The King Without a Kingdom


As was the case with many other speculative fiction readers, I reckon it's thanks to George R. R. Martin that I discovered the excellent The Accursed Kings by French author Maurice Druon. As the main inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire, I was eager to find out more about this series. The first two volumes were very good, but the third installment failed to live up to the expectations generated by its predecessors. The Royal Succession was a return to form for the author and I was looking forward to see if the fifth book would offer the same satisfying reading experience.

Ultimately, The She-Wolf didn't stand as well on its own as I thought it would. Druon continued to weave a vast number of threads in what is a great tapestry of men, women, and events that will shake the foundations of the kingdom of France and the rest of Europe. That hasn't changed. And yet, focusing more on the demise of King Edward II instead of the intrigues of the King of France's court, the fifth volume felt like some sort of interlude and was a bit discordant in the greater scheme of things. The following book, The Lily and the Lion, turned out to be more history textbook than novelization, and as such it was a disappointment.

Still, with family rivalries, politicking, betrayals and back-stabbings, ASOIAF fans will find a lot to love about Maurice Druon's The Accursed Kings. And given the fact that these books were first published back in the 50s, they have definitely aged well and are as easy to read as any contemporary novels on the market today. I was curious to see how the author would close the show in the final volume. Alas, Druon elected to change narrative form and this more or less killed The King Without a Kingdom from the get-go. It is by far the weakest in the series so far.

So much so that, like Glen Cook's recent Black Company novel, I suggest that readers simply skip it. It's a shame, but I now understand why it took so long for them to translate this final installment in English.

Here's the blurb:

Available for the first time in English, THE KING WITHOUT A KINGDOM is the seventh and final volume of The Accursed Kings series.

The reign of the Capetian kings has ended and John II, ‘The Good’, takes the throne.

Under the leadership of this vain, cruel, incompetent monarch The Hundred Years War escalates and England and France begin to tear each other apart. Warring factions plunder the land, famine threatens the people and the Black Death spreads far and wide. France is bleeding to death around the new king…

The structure of these novels has always revolved around a number of disparate POVs which allow readers to witness events through the eyes of a variety of protagonists. This helped generate more emotional impact, as you saw the web of scandal and intrigue weaving itself throughout all the storylines. This was what made the series so memorable, no question. Sadly, Druon decided to forgo this tried and true recipe and he went for a completely different narrative form. One that is so divergent and off-putting that it makes you want to throw the book across the room just a few chapters in.

Indeed, instead of going for an omiscient narrator, this time around the author opted for the first-person perspective of pompous Cardinal Talleyrand-Périgord, who recounts the catastrophic reign of John II and the escalation of the Hundred Years War. The narrative is little more than the vapid and pretentious recollections the cardinal shares with his newphew as his grand entourage travels toward Metz. Although the events elaborated upon are fascinating, the papal legate's monotonous monologues often make you want to open your veins in frustration.

As always, I found the translation to be quite good. As was the case with the other installments, it is at times too literal, creating occasional odd turns of phrase. But other than that, there's absolutely nothing to complain about. Instead of relying on info-dumps, Druon once again elected to go for footnotes sending you to the back of the novel for more historical background and clarification. In the past, this usually maintained a fluid pace throughout.

Unfortunately, The King Without a Kingdom failed to deliver on basically all fronts. To a certain extent, this seventh installment is a bit of a travesty, an inferior work that doesn't deserve to be part of The Accursed Kings.

The final verdict: 4/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Peter F. Hamilton contest winner!

This lucky gal will get her hands on my advance reading copy of Peter F. Hamilton's Salvation Lost. For more info, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Christine Thompson, from Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Kay Kenyon's At the Table of Wolves for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets X-Men in a classic British espionage story. A young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England.

In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it’s underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall.

Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill—drawing out truths that people most wish to hide—is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall—who is believed to be a German spy.

As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England’s fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England’s Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Tim Powers' Dinner at Deviant's Palace for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award: In a nuclear-ravaged California, a humble musician sets out on a dangerous quest to rescue his lost love from the clutches of a soul-devouring religious cult.

