Quote of the Day

Wars never ended because one side was defeated. They ended because the enemies were reconciled. Anything else was just a postponement of the next round of violence.

- JAMES S. A. COREY, Tiamat's Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe)

Looks like this will be the speculative fiction novel of the year. . . =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.

Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor is an exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Naamah's Kiss

Although I was late for this party, you probably know by now that I totally fell in love with Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books. After knocking it out of the park with the previous two trilogies, Naamah's Kiss and its two sequels had extremely big shoes to fill. Which is more than a little unfair as far as expectations go, what with the great tapestry of complex storylines that has been woven over the course of six unforgettable volumes. Naturally, it raised the bar sky-high and created lofty expectations that could not possibly be met by whatever came next. Another difficulty is the fact that the world and its characters have moved on. With this new tale occurring a few generations in the future, to a certain extent the author was forced to start from scratch.

And though it shows signs of greatness akin to those that made its predecessors such wonderful reads, Naamah's Kiss turned out to be Carey's weakest Kushiel-related work to date. Indeed, the novel is a two-part story. The first portion, the one focusing on Moirin's upbringing and her sojourn to Terre d'Ange when she comes of age is as compelling as anything the author ever wrote. I was hooked from the first page and captivated by the plot, devouring chapter after chapter, impatient to find out what happened next. The second part, the one focusing on Moirin's sea voyage to Ch'in and her quest to save the throne, felt decidedly discordant and inconsistent. Hence, following a terrific start, the first installment in the Naamah series suddenly loses steam and suffers from a rushed ending that fails to live up to the potential shown by the book early on.

Here's the blurb:

Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn, the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago, the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath sworn in the name of all his people. Now only small gifts remain to them. Through her lineage, Moirin possesses such gifts—the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to grow.

Moirin has a secret, too. From childhood onward, she senses the presence of unfamiliar gods in her life—the bright lady and the man with a seedling cupped in his palm. Raised in the wilderness by her reclusive mother, Moirin learns only when she comes of age how illustrious, if mixed, her heritage is. The great-granddaughter of Alais the Wise, child of the Maghuin Donn and a cousin of the Cruarch of Alba, Moirin learns her father was a D'Angeline priest dedicated to serving Naamah, goddess of desire.

After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance... on the condition that she fulfill an unknown destiny that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. Or perhaps oceans. Beyond Terre d'Ange, where she finds her father, in the far reaches of distant Ch'in, Moirin's skills will be a true gift when facing the vengeful plans of an ambitious mage, a noble warrior-princess desperate to save her father's throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.

I've said many times that Jacqueline Carey's worldbuilding has always been amazing. Eschewing the traditional European medieval environment, Carey's creation is Renaissance era analog and it is set in an alternate version of Western Europe. And with the discovery of the New World and its exploration, this opens the door for countless possibilities. In the past, with each new book she took us on fabulous journeys that enabled readers to discover more about her universe and she never disappointed in doing so. Richly detailed and imagined in terms of cultures, religions, and politics, like all its predecessors Naamah's Kiss is another textured and sophisticated novel. Especially in the first part, as a young Moirin grows up and experiences the magic of the Maghuin Dhonn and little by little discovers her mysterious heritage. A little less so in the second portion, however, as Carey's portrayal of her alternate China would have benefited from more depth. Contrary to what is habitually the author's wont, there was no complicated web of murder and political intrigue woven through the plotlines. At her best, Carey's politicking can rival that of such masters as George R. R. Martin and Katherine Kurtz and I was a bit disappointed that things were more straightforward in this one.

