Quote of the Day

Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.

- MARGARET ATWOOD, The Handmaid's Tale (Canada, USA, Europe).

Can't believe I've waited this long to finally read this novel. It's absolutely amazing! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time, the 2016 winner of theArthur C. Clarke Award, for only 2.49$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Winner of the 30th anniversary Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel.

Adrian Tchaikovksy's critically acclaimed, stand-alone novel Children of Time, is the epic story of humanity's battle for survival on a terraformed planet.

Who will inherit this new Earth?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

The Reality Dysfunction

Okay, you're absolutely right. I'm extremely late to this party. No excuse, really. Especially given the fact that I've owned the old-school Aspect paperback editions published as a two-book cycle for well nigh twenty years. The work that put Peter F. Hamilton on the map and made him a genre powerhouse has been sitting on my shelves for about two decades, and I couldn't possibly tell you why I didn't read it before now.

Perhaps I didn't want to tackle a work of that size, what with the two sequels being even bigger novels? Based on the fact that many readers consider that The Reality Dysfunction could be the very best space opera title ever written, I knew that once I got going I'd have little choice but to read and review the entire trilogy. Put together, we're talking about nearly 4,000 pages. Given the current average size of SFF novels, that would be the equivalent of eight to ten books. Quite time-consuming when my objective is to try to maintain a ratio of about four reviews per month.

But my Central American adventure was approaching and I had still not made my final selection of reading material to bring with me. And considering the number of bus/shuttle/ferry rides I would have to go through, I knew I needed to bring more books than usual. And bring some novels that would keep me busy for a while. Given its size, Hamilton's The Reality Dysfunction fit the bill perfectly.

This will come as no surprise, what with my being twenty-something years late with this review, but though it has some flaws, Peter F. Hamilton's debut was a terrific read!

Here's the blurb:

Space is not the only void…

In AD 2600 the human race is finally beginning to realize its full potential. Hundreds of colonized planets scattered across the galaxy host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. Genetic engineering has pushed evolution far beyond nature’s boundaries, defeating disease and producing extraordinary spaceborn creatures. Huge fleets of sentient trader starships thrive on the wealth created by the industrialization of entire star systems. And throughout inhabited space the Confederation Navy keeps the peace. A true golden age is within our grasp.

But now something has gone catastrophically wrong. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal’s chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race which inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it “The Reality Dysfunction.” It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history.

THE REALITY DYSFUNCTION is a modern classic of science fiction, an extraordinary feat of storytelling on a truly epic scale.

The worldbuilding was truly spectacular and by far my favorite facet of this novel. Hamilton's story is epic in scope and vision, and the universe he created resounds with depth and originality. As a single work, The Reality Dysfunction shows more depth and complexity than even Frank Herbert's Dune and Dan Simmons' Hyperion. The Malazan universe created by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont is the only more impressive setting that I've encountered as a reader, and the two authors have had nearly twenty installments to build upon. What Peter F. Hamilton has achieved with his debut is incredible.

Hamilton has put a lot of thought behind the politics, economics, social issues, religious beliefs, ethnic groups, military power, etc, of all the societies comprising the various star systems that make up the Confederation. Sadly, he had no choice but to rely on massive info-dumps from time to time to convey all that information to his readers. Personally, I didn't mind much, for it allows us to process a lot of data in just a few paragraphs and then get on with the story. Truth be told, there just was no way Hamilton could have streamlined all that information in any other fashion. Hence, it was a necessary evil, but one that doesn't really take anything away from the overall reading experience.

There is too much to love about all the concepts and ideas introduced in The Reality Dysfunction to complain about info-dumps. I mean, the originality and complexity of this creation never fail to astonish. Adamists, Edenists, the Ruin Ring, living starships like the voidhawks and the blackhawks, the germinated and sentient bitek habitats, the mysterious Laymil civilization and what caused its utter destruction, yada yada yada. The list goes on and on and on.

The characterization is superbly done. Indeed, The Reality Dysfunction festures a panoply of well-defined and three-dimensional men and women from all walks of life. No one truly takes center stage, and we witness events unfold through the eyes of many disparate protagonists. My favorites included the rogue Joshua Calvert, the flawed priest Father Horst, the just coming into power Ione Saldana, the mysterious Doctor Alkad Mzu, the satanist Quinn Dexter, and the Edenist Syrinx. But there are a slew of other POV characters throughout the novel, something that doesn't always work well. Perhaps it was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but it often felt like we could have done without certain perspectives at certain junctures in the tale. I understand that the scope of this book is exceptionally vast and that a variety of points of view was required to truly do justice to the unfolding multilayered plotlines. And yet, I feel that The Reality Dysfunction would have benefited from less POVs.

The countless number of perspectives certainly has a negative influence on the pace of this novel. Not that it's dull or anything, but for about 400 pages or so the reader still has no idea what the heck is going on and where this story is going. You keep getting introduced to yet more protagonists whose importance in the greater scheme of things often appears questionable, and it takes more than half of the book for things to finally begin to come together. There are a few rough patches as far as the rhythm is concerned, especially in the first third of the novel, but never for a prolonged period of time. Still, trimming down a few points of view here and there would have helped speed things along.

And don't get me started on the unnecessary sex scenes found throughout The Reality Dysfunction. Not sure if Hamilton tones it down in the two sequels, but in this one he makes Richard Morgan look tame. I don't have anything against sex scenes if they're part of the plot and thus possess a certain importance as far as the story goes. But when they're just pointless, it can get annoying. Why Peter F. Hamilton felt the need to write that many sex scenes and why his editors let him get away with it, I'll never know.

One thing the author does well is space battle sequences. Such scenes were always well-written and exciting. The same goes for all the engagements on Lalonde soil, as the threat there never ceases to expand.

Past the midway point, the proverbial shit hits the fan and all hell breaks lose, and The Reality Dysfunction becomes impossible to put down. Things finally start to make sense and you can see the various storylines coming together. And it all ends with the sort of grand finale that leaves you breathless! Too bad the book started so slow.

