A "Must Own" for all Dungeons and Dragons aficionados!

I received my review copy of Dungeons and Dragons: Art and Arcana a while back and it's been an amazing trip down memory lane ever since I started reading the book. This is a gorgeous oversized high quality production with lots of illustrations. I'm savoring it by only reading a few pages every day, as this is definitely a "must own" title for anyone who, like me, grew up with Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Probably the best Christmas present a fantasy lover could hope for!

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

Here's the blurb:

An illustrated guide to the history and evolution of the beloved role-playing game told through the paintings, sketches, illustrations, and visual ephemera behind its creation, growth, and continued popularity.

From one of the most iconic game brands in the world, this official DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS illustrated history provides an unprecedented look at the visual evolution of the brand, showing its continued influence on the worlds of pop culture and fantasy. Inside the book, you’ll find more than seven hundred pieces of artwork—from each edition of the core role-playing books, supplements, and adventures; as well as Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance novels; decades of Dragon and Dungeon magazines; and classic advertisements and merchandise; plus never-before-seen sketches, large-format canvases, rare photographs, one-of-a-kind drafts, and more from the now-famous designers and artists associated with DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. The superstar author team gained unparalleled access to the archives of Wizards of the Coast and the personal collections of top collectors, as well as the designers and illustrators who created the distinctive characters, concepts, and visuals that have defined fantasy art and gameplay for generations. This is the most comprehensive collection of DandD imagery ever assembled, making this the ultimate collectible for the game’s millions of fans around the world.

Musical Interlude

Yep, that's the tune from the Levi's commercial! =)

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

In hardcover:

Anne Rice's Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat debuts at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

David Weber's Uncompromising Honor debuts at number 9.

Deborah Harkness' Time's Convert is down four spots, finishing the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's The Outsider is down two positions, ending the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 8 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King and Owen King's Sleeping Beauties debuts at number 14 (trade paperback).

Open call for submissions for Zombies Need Brains anthologies

Guest Blog by Joshua Palmatier

Zombies Need Brains—the small press created by me, fantasy author Joshua Palmatier—recently ran a Kickstarter for three new SF&F themed anthologies: PORTALS, TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED, and ALTERNATE PEACE. The Kickstarter was successful, I’m happy to report! (If you missed the Kickstarter, you can still get in on it by preordering the anthologies at: https://squareup.com/market/zombies-need-brains-llc.) One of the things that ZNB does with each of our anthologies is an open call for submissions. Pat asked me by here today to talk about the three themes and where they came from, and to encourage all of you SF&F writers out there to come up with a cool idea/story, write it up, revise it, and submit it! You could be part of one or more of these anthologies! You can find the detailed submission guidelines for the open call at https://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/496776.html, but here’s a description of how the anthology themes came about, just to give you a taste of what we’re looking for:

First, the lead anthology, which is really my own little baby. I grew up reading fantasy novels in the 80s, which means I read a ton of novels with characters from our world transported to another world. Books like Andre Norton’s WITCH WORLD or Stephen Donaldson’s CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT. There were many, many others, but I noticed that I hadn’t seen or read many “portal novels” in either fantasy or sci-fi recently. I loved those stories, so thought, “Why not do an anthology with portals as the theme?” Hence, PORTALS was born (although the original name I had for the anthology was WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE; I think PORTALS is much more concise and explains the theme rather well though). Even though this was my concept, I decided I’d let Patricia Bray and S.C. Butler edit it. I expect I’ll read a fair amount of the submissions to the open call though, perhaps stick my nose in occasionally with a thought. *grin*

The second anthology in the Kickstarter is TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED. This theme came about when I received a spam email from a bank I didn’t have an account at that warned: “Your account will be temporally deactivated unless you respond to this email now and confirm your account! [suspicious link here]” Zombies Need Brains had just released the anthology TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER (to great success) and I immediately thought “SEQUEL”! I added it to my list of potential themes and then promptly forgot about it … until David B. Coe got the same email a few years later (these things never die) and pinged me about it. He’d had the same thought: “SEQUEL!” And so the theme was revived and of course David B. Coe is now editing it with me.

The last anthology for this Kickstarter came out of the blue. I’d honestly been considering doing just two anthologies this time, but Steven H Silver emailed me with this cool concept for an alternate history anthology, ALTERNATE PEACE. Most alternate history novels and stories begin with a change in the outcome of some kind of violent event, such as a different result for a battle or a war. His idea was to find alternate history stories where the divergence from our own timeline came from a peaceful change, such as a discovery (or lack of) in science or a societal culture change. That change could lead to violence, but the change in the timeline itself was peaceful. I liked the concept and thought it fit well with the other two themes, so I decided to add it to this year’s roster.

