Suyi Davies Okungbowa Interview


When I began to read Suyi Davies Okungbowa's Nigerian god-punk fantasy debut, David Mogo, Godhunter (Canada, USA, Europe), I knew I'd need to do an interview with the author. He was kind enough to accept the invitation, so here it is!

Enjoy!
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- What's the 411 on Suyi Davies Okungbowa? Tell us a bit about your background?

Thanks, Pat! I was born and raised in Benin City, Nigeria. And when I say born and raised, I mean I didn’t live anywhere else until my early twenties. I grew up in the University of Benin, basically having all my education there up to tertiary level. My parents are both academics there, so that’s expected. I studied Civil Engineering for my bachelors, but only worked in the field for a year after. Since then, I’ve worked in professional services, graphic design, marketing communications and digital learning. Now, I teach writing at the University of Arizona, while earning my MFA in Creative Writing.

- Your soon-to-be-released debut is being billed as a Nigerian godpunk novel. Without giving too much away, can you give us a taste of the tale that is DAVID MOGO, GODHUNTER?

I’d say DMG is Lagos like you’ve never quite seen it. There are a lot of stories about the city and its tenacity, but nothing stretches this city like the invasion of thousands of supernatural beings. Lagos receives over a hundred thousand migrants every day, so what happens when you suddenly find gods in the mix, and only one guy, who happens to be a demigod, can help ease the frictions that arise? Worse yet, what if his attempts only exacerbate these problems? Find out in the book!

- How well-received has DAVID MOGO, GODHUNTER been thus far?

DMG has received lots of love from press sources like Publishers Weekly and WIRED Magazine, so that’s good! There have been those who’ve messaged me to say how they felt seen by this book, how it represented them, which makes me glad because that was the aim. I mostly wrote this book for Nigerians first, and everyone else after, just like we have always been secondary audiences for most books out there. In the same vein, a bit of discomfort and unfamiliarity with certain approaches from these secondary audiences won’t surprise me.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write DAVID MOGO, GODHUNTER in the first place?

A number of things, actually. I’ve always been fascinated by the gods of the Yoruba cosmology, which is very close to the Edo cosmology (Edo is where I’m from). Then, the characters of David Mogo and Papa Udi have been with me for a while in earlier forms. When I moved to Lagos in 2014, it became clear to me that this was a city about which thousands of stories could be told, and we still wouldn’t have scratched the surface. Throw all of these into the boiling pot that was my subconscious, and DMG was born.

- Nigerian myths and legends are at the heart of DAVID MOGO, GODHUNTER. Was it your intention all along to weave those myths and legends into the story?

Not quite. Sure, I knew there were going to be gods, and David was going to be a freelance godhunter who took on a bad job that sparked major conflict in an already failing city. However, I realised that as the narrative took him further into his journey, he would have to interact more with the nonhuman part of himself, and that required a deeper dive into these myths and legends as the story went on.

- Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel published by Abaddon Books?

Well, I workshopped a small part of the book at Milford SF Writers Workshop in 2017 and got a lot of encouragement to finish it. I was right in the middle of that when Rebellion advertised an open subs period and I submitted a sample and synopsis. I’d already forgotten about it when David Moore called me up in late 2017 and said, “Hey, I’d like to publish this.” The rest, as they say, is history.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write DAVID MOGO, GODHUNTER?

Well, for starters, I wanted to paint a portrait of a people who had adjusted to a semi-apocalyptic event without too much fanfare. Some have described The Falling in the book as a gopocalypse, but I like to quickly point out that today’s Lagos isn’t too different from what’s described--there’s still government gentrification, police brutality, housing crisis and segregated real estate matters, et cetera. I also didn’t want to fit into either camp of magic with clear rules or magic with no rules; I wanted something in-between, because I think if magic were a thing, it’d be weird and unpredictable and barely ever neat.

- Cover art has always been a very hot topic. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the cover that graces your book?

Yoshi Yoshitani did an awesome job in capturing the essence of the book. I think covers are almost as important as the text, if not even from an artistic perspective, then from a completely business one. Covers help sell books, to be frank. To shy away from that fact would be naive. I, in particular, am glad the DMG cover ticks all those boxes.

- You have been a prolific short fiction writer these last few years. Do you have a different approach when you write short stories and novel-length projects?

I usually don’t have a routine for shorter pieces--I tend to chart the narrative, then write in bursts until I feel I’ve gotten to a good place to stop. With longer projects, however, I tend to be less chained to the narrative I start out with. I give myself more room to deviate, but I keep a stricter routine in order to keep up momentum. I keep weekly word counts in a Google Sheet, and put more effort into maintaining a steady rhythm than with shorter work.

- For anyone interested in giving your material a shot, are any of your short stories available online?

Yes! I keep an updated list of everything I’ve written at suyidavies.com/bibliography

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

Haha. Tough one. To be honest, I don’t know much about strengths. I find that I usually pay more attention to areas I believe I could be better at. For instance, I tend to leave out a lot of description in my first drafts, and I find beta readers usually coming back to me with, “Dude, what does this look like?” before I remember, “Oh yeah, I had that in my head but not on the page!”