In the twenty-second century, the City of Angels is a tragic shell of its former self, having long ago been ruined and reshaped by nuclear disaster. Before he was in a band in Ellay, Gregorio Rivas was a redeemer, rescuing lost souls trapped in the Jaybirds cult of the powerful maniac Norton Jaybush. Rivas had hoped those days were behind him, but a desperate entreaty from a powerful official is pulling him back into the game. The rewards will be plentiful if he can wrest Urania, the official’s daughter and Gregorio’s first love, from Jaybush’s sinister clutches. To do so, the redeemer reborn must face blood-sucking hemogoblins and other monstrosities on his way to discovering the ultimate secrets of this neo-Californian civilization.

One of the most ingeniously imaginative writers of our time, Tim Powers dazzles in an early work that displays his unique creative genius. Alive with wit, intelligence, and wild invention, Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is a mad adventure across a dystopian future as only Tim Powers could have imagined it.

This ebook features an original introduction by the author.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Jonathan Maberry's The Dragon Factory for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Joe Ledger and the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) go up against two competing groups of geneticists. One side is creating exotic transgenic monsters and genetically enhanced mercenary armies; the other is using 21st century technology to continue the Nazi Master Race program begun by Josef Mengele. Both sides want to see the DMS destroyed, and they've drawn first blood. Neither side is prepared for Joe Ledger as he leads Echo Team to war under a black flag.


You can also get your hands on the next installment, The King of Plagues, for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Saturday 09:11 Hours: A blast rocks a London hospital and thousands are dead or injured… 10:09 Hours: Joe Ledger arrives on scene to investigate. The horror is unlike anything he has ever seen. Compelled by grief and rage, Joe rejoins the DMS and within hours is attacked by a hit-team of assassins and sent on a suicide mission into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak. Soon Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences begin tearing down the veils of deception to uncover a vast and powerful secret society using weaponized versions of the Ten Plagues of Egypt to destabilize world economies and profit from the resulting chaos. Millions will die unless Joe Ledger meets the this powerful new enemy on their own terms as he fights terror with terror.


Finally, you can download Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg's Nightfall for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

On a planet with six suns, night is about to fall for the first time in two thousand years . . .

The planet Kalgash is on the brink of chaos—but only a handful of people realize it. Kalgash knows only the perpetual light of day; for more than two millennia, some combination of its six suns has lit up the sky. But twilight is now gathering. Soon the suns will set all at one—and the terrifying splendor of Nightfall will call forth a madness that signals the end of civilization.

Isaac Asimov's short story “Nightfall” first appeared in 1941. It has since become recognized as a classic, its author a legend. But the short story isn't the whole story. Now, Dr. Asimov has teamed with multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner Robert Silverberg to explore and expand one of the most awe-inspiring concepts in the history of science fiction.

In this novel, you will witness Nightfall—and much more.

You will learn what happens at Daybreak.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is up one position, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down three positions, ending the week at number 13. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House maintains its position at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is up six spots, finishing the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down six positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Nora Robert's Of Blood and Bone debuts at number 11 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



The most powerful and haunting piece of what could be the very best movie soundtrack ever produced. Hans Zimmer truly knocked it out of the park.

I'd usually go for the musical score, but I find this live performance to be amazing.

Cold Days


After a number of more straightforward and episodic installments, with Dead Beat the Dresden Files shifted into high gear. Followed by Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, and Turn Coat, Jim Butcher elevated his game with basically every new volume. As I mentioned in previous reviews, far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

Changes, the very best installment yet, proved to be the culmination of a panoply of interwoven plotlines introduced in previous novels. It raised the bar higher than ever before and nothing will ever be the same for poor Harry Dresden from here on out. A major turning point for the series and its characters, no doubt about it. For its part, Ghost Story felt like a transition novel meant to bridge what happened before with whatever will come next.

And if the plot of Cold Days is any indication, it appears that the Dresden Files has plenty of drama and fireworks left in store for its readers.

Here's the blurb:

You can't keep a good wizard down - even when he wants to stay that way.