So that’s how the three themes for this year’s Kickstarter were selected. We’re in the midst of the open call for submissions right now. If one of these themes has sparked a story idea, write it out and send it in! We’d love to see it. Again, the detailed submission guidelines are here: https://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/496776.html. They include the email for where to send submissions, the format the files should be in, along with some restrictions of the types of stories we’re looking for with each anthology.

And if you haven’t heard of the small press Zombies Need Brains before, we are a relatively new press with 10 anthologies under our belts. We’ve been recognized by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SWFA) as a professional market and we have had three of our past stories in anthologies up for the WSFA Small Press Award. You can find out more about us at www.zombiesneedbrains.com.

Quote of the Day

"You might have fifteen guys lined up."

"To get out of work, maybe."

"Guys have been complaining about feeling dizzy."

"Not to me. All I see is purple fungus, crabs, and clap. Only no crabs or clap nowadays. Those temple girls are clean. Anybody does come up with the clap, I'll just let them squeal when they need to piss."

"That's what sets you apart, Croaker. Your boundless empathy."

- GLEN COOK, Port of Shadows (Canada, USA, Europe)

What a pleasure to have Croaker return as a narrator! But this book has been a chore to go through. Unless it ends with an exclamation point, it will be the most disappointing SFF title of the year. . . :/

US cover art and blurb for Mark Lawrence's forthcoming HOLY SISTER

The folks at thatthornguy.com just unveiled the new cover art for the US edition of Mark Lawrence's Holy Sister. The cover is from the artist Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme.

Here's the blurb:

They came against her as a child. Now they face the woman.

The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.

Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.

Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.

The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.

A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download J. D. Horn's The King of Bones and Ashes for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series comes the story of a young witch’s quest to uncover her family’s terrifying history...

Magic is seeping out of the world, leaving the witches who’ve relied on it for countless centuries increasingly hopeless. While some see an inevitable end of their era, others are courting madness—willing to sacrifice former allies, friends, and family to retain the power they covet. While the other witches watch their reality unravel, young Alice Marin is using magic’s waning days to delve into the mystery of numerous disappearances in the occult circles of New Orleans. Alice disappeared once, too—caged in an asylum by blood relatives. Recently freed, she fears her family may be more involved with the growing crisis than she ever dared imagine.

Yet the more she seeks the truth about her family’s troubled history, the more she realizes her already-fragile psyche may be at risk. Discovering the cause of the vanishings, though, could be the only way to escape her mother’s reach while determining the future of all witches.

You can now download Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, opening volume in the incredible Malazan Book of the Fallen series, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order--an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together.

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's Vengeful debuts at number 7.

Deborah Harkness' Time's Convert is down five spots, finishing the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's The Outsider is down one position, ending the week at number 12.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The first novel in the Night Angel trilogy, the breakneck epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Brent Weeks.

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art--and he is the city's most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly--and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics--and cultivate a flair for death.

Devour this blockbuster tale of assassination and magic by Brent Weeks, which has delighted readers all over the world--with over one million copies in print!

Thin Air

When I heard that Richard Morgan would return to science fiction and that his new novel would be set in the same universe as his bestselling book Thirteen, I was pretty excited. The author's fantasy gig did not turn out to be as appealing as it was meant to be and I was pleased to learn that Morgan would revisit his old stomping grounds. Even better, Thin Air reads as a stand-alone work and there is no need to be conversant with what took place in Thirteen to fully enjoy his latest novel. Do read it if you haven't, though, for it is a hell of a book! But you don't have to do it beforehand in order to understand the plot of Thin Air.

Here's the blurb:

Richard Morgan has always been one of our most successful SF authors with his fast-moving and brutal storylines, blistering plots and a powerful social conscience behind his work.

And now he's back, with his first SF novel for eight years . . . and it promises to be a publication to remember.

An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part of a colonial audit team investigating a disappeared lottery winner on Mars. But when Madekwe is abducted, and Hakan nearly killed, the investigation takes him farther and deeper than he had ever expected. And soon Hakan discovers the heavy price he may have to pay to learn the truth.

In terms of worldbuilding, basically all the action takes place on Mars. And though the colonists' days are over and decades behind, the terraforming process was never a true success on the red planet. I wasn't expecting something as in-depth as what Kim Stanley Robinson produced in his celebrated trilogy, but other than mentions of the different gravity and similar details, Mars and its harsh environment never truly came alive the way I expected them to in this book. If anything, it felt as though this plot could have taken place in any city back on Earth. It's not a disappointment per se, and it doesn't take anything away from the overall reading experience. And yet, the author has accustomed us to more impressive worldbuilding in the past.