- By the same token, what would be your weaknesses, or aspects of your craft you feel you need to work on?

Well, just as I said above. Another thing I struggle with is articulating character motives. Where I come from, survival, security and the quest for influence/power/respect are such strong motives that it’s almost ridiculous that anyone does anything for any other reason like, say, self-actualization. Yet I find that most of my characters are usually outliers in this way, so I always have to dig deeper to discover what drives them.

- You are a charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society. Can you tell us a bit more about that organization and your role within its ranks?

Oh, a charter member just means I was invited to be one of its founding members--about fifty or so of us. The ASFS aims to support everything within the bracket of speculative work by African-identifying artists, much in the way the BSFA or SFWA operates. Currently, the ASFS organizes the Nommo Awards, which have so far been successful: big names like Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson and Tochi Onyebuchi have won awards and had the stickers appear on their front covers.The 2019 shortlist is currently out. The awards are funded by philanthropists like Tom Ilube and other anonymous donors. The society also supports the community in other ways like maintaining a frequently updated database of speculative work by African authors, hosting a large Facebook group of enthusiasts of African SFF, and Geoff Ryman writes the “100 African Writers of SFF” over on Strange Horizons. Currently, I don’t do anything other than vote and be a part of the community, but I hope to be able to offer more in the near future.

- Are there any African speculative fiction writers that we should be on the lookout for?

Well, I’d eschew the already known names and point out that folks like Tochi Onyebuchi (Beasts Riot Baby, War Girls), Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning, Intruders), Wole Talabi (Incomplete Solutions), Lesley Nneka Arimah (What It Means When a Man Fall From The Sky), Deji Olutokun (Nigerians In Space, After The Flare), Imraan Coovadia (A Spy In Time), etc, are doing stellar work. The ASFS database has a lot more of these, and I think everyone who’s interested in work from the continent ought to take a look.

- Black authors like David Anthony Durham, Nnedi Okorafor, and N. K. Jemisin have been making waves within SFF circles these last few years. And although things seem to have recently taken a turn for the better, it appears that it's still difficult for writers of color to get the sort of recognition that caucasian authors are entitled to. What needs to change in the industry to help level the playing field?

Honest answer? I don’t quite know. There are a lot of factors turning the gears that run the publishing industry, and many of them are not even caused by publishing at all, but the politics and socioeconomics of the world in general. It would be an easy reach to say, “Oh, it’s a race problem” (and to be honest, it is, at its base), but the actual operations are more complicated than that. What I know, however, is that more non-white bodies on ground in the field, in every position, will help along whatever choices are being made to change this.

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

A Hugo/WFA. Because, a New York Times bestseller lasts for as many weeks as it lasts, but a Hugo/WFA sits on the shelf forever.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many speculative fiction authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

I read (and even write) both within and outside the genre. While I’ve chosen to pitch my tent at the speculative end of things, I’ve read and loved a lot of work outside the genre. For instance, I just read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and found it to be absolutely beautiful writing and a compelling story. Neil Gaiman is one of my all-time faves within the genre, as well as Stephen King, whose mastery of storytelling is simply phenomenal. However, most of my reading of speculative work is with more contemporary authors, and with shorter works. I find myself enjoying a lot of work with Asian influences, like Fonda Lee and Aliette de Boddard, but also work from people like N.K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse, who bring something completely different to the table. Basically, you could say I’m a chameleon in that way, as I enjoy and admire work from authors from all over in genre, place and time.

- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects or gardeners. Which type of writer are you?

A garditecht, haha. Or, plantser (plotter + pantser) as most people say. I absolutely need a plan to start out, but I make it as loose as possible, susceptible to changes and diversions. I write with what I call a Waypoints Method, where I only plot the big, set-piece points in the narrative, then pants my way between those points.

- What's next for Suyi Davies Okungbowa? Are you under contract for any other projects?

Am I working on seekrit projects? Yes, of course! My newsletter subscribers get snippets of behind-the-scenes work all the time, but that’s as much as I let out. I like to work in silence, on my own terms, but yes, I am working on my next book.

- What comes first for you when it comes time to consider your next novel/short story: themes you wish to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you want to write about?

It depends. For shorter work, something as little as an image of a scene, a character, a line, a title: that’s enough to get me going. For longer work, two to three things usually have to come together. Setting plays a big role for me, because I’m very keen on providing specific African(esque) representation based on my own history and experience. But outside of setting, everything is fair game, from characters to themes to what-if concepts.

- Anything else you wish to share with us?

Uh, subscribe to my author newsletter? Once a month, no spam, and you might win a book!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Brent Weeks' The Black Prism for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 10th)

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood is down four positions, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Brooks' The Stiehl Assassin debuts at number 11.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down six spots, finishing the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

Priest of Lies


When urban fantasy writer Peter McLean elected to switch subgenres and to try his hand at grimdark, coming up with what people claimed was Gangs of New York meets The Lies of Locke Lamora, I had to give it a go. And even though Priest of Bones suffered from a number of shortcomings, I found the book to be compelling enough for me to want to find out what happens next.