Big on ideas and dazzling concepts, vast in scope, featuring compelling heroes and villains, imaginative and ingenuous, The Reality Dysfunction is everything space opera is meant to be!

And yes, I figure I'll now have to read The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God sooner rather than later!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on Octavia E. Butler's Fledgling for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s last novel, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly un-human needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted—and still wants—to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human.

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

In hardcover:

Andy Weir's Artemis is down three positions, ending the week at number 15.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up three spots, finishing the week at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download John Scalzi's Redshirts for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn't be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Redshirts is the winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Extract from Janny Wurts' DESTINY'S CONFLICT

Here's an extract from Janny Wurts' Destiny's Conflict, courtesy of the folks at HarperVoyager. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The long-awaited second book of the fourth story arc - Sword of the Canon - in the epic fantasy series, the Wars of Light and Shadow.

Lysaer’s unstable integrity lies under threat of total downfall, and as his determined protector, Daliana will face the most frightening decision of her young life.

Arithon, Master of Shadow, is marked for death and still hunted, when his critical quest to recover his obscured past entangles him in a web of deep intrigue and ancient perils beyond his imagining.

Elaira’s urgent pursuit of the Biedar Tribes’ secret embroils her in the terrible directive of the Fellowship Sorcerers, while Dakar — the Mad Prophet — confronts the hard reckoning for the colossal mistake of his misspent past, and Tarens is steered by a destiny far from his crofter’s origins.

The penultimate volume of The Wars of Light and Shadow will touch the grand depths of Athera’s endowment, and deliver the thrilling finale of arc IV, the Sword of the Canon.

War, blood, magic, mystery – and the most hidden powers of all – will stand or fall on their hour of unveiling.


Lysaer awoke, groggy, his nostrils clogged with the parched taint of volcanic rocks and blown sulphur. His reflexive cough raised an aching complaint from cramped limbs. He lay bound hand and foot. His stubbled cheek rested against the rough boards of a wagon-bed, splotched by old blood-stains and sliced by the shadows cast by a sturdy, spoked wheel. Dizzy and sick, left with the disjointed recall of a battle, Lysaer squinted through glare and identified the transport the surgeons’ corps sent to move the Light’s wounded.

Which made no sense. He had sustained no injury. Lashed in discomfort, he stirred, annoyed, then lifted his head, furious enough to lambaste the healer who had miscalled his condition. But the wagon loomed empty. No other casualties sprawled, strapped into splints or field bandages. His confused survey met only burlap sacks of provisions, two barrels of ale seared with Cainford tax brands, and a crate of bottled brandy, then the knotted leads fixed to five head of horseflesh, hitched to the cargo rings meant to lash field tents.

Evidently, the dray was not hauling the surgeon’s gear in the baggage train. Lysaer heard no chatter, no gossiping wash-women. The baked air was not clouded with dust from the lance companies’ ranks or popped by the whip-cracks of the war host’s outriders. The vehicle was parked in full sun, in a desert without habitation.

Lysaer gritted his teeth. He tried to roll over, jerked against tight restraint. Whoever bound him also had trussed his frame in oiled canvas. Which extreme measure suggested the horror of madness inflicted by Deshthiere’s curse, and far worse: the recall of a shameful act, fraught with pain sufficient to break him.

He had killed again, wantonly mass murdered innocents in an act beyond human conscience.

The coward in him preferred not to bear what could never be reconciled. Thousands of times, over hundreds of years, the voice of selfcensure condemned him: better he died than survive to fall prey to the next wretched bout of insanity. Logic destroyed the weakness of delusion, that he ever had owned the brute will to defeat the forces that rode him.

Lysaer tested his bonds with a useless tug. Strap leather and rope reinforced with wrapped wire redoubled his crushing despair. Someone’s pitiless foresight already had thwarted the pitch of his desperation. Conjured light could not singe him free. Not without crippling damage to both hands and feet, or risk of igniting the oil-soaked tarp bundled over him. Without recourse, he breathed, while the midday sun scorched the air into ripples. Only pride stifled his frustrated groan.

Lysaer raised his chin. Plagued by a throbbing headache, he surveyed his surroundings to see whose mishandling imposed the ignominy.

Nothing met his eye past the wagon’s edge. Just barren ground: an unbroken flatland of parched lava and gravel. The stabbing flash of flecked mica melted seamlessly into the shimmer of heat-waves. Yet he was not alone. Two of his captors locked horns, beyond view, with a grainy voice Lysaer recognized as Dakar’s shouting over the other’s obstinate protest. “No. That would get us fricassied for betrayal the instant he starts to wake up!”

Dread retreated a fraction. Perhaps his nightmare fear was a phantom. Lysaer eavesdropped, hopeful the dispute haggled over the terms for a ransom by Elkforest’s barbarians.

“I won’t shoulder that risk!” Dakar ranted on. “Yes, I lack the main strength. No ranging ward I might weave can subdue an elemental mastery of light. Be patient for another few days. At least until I’ve ascertained we’re clear of Arithon’s fatal proximity.”

Which callous mention of that accursed name triggered Deshthiere’s geas. Whiplashed by the assault, Lysaer shuddered in agony. The vicious drive to embrace wholesale ruin set his wits under siege. He battled for reason, as always. Clung to the rags of free choice: not to blast everything within reach with a levin bolt charged to melt stone into magma. He suffered in recoil. While the primal torrent surged to consume him, the gall of repeated past failures made a mockery of his resistance.

Torment wrung a gasp from him.

The sound stopped the ongoing argument. Gravel grated. Someone’s scuffed tread approached.

Lysaer twisted for confrontation. Any frail stay to distract him from the drive of the curse.

