as it is, I have to do it by hand.

- We know that Reaper's Gale is set on Lether and that Toll the Hounds will take us back to Genabackis. Are you willing to reveal the locations of the final two volumes, or is that too spoilerish? Will we get to visit Korelri during the forthcoming books?

Korelri is Cam's territory. I can't really give much away, apart from saying that after TOLL we're looking at, geographically, new ground for the last two.

- What archeology dig sites have you been involved in, and what was found?

This could be a long answer. I've worked on anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five projects (brain hurts trying to recall all of them). Some were surveys, which meant walking farmland, riparian brush and beach, mapping petroforms, tipi rings, medicine wheels, pushing through boreal forest and canoeing around precambrian shield lakes and rivers. And finding sites. By way of excavations, see the previous list for environments/settings then add sites in cities, jungle and tropical scrubland (kinda halfway between desert and savanna).

The projects ranged from paleolithic camp-sites, quarries, etc. right on up to fur trade era (1800s). Among those there were some very nice rock art sites for added flavour. Cam and I were co-workers on a number of those projects, by the way. For me, archaeology was always a paid vacation. I thrived working outside all summer long (except one project in the heart of Winnipeg overseeing a crew of fifteen diggers). I loved the camp environment, sleeping in tents, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, chased by bears, and of course hanging out with the rest of the crew (gods the beer we drank). Alas, as King says, time moves on.

- We have been told that Kruppe comes entirely from you. Are there any characters which come entirely from ICE?

Hmm, is this an issue of interest? Let's see. I could be wrong here and there. Cam was Whiskeyjack, Hedge, Trotts, Coll, Murillio, Turban Orr, Simtal, Vorcan, Draconus, Osserc, the Emperor, Dassem Ultor, Rhulad, Fear, Trull (different names for those three), Envy, Baruk, the Seguleh, Kallor, Prince K'azz, Cowl, all of the Crimson Guard with exceptions noted below, Leoman of the Flails, possibly Kalam, the Crippled God, the Queen of Dreams (second time round), and a number of others whom none of you have met yet.

In the context of those above, I was Fiddler, Mallet, Quick Ben, Kruppe, Rallick, Rake, Brood, Dancer/Cotillion; among the Crimson Guard, uhm, Fingers, Blues and Jorrick Sharplance, and a bunch of others.

These were game-created characters. Many others are entirely independent of our gaming, devised for novel/story purposes exclusively (Temper, Kiska, Paran, Crokus/Cutter, Icarium, Mappo, etc)

- Where are all the mages? In Gardens of the Moon, it seems as though each army should have a cadre of High Mages, but by House of Chains, they're a scarcity. Dujek's Host was cut down to Tayschrenn after Tattersail's death, but Tattersail & Calot's earlier conversations implied the presence of more High - and presumably low - Mages. A minor point, but the Malazan Empire seems rather shorthanded in the powerful sorceror department, and I'm curious as to why.

It is indeed short-handed when it comes to high mages, even middling ones. Consider it this way. There are squad level mages in the armies, plenty of them. Most are mediocre but some aren't. Those who aren't have seen with their own eyes the appalling attrition rate among 'noted' mages. Accordingly, they're keeping their heads low because they're not stupid. We touch more on the mage-situation (specifically with Tavore's army) in the next novel. As it stands, apart from Tayschrenn the only other High Mage is one you all know well. Bad times indeed for the empire.

- If you were to read the Malazan books as an independent observer, how would you rate them compared to the other well-known fantasy series?

Difficult for me to say. I guess they're different in some crucial ways, most of which have been discussed by fans at length. I probably play around with subtext a lot more than your run of the mill fantasy novel (at least those I've slogged through out of boredom or some similar reason); but the better ones out there do that as well. I was told, long ago, that the stranger the world you're writing about, the clearer and cleaner the language must be -- 'windexed language' as it used to be called (and maybe still is). But I found a way around that, by making certain characters players of language -- in dialogue and monologue, and with those I can let loose on the linguistic games, puns, etc I can play with self-consciousness and metaphor and deliberately twisted analogy and simile. Messing around with voice is one of things that has always interested me as a writer. Multiple points of view unleash that like the hounds of hell. Also allows for plenty of misdirection, which is even more fun. Of course, every bit of writing, every sentence, every paragraph should function to serve more than one purpose. If there's just one (advancing action) it should probably be short and precise; otherwise if it's establishing setting, or if it's dialogue/monologue/characterisation, it should carry more than one level of intent and communication. That's a rule I follow, any way. Maybe that's unusual among writers, but maybe not.

- When R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness that Comes Before came out, your blurb proclaimed that something remarkable had begun. What are your thoughts on The Thousandfold Thought?

It sits on my desk. I have a hard time reading quality fantasy when I'm trying to write the same. Needless to say, I have amassed quite a backlog.

- Among active authors, you are without a doubt the one that "pimps" other people's works the most: Bakker, Kearney and now David Keck. What is so special about Keck's In the Eye of Heaven?