And I'm happy to report that the author upped his game in this sequel and that Priest of Lies is a better read than its predecessor. Moreover, it sets the stage for more fireworks in the forthcoming installments. Indeed, this second volume leaves the door open for lots of possibilities, which bodes well for things to come.

Here's the blurb:

Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster…and spy. As Tomas’s power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become–until they can’t take it anymore. And when they rise up…may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen’s Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen’s Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people’s champion…or just a priest of lies.

My main gripe with Priest of Bones was that the worldbuilding was virtually nonexistent. Pretty much all of the elements that had to do with this aspect were part of the blurb. Which, to say the least, was disappointing. McLean played his cards extremely close to his chest. Sadly, the plot and its conclusion offered very few answers to the many questions raised by the novel. Thankfully, the author is a little more forthcoming in that regard in Priest of Lies and it's now evident that the War for the Rose Throne series resounds with more depth than first met the eye. Most of those revelations come courtesy of Ailsa and I wish we could have discovered more about the war between the Queen and the Skanians. I also wish we could have learned more about the cunning and magic in general. Alas, we discover things at the same pace as Tomas Piety, and every answer raises its fair share of new questions. Here's to hoping that more secrets will be unveiled in the third volume.

If there's one thing that Peter McLean did particularly well in Priest of Bones, it was to come up with a dark and brooding story that was perfect for the grimdark audience. A cast of morally ambiguous and flawed protagonists populated this war-torn tale. It was a dismal and disturbing read at times, with a plot that included alcohol and substance abuse, graphic violence, torture, juvenile prostitution, pedophilia, and sexual assault. Hence, it made for a rather bleak read. McLean went into full grimdark mode and the same can be said of this sequel. Priest of Lies, though it features a number of poignant moments having to do with post traumatic stress disorder, is another somber read that is grimdark through and through.

As a matter of course, Tomas Piety's perspective remains the only point of view of Priest of Lies. You may recall that I felt it could occasionally be detrimental to the story in the first volume. Not that the man is not an interesting narrator, but like the author he's not particularly forthcoming when it comes to sharing information. The leader of the Pious Men obviously knew a lot more than he let on, yet he didn't really want to talk about it. For that reason, I opined that Priest of Bones would have been a much better novel had it featured additional perspectives, or a third person narrator. Things are much better in this sequel and I found Father Piety to be a more likable fellow this second time around. Traveling to Dannsburg with his wife takes him out of his comfort zone and the man must adapt rapidly to his new environment. This forces him to evolve and it makes it easier to root for him. Most of the characters comprising the supporting cast were more or less just nametags and not genuine people at first, but a number of them finally come into their own in Priest of Lies. Especially Bloody Anne and Billy the Boy, which was nice.

Priest of Bones often felt like an overlong introduction that lacked enough material to make a full novel and was padded with a number of violent and fairly superfluous scenes. Peter McLean pushes the plot forward a lot more in this sequel and things are definitely looking up. As I mentioned, revelations are made and demonstrate that the War for the Rose Throne is a more complex and multilayered series than we first believed. Time will tell just how convoluted the plot truly is.

The first volume suffered from some pacing issues, especially at the beginning and in the middle of the novel. Not so with Priest of Lies. McLean keeps the plot moving, adding new layers to the storylines in both Ellinburg and Dannsburg sequences. The end of the latter is particularly satisfying, as are the endgame and finale of Priest of Lies. Even if the ending is a bit predictable.

If you like your grimdark gritty and bloody, then the War for the Rose Throne is definitely for you! I'm eagerly awaiting the third installment!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The Wheel of Time ® is a PBS Great American Read Selection! Now in development for TV!

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time® by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

Ed McDonald Interview


With Crowfall (Canada, USA, Europe) about to be published, I thought it was high time to have a chat with Ed McDonald. Hopefully this interview will entice you to give the Raven's Mark trilogy a shot!

Enjoy!
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- Without giving too much away, can you give potential readers a taste of the tale that is the Raven's Mark trilogy?

The machinations of godlike being dictate the fate of the world, but even among such great powers, a single mortal can make a difference. Ryhalt Galharrow is bound to serve a cruel, dark master - but a master who may be the only hope for keeping the enemy at bay. Blood, tears, love, swords, magic, romance, monsters, guilt and the looming destruction of the world tend to characterize the Raven's Mark series.

- What can fans expect from the final installment, CROWFALL?

CROWFALL is very much the end of the line, both for the story, and for the characters we've followed in the Raven's Mark. Bigger villains, heavier betrayals, deeper mysteries, and the resolution to the unanswered questions left over from the first two books. Fans of the first books will be glad to step back into the Misery for more insanity, and to discover how it all ends.

- How would you describe your work to someone who hadn’t tried your books before?