Glare stabbed his eyes like needles to the brain. Squinting against the white dazzle of sky, he made out the loom of volcanic formations grotesquely weathered and eroded with crumbling arches. Then a shadow flicked over him. A clownish face eclipsed his view, raffishly bearded and wisped with grey hair, streaked by faded chestnut. Cheeks and snub nose wore a peeled scald of sunburn on a countenance stripped of forbearance.

Dakar snapped, “Don’t think to put on your statesman’s mask, Lysaer! I’ll stand for no pretence. Are you able to govern your natural mind? Or speak with frank honesty? Then defend your case. Convince me that you didn’t kill her.”

Which test of trustworthiness needed no name. Viciously personal, the accusation frayed the last thread of sane balance. Lysaer bridled. He sucked an offended breath through clenched teeth. Whether to plead or to scream became moot: as if human language existed to stem the cascade towards disaster.

The idiot spellbinder lectured, oblivious. “This is not Sithaer, but a place in the Scarpdale Waste called the Stacks. Before you cry foul, accept your lot, held under my charge in good faith.”

Lysaer’s temper ignited. His lethal retort in pure light tipped towards destructive release.

Dakar yelped. Eyes widened, he scrambled too late for a stop-gap intervention. Yet what murderous damage might have ensued, his unseen companion’s blow, swung from behind, clipped Lysaer’s nape like Dharkaron’s vengeance.

He dropped limp, hurled back into black-out unconsciousness.

© 2018, Janny Wurts, reprinted with permission of HarperCollins.

To Guard Against the Dark

Right off the bat, I just wanted to point out that this is one of the most atrocious covers ever, and by far the worse cover of all SFF works published in 2017 by major imprints.

Alhough weaker in basically every facet than its predecessor, the second installment, The Gate to Futures Past, ended in such a way that it made it impossible for anyone not to pick up the third volume. Still, it was quite disappointing that subpar execution and characterization ultimately sunk that book and prevented it from being as satisfying as This Gulf of Time and Stars. All the right ingredients were there, no doubt about it. But for some unfathomable reason, Julie E. Czerneda failed to elevate her game and bring that tale to another level.

The end of The Gate to Futures Past was as unexpected as it was startling. All the more so due to the fact that it seemed to bring the entire saga comprised of eight books part of three different trilogies to a sudden ending. By closing the show in such a dramatic fashion, the author made sure that readers had no choice but to pick up the final installment. However, it also raised expectations for the upcoming grand finale. As I mentioned in my last review, it would be interesting to see just how Czerneda would revive this trilogy in To Guard Against the Dark. We could already surmise that Sira and Jason's undying love would be at the heart of it, yet I was looking forward to discovering what the author had in store for her readers.

Unfortunately, to my dismay the third volume was by far the weakest of the series. Indeed, To Guard Against the Dark failed to deliver on virtually every front. It was often a veritable chore to go through and in the end it can't be considered anything but a major disappointment.

Here's the blurb:

The final book in the hard science fiction Reunification trilogy, the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Clan Chronicles.

Jason Morgan is a troubling mystery to friends and enemies alike: once a starship captain and trader, then Joined to the most powerful member of the Clan, Sira di Sarc, following her and her kind out of known space.

Only to return, alone and silent.

But he’s returned to a Trade Pact under siege and desperate. The Assemblers continue to be a threat. Other species have sensed opportunity and threaten what stability remains, including those who dwell in the M’hir. What Morgan knows could save them all, or doom them.

For not all of the Clan followed Sira. And peace isn’t what they seek.

Once again, claiming that Reunification is a hard sci-fi series is a serious misnomer. Actually, all three volumes turned out to be more of a character-driven "light" space opera with an occasional fantasy blend. If anything, these are some of the most accessible science fiction novels I've read in a very long time. So please forget about this "hard sci-fi" label, as nothing could be further from the truth. In terms of depth and originality, it is light years away from the works produced by genre powerhouses such as Hamilton, Reynolds, McDonald, Morgan, and Corey. Speaking of these last two, I was reading Richard Morgan's Broken Angels and James S. A. Corey's Persepolis Rising around the same time I was going through To Guard Against the Dark, and Czerneda's newest couldn't hold a candle to either of them. Not by a long shot.

Julie E. Czerneda has been renowned for her complex worldbuilding and for creating original alien species. It wasn't necessarily the case with the first two volumes, and the same can be said of To Guard Against the Dark. However, we have to keep in mind that the author lay the groundwork for this new trilogy in two past series and most of the worldbuilding has already been established. We do discover secrets about the Assemblers, the Watchers, the Singers, and the M’hir, which was nice. Sadly, the author spent too much time writing scenes showcasing odd and/or cute/funny alien behaviors that bring little or nothing in the greater scheme of things. Everything appeared more than a little contrived to bring storylines together, and the entire execution from start to finish often felt clumsy. Czerneda also relied rather heavily on light-hearted/slapstick humor throughout the novel, which often killed the emotional impact she was hoping to convey in many a scene. I understand that the author was attempting to create a balance between the more dramatic elements of the plot and amusing moments to lighten up the mood. Problem is, said balance is more skewed toward the comical and what was meant to be humorous seldom truly worked for me. As a matter of course, in that regard your mileage may vary and you just might enjoy this book more than I did. Personally, the lack of substance and the poor attempts at humor more or less killed it for me.

Naturally, the bulk of To Guard Against the Dark is told from the perspectives of two main protagonists: Sira di Sarc, with her spirit now transferred into her sister Rael's body to track down the remaining members of the Clan and bring them out of Trade Pact space, and Jason Morgan, the man who used to be her human Chosen. Both remain three-dimensional and likeable characters. As was the case in the first two volumes, the author lays it a bit thick when it comes to the romantic side and what they mean to each other, and that continues to be irritating. Like too many speculative fiction writers, Julie E. Czerneda seems to be unable to kill off major characters and that's a shame. Bringing back Sira and its repercussions on the plot totally killed the unanticipated ending of The Gate to Futures Past and what it meant to the Clan Chronicles. There are additional perspectives, but those POVs were often extraneous in nature, at times confusing, and ultimately they just bogged down the narrative.