Throughout the second series, I sort of missed the first person narrative of Phèdre nó Delaunay. As a deeply flawed character, her strengths and weaknesses made her genuine and her perspective, that of an older woman relating the tale of her past, misled readers on several occasions by playing with their expectations. I particularly enjoyed how Phèdre's strenghts often became her weaknesses and vice versa. But Imriel was deeply flawed himself and his point of view, though it took some getting used to, ultimately worked nearly as well as that of his foster mother. Oddly enough, Moirin's perspective didn't take any time to get used to. To a certain extent, Moirin's education and her introduction at the court of Terre d'Ange mirrors that of Phèdre in Kushiel's Dart. Having spent her childhood in isolation in the wilderness, there is an innocence and vulnerability to Moirin, but also a definite strength that Phèdre did not possess as a young woman. Her point of view is also very refreshing, especially her distinctly critical view of D'Angeline society and how frivolous it can be.

Jacqueline Carey always had a knack for creating engaging and memorable secondary characters, and once again she came up with a great cast for Naamah's Kiss. Early on, it's her protective mother Fainche and Cillian, Moirin's first love. In Terre d'Ange, it's Raphael and Queen Jehanne. And then, it's brash Bao, wise Master Lo Feng, and cursed Snow Tiger. Her relationships with these men and women will help shape the person Moirin will become. They will also have important repercussions in what is to come in the next two volumes.

As always, the author writes with an elegance that reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay at his best. Her lyrical prose is something special and I have a feeling that it could well be the very best in the genre today. As I mentioned before, even the darkest and more shocking scenes are written with a distinctive literary grace that makes them even more powerful than they would be in the hands of a less gifted author. Once again in Naamah's Kiss, her gripping prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty that never fails to fascinate. Even if the Ch'in portion of the book is not quite up to par with what came before. Like Robin Hobb, Carey also possesses a subtle human touch which imbues certain scenes with even more emotional impact. And other than Hobb, no one makes her characters suffer as much over the course of a book/series. And it looks as though Moirin's life will get a lot worse before it gets better.

Given the fact that this is another Kushiel installment, there is plenty of sex featured in Naamah's Kiss. But unlike the first two trilogies, in which sexual relationships were more about dominance and/or submission, as a scion of Naamah young Moirin offers herself for the sheer joy of the act. Her sexual nature and desire to please land Moirin into a number of contradictory and detrimental relationships that will put her into weird and occasionally dangerous situations. But these, as much as the other challenges she will face, will shape her and help her grow into the woman she is meant to become. In any event, if you've made it to this third series, I doubt that sex will put you off at this point.

As far as the rhythm is concerned, the pace is never an issue until the Ch'in voyage and the subsequent quest to save the warrior-princess and her kingdom. As a first installment meant to introduce the protagonists and their plights and lay the groundwork for what is to come, Naamah's Kiss is by no means a fast-paced affair. Jacqueline Carey sure knows how to come up with plot twists that suck you in and won't let go and I was enthralled from the get-go. The Terre d'Ange portion more or less parallels Phèdre's own story and is quite interesting. To be honest, even though the sea voyage more or less brought the tale to a standstill for a while, up until they reached Ch'in I was thoroughly engrossed by this book. Why the quest that followed, its resolution, and its aftermath were rushed in such a way, I have no idea. But it did rob Naamah's Kiss of the sort of engame and ending I felt it deserved.

And even though the novel did not turn out to be as good as its predecessors, Naamah's Kiss is yet another sophisticated and convoluted read full of wonder and sensuality, one written on an epic scale and with an elegance seldom seen in this subgenre. And as I mentioned in my review of Kushiel's Mercy, weakest installment or not, this one is still better than most fantasy offerings on the market today. And fans agree that the next volume is a return to form for Carey and perhaps one of the best books in the sequence, so I'm definitely looking forward to reading Naamah's Curse.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging for 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Long before A Game of Thrones became an international phenomenon, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin had taken his loyal readers across the cosmos. Now back in print after almost ten years, Tuf Voyaging is the story of quirky and endearing Haviland Tuf, an unlikely hero just trying to do right by the galaxy, one planet at a time.