Fast paced fantasy action thrillers with heart. The world is tough, the decisions are hard and not everyone is an impeccable hero, but I like to think my writing has a core of hope at its heart.

- How well-received has CROWFALL been thus far?

I try not to know these things! Reading reviews is where happiness goes to wither, even if they're very good. But on the whole, I'm hearing that it has met some quite high expectations so far, and that's the important thing. By the time you get to the third book, some people have been with you for nearly a thousand pages. Characters really matter to them. I'm glad to be able to give them another journey to enjoy.

- Although CROWFALL offers closure and resolution, you left the door open for lots of different possibilities. Are there any plans for additional sequels?

I would love to come back to the Raven's Mark world one day. Galharrow's story arc is played out by the end of CROWFALL, but there are other characters who are ready to go on adventures of their own. I think that I've done all that I can with the Misery for now, and I'm certainly ready to take a break from it for a while. But, if a publisher requested another Raven's Mark series, then I'd definitely think about it.

- What are you currently working on? Any tentative pub date?

I'm working on a book that has the working title SEVEN WOLVES DEAD - which will almost certainly change later on, but if it doesn't, you heard it here first! I'd describe it as an homage to Kurosawa colliding face first with a spy thriller. And weird magic. And a lizard.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the Raven's Mark series in the first place?

I write in a pretty weird way. There's something that I like - and in this case, I think that I was just riffing on the moody, gritty heroes that Bernard Cornwell and Joe Abercrombie were writing about, and wanted to write about mercenaries. So I just kind of start writing, and then as I have other ideas I end up changing stuff, over and over, until what I've written no longer bears any resemblance to what I started with. My ideas generate as a direct result of writing something else.

Here's an example from RAVENCRY:

I didn't know what to write next and was struggling one day, at about 10,000 words in. So I asked myself what I really wanted to write about, and the answer was that I'd been looking up 17th century English civil war armour all day, and I wanted to write that. So I wrote a scene in which Galharrow got kitted out in new armour.

Following this, I needed a reason for him to use it, so I had Tnota fetch him and they went off to a building. I wanted the building to be cool, and I like seeing what I can get away with in fantasy, so I gave it the dimensions of the Empire State Building. Of course, there had to be a monster in the building. It was a man whose face had melted.

Of course, these things all kind of just say outside of the story. But the building became the Grandspire, and a focal point of the story. The melted man became a key plot point, only he wasn't melted anymore. And the armour - that got cut entirely. But I could never have got to any of the rest of it without writing that scene.

- The Misery is a fascinating concept and plays an important role in the series. What was your inspiration for the Misery and were you aware that it would be at the heart of the tale you were telling from the very beginning?

That's actually one thing that has been in my head for a long time, but I didn't know how important it would be. I've always had this one phrase in my head: "The land is trying to stop you getting out." And that's what the Misery is. I didn't know that it would develop in the way that it did in CROWFALL but I'm glad that it did.

- Scenes in both RAVENCRY and CROWFALL hint that the world at large is much vaster than what we've seen in the Raven's Mark thus far. Unless it's a "read and find out" kind of thing that will be explained in future books, is there a reason why the Range and its surroundings, arguably the ass-end of the world these days, seem to hold such a strategic importance in the struggle between the Nameless and the Deep Kings?

The Range is basically the Maginot Line that failed to protect Europe in WW2, and I guess that they have to fight over something or other. The whole reason for the Lady of Waves being what she is was so that the Deep Kings can't just sail around the Range. It's the only land that they can cross, and as such it's the focal point of their struggle.

- Although the trilogy is being billed as epic fantasy/grimdark, the Raven's Mark is a more tightly focused tale than most novels/series in those subgenres. In a market full of sprawling works that are vast in scope, was this your objective from the start?

It was, actually. I like books that move fast and take you on a rush. When I was younger I adored 1200 page monoliths, but these days I prefer a sleek 400. Part of getting older and having less time to read, maybe. But I wanted BLACKWING to feel like it was a thriller, because that's what I tend to enjoy reading most these days. I like to think that the world still feels big and epic in scale despite a relatively modest page count.

- How do you see heroism in epic fantasy?

There is something beautiful about being prepared to give everything that you have in the defence of others. David Gemmell taught me that in Legend, and it is likely to be at the heart of everything that I write. It's even more compelling when the hero is an unlikely choice.

- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing the series, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?

I don't do any world building before I start, and barely have even an outline of where I want to go. But there are some characters who were never intended to take such pivotal roles - Dantry, Amaira, Valiya and Nenn. Yes, Nenn! She was a throwaway character, just a single-line of description, but I liked her so much I kept her.

I had no idea what was going to happen in the books that come after BLACKWING. The second book was meant to take place away from the Range, but when it became apparent that people were really digging the Misery, I changed it completely so that we could go back there.

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

High tolerance for caffeine.

- By the same token, what would be your weaknesses, or aspects of your craft you feel you need to work on?