For years, Harry Dresden has been Chicago's only professional wizard, but a bargain made in desperation with the Queen of Air and Darkness has forced him into a new job: professional killer.

Mab, the mother of wicked faeries, has restored the mostly-dead wizard to health, and dispatches him upon his first mission - to bring death to an immortal. Even as he grapples with the impossible task, Dresden learns of a looming danger to Demonreach, the living island hidden upon Lake Michigan, a place whose true purpose and dark potential have the potential to destroy billions and to land Dresden in the deepest trouble he has ever known - even deeper than being dead. How messed up is that?

Beset by his new enemies and hounded by the old, Dresden has only twenty four hours to reconnect with his old allies, prevent a cataclysm and do the impossible - all while the power he bargained to get - but never meant to keep - lays siege to his very soul.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Right off the bat, though I'm all for authors reminding readers of what has gone before, I feel that Butcher went all out in Cold Days. I mean, this is volume 14, right? True, minor or obscure or distant plot points should be re-introduced so as to not confuse fans who have no reread the whole sequence recently. However, there was no need to remind us of who Bob the skull is. We know about Thomas, Murphy, Molly, etc. There's no need to describe Harry's old apartment and his patched-up VW car. I doubt that newbies are jumping into the Dresden Files by reading the 14th installment. And there is so much good stuff taking place that such redundant info-dumps actually slow down the momentum of the novel. This could be construed as nitpicking, I know, but I just feel that such unecessary sections should have been removed during the editing process.

Harry Dresden's life has always been complicated. If ever there was someone who deserved to rest in peace, it was Harry. Unfortunately, he immediately discovered that the afterlife wasn't all it's cracked up to be. And if the afterlife was no walk in the park, coming back to life will come with even more challenges. Assuming the mantle of the Winter Knight could potentially change Harry and turn him into a monster like his predecessor. As if that wasn't enough, he must now find a way to kill an immortal while various factions are trying to kill him. Oh and he has about 24 hours to save the world from a magical threat that could wipe out the entire American Midwest. No pressure.

As a matter of course, Cold Days features the first person narrative of Harry Dresden. His voice as the only POV continues to be witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle in every chapter. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files installments, it's the supporting cast that helps make this one another great read. Harry's death had a profound impact on those who were close to him, and his coming back to life will come as a shock to many of them. Once again, there are some truly touching moments involving them. Like he did in Changes and Ghost Story, Jim Butcher played the emotional impact card rather well on a number of occasions, which really made you feel for Harry and the rest of the gang.

Cold Days quickly turned into another extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that linked that novel with plotlines from basically every other volume that came before. Revelations about the Summer Court, the Winter Court, Merlin, the Demonreach island, the Outsiders, other deities and immortals, and lots of other things make for some compulsive reading. Hints have always been there, yet in Ghost Story it became evident that Harry was a pawn in a game played by higher powers. We see evidence of that again in this 14th volume.

Convoluted and entertaining, Cold Days elevates the Dresden Files to yet another level and opens the door for so much more. Looking forward to Skin Game!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is down four positions, ending the week at number 9. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down two positions, ending the week at number 10. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brent Weeks' The Burning White debuts at number 11.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House is down five spots, finishing the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is up four positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is down one spot, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get your hands on Suyi Davies Okungbowa's fantasy debut, David Mogo, Godhunter, for only 3.77$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Nigerian God-Punk - a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the excellent The Briar King by Greg Keyes for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Two thousand years ago, the Born Queen defeated the Skasloi lords, freeing humans from the bitter yoke of slavery. But now monstrous creatures roam the land—and destinies become inextricably entangled in a drama of power and seduction. The king’s woodsman, a rebellious girl, a young priest, a roguish adventurer, and a young man made suddenly into a knight—all face malevolent forces that shake the foundations of the kingdom, even as the Briar King, legendary harbinger of death, awakens from his slumber. At the heart of this many-layered tale is Anne Dare, youngest daughter of the royal family . . . upon whom the fate of her world may depend.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute maintains its position at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments maintains its position at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House is down five spots, finishing the week at number 9.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep returns at number 12 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is down four positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



Blast from the past!