Haviland Tuf is an honest space-trader who likes cats. So how is it that, in competition with the worst villains the universe has to offer, he’s become the proud owner of a seedship, the last remnant of Earth’s legendary Ecological Engineering Corps? Never mind; just be thankful that the most powerful weapon in human space is in good hands—hands which now have the godlike ability to control the genetic material of thousands of outlandish creatures.

Armed with this unique equipment, Tuf is set to tackle the problems that human settlers have created in colonizing far-flung worlds: hosts of hostile monsters, a population hooked on procreation, a dictator who unleashes plagues to get his own way . . . and in every case, the only thing that stands between the colonists and disaster is Tuf’s ingenuity—and his reputation as a man of integrity in a universe of rogues.

You can also download Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart, which could well be the very best fantasy debut ever, for only 1.99$ here! Considering that it's the opening chapter of one of my favorite fantasy series, this one comes with the highest possible recommendation!

Here's the blurb:

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Marie Brennan's A Natural History of Dragons for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one's life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Kim Stanley Robinson's Green Earth for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The landmark trilogy of cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of climate change—updated and abridged into a single novel.

More than a decade ago, bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson began a groundbreaking series of near-future eco-thrillers—Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, and Sixty Days and Counting—that grew increasingly urgent and vital as global warming continued unchecked. Now, condensed into one volume and updated with the latest research, this sweeping trilogy gains new life as Green Earth, a chillingly realistic novel that plunges readers into great floods, a modern Ice Age, and the political fight for all our lives.

The Arctic ice pack averaged thirty feet thick in midwinter when it was first measured in the 1950s. By the end of the century it was down to fifteen. One August the ice broke. The next year the breakup started in July. The third year it began in May. That was last year.

It’s a muggy summer in Washington, D.C., as Senate environmental staffer Charlie Quibler and his scientist wife, Anna, work to call attention to the growing crisis of global warming. But as they fight to align the extraordinary march of modern technology with the awesome forces of nature, fate puts an unusual twist on their efforts—one that will pit science against politics in the heart of the coming storm.

Quote of the Day

The universe was always stranger than you expected. Sometimes it was full of wonders. Sometimes full of horrors.

- JAMES S. A. COREY, Tiamat's Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe)

Been waiting for a long time for this book!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Amazon Prime members have free access to Mark Lawrence's soon-to-be-released One Word Kill. But ordinary folks can pre-order it for only 4.99$ (6.67$ in Canada and £3.99 in the UK) through the following links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons and Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

You can read my review of Lawrence's latest here.

The Kingdom of Copper

A lot has been said about S.A. Chakraborty's The City of Brass, especially within YA circles. The publisher has been marketing that book and its sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, as adult fantasy works. Unfortunately, for better or worse everything, and I mean everything, is very YA. Much of the noise had to do with the fact that a female Muslim author was writing an Islamic fantasy story set in a Middle Eastern universe and featuring a supposedly strong female lead character. Or so it was said. After reading the first installment, I begged to differ. And it's even worse now that I'm done with the second volume.

Like many a reader, I had high hopes for The City of Brass. Especially given the push it was receiving from Harper Voyager. Yet in the end, the novel suffered from too many shortcomings to be a truly enjoyable read. It never quite delivered the goods and turned out to be just an extremely long and occasionally boring introduction. Still, I was intrigued enough to want to give the sequel a shot. Sadly, The Kingdom of Copper fell short in basically all departments and was a major disappointment.

Here's the blurb:

S. A. Chakraborty continues the sweeping adventure begun in The City of Brass—"the best adult fantasy I’ve read since The Name of the Wind" (#1 New York Times bestselling author Sabaa Tahir)—conjuring a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad's towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Once again, the worldbuilding was my favorite facet of this novel. Some readers keep raving about how dense and complex it is, but in my humble opinion this is a gross exaggeration. I know I said I enjoyed the worldbuilding and I truly did. And yet, compared to Steven Erikson, R. Scott Bakker, or even Bradley P. Beaulieu's worlds, Chakraborty's Middle Eastern setting doesn't echo with the sort of depth those other writers managed to achieve in their respective series. Nevertheless, the author gave life to her environment and the imagery continues to be arresting. She has an eye for detail and it shows in her depiction of the various locales visited throughout the book. If only she was as talented for characterization, plot construction and execution, as well as rhythm. Alas. . .