I don't think that there are weaknesses in that sense. My 'process,' if that's what it even is, is so chaotic and disorganised that nobody else should ever do what I do. I have to do huge amounts of rewriting and cutting. But if I didn't, I would never come up with the ideas that appear to be what people enjoy, so if I was more efficient, I'd probably write less interesting stuff.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write BLACKWING and its sequels?

I guess that I felt that I was writing Grimdark when I started writing BLACKWING, but by the end of the book, it had kind of gone the opposite way - a deconstruction of a deconstruction, essentially. And that only grows in weight with RC and CF. One of my friends said to me, "You try to trick everyone into thinking that your a grimdark author but really your books are about the power of love and friendship," and I think they are right.

- You are a practitioner of Historical European martial arts (HEMA). How did you get involved in that? Do you feel that being an actual sword wielder allows you to imbue your fight sequences with more realism?

I got into it because I wanted to play with swords! I used to fence, and I just wanted to do something that felt more real and less like a game, so I did. It is a curiosity that in the fantasy genre some writers do not feel that any kind of research is needed. I find it very hard to read on when authors with no fight experience write a scene in which one character trains another and gives all manner of hilarious advice, and there are some absolute clangers out there. Research matters! This is widely acknowledged in pretty much ever other genre, and even in other areas in fantasy, but not in writing about fighting for some reason.

- What comes first for you when it comes time to consider your next novel: themes you wish to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you want to write about?

Character, I think? Or theme maybe. Setting always comes last for me. It's usually a particular emotion or atmosphere that I want to write about. I want the reader to feel that sense of loneliness or dread or whatever it is that I'm currently interested in.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

Mine are all pretty well behaved. Crowfoot is the hardest because he has to be reined in all the time.

- Neil Gaiman says of Lord Dunsany’s THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER, “...It’s a rich red wine, which may come as a shock if all one has had so far has been cola.” If CROWFALL was a drink which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?

It would be a seven star Metaxa Brandy. You'd have to throw it back then slam down the glass, shake your head and made a shivering sound.

- If your readers could only take one thing away from having read CROWFALL (apart from enjoying the read) what would you want that thing to be?

"I must buy Ed's next book"

Seriously though... it would be to love people deeply, unashamedly and without reservation.

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

Awards are wonderful to receive, but achieving NYT Bestseller status means that you have to have sold a load of books and that's people voting with their wallets in the thousands. People spending money means more chance of being able to make a living as a writer, more chance of getting to write the novels that you want to write, and more chance to tell your stories.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the cover that graces your books?

I have quite a few different covers for different language editions. They're a bit like children, in that you have to try not to have favourites. I really love the new direct that Ace have taken with the CROWFALL cover. It's up there with my favourites, but the one that speaks to me most is Bragelonne's French edition BLACKWING cover - it reminds me of the covers of books that I read 20 years ago and is kind of what I'd always imagined my own book covers could be like.

- Anything else you wish to share with us?

I actually really enjoyed the end of season 8 of Game of Thrones. 😁

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Ed

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download K. J. Parker's Colours in the Steel for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An epic novel of blood, betrayal, and intrigue. . .

Perimadeia is the famed Triple City and the mercantile capital of the known world. Behind its allegedly impregnable walls, everything is available-including information that will allow its enemies to plan one of the most devastating sieges of all time.

The man called upon to defend Perimadeia is Bardas Loredan, a fencer-at-law, weary of his work and the world. For Loredan is one of the surviving members of Maxen's Pitchfork, the legendary band of soldiers who waged war on the Plains tribes, rendering an attack on Perimadeia impossible. Until now, that is.

But Loredan has problems of his own. In a city where court cases are settled by lawyers arguing with swords not words, enemies are all too easily made. And by winning one particular case, Loredan has unwittingly become the target of a young woman bent on revenge. The last thing he needs is the responsibility of saving a city.

Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive my review copy of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne's No Country for Old Gnomes. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Richard Smith, from Portland, Maine, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

A message from Air New Zealand for George R. R. Martin




This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 3rd)

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood is up four positions, ending the week at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ted Chiang's Exhalation maintains its position at number 15.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones returns at number 8 (trade paperback).

David Mogo, Godhunter


Something about Suyi Davies Okungbowa's fantasy debut, David Mogo, Godhunter, intrigued me when I first read its press release. I mean, I've never read Nigerian god-punk. And though I had no idea what it could be about, I was curious to find out. And since I've enjoyed Nnedi Okorafor's works in the past, I wanted to give this new Nigerian author a shot. The book promised to be unlike anything else out there, which was reason enough for me to want to pick it up.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa has been a prolific SFF short fiction writer these last few years, but David Mogo, Godhunter is his first novel-length published work. As such, it does suffer from many of the shortcomings that often plague speculative fiction debuts. And yet, for all of its flaws, the book turned out to be quite original and demonstrated that Okungbowa could become one of the bright new SFF voices in the coming years.

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.

