More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robert Jackson Bennett's Foundryside for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up three spots, finishing the week at number 7.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is down five positions, ending the week at number 14.

Win a set of the Poison War novels by Sam Hawke

I'm giving away a set of the Poison War novels by Sam Hawke, compliments of the folks at Bantam Press. The prize pack includes:

- City of Lies (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Hollow Empire (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me . . .

Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family.

His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother.

Until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery, a world where the ancient spirits are rising . . . and angry.

This fabulous epic fantasy debut will appeal to readers of Joe Abercrombie and Terry Brooks, Robin Hobb and Mark Lawrence and all points in between.

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

Fairhaven Rising

Between 2017 and 2019, L. E. Modesitt, jr. released Beltur's story arc in three installments; The Mongrel Mage, Outcasts of Order, and The Mage-Fire War. And though I enjoyed the novels, there's no denying that the plot was padded with a lot of filler material. Beltur's tale and the creation of Fairhaven were worthy additions to the Recluce canon, yet I felt that it would have worked better as the habitual two-installment Recluce project.

Splitting this arc into three separate volumes probably explained why The Mongrel Mage did not stand as well on its own compared to previous entries in the Recluce saga. As expected, given that the manuscript was never meant to be split into two books, Outcasts of Order did suffer from middle book syndrome and it felt a bit incongruous compared to its predecessors.

Still, The Mage-Fire War brought this latest Recluce arc to a satisfying end. One that raised as many questions as the answers it provided. The enormous price paid for Beltur's unforgiving response in the hope to end this war and engender long-term peace to allow Haven to grow would undoubtedly have profound repercussions on the young man and those he cared for. And it was obvious that Taelya's own storyline had barely begun, with a lot more in store for her in the coming years. Back then, I wondered if she'd be the main protagonist in Modesitt's next Recluce offering. Looks like the author wasted no time writing what came next!

Here's the blurb:

Modesitt continues his bestselling Saga of Recluce with his twenty-second book in the long-running series. Fairhaven Rising follows The Mage-Fire War.

Sixteen years have passed since the mage Beltur helped to found the town of Fairhaven, and Taelya, Beltur's adopted niece, is now a white mage undercaptain in the Road Guards of Fairhaven.

Fairhaven's success under the Council has become an impediment to the ambition of several rulers, and the mages protecting the town are seen as a threat.

Taelya, a young and untried mage, will find herself at the heart of a conspiracy to destroy her home and the people she loves, and she may not be powerful enough to stop it in time.

As always, the worldbuilding is one of the most fascinating aspects of any new Recluce offering. Like many other historical figures, though his tale has yet to be told in full, Beltur has already left his own indelible mark upon the Recluce timeline. Modesitt continues to explore the relationship between Order and Chaos. As Beltur and Jessyla did more than a decade before, Taelya trains to become a battlefield healer as well as a warrior, and we learn more about Chaos, Order, and the manners in which they can both be used for healing and for fighting. Speaking of Taelya, it's evident that, like Beltur and Jessyla, she will have her own part to play as Fairhaven grows and welcomes more mages. And given the foreshadowing Modesitt provided in the previous three novels, it appears that the future may not be all that bright for the woman she'll become. It will also be interesting to see how her future storyline will shine some light on how a city founded by Black Mages will some day become a bastion held by the Whites. But Fairhaven Rising focuses on the early years of that city, as Beltur, Taelya, and every other citizen must come together to thwart a conspiracy that would see Fairhaven destroyed by outside forces which have come to envy its growth with each passing year.