My main gripe with these books remains that the Islamic aspect of the tale felt totally unnecessary. As I mentioned in my review of The City of Brass, elements of the faith are used as mere window dressing and play very little role in the actual plot. As was the case with Saladin Ahmed's debut, I know that it's unfair to expect Muslim authors to imbue their creations with aspects of their faith in a way that non-Muslim writers simply cannot fathom. Still, perusing other online reviews, there were a lot of Muslim readers who felt the same way. Understandably, they are wondering what's the point of finally having an Islamic fantasy series published and not feel represented? When all is said and done, S.A. Chakraborty's Middle Eastern setting is no different than any other created by Western SFF authors of other religious backgrounds. Personally, I kept expecting more. Something more profound, something that would have taught me things about Islam, something that would have imbued this tale with a special something not found in other fantasy works out there. Unfortunately, it was not to be and once more it did kill this book to a certain extent for me.

The characterization suffered from the same shortcomings that sunk The City of Brass and remains decidedly weak. Even though I was expecting a young adult fantasy novel this time, I was underwhelmed. Regardless of the fact that she is a few years older and hopefully a little wiser, I found Nahri to be quite dumb for the most part. Extremely stubborn, she continues to be an accident waiting to happen. Which makes it difficult to root for her. As was the case in the first installment, every time you believe there has been some character growth on her part, something happens to make her revert to an impulsive dumbass adolescent girl. Alizayd, the supposed religious nutjob with a good heart, was a dead end for the better part of the first volume, but he slowly grew into a more interesting protagonist. I was expecting him to truly come into his own in this sequel, but it was not to be. Dara was by far the most intriguing character in The City of Brass and discovering more about his fascinating back story was quite a treat. He plays a much lesser role in The Kingdom of Copper, which definitely takes something away from the overall reading experience. The juvenile love triangle was poorly executed and gave The City of Brass a decidedly corny feeling. And though it's not as prevalent in this second volume, the same can be said in this one. Other than Manizheh, no one comprising the supporting cast proved to be particularly interesting. Hence, once again, the characterization was nothing to write home about.

Not surprisingly, like its predecessor The Kingdom of Copper is riddled with pacing issues. This lack of rhythm is mostly due to the fact that the better part of the novel focuses more on extraneous storylines instead of more important plot elements. There is so much padding that it felt as though a good third of the wordcount could have been excised and the readers wouldn't have missed much. And unlike The City of Brass, in which Chakraborty suddenly shifted gears near the end and delivered an exciting ending, everything in this novel moves at a snail's pace. Moreover, the endgame and the ending itself fail to elevate this book to another level. You're left wondering why you read hundreds of pages about the renovation of an old hospital and you're wondering why so little actually took place in this 640-page work of fantasy.

Given how lackluster and disappointing this book turned out to be, I'm probably ready to check out of this series. Chakraborty appears to be unable to elevate her game and the Daevabad trilogy is nothing more than Middle Eastern-flavored YA fare. True, the author occasionally shows moments of greatness. Problem is, you need to sift through so much crap to get to them that I'm not sure I'm willing to go through yet another door-stopper of a novel for such small gains overall. Time will tell if I'll give the next one a shot. . .

Bloated, slow-moving, overlong, and juvenile. That's The Kingdom of Copper in a nutshell.

The final verdict: 4.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download N. K. Jemisin's The Inheritance trilogy omnibus for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada. That's nearly 1500 pages for only 3$!

Here's the blurb:

After her mother's mysterious death, a young woman is summoned to the floating city of Sky in order to claim a royal inheritance she never knew existed in this award-winning fantasy trilogy from the NYT bestselling author of The Fifth Season.