The worldbuilding was my favorite facet of this novel. Okungbowa uses modern day Nigeria as a setting and most of the action occurs in and around Lagos, most populous city in the country and the entire African continent. The story takes place a few years following what came to be known as the Falling, when gods rained down from the sky and are now forced to roam the land around the Lagos area. The author's postapocalyptic depiction of the city and its surroundings was awesome. In that regard, it felt as though Okungbowa was in complete control of his setting and Lagos comes alive with an imagery that leaps off the pages. Like many readers, I'm just wondering where are the millions of Nigerians that lived in Lagos, for we don't see a whole lot of people throughout the book. I also liked how he portrayed the fallen gods and how he wove Nigerian myths and legends in all of the novel's storylines.

Weaving those myths and legends created something truly original, but it also engendered a problem that many a reviewer/reader seemed to have a problem with. Like me, the vast majority of Western fantasy fans are not conversant with Nigerian lore. Hence, Suyi Davies Okungbowa has no choice but to provide countless details for the plot to make sense. For better or worse, he was forced to rely on info-dumps to do just that, whether in the form of long discussions or inner monologues. Perusing reviews, one can see that lots of people disliked the fact that he failed to follow the "show don't tell" rule. Thinking back on it, even though I too would have preferred for the author to show more than he told us, I'm not sure that it was possible to do so and still imbue his tale with that amount of ancient lore. And perhaps it's due to the fact that I was already aware of this, but I didn't find the info-dumps to be off-putting to such a degree. In many ways, they are a necessary evil in this instance. Something that Okungbowa can get away with in this debut, yet something he'll have to work on for whatever comes next.

Okungbowa explained that this tale began as a short story that grew into a novella, which in turn grew into the threefold narrative that became David Mogo, Godhunter. This occasionally creates structural issues, as the three parts don't always blend in seamlessly. The good thing is that the novel starts pretty strongly and hooks you up from the get-go. By the time said structural problems showed up, I was already invested in the plot and simply kept going. But there is no denying that more effort should have gone into building a more seamless structure for the book.

Sadly, the novel features the sole first-person perspective of David Mogo, half-god himself. The godhunter is not always the most likable sort of fellow, nor is he the sharpest knife in the drawer at times, and the characterization suffers from it. As the title implies, understandably David must take center stage. But I'm afraid that he's not a compelling enough protagonist to carry the tale on his shoulders. First-person narratives can be tricky things and I feel that David Mogo, Godhunter would have benefited from multiple POVs. Especially given the quality and the diversity of the supporting cast. I for one would have loved to witness events unfolding through the eyes of characters such as Papa Udi and Fatoumata. Another thing that may trouble some readers is the fact that the dialogue can go from English to a Nigerian dialect depending on whom is speaking with whom. The context always allows you to get the gist of what is being said, but it takes a while to get used to.

In terms of rhythm, even though David Mogo, Godhunter is not a fast-paced affair by any stretch of the imagination, Okungbowa keeps things moving at a good clip. Some portions are paced better than others, but overall the novel is never dull and the plot remains interesting throughout.

In the end, although the execution can leave something to be desired from time to time, David Mogo, Godhunter features cool and original concepts and ideas. For anyone looking for something different, well I reckon that Nigerian god-punk could be just what the doctor ordered! Keep an eye out for Suyi Davies Okungbowa. As was the case with Nnedi Okorafor a while back, I have a feeling that we'll be hearing more from this Nigerian speculative fiction author in the years to come. I know I want to read whatever he releases next.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite ompany of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.


You can also download Stephen King's classic, Carrie, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen King's legendary debut, about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates.

Carrie White may be picked on by her classmates, but she has a gift. She can move things with her mind. Doors lock. Candles fall. This is her power and her problem. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offers Carrie a chance to be a normal...until an unexpected cruelty turns her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that no one will ever forget.


Finally, you can get your hands on George R. R. Martin's Nightflyers and Other Stories for 5.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From #1 bestselling author of A Game of Thrones: Nightflyers, coming to television on SyFy, is an epic story of space exploration and cosmic horror, plus five George R. R. Martin classic science fiction tales.

On a voyage toward the boundaries of the known universe, nine misfit academics seek out first contact with a shadowy alien race.

But another enigma is the Nightflyer itself, a cybernetic wonder with an elusive captain no one has ever seen in the flesh. Soon, however, the crew discovers that their greatest mystery – and most dangerous threat – is an unexpected force wielding a thirst for blood and terror….

Also included are five additional classic George R. R. Martin tales of science fiction that explore the breadth of technology and the dark corners of the human mind.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Timothy Zahn's Dragon and Thief for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The first novel in the Dragonback series is “a romp of a space thriller” (Booklist) from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Star Wars: Thrawn.

Jack Morgan is dealing with more trouble than any young man deserves. Raised to be a professional thief and con artist by his late uncle Virgil, he’s survived on his uncle’s spaceship with the help of an AI program. But when he’s accused of a crime he actually didn’t commit, Jack is forced to flee to a remote, uninhabited planet where he can stay off the radar for a while.