There is no way to sugarcoat it. The pace throughout To Guard Against the Dark was terrible. Though not perfect as far as rhythm went, both This Gulf of Time and Stars and The Gate to Futures Past featured enough substance and mystery and depth to keep things interesting even when they suffered from pacing issues. Not so in this final installment. Too many scenes felt completely superfluous and redundant. So much so that To Guard Against the Dark never quite gained any momentum. It frequently felt as though Czerneda made it all up as she went along.

This lack of momentum brought us to an endgame that lacked any sort of emotional punch. Much like the rest of the novel, the finale is a little bland and uninspired. Given the author's unwillingness to kill off her protagonists, it was quite predictable that this ending would not be the end per se. And it wasn't.

When all is said and done, this final volume didn't live up to expectations generated by This Gulf of Time and Stars and The Gate to Futures Past. Which is too bad, for early on the series showed great promise. I'm not sure what went wrong along the way, but To Guard Against the Dark turned out to be extremely disappointing.

The final verdict: 4/10

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

Kushiel's Legacy orchestral soundtrack

Wow! Listen to this soundcloud! =)

Film music composer Christy Carew Marshall imagines what a full orchestral score to key scenes of Jacqueline Carey's incredible Kushiel's Legacy series would sound like. Scenes inspired by her iconic books Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen and Kushiel's Avatar.

Recorded in Skopje, Macedonia by the FAME's Project Orchestra
Conducted by Oleg Kondratenko
Engineered by FAME's Project
Mixed and mastered by Jeremy Underwood

Composed and Orchestrated by Christy Carew Marshall

Harp performed and recorded by Ivory McCann in New Orleans, LA

Special thanks to Jacqueline Carey, Tia Mansouri, Ivory McCann, Jeremy Underwood, Laurent Koppitz, Diana Jeong, Miriam Mayer, Fabrizio Mancinelli, Ian and Patti Armstrong, Brian Nelson, Tim and Fiona Carew, Christopher Tin, John and Lola Debney, and Thomas Goss. Cover art Copyright Diana Ming Jeong and Tia Mansouri, used with permission.

Extract from Jo Walton's STARLINGS

Here's an extract from Jo Walton's Starlings, compliments of the folks at Tachyon Publications. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

An intimate first flight of short fiction from award-winning novelist Jo Walton (Among Others, The King’s Peace, Necessity).

An ancient coin cyber-spies on lovers and thieves. The magic mirror sees all but can do nothing. A cloned savior solves a fanatically-inspired murder. Three Irish siblings thieve treasures with bad poetry and the aid of the Queen of Cats.

With these captivating initial glimpses into her storytelling psyche, Jo Walton shines through subtle myths and reinvented realities. Through eclectic stories, subtle vignettes, inspired poetry, and more, Walton soars with humans, machines, and magic—rising from the every day into the universe itself.


Once upon a time, a courting couple were walking down the lane at twilight, squabbling. “Useless, that’s what you are,” the girl said. “Why, I could make a man every bit as good as you out of two rhymes and a handful of moonshine.”

“I’d like to see you try,” said the man.

So the girl reached up to where the bright silver moon had just risen above the hills and she drew together a handful of moonshine. Then she twisted together two rhymes to run right through it and let it go. There stood a man, in a jacket as violet as the twilight, with buttons as silver as the moon. He didn’t stand there long for them to marvel at him. Off he went down the lane ahead of them, walking and dancing and skipping as he went, off between the hedgerows, far ahead, until he came to the village.


It had been a mild afternoon, for spring, and the sun had been kind, so a number of people were sitting outside the old inn. The door was open, and a stream of gold light and gentle noise was spilling out from inside. The man made of moonshine stopped and watched this awhile, and then an old widower man began to talk to him. He didn’t notice that the moonshine man didn’t reply, because he’d been lonely for talking since his wife died, and he thought the moonshine man’s smiles and nods and attention made him quite the best conversationalist in the village. After a little while sitting on the wooden bench outside the inn, the old widower noticed the wistful glances the moonshine man kept casting at the doorway. “Won’t you step inside with me?” he asked, politely. So in they went together, the man made of moonshine smiling widely now, because a moonshine man can never go under a roof until he’s been invited.

Inside, there was much merriment and laughter. A fire was burning in the grate and the lamps were lit. People were sitting drinking ale, and the light was glinting off their pewter tankards. They were sitting on the hearthside, and on big benches set around the tables, and on wooden stools along the bar. The inn was full of villagers, out celebrating because it was a pretty day and the end of their work week. The man made of moonshine didn’t stop to look around, he went straight over to the fireplace.

Over the fireplace was a mantelpiece, and that mantelpiece was full of the most extraordinary things. There was a horn reputed to have belonged to a unicorn, and an old sword from the old wars, and a dragon carved out of oak wood, and a candle in the shape of a skull, which people said had once belonged to a wizard, though what a wizard would have wanted with such a thing I can’t tell you. There was a pot the landlord’s daughter had made, and a silver cup the landlord’s father had won for his brewing. There were eggs made of stone and a puzzle carved of wood that looked like an apple and came apart in pieces, a little pink slipper said to have belonged to a princess, and an iron-headed hammer the carpenter had set down there by mistake and had been looking for all week.

From in between a lucky horseshoe and a chipped blue mug, souvenir of a distant port, brought back by a sailor years ago, the moonshine man drew out an old fiddle. This violin had been made long ago in a great city by a master craftsman, but it had come down in the world until it belonged to a gypsy fiddler who had visited the inn every spring. At last he had grown old and died on his last visit. His violin had been kept carefully in case his kin ever claimed it, but nobody had ever asked for it, or his body either, which rested peacefully enough under the grass beside the river among the village dead.