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.

The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus includes the novels: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods, and a brand new novella set in the same world: The Awakened Kingdom.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Horns comes this award-winning collection of short fiction.

Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . .

Francis was human once, but now he's an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of '77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . .

The past isn't dead. It isn't even past. . . .

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer

Hope this is the last one. . .

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

In hardcover:

James S. A. Corey's Tiamat's Wrath debuts at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Michael J. Sullivan's The Crown Tower for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making.

Hadrian Blackwater, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with Royce Melborn, a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm's most prized possessions. But it isn't gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can keep them from killing each other they become a legendary team.

This is the first book in the new series, The Riyria Chronicles, from best-selling author Michael J. Sullivan. It takes place twelve years before the events of The Riyria Revelations and no prior knowledge of those books is required. You can read in either chronological order or order of publication, although the author suggests reading in publication order.

Quote of the Day

The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything. Once God (or Satan) is accepted as the first cause of everything which happens in the mortal world, nothing is left to chance . . . or change. Once such incantatory phrases as "we see now through a glass darkly" and "mysterious are the ways He chooses His wonders to perform" are mastered, logic can be happily tossed out the window. Religious mania is one of the few infallible ways of responding to the world's vagaries, because it totally eliminates pure accident. To the true religious maniac, it's all on purpose.


There is really nothing so comforting to the beaten of spirit or the broken of skull than a good strong dose of "Thy will be done."

- STEPHEN KING, The Stand (Canada, USA, Europe)

More than halfway through and hot damn it's good! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Jeff VanderMeer's Veniss Underground for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In his debut novel, literary alchemist Jeff VanderMeer takes us on an unforgettable journey, a triumph of the imagination that reveals the magical and mysterious city of Veniss through three intertwined voices.

First, Nicholas, a would-be Living Artist, seeks to escape his demons in the shadowy underground—but in doing so makes a deal with the devil himself. In her fevered search for him, his twin sister, Nicola, spins her own unusual and hypnotic tale as she discovers the hidden secrets of the city. And finally, haunted by Nicola’s sudden, mysterious disappearance and gripped by despair, Shadrach, Nicola’s lover, embarks on a mythic journey to the nightmarish levels deep beneath the surface of the city to bring his love back to light. There he will find wonders beyond imagining…and horrors greater than the heart can bear.

By turns beautiful, horrifying, delicate, and powerful, Veniss Underground explores the limits of love, memory, and obsession in a landscape that defies the boundaries of the imagination.

This special edition includes the short stories “The Sea, Mendeho, and Moonlight”; “Detectives and Cadavers”; and “A Heart for Lucretia” and the novella Balzac’s War, offering a complete tour of the fantastic world of Veniss.

A Brightness Long Ago

I've said it before and I'll undoubtedly say it again. Every two or three years, Canadian speculative fiction author Guy Gavriel Kay releases a new novel that never fails to amaze me. For some unfathomable reason, though the man is definitely one of the very best fantasists of his generation, if not the best, I can't help but feel that he remains, at least outside of Canada (where he is a bestselling author), one of the genre's best-kept secrets. With unforgettable titles such as Tigana, The Lions of al-Rassan, Under Heaven, River of Stars, Sailing to Sarantium, and Lord of Emperors, Kay has set the bar rather high throughout his career. And I'm happy to confirm that A Brightness Long Ago is another memorable read that remains with you long after you've reached its end.

Like the majority of his books, Kay's latest is another captivating blend of history and fantasy. Having read the Sarantine Mosaic and Children of Earth and Sky is not a prerequisite for enjoying A Brightness Long Ago to the fullest. It is a stand-alone tale which takes place between the duology and the novel. Still, there are a few nuances that might resonate a little more strongly with readers familiar with the aforementioned works. In any event, you should read all of Kay's books if you haven't already!

Here's the blurb:

International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose lives come together through destiny, love, and ambition.