His solitude is soon interrupted when a ship crashes on Jack’s hideout after a terrible space battle. There’s only one survivor: a warrior called Draycos, whose reptilian race is being targeted for extinction.

The good news is that if Jack helps Draycos, the odd creature might be able to help clear Jack’s name. The not-so-good news is that to survive, Draycos must bond—physically and mentally—with a sentient being to use as his “host.”

And it looks like Jack is the only sentient being around . . .

Quote of the Day

Guilt is a powerful thing. It wraps you, weighs you down, breaks your connection to the truth of the world, and yet, we cannot relinquish it, because in letting go we betray those that we failed.

- ED MCDONALD, Crowfall (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

A fascinating space opera debut novel, Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire is an interstellar mystery adventure.

Follow this link to read an extract.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 27th)

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood is up five positions, ending the week at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ted Chiang's Exhalation maintains its position at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Elizabeth Moon's Oath of Fealty for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

For the first time in nearly twenty years, Elizabeth Moon returns to the thrilling realm of her superb Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy.

Thanks to Paks’s courage, the long-vanished heir to the half-elven kingdom of Lyonya has been revealed as Kieri Phelan, a formidable mercenary who earned a title—and enemies—in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia, where Prince Mikeli suddenly faces the threat of a coup. Acting swiftly, Mikeli strikes at the powerful family behind the attack: the Verrakaien, magelords steeped in death and evil. Mikeli’s survival—and that of Tsaia—depend on the only Verrakai whose magery is not tainted with innocent blood. Two kings stand at a pivotal point in the history of their worlds. For dark forces are gathering against them, knit in a secret conspiracy more sinister and far more ancient than they can imagine.

Quote of the Day

Not even twenty and she had all the confidence that I'd been so assured of at that age. The world takes us, little by little, dream by dream unpicked until you reach the hard stone at the bottom and realise there was never anything else anyway. The illusion of possibility is a trick played on the young..

- ED MCDONALD, Crowfall (Canada, USA, Europe)

More than halfway through and it's pretty good thus far!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Neal Stephenson's Zodiac for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The second novel from the “hottest science fiction writer in America” and New York Times–bestselling author of Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon (Details).

Meet Sangamon Taylor, a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil—all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places. Before long Taylor’s house is bombed, his every move followed, he’s adopted by reservation Indians, moves onto the FBI’s most wanted list, makes up with his girlfriend, and plays a starring role in the near-assassination of a presidential candidate. Closing the case with the aid of his burnout roommate, his tofu-eating comrades, three major networks, and a range of unconventional weaponry, Sangamon Taylor pulls off the most startling caper in Boston Harbor since the Tea Party.

Beneath the Twisted Trees


You probably remember that it took everything I had just to go through Twelve Kings in Sharakhai a few years back. Which was mostly due to the fact that the book featured nothing that made Beaulieu's first trilogy such a memorable work of fantasy. Indeed, I gave each installment of Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Lays of Anuskaya a glowing review, claiming that it was one of the most engrossing fantasy series I had read in many a year. Dark, ambitious, complex, and populated with a great cast of characters that leap off the pages, it was everything I wanted it to be.

Needless to say, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was a major disappointment for me. So much so that I thought The Song of the Shattered Sands just wasn't for me and it took me two years to finally give the second installment a shot. Thankfully, With Blood Upon the Sand was a much better read than its predecessor. I was glad to have given the series another shot, for A Veil of Spears turned out to be just as good. Its endgame and finale set the stage for another compelling read and I was curious to discover what the author had in store for us in this fourth volume. In terms of plot, Beneath the Twisted Trees moves the story forward in surprising ways, but its execution occasionally leaves something to be desired. And in the end, though it is an interesting novel which builds on the storylines of its predecessors, it failed to live up to the potential of the last two installments.

Here's the blurb:

The fourth book in The Song of Shattered Sands series–an epic fantasy with a desert setting, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action.

When a battle to eradicate the Thirteenth Tribe goes awry, the kingdoms bordering the desert metropolis of Sharakhai see the city as weak and ripe for conquest. Çeda, now leader of the Shieldwives, a band of skilled desert swordswomen, hopes to use the growing chaos to gain freedom for Sehid-Alaz, the ancient, undying king of her people. Freeing him is only the beginning, however. Like all the people of her tribe on that fateful night four centuries earlier, Sehid-Alaz was cursed, turned into an asir, a twisted, miserable creature beholden to the kings of Sharakhai—to truly free her king, Çeda must break the chains that bind him.

As Sharakhai’s enemies close in and the assault on the city begins, Çeda works feverishly to unlock the mysteries of the asirim’s curse. But danger lies everywhere. Enemy forces roam the city; the Blade Maidens close in on her; her own father, one of the kings of Sharakhai, wants Çeda to hang. Worst of all, the gods themselves have begun to take notice of Çeda’s pursuits.