Beltur was never an easy protagonist to root for. He probably always knew that the price to pay would be higher than they ever envisioned, but refused to accept that fact. In The Mage-Fire War, it dawned upon him that they would never be left alone as long as the duke of Hydlen could send troopers and wizards against them. And though it went against everything he was and believed in, Beltur had no choice but to be utterly ruthless if Fairhaven stood a chance of ever establishing itself. The ending, in particular, was as surprising as it was uncompromising. Given her difficult upbringing and the death of her father when she was just a child, Taelya, though she doesn't realize it yet, is made of stronger stuff than her uncle and shows a more unbending nature. A do-gooder at heart, the sacrifices she is forced to make in Fairhaven Rising will indubitably change her and I'm curious to see what comes next for her and Fairhaven itself. In many ways, her tale follows Beltur's footsteps, and as such may not have been as original as it could have been. With many returning familiar faces, the supporting cast is engaging, chief among them Tulya, Jessyla, Beltur, and their children, Kaeryla, Althaal, and Dorylt. There is also Gustaan, a captain of the Fairhaven Guard, and Varais, a former Westwind guard. I understand that these books are about emancipation and female empowerment, but I found Valchar and Sheralt to be petulant and lacking backbones when dealing with the Taelya and Kaeryla. They acted more like sullen teenagers than young men training for war. Then again, maturity in younger men, especially when dealing with the fairer sex, is never a given.

L. E. Modesitt's works are never fast-paced affairs and this is true for Fairhaven Rising as well. With the groundwork laid out by the last three books, the author needed less time to establish the various storylines and protagonists. But again, you then have to follow the main character as he or she must learn, experiment, and puzzle out ways to escape a number of predicaments before the endgame can take place. In that respect, this new novel followed the classic Recluce recipe that long-time fans know so well. Hence, not surprisingly, Fairhaven Rising suffers from pacing issues. And sadly, as was the case with the three Beltur installments, there was not enough material to warrant a full novel and Modesitt's latest is padded with lots of extraneous and often superfluous scenes that are totally unnecessary. There are so many scenes featuring characters currying their horses, cleaning the stables, preparing and then eating countless meals, etc. It's obvious that Fairhaven Rising is just the first chapter in Taelya's tale, but in and of itself couldn't fill an entire book.

In the end, Fairhaven Rising is far from perfect. But regardless of its shortcomings, Taelya's story arc should please most Recluce fans out there. I just wish that the novel had been more self-contained. That's four Recluce offerings in a row that don't quite live up to the standards established by past standalone titles and two-volume sequences. Here's to hoping that subsequent installments will be a return to form.

The final verdict: 7/10

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

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down two positions, ending the week at number 4.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two maintains its position at number 9.

Charles Soule's Star Wars: Light of the Jedi is down five positions, ending the week at number 15.

In paperback:

T. J. Klune's House in the Cerulean Sea is down one spot, finishing the week at number 11 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows…

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Dan Simmons' excellent The Terror for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Greeted with excited critical praise, this extraordinary novel-inspired by the true story of two ice ships that disappeared in the Arctic Circle during an 1845 expedition-swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as “a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). THE TERROR chills readers to the core.

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up five positions, ending the week at number 2.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is up two positions, ending the week at number 9.

Charles Soule's Star Wars: Light of the Jedi is down six positions, ending the week at number 10.

In paperback:

T. J. Klune's House in the Cerulean Sea debuts at number 10 (trade paperback).

The Year of the Witching

Did not finish this one. . . And it's been a long time since I haven't been able to reach the end of a book. =(

Though the novel is marketed as an adult fantasy book, it is YA through and through. I managed to reach page 220 before I had to quit. Had I known it was YA, I would never have given it a shot.

I hate it when publicists/editors mislead reviewers like this. =(

It's supposed to be The Handmaid's Tale meets The Village, but The Year of the Witching is neither. More often than not, it's a heavy-handed tale set against a backdrop of poor worldbuilding. Sort of a poor woman's version of Atwood's classic featuring black people.

I was expecting a more nuanced adult work that echoed with depth, not a black and white YA book with no shades of gray, featuring wooden characters and very little worldbuilding.

Here's the blurb:

A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 25th)

In hardcover:

Charles Soule's Star Wars: Light of the Jedi is down three positions, ending the week at number 4.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 7.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two maintains its position at number 11.