Hakan Veil is Morgan's typical badass, alpha-male, combat operative protagonist. When he came up with Takeshi Kovacs back in the day, this sort of main character was kind of new and somewhat refreshing. But after all these years and every single one of the author's works featuring a similar protagonist, some readers might find that redundant. Personally, though there is a certain sense of déjà vu regarding the characterization, I had no problem with Veil, for he turned out to be exactly the type of lead this story required. I particularly enjoyed the fact that overriders need to spend months in hibernation, and then wake up in what is known as the "hot" phase. During that period, an overrider like Veil possesses nearly superhuman reflexes and combat abilities. The supporting cast is nothing to write home about, but there are some exceptions such as Madison Madekwe, Nikki Chakana, and Hannu Holmstrom. I could have done without the James Bond-esque sex scenes, but what can you do? It's a Richard Morgan novel, after all!

Given its shortcomings, why then did I enjoy Thin Air to such a degree? I guess it has to do with the multilayered and always surprising plot. With the Earth audit supposedly meant to unveil all the corruption that plagues Mars and the subsequent abduction of Veil's charge, every clue that the overrider unveils reveals another twist. There is balls-to-the-wall action scenes, plenty of political intrigue, corruption at every level, and when the proverbial shit hits the fan Hakan Veil doesn't necessarily know who he can trust. Mind you, it's impossible for the reader to solve the various mysteries that make up the plot of this novel, yet it's always interesting and exciting for us to witness Veil connecting the dots.

Thin Air does suffer from a few pacing issues, especially due to its slow beginning. But once the author has established the overrider's special "running hot" phase and the main storylines, things quicly pick up and the rhythm moves at the very good clip from here on out. The endgame packs a powerful punch that delivers on all fronts and Morgan caps it all off with an exclamation point with a satisfying ending.

Thin Air is nowhere near as good as Altered Carbon, Thirteen, or Broken Angels turned out to be. And yet, given Richard Morgan's talent and originality, even not at his best he can produce better and more engaging books than most of his peers writing today. Moreover, I believe it's unfair to expect everything he writes to capture the imagination of the masses the way he did with Altered Carbon. In the end, if you're looking for an action-packed scifi thriller with a decidedly convoluted plot featuring a kick-ass main character, look no further. Thin Air is exactly what the doctor ordered!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Nick Mamatas' Bullettime for only 2.28$ here.

Here's the blurb:


David Holbrook is a scrawny kid, the victim of bullies, and the neglected son of insane parents.

David Holbrook is the Kallis Episkopos, a vicious murderer turned imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to Eris, the Hellenic goddess of discord.

David Holbrook never killed anyone, and lives a lonely and luckless existence with his aging mother in a tumbledown New Jersey town.

Caught between finger and trigger, David is given three chances to decide his fate as he is compelled to live and relive all his potential existences, guided only by the dark wisdom found in a bottle of cough syrup.

From the author of the instant cult classic Move Under Ground comes a fantasy of blood, lust, destiny, school shootings, and the chance to change your future.

Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne contest winner!

This lucky gal will get her hands on my copy of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne’s Kill the Farm Boy. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Clara Joly, from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Myke Cole's The Armored Saint for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

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.

Dathan Auerbach contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Doubleday, this lucky winner will receive a copy of Dathan Auerbach's Bad Man. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Frank Jarome, from Niles, Ohio, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Billions died, civilization fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland.

Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions protect a last few thousand survivors in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. Scarred and traumatized by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes fight the armies of ravenous ex-humans at their citadel’s gates, lead teams out to scavenge for supplies—and struggle to be the symbols of strength and hope the survivors so desperately need.

But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins. And just a few miles away, another group is slowly amassing power . . . led by an enemy with the most terrifying ability of all.

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

In hardcover:

Deborah Harkness' Time's Convert debuts at number 3. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's The Outsider is down one position, ending the week at number 11.

Dean Koontz's The Forbidden Door is down seven spots, finishing the week at number 12.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fall of Gondolin is down four spots, finishing the week at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 9 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Quote of the Day

May the sun set with the loss of a man over whom no one will weep.

- BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU, A Veil of Spears (Canada, USA, Europe)

Win a copy of Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker's DRACUL

I'm giving away a copy of Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker's Dracul to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a supernatural thriller that reveals not only Dracula’s true origins but Bram Stoker’s—and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.

It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here…

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents’ Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen—a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen—and that the nightmare they’ve thought long ended is only beginning.

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