As soon as the man made of moonshine had the violin in his hands he began to play. The violin may have remembered being played like that long ago, in its glory days, but none of the villagers had ever heard music like it, so heart-lifting you couldn’t help but smile, and so toe-tapping you could hardly keep still. Some of the young people jumped up at once and began to dance, and plenty of the older ones joined them, and the rest clapped along in time. None of them thought anything strange about the man in the coat like a violet evening.


It happened that in the village, the lord of the manor’s daughter had been going about with the blacksmith’s apprentice. The lord of the manor had heard about it and tried to put a stop to it, and knowing his daughter only too well, he had spoken first to the young man. Then the young man had wondered aloud if he was good enough for the girl, and as soon as he doubted, she doubted too, and the end of the matter was that the match was broken off.

Plenty of people in the village were sorry to see it end, but sorriest was a sentimental old woman who had never married. In her youth, she had fallen in love with a sailor. He had promised to come back, but he never did. She didn’t know if he’d been drowned, or if he’d met some prettier girl in some faraway land, and in the end the not knowing was sadder than the fact of never seeing him again. She kept busy, and while she was waiting, she had fallen into the habit of weaving a rose wreath for every bride in the village. She had the best roses for miles around in the garden in front of her cottage, and she had a way with weaving wreaths too, twining in daisies and forget-me-nots so that each one was different. They were much valued, and often dried and cherished by the couples afterward. People said they brought luck, and everyone agreed they were very pretty. Making them was her great delight. She’d been looking forward to making a wreath for such a love match as the lord of the manor’s daughter and the blacksmith’s apprentice; it tickled her sentimental soul.


The little man made of moonshine played the violin, and the lord of the manor’s daughter felt her foot tap, and with her toe tapping, she couldn’t help looking across the room at the blacksmith’s apprentice, who was standing by the bar, a mug in his hand, looking back at her. When he saw her looking he couldn’t help smiling, and once he smiled, she smiled, and before you knew it, they were dancing. The old woman who had never married smiled wistfully to see them, and the lonely widower who had invited the little man in looked at her smiling and wondered. He knew he would never forget his wife, but that didn’t mean he could never take another. He saw that smile and remembered when he and the old woman were young. He had never taken much notice of her before, but now he thought that maybe they could be friends.

All this time nobody had been taking much notice of the moonshine man, though they noticed his music well enough. But now a girl came in through the back door, dressed all in grey. She had lived alone for five years, since her parents died of the fever. She was twenty-two years old and kept three white cows. Nobody took much notice of her, either. She made cheese from her cows, and people said yes, the girl who makes cheese, as if that was all there was to her. She was plain and lonely in her solitary life, but she couldn’t see how to change it, for she didn’t have the trick of making friends. She always saw too much, and said what she saw. She came in, bringing cheese to the inn for their ploughman’s lunches, and she stopped at the bar, holding the cheese in her bag, looking across the room at the violinist. Her eyes met his, and as she saw him, he saw her. She began to walk across the room through the dancers, coming toward him.

Just as she had reached him and was opening her mouth to speak, the door slammed back and in walked the couple who had been quarrelling in the lane, their quarrel all made up and their arms around each other’s waist. The moonshine man stopped playing as soon as he saw them, and his face, which had been so merry, became grave. The inn fell quiet, and those who had been dancing were still.

“Oh,” said the girl, “here’s the man I made out of two rhymes and a handful of moonshine! It was so irresponsible of me to let him go wandering off into the world! Who knows what might have come of it? But never mind, no harm done.”

Before anyone could say a word, she reached toward him, whipped out the two rhymes, then rubbed her hands to dust off the moonshine, which vanished immediately in the firelight and lamplight of the bright inn parlour.

Cover art and blurb for Myke Cole's forthcoming THE QUEEN OF CROWS

The folks at barnesandnoble.com have just unveiled the cover art and official blurb for Myke Cole's forthcoming The Queen of Crows. The artwork is by artist Tommy Arnold and the design by Christine Foltzer.

Here's the blurb (Warning: Spoilers):

Myke Cole, star of CBS’s Hunted and author of the Shadow Ops series is here with book two of the Sacred Throne Trilogy: The Queen of Crows.

In this epic fantasy sequel, Heloise stands tall against overwhelming odds—crippling injuries, religious tyrants—and continues her journey from obscurity to greateness with the help of alchemically-empowered armor and an unbreakable spirit.

No longer just a shell-shocked girl, she is now a figure of revolution whose cause grows ever stronger. But the time for hiding underground is over. Heloise must face the tyrannical Order and lay siege to the Imperial Palace itself.

You can read an extract from The Armored Saint here.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

A stunning new epic fantasy from two-time Hugo Award winner Kameron Hurley.

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father's people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise - and many will perish.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 15th)

In hardcover:

Andy Weir's Artemis is down six positions, ending the week at number 12.

Naomi Alderman's The Power debuts at number 15.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up six spots, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The Armored Saint

If you've been following the Hotlist for a while, you have heard me complain that it often feels as though Myke Cole remains one of the genre's best-kept secrets. Not everyone is a military fantasy fan, yet his two series are as accessible as they are captivating. It's been years since I last encountered a fantasy series with so much mass appeal and there's nothing I would like more than to see these books get more widely read and enjoyed. Both the Shadow Ops and the Gemini Cell trilogies were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads. From early on, you could tell that Cole would become one of speculative fiction's brightest new voices. And he did. In this house at least.

Fast forward a couple of years and all six of the author's novels ended up in my SFF Top 10 of the year they were released. Alas, Ace and Headline declined to publish another series set in the same universe, so there won't be any additional Shadow Ops installments for the foreseeable future. It's a shame, as far as I'm concerned, for Cole writes military fantasy with heart and soul. With things pretty much up in the air, though Cole is currently shopping around material for potential book deals, The Sacred Throne, this new fantasy trilogy published by Tor.com, might be his only speculative fiction work coming out in the next two or three years.