In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra’s intelligence won him entry to a renowned school even though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count–and soon learned why that man was known as the Beast.

Danio’s fate changed the moment he saw and recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count’s chambers one autumn night–intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen, instead of a life of comfort, one of danger–and freedom. Which is how she encounters Danio in a perilous time and place.

Vivid figures share the unfolding story. Among them: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a powerful religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting all these lives and many more, two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.

A Brightness Long Ago offers both compelling drama and deeply moving reflections on the nature of memory, the choices we make in life, and the role played by the turning of Fortune’s wheel.

Long-time Kay fans will be pleased to learn that the tale occurs about 900 years following the events chronicled in the Sarantine Mosaic books, just before the fall of Sarantium. Once again, the worldbuilding was inspired by the Renaissance era, during the heydays of the republic of Venice. Richly detailed as only a Kay work can be, A Brightness Long Ago enthralls you from the get-go. I'm not sure how he does it with every new novel, but Guy Gavriel Kay once again came up with an incredibly evocative narrative and an arresting imagery. It's likely due to the extensive amount of research that the author puts into every project. Once more, I feel that Kay captured the moods and nuances of his chosen setting to perfection.

I've said it a thousand times, but Kay's talent and imagination allow him to create a living and breathing environment that draws you in and refuses to let go. I don't know how he manages to do it, but Kay's worldbuilding is almost always a subtle thing. The setting never takes precedence over the story and he never relies on info-dumps and other such contrivances. Still, somehow, seemingly effortlessly, as the tale progresses Kay ends up with an elegantly crafted setting that never fails to dazzle the eye. Few authors can immerse readers in such a vivid manner, and Kay's eye for historical details and traditions imbues A Brightness Long Ago with a realism that is seldom seen in works of speculative fiction. Having said that, his latest is not a sprawling novel such as Kay's epic works like The Lions of al-Rassan, Under Heaven and River of Stars. Indeed, A Brightness Long Ago is not as vast in scope and is more reminiscent of Ysabel and Children of Earth and Sky. It's a shorter book, true, but one that nevertheless packs a powerful emotional punch.

Guy Gavriel Kay has always possessed a deft human touch and his past novels are filled with memorable characters. And once more, it's the superb characterization which makes this book impossible to put down. As is usually his wont, the author came up with a group of disparate men and women, whose paths will cross unexpectedly and whose fates will be spun into a vast tapestry of love and tragedy. Each of them is going through important changes in their lives. Back when Children of Earth and Sky was about to be published, Kay told me that as much as anything, he wanted that novel to be about non-powerful (not same as ordinary) people on borderlands in a time of war, trying to shape their lives (very differently) in difficult times. They intersect, some of them, with power, but that isn't the heart of the story. It was also important for Kay to balance the five of them, not let one character take over the book. Add to that his usual desire to also balance awareness of history and themes against characters, narrative drive, etc, and you ended up with a complex and satisfying plot on your hands. For the most part, the same can be said about A Brightness Long Ago. The difference is that the protagonists are "less important" people in the greater scheme of things who get caught in the periphery of influential men and women whose actions will cause world-shaking ripples that will change the world as they know it. Young Guidanio Cerra is at the heart of the tale. But his meetings with first the beautiful and mysterious Adria Ripoli, and then with Folco Cino and Teobaldo Monticola, rival mercenary commanders with powerful armies, will set him on an unexpected course. Jelena, a young healer who treats a wounded nameless stranger will also unwittingly be drawn into events that will change her life. Of course, all of these protagonists are well-defined and three-dimensional. Other than the High Patriarch of Jad, that is, especially early on. He comes into his own later on in the novel, but at first it felt as though he was more of a cardboard cutout kind of character.