Mini reviews part 2

As you know, due to depression I had no choice but to resign myself to the fact that I've fallen too far behind concerning my reviews. So much so that it became impossible for me to get back up to date and write those reviews of the books I've read in November and December.

So here are a few thoughts about each novel.

But now that 2021 is here, hopefully I'll be in a better state of mind and can resume my reviewing duties on a regular basis.

- Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic 6.5/10:

Well-written book featuring a frivolous, headstrong, and fashion-oriented protagonist with a good heart and a tendency to make dumb decisions. The author has a wonderful eye for historical details, but she focuses too much on descriptions and every last stitch of embroidery, and not enough on the tale itself. Starts particularly well, but peters out as the story progresses. The lack of a true ending felt like a cop-out.

- Joe Abercrombie's The Trouble With Peace 7.5/10:

An interesting sequel, but not as good as its predecessor. Like many readers, I felt that the revolution fell into place rather too easily. But there's no denying that the finale was thrilling and that this second installment sets the stage for what should be a great final volume.

- Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 8/10:

A terrific read for any aspiring writer, but also for any Stephen King fan. I found the author's memories from his childhood and teenage years to be as enjoyable as the insights regarding his career. Sometimes even more so than his advice on the craft!

- Camilla Läckberg's The Girl in the Woods 7/10:

One of Scandinavian Noir's most popular authors, I had been meaning to read something from Läckberg for years. This one was a good enough thriller, but the intrigue got bogged down by those medieval curse and Syrian refugees storylines. Thrillers are supposed to be page-turners that keep you missing your bedtime or cursing the fact that you must go back to work. This one was too long and too convoluted for its own good.

- J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 7.5/10:

Another book that would have benefited from a smaller pagecount. When it's good, it's very good. Unfortunately, there are too many scenes/chapters filled with extraneous material that bring little or nothing in the greater scheme of things. And I know he's just 15 or 16, but it would be nice if Harry grew up a little and wasn't always so dense. . .

- Peter F. Hamilton's The Saints of Salvation 8/10:

Conclusion to what has been a quality space opera trilogy. Like other readers, I also had reservations regarding the neutron star people plot thread and how convenient it turned out to be. But everything about Finalstrike and all that had to do with the showdown against the Olyix was great. Hamilton left the door open for possible sequels. Whether or not he'll ever return to explore those loose ends remains to be seen. . .

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 18th)

In hardcover:

Charles Soule's Star Wars: Light of the Jedi debuts at number 1.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is down seven positions, ending the week at number 11.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Once again, you can download N. K. Jemisin's How Long 'til Black Future Month for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first collection of short fiction.

N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.

Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story "The City Born Great," a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis's soul.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download R. F. Kuang's The Burning God for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Mark Lawrence's The Girl and the Stars for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In the ice, east of the Black Rock, there is a hole into which broken children are thrown.

On Abeth the vastness of the ice holds no room for individuals. Survival together is barely possible. No one survives alone.

To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is not the same.

Yaz is torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her days with, and has to carve out a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of difference and mystery and danger.

Yaz learns that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She learns that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she learns to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.

Only when it’s darkest you can see the stars.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Michael Johnston's Soleri for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

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

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

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up eleven spots, finishing the week at number 2.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is down two positions, ending the week at number 4.

Nora Roberts' The Awakening is down two positions, ending the week at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Guy Gavriel Kay's amazing Tigana for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

A masterful epic of magic, politics, war, and the power of love and hate — from the renowned author of The Fionavar Tapestry and Children of Earth and Sky.

Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered...

But years after the devastation, a handful of courageous men and women embark upon a dangerous crusade to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the dark world the brilliance of a long-lost name...Tigana.

Against the magnificently rendered background of a world both sensuous and barbaric, this sweeping epic of a passionate people pursuing their dream is breathtaking in its vision, changing forever the boundaries of fantasy fiction.