Bummer, that goes without saying. But a new Myke Cole book is always something to look forward to! And yet, The Armored Saint is a totally different creature, which means that it can almost be considered another debut for the author. Indeed, Cole is switching subgenres and it's not just a question of writing a new series set in a new setting. It remains to be seen whether or not military fantasy readers will be willing to give The Armored Saint a shot. Especially since Cole's political posts on social media have already cost him a chunk of his readership. There are other aspects that might make existing fans reticent, chief among them the relatively small size of this new work and the expensive hardcover price tag attached to it. I mean, they may call it a novel, but weighing in at 208 pages makes The Armored Saint more of a big novella or novelette. Regarding the price, the hard copy will be more than twice the price of his mass market paperback releases and for about half the papgecount. In terms of value for your hard-earned dollar, that might scare some readers away. Hopefully not, but these are elements that will definitely play against the author and Tor.com.

Still, this one was billed as epic fantasy/grimdark, which means that it could win Myke Cole a lot of new fans that don't necessarily read military fantasy. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to reading The Armored Saint.

Here's the blurb:

Myke Cole, star of CBS's Hunted and author of the Shadow Ops series, debuts the Sacred Throne epic fantasy trilogy with The Armored Saint, a story of religious tyrants, arcane war-machines, and underground resistance that will enthrall epic fantasy readers of all ages.

In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

First of all, it must be said that this is not grimdark. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Not sure where that claim came from, but it is totally false. No matter from which angle you look at it, and regardless of what can ultimately be considered grimdark or not, The Armored Saint just isn't grimdark. Nor is it truly epic fantasy, at least not this first volume. True, there are elements that, if built upon, could become so down the line. Though the size of these novels (if subsequent installments are about the same length at this book) might preclude their ever being considered epic fantasy. Not sure who applied these labels when the marketing for The Armored Saint began and it probably doesn't matter at this point. It's more dark fantasy than anything else, if you ask me. It will be interesting to see what the two sequels bring to the dance because this one is more of a brief introduction than a stand-alone work.

The worldbuilding was compelling and showed a lot of promise. Sadly, Cole played his cards way too close to his chest and didn't elaborate on most concepts and ideas that he introduced. Given the novelette-length of this work, one has to wonder why this is the case. I mean, a few more pages and more information would have elevated this tale to another level. Of course, forthcoming installments may do just that. But it makes me wonder why so little was revealed in The Armored Saint. The more absorbing the first volume, the more chances are that readers will line up for the sequels. The premise is simple enough. The backdrop for Heloise's story is a pseudo-medieval environment in which everyone is living under the yoke of an oppressive empire whose rule is enforced by a religious order bound by the Emperor's Holy Writ. Suffer no wizard to live. Such is the Order's most important rule. Simple and straightforward, or so it appears. Yet I would have liked to discover more about the Emperor, the Palantines, the Order, with its Sojourners and Pilgrims, the war in which Heloise's father and other villagers fought in, the war-machines inside the vault, etc. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

In terms of atmosphere, the overall feel made me think of Jeff Saylards' Bloodsounder's Arc and Brandon Sanderson's early works like Elantris and the Mistborn series. Regarding Sanderson, the resemblance has more to do with the fact that everything is more or less black-and-white and not with any of the storylines. This was a bit of a disappointment for me, as Myke Cole usually writes in shades of gray and there is always more than meets the eye. Another inspiration has to be the Warhammer 40,000 books and universe.

I'm surprised that very few people mentioned this, but the writing is clearly YA in style and tone. And a bona fide YA effort à la Suzanne Collins, not something an author wrote, toned down and dumbed down a bit, hoping to appeal to a younger readership. My question is: Why not mention this? Afraid of the YA stigma? I mean, this is the most lucrative market out there for speculative fiction writers, so why not try to pitch this one to the appropriate audience? It would make perfect sense. Perhaps because of the budding lesbianism found in this tale? I have no idea. In the end, this explained why The Armored Saint lacked all the shades of gray and substance that has made Myke Cole one of my favorite SFF authors writing today. Too black-and-white and straightforward, it doesn't deliver the way Cole's novels habitually do. Still, I'm persuaded that this could be a huge commercial success if they could tap into the YA market.

Heloise started off as a simple village girl who is forced to overcome great odds to become the heroine of this book. Her heart is always in the right place and she means well, but I do have a problem with her. Like most teenagers, she lets her emotions get the better of her and that puts her into problematic situations. Trouble is, Heloise's well-intentioned stupidity and headstrong stubbornness have cost the lives of two of her closest friends, and her actions have destroyed the lives of everyone she has ever known. True, she has shown valor and bravery. But that doesn't mean much if it ends up costing the life of everyone who has ever been dear to you. Especially given the fact that she's responsible for everything that took place. Loyalty, forbidden love, and friendship are themes that are explored throughout The Armored Saint, and I'm curious to see where Cole is going with this story.

There are no pacing issues. The novelette format precludes pitfalls such as massive info-dumps and the rhythm keeps the tale moving at a good clip. Unfortunately, the ending was telegraphed by the midway point of the book, which made the endgame quite predictable. This was disappointing, as Myke Cole usually keeps readers guessing till the very end.

When all is said and done, The Armored Saint was little more than a short introduction meant to establish the premise and the characters. Time will tell if the upcoming installments will elevate this trilogy to another level of originality and quality. And though I may not have enjoyed this one as much as I wanted, experience has taught me to never to bet against Myke Cole and I'm curious to read the second volume.

The final verdict: 7/10

You can read an extract from the book here.

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on Robert R. McCammon's The Wolf's Hour for only 1.99$ here. It's considered one of the best werewolf novels ever written!

Here's the blurb:

Master spy, Nazi hunter—and werewolf on the prowl—in occupied Paris: A classic of dark fantasy from a Bram Stoker Award—winning author.