It takes a while for the various storylines to come together. And yet, in typical Kay fashion all these threads do come together beautifully at some point and the author closes the show with style and aplomb. I loved how the decisions of minor players can nonetheless have grave consequences that will shake the world and echo down the centuries. Returning to the universe of The Lions of al-Rassan, the Sarantine Mosaic series, and Children of Earth and Sky was in itself quite a treat. I once asked Kay if he would ever consider giving us a book on the fall of Sarantium one day. It was nice to witness its collapse and the repercussions it would engender around the rest of the world. But I'm still hoping for a full novel/series focusing on the downfall and capture of Sarantium at some point.

Though the pace can be slow-moving at times, it is never dull. From start to finish, with Kay's lyrical prose the narrative is a joy to read. I don't know how he does it, but it often feels as though Kay can convey more in a single sentence than most of his peers can in a full paragraph or a full page. With A Brightness Long Ago, Kay demonstrates yet again that he is a master storyteller in complete control of his craft. This is definitely one of the speculative fiction titles to read this year.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Furies of Calderon, first volume in the Codex Alera series, for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In this extraordinary fantasy epic, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Dresden Files leads readers into a world where the fate of the realm rests on the shoulders of a boy with no power to call his own...

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies—elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood, and metal. But in the remote Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy—the Marat horde—return to the Valley, Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness will be a power greater than any fury, one that could turn the tides of war...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Frank Herbert's timeless classic, Dune, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Frank Herbert’s epic masterpiece—a triumph of the imagination and the bestselling science fiction novel of all time.

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

Quote of the Day

The only thing dumber than a broody hen was a New York Democrat.

- STEPHEN KING, The Stand (Canada, USA, Europe)

I first read King's The Stand over 30 years ago. As was the case with It, I always wanted to reread the book to see how it had aged. Finally elected to do so and I'm now reading the complete and uncut edition. Oddly enough, I remember close to nothing about the novel. So I totally forgot just how awesome it is! This truly is Stephen King at the top of his game! Read it for the first time, or reread it. The Stand really is something special!

Win a copy of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne's NO COUNTRY FOR OLD GNOMES

I'm giving away my review copy of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne's No Country for Old Gnomes to one lucky winner. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Go big or go gnome. The New York Times bestselling authors of Kill the Farm Boy welcome you to the world of Pell, the irreverent fantasy universe that recalls Monty Python and Terry Pratchett.

War is coming, and it’s gonna be Pell.

On one side stand the gnomes: smol, cheerful, possessing tidy cardigans and no taste for cruelty.

On the other side sit the halflings, proudly astride their war alpacas, carrying bags of grenades and hungry for a fight. And pretty much anything else.

It takes only one halfling bomb and Offi Numminen’s world is turned upside down—or downside up, really, since he lives in a hole in the ground. His goth cardigans and aggressive melancholy set him apart from the other gnomes, as does his decision to fight back against their halfling oppressors. Suddenly Offi is the leader of a band of lovable misfits and outcasts—from a gryphon who would literally kill for omelets to a young dwarf herbalist who is better with bees than with his cudgel to an assertive and cheerful teen witch with a beard as long as her book of curses—all on a journey to the Toot Towers to confront the dastardly villain intent on tearing Pell asunder. These adventurers never fit in anywhere else, but as they become friends, fight mermaids, and get really angry at this one raccoon, they learn that there’s nothing more heroic than being yourself.

In No Country for Old Gnomes, Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne lovingly tweak the tropes of fantasy and fairy tales. Here you’ll find goofy jokes and whimsical puns, but you’ll also find a diverse, feminist, and lighthearted approach to fantasy that will bring a smile to your face and many fine cheeses to your plate.

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

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Abercrombie's Red Country for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A New York Times bestseller!

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into an alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . .

RED COUNTRY takes place in the same world as the First Law trilogy, Best Served Cold, andThe Heroes. This novel also represents the return of Logen Ninefingers, one of Abercrombie's most beloved characters.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods, and a pretender must be cast down from the throne in this masterful first fantasy novel from Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven's Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven's watch, the city flourishes.

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom's borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo--aide to Mawat, the true Lease--arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven's Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself...and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.