When the combined might of Sharakhai and the desert gods corner the survivors of the Thirteenth Tribe in a mountain fastness, the very place that nearly saw their annihilation centuries ago, Çeda knows the time has come. She was once an elite warrior in service to the kings of Sharakhai. She has been an assassin in dark places. A weapon poised to strike from the shadows. A voice from the darkness, striving to free her people.

No longer.

Now she’s going to lead.

The age of the Kings is coming to an end . . .

Personally, I felt that one of the shortcomings that sunk Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was that the author kept his cards way too close to his chest as far as the worldbuilding was concerned. Beaulieu plunged his readers into the heart of the tale without offering a whole lot in terms of explanation or information. There were hints of hidden depth throughout, yet we as readers were mostly left in the dark about most facets of the plot. Beaulieu definitely elevated his game in both With Blood Upon the Sand and A Veil of Spears. A panoply of revelations were made and secrets were unveiled regarding the kings, the Moonless Host, the gods, the asirim, and so much more. With a great amount of groundwork already laid out in the first three volumes, in Beneath the Twisted Trees Beaulieu continues to build on those plotlines and adds more layers to a plot that resounds with more and more depth with each new novel. This bodes well for the two installments to come. His Middle Eastern environment remains particularly well-realized and continues to create an arresting imagery.

In terms of characterization, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai was a world away from Beaulieu's previous series. The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy was all shades of gray. It was, in my humble opinion, adult fantasy the way it should be. Nothing clear-cut or juvenile about it, nothing so simple as good vs evil. The relationships between characters were complex and morally ambiguous, the way they normally are in real life. In the first installment of The Song of the Shattered Sands, there was no depth to speak of when it came to the main protagonists. Everything was black and white through and through, with not a single shade of gray anywhere within the storylines. Çeda was too badass for her own good, and I found it impossible to care for or root for her. With such a hardcore character, I was expecting Beaulieu to use our own preconceptions against us, the way he has often done in the past, and surprise and shock us when we least expected it. Alas, that was not to be. Previously, his protagonists, though not flamboyant, were always solid, genuine, and three-dimensional men and women that remain true to themselves. Not so in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.

Fortunately, I found Çeda to be far more engaging and likeable in the following two installments and the same can be said of Beneath the Twisted Trees. Once more, the character development in this fourth volume made a big difference and Bradley P. Beaulieu found yet more ways to elevate his game in this aspect of his writing. Emre, who gradually fell under the yoke of the Moonless Host, was another decidedly black and white character with no depth early on. But he was also further fleshed out in the last couple of books. The same can be said of the Moonless Host and how it operates, the kings, the gods, and a whole lot more. The characterization, which was so weak in the first volume, has evolved considerably and is now comprised of a quality cast of characters. In addition, secondary protagonists such as Brama, Ramahd, Alina, and Davud play more important roles in this novel and its obvious that their respective storylines will have bigger repercussions in the greater scheme of things.

So what are those execution glitches that I've alluded to? In their attempt to free Sehid-Alaz, Çeda and her allies must find a way to try to bond with the asirim in order to weaken or break the connection they already share with the kings of Sharakhai. And though Beaulieu came up with a fascinating concept to do just that, how the process occurred sort of came out of left field. The same thing goes for the two mustering enemy forces arrayed against Sharakhai. There was no reason for them to delay this long to engage, but the plot demanded that certain events take place beforehand and hence everything feels clumsily contrived in that regard. The kings themselves, who have ruled ruthlessly for more than four centuries, continue to prove to be rather petty, arrogant, stupid, and ineffectual. So much so that it makes you wonder how a bunch of incompetent people who are seemingly so unfit to rule could have held power for so long. They also die rather easily, which cheapens the whole thing somewhat. Thus far, every time there has been a showdown between the twelve kings and those who oppose them, be they good guys or bad guys, they have pretty much lost every encounter. One would think that they would be a lot harder to defeat or kill. I'm well aware that with Beaulieu elevating his game and adding layers to the plot in Beneath the Twisted Trees, these execution glitches may not matter as much to some readers. So your mileage may vary. . .

Not surprisingly, as with most Bradley P. Beaulieu novels, there are a few pacing issues throughout. This fourth volume may not be a page-turner, but I felt that there was a nice balance between the various perspectives and that the plot progressed at a good clip. The first portion of the book may be a little too slow-moving in terms of rhythm, but other than a few rougher sequences here and there, for the most part the pace is never really a problem. In any event, readers who have made it this far have come to know what to expect.

It feels as though the author now has strategically placed all his pieces on the board and is setting the stage for the endgame that will lead us to the resolution of The Song of the Shattered Sands. With the proverbial shit ready to hit the fan, there should be plenty of fireworks. And even though Beneath the Twisted Trees wasn't as captivating as the last two installments, Bradley P. Beaulieu continues to move the story forward in an intriguing fashion, weaving his plotlines into a great tapestry that promies a lot of great things to come. Looking forward to the forthcoming When Jackals Storm the Walls.

The final verdict: 7/10

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