Allied Intelligence has been warned: A Nazi strategy designed to thwart the D-Day invasion is underway. A Russian émigré turned operative for the British Secret Service, Michael Gallatin has been brought out of retirement as a personal courier. His mission: Parachute into Nazi-occupied France, search out the informant under close watch by the Gestapo, and recover the vital information necessary to subvert the mysterious Nazi plan called Iron Fist.

Fearlessly devoted to the challenge, Gallatin is the one agent uniquely qualified to meet it—he’s a werewolf.

Now, as shifting as the shadows on the dangerous streets of Paris, a master spy is on the scent of unimaginable evil. But with the Normandy landings only hours away, it’s going to be a race against time. For Gallatin, caught in the dark heart of the Third Reich’s twisted death machine, there is only one way to succeed. He must unleash his own internal demons and redefine the meaning of the horror of war.

From the award-winning author of Swan Song and Boy’s Life, this is a “powerful novel [that] fuses WWII espionage thriller and dark fantasy. Richly detailed, intricately plotted, fast-paced historical suspense is enhanced by McCammon’s unique take on the werewolf myth” (Publishers Weekly).

Win Sci-Fi: A Movie Top Score Game

I have a set of the Sci-Fi: A Movie Top Score Game up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Laurence King Publishing. Follow this link for more info about this card game.

Here's the blurb:

People of earth, prepare yourselves for the ultimate showdown of classic sci-fi films. Who has the best special effects – Avatar or Gravity? Who has the biggest cult following – The Matrix or ET? Which film best predicted the future – Blade Runner or 2001: Space Odyssey? Journey to a land far, far away with this set of 32 intergalactic trump cards.

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 8th)

In hardcover:

Andy Weir's Artemis is down two positions, ending the week at number 6.

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties is down three positions, ending the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 4 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one spot, finishing the week at number 9 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award for best novel, you can now download Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when he is approached by a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet; nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare—and humankind’s most impossible dream.

You can also download R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A score of centuries has passed since the First Apocalypse. The No-God has been vanquished and the thoughts of men have turned, inevitably, to more worldly concerns...Drusas Achamian, tormented by 2,000 year old nightmares, is a sorcerer and a spy, constantly seeking news of an ancient enemy that few believe still exists. Ikurei Conphas, nephew to the Nansur Emperor, is the Exalt-General of the Imperial Army and a military genius. He plots to conquer the known world for his Emperor and dreams of the throne for himself. Maithanet, mysterious and charismatic, is spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples. He seeks a Holy War to cleanse the land of the infidel. Cnaiur, Chieftain of the Utemot, is a Scylvendi barbarian. Rejected by his people, he seeks vengeance against the former slave who slew his father, and disgraced him in the eyes of his tribe. Into this world steps Anasurimbor Kellhus, the product of two thousand years of breeding and a lifetime of training in the ways of thought, limb, and face. Steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men - even great men - means little when the world itself may soon be torn asunder. Behind the politics, beneath the imperialist expansion, amongst the religious fervour, a dark and ancient evil is reawakening. After two thousand years, the No-God is returning. The Second Apocalypse is nigh. And one cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten...

Altered Carbon: Official Trailer

Netflix just released the first full trailer for the upcoming TV adaptation of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. Looks good! =)

Broken Angels

Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon is definitely one of the best scifi novels I have read in my life. As a seamless blend of science fiction, hard-boiled crime, and cyberpunk, that book was amazing. The more so when considering that this was the author's debut! Intelligent, intriguing, inventive, exciting; it was everything you want a science fiction novel to be.

Although I own all the Takeshi Kovacs books, for some unfathomable reason I never gave the sequels a shot. Most probably because I'm an idiot. After all, I waited for years before reading Altered Carbon. Now, with all that's being said about the upcoming Altered Carbon Netflix TV series, I knew it was high time to get reacquainted with Kovacs. And I'm sure glad I did, for Broken Angels was nearly as great as its predecessor!

Here's the blurb:

Welcome back to the brash, brutal new world of the twenty-fifth century: where global politics isn’t just for planet Earth anymore; and where death is just a break in the action, thanks to the techno-miracle that can preserve human consciousness and download it into one new body after another.

Cynical, quick-on-the-trigger Takeshi Kovacs, the ex-U.N. envoy turned private eye, has changed careers, and bodies, once more . . . trading sleuthing for soldiering as a warrior-for-hire, and helping a far-flung planet’s government put down a bloody revolution.

But when it comes to taking sides, the only one Kovacs is ever really on is his own. So when a rogue pilot and a sleazy corporate fat cat offer him a lucrative role in a treacherous treasure hunt, he’s only too happy to go AWOL with a band of resurrected soldiers of fortune. All that stands between them and the ancient alien spacecraft they mean to salvage are a massacred city bathed in deadly radiation, unleashed nanotechnolgy with a million ways to kill, and whatever surprises the highly advanced Martian race may have in store. But armed with his genetically engineered instincts, and his trusty twin Kalashnikovs, Takeshi is ready to take on anything—and let the devil take whoever’s left behind.

Having read Altered Carbon eight years ago, I was scared that I'd be completely lost when I sat down to read Broken Angels. Thankfully, though I'm not sure if the same can be said about Market Forces and Woken Furies, the first two novels are mostly stand-alone titles that can be read in whatever order without having read the other. Other than the concept of sleeves, whereby an individual's consciousness and personality can be stored inside a brain and downloaded into another body, and the fact that they feature the same main character, both books are totally different beasts.

Indeed, while Altered Carbon was a science fiction/hard-boiled noir/cyberpunk hybrid, stylistically Broken Angels is more military science fiction and space opera. This sequel is more akin to James S. A. Corey's The Expanse and Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space sequence. And given how much I've enjoyed these two series, it's no wonder I loved Morgan's second Kovacs book as much as I did.