First off, the notion of 'pimping' is bloody offensive. To date, I have officially provided quotations for six writers: Cam Esslemont, Paul Kearney, Scott Bakker, Tim Lebbon, David Keck and on James Barclay's latest. There is one unofficial salutation that I know of and that's for Glen Cook's latest (it was drawn from an interview I gave -- first I knew of it was when buying the novel at the local bookstore). Does that make me profligate? Not even close. From the beginning I made it plain that I would 'endorse' someone else's work when I enjoyed reading it. I have received other proofs (unsolicited for the most part) that I have not responded to, because the work in question did nothing for me. So, to spare us all from my going on with the first half of your question by verbally ripping your head off, let me proceed to the second one.

I have seen multiple versions of David's novel, including the very first draft when I was an external thesis advisor when David was taking a writing degree in England. With each successive version, I was witness to a burgeoning of craft and vision that ultimately produced one of the grittiest medieval-setting fantasy novels I've ever read. This is dark, dark fantasy. Claustrophobic and compelling at the same time. And since even now, months after reading the last version, it still sits in my head, it clearly made an impression. Hence, I provided a quote.

- Do you know if Tor Books plan to one day reach a point where they and Transworld can simultaneously release a Malazan novel?

That should be coming -- TOR is releasing every eight months. By the tenth we should be in sync.

- Who are your favorite fantasy authors/series?

Oh I've listed them many times before, I'm sure.

- Do you have any idea, using ballpark figures, how many books the Malazan series has sold so far?

No, and I put my fingers in my ears when the subject comes up.

- Any word on The Return of the Crimson Guard by ICE?

It goes, although I could not tell you when it'll be ready. You'll have to ask Cam that.

- What's the latest news on the Chain of Dogs movie?

Right now all of Chris's energies are directed at The Dark. Projects as massive as Chain of Dogs will take time and plenty of groundwork before anything's set. He's got another feature film that Cam and I wrote to deal with first -- since it's already on the Telefilm funding track. And two other FF scripts where we've had a hand in at the writing stage. Writing up the 12-minute episodes for the Dark has been a blast (kinda like Bridgeburners in space!).

Just a couple final comments on the Malazan site. I checked in a while back and followed some fascinating threads (the q&a with Paul Kearney, for example) and one that jumped out at me was the thread on politics in fantasy writing. Cogent stuff. I am aware to some extent of Goodkind's objectivist dogma and his belligerent defense thereof. Years back I read through all of Ayn Rand's stuff, met Leonard Piekoff (the 'inheritor' of the movement at the time) and then, in my usual obsessive fashion, I researched Rand herself. One of her first tenets is: if one perceives a contradiction, one must challenge one's own assumptions. To follow: there are no contradictions. Now, that intrigued me, because clearly she lived in a different world from mine. The final nail in the coffin was reading about her personal life, wherein the greatest contradiction possible was revealed in a torrid, nasty list of backstabbings and betrayals and outright malice. And it occurred to me, if an idea collapses in its practciability then it's got problems (Thatcher took it to a similar extreme when she asserted that society does not exist, then promptly set about destroying every notion of society she could find). While Piekoff was very much a gentleman, most Objectivists OOTC (out of the closet) that I have met have come across as not only belligerent and arrogant, but also diffident, judgemental, inflexible and cold. All this tells me is that the philosophy attracts people with pre-existing proclivities (like Nazis to a swastika); and in the end the philosophy serves to justify the person's most egregious characteristics, no doubt to their own smug satisfaction. Leading me back to re-consideration of the tenet mentioned earlier.

Didactic fiction is a bore. I have always believed that Rand's first novel, We the Living, was also her most successful in the literary sense, all the more impressive for it having been written in her third language. Now, she made no bones in her later novels that the form existed in service to the theme. In We the Living, it was the other way round and for me far more powerful for that reason. A shorthand approach to her form of libertarian take on things can be had by reading Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron' or of course Heinlein's 'The Roads Must Roll.' Both pretty much sum up Rand's ideas and in a lot fewer words.

Didactic fiction is a bore, but it's also impressively popular. Wish-fulfilment writing has always had its place, where the good guys win and the baddies, being weak and leftist and obstinate and pretty much useless in the face of manly rigour, are squashed flat (yeah, been reading Ringo again). Where it fails lies in its author's aversion to challenging his or her own assumptions (ironically) through the sweating-blood process of writing. As far as I'm concerned, if your theme survives the telling of the tale, then you effed up bad -- you weren't ruthless enough with yourself, with your most cherished beliefs. You didn't let your characters challenge them, tear them to pieces (as they are wont to do); you didn't let the story demand its own truth (which may be that there are many truths); in short, you took the coward's approach to writing fiction. But damn, it sells books, don't it?

Cheers to all,


Accepting Questions for a David Eddings Interview

Time Warner Books have just contacted me to inform me that David Eddings has agreed to do an interview. Since he was basically fantasy's biggest draw of the 80s and early 90s, this should be interesting. As always, feel free to submit your questions. I will select the best ones to comprise the Q&A.:-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 31st)

In hardcover:

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is down one position, finishing its 15th week on the NYT list at number 29.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows drops 8 spots, ending its 11th week at number 35. Which means that the novel is no longer on the bestseller list (Top 30).

Nothing to report in paperback. . .