I'm too far removed from Altered Carbon to recall clearly, but I don't remember Martian culture playing any role in that novel. It lies at the heart of the entire worldbuilding of Broken Angels. And the more the author unveils about the Martians and their ancient artifacts, the more fascinating it gets. Although their civilization disappeared millennia ago, leaving behind alien technology scattered across the galaxy, mankind used Martian charts and undeciphered knowledge to reach the stars. Many of those primeval relics are priceless, but a group of archaeologists may have made the biggest discovery in the history of our existence. Trouble is, that prize is now off-limits due to a violent war on Sanction IV. So what began as a bona fide military scifi yarn gradually evolves into a space opera tale as Takeshi Kovacs and his crew attempt to retrieve that treasure. And that's when Broken Angels levels up and becomes impossible to put down. Corporate greed and the tragedy and senselessness of war are themes that are explored throughout the book and give this one its distinctive flavor.

The characterization is once again "top notch." First person narratives can be tricky things, but it's hard not to like Kovacs' no-nonsense style. There is a lot more to this protagonist than meets the eye, and I was pleased that Morgan revealed a lot more about his backstory and his past as an Envoy in this second installment. Though Kovacs ain't the most likeable of characters, it's all but impossible not to root for the guy. Once more in this sequel, Richard Morgan came up with an impressive cast of secondary characters. Matthias Hand made a wonderful greedy corporate executive and I enjoyed the back-and-forth between him and Kovacs. The Soul Market scene was awesome, and the crew of badass mecenaries that accompanies Kovacs on his mission were great. They start off as more or less generic kick-ass soldiers, yet Morgan does a good job fleshing them out and giving them substance. Tanya Wardani and Jan Schneider both play important roles in this one and the story wouldn't have been the same without them. As was the case with Altered Carbon, the author somehow managed to give life and personality to minor characters that don't necessarily play great roles in the bigger scheme of things, yet they feel important in the scenes in which they appear. Have to mention the long and explicit and over-the-top and totally unnecessary sex scenes that Richard Morgan is now renowned for. Yep, there is another one in this book.

The tragedies of war and the lofty and often disingenuous ideals behind such conflicts, corporate avarice and excess, deadly nanotechnology and futuristic military tech, mysterious alien artifacts from an advanced civilization so far ahead of mankind it defies imagination, a quest to lay claim to an ancient starship before dying of radiation sickness, voodoo magic, exciting battle and action sequences, and a bodycount that even GRRM would find imposing; that's Broken Angels in a nutshell.

Deserves the highest possible recommendation! If you have yet to read Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, do yourself a favor and do so ASAP!

The final verdict: 9/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Chuck Wendig Under the Empyrean Sky for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Fear the Corn.

Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It's the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow—and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables. But Cael's tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He's sick of the mayor's son besting Cael's crew in the scavenging game. And he's worried about losing Gwennie—his first mate and the love of his life—forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry—angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn't seem upset about any of it. When Cael and his crew discover a secret, illegal garden, he knows it’s time to make his own luck...even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.

You can also download L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s The Magic of Recluce for only 2.99$ here!

And here's the blurb for The Magic of Recluce:

With The Magic of Recluce, L.E. Modesitt made his impressive hardcover debut, breaking out in wide scope and grand scale with a novel in the great tradition of the war between good and evil in a wonderful fantasy world. Modesitt had been producing fast-paced, slickly-written novels of SF adventure, often compared to the work of Keith Laumer and Gordon R. Dickson. Then, in his biggest and best book yet, he broadened his canvas and turned to fantasy and magic, stepping immediately into the front rank of contemporary fantasy writers.

The Magic of Recluce is a carefully-plotted fantasy novel of character about the growth and education of a young magician. In it, Modesitt confronts real moral issues with gripping force, builds atmosphere slowly and convincingly and gives his central character, Lerris, real intellectual challenges. This is the kind of highly-rationalized fantasy that Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson write when they write fantasy, colorful and detailed.

He is given the standard two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. He chooses dangergeld.

Though magic is rarely discussed openly in Recluce, it becomes clear, when Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, that he has a natural talent for it during his weapons lessons. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. He must learn to use his powers in an orderly way or fall prey to Chaos.

Lerris may resent order, but he has no difficulty choosing good over evil. As he begins his lonely journey, he falls into the company of a gray magician, once of Recluce, who tutors him in the use of magic and shows him some of the devastation caused by the Chaos Wizards in the great wars between Chaos and Order of past times.

Lerris pursues a quest for knowledge and power that leads him across strange lands, through the ghostly ruins of the old capitol of Chaos, down the white roads of the Chaos Wizards to a final battle with the archenemy of Order, discovering in the end true control of magic, true love, and the beginning of true wisdom. An epic adventure, The Magic of Recluce0, is a triumph of fantasy.

The Magic of Recluce is the first book of the saga of Recluce.

Katherine Arden contest winner!

This lucky gal will receive my review copy of Katherine Arden's The Girl in the Tower! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Lila Scott, from Buffalo, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of C. J. Cherryh's Fortress in the Eye of Time for only 2.49$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Deep in an abandoned, shattered castle, an old man of the Old Magic muttered almost forgotten words. His purpose -- to create out of the insubstance of the air, from a shimmering of light and a fluttering of shadows. that most wonderous of spells, a Shaping. A Shaping in the form of a, young man who will be sent east on the road the old was to old to travel. To right the wrongs of a long-forgotten wizard war, and call new wars into being. Here is the long-awaited major new novel from one of the brightest stars in the fantasy and science fiction firmament.C.J.Cherryh's haunting story of the wizard Mauryl, kingmaker for a thousand years of Men, and Tristen, fated to sow distrust between a prince and his father being. A tale as deep as legend and a intimate as love, it tells of a battle beyond Time, in which all Destiny turns on the wheel of an old man's ambition, a young man's innocence, and the unkept promised of a king to come.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 1st)

In hardcover:

Andy Weir's Artemis is up one position, ending the week at number 4.

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties is up one position, ending the week at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 4 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is up one position, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down one spot, finishing the week at number 10 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

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

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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