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

In hardcover:

Terry Pratchett's Thud! debuts quite impressively at number 4.

Terry Brooks' High Druid of Shannara: Straken drops 6 spots, finishing the week at number 11. This newest Shannara novel has spent 2 weeks on the NYT list.

In paperback:

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is up 5 positions, ending the week at number 28. The novel has been on the prestigious list for 2 weeks.

And just a side note to mention that Raymond E. Feist's Flight of the Nighthawks made an incredible debut on the London Times bestseller list, climbing up to number 8. Interestingly enough, Feist has recently been a lot more popular abroad than in North America.

Shaman's Crossing

For the first time since Assassin's Apprentice was published, there are a lot of mixed reviews for this new Robin Hobb novel. And in light of all this, many readers appear reticent to pick up the first volume of the Soldier Son trilogy. If you have been reading my book reviews for a while, you are aware that I've harbored doubts concerning some of Hobb's works in the past. And she has proven me wrong each and every time. Hence, regardless of the aforementioned mixed reviews, I read Shaman's Crossing with an open mind. Having learned my lesson, I will never again doubt Robin Hobb's ability to rise to the occasion when she releases a new book.

One of the most interesting aspect of this novel is the setting. Indeed, the habitual medieval European environment is replaced by a setting that resembles the late 1700s North America. Firearms and technology are thus part of the every day life. And that change of scenery is very, very refreshing.

The prose is above and beyond what is currently the norm in the market today. The narrative flows truly well, which adds a little something to the reading experience.

Once again, the characterizations are of the first order. That deeply involved humanity, for which Hobb has always been known, is present on basically every page of Shaman's Crossing. Every single character populating this tale is three-dimensional. And respecting the author's trademark, the remain true to themselves.

I've read several reviews complaning that Nevare is nothing like Fitz. Which, in my humble opinion, is unfair. A character such as Fitz is a special something that rarely occurs. Some very successful writers have incredible writing careers without ever creating such an amazing character. I'm persuaded that Fitz will remain a crowd favourite for many years to come. So it's really unfair to ask Nevare to fill his shoes. This soldier's son undergoes massive character growth in this first volume, and he is a very interesting character in his own right.

The worldbuilding is much more impressive than that of previous series. There is a whole lot going on, both in the narrative and behind the scenes. And somehow, I feel that this book barely scratches the surface. Hobb offers us a few tantalizing glimpses of the Plainsmen and their culture; the mysterious and magical Specks; the clash between old nobility and the new battle lords; the growing rift between the king and the nobility; the repercussions of Gernia's eastern conquests; the aftermath of the war with Landsing, etc. It's too early to tell, but this could well be Robin Hobb's most ambitious work to date.

The main problem with Shaman's Crossing is the pace. Not that it's too slow or sluggish, far from it. It has more to do with the fact that 2/3 of the novel chronicles Nevare's youth and his cadet life at the Academy. We do learn a lot about the main character and his fellow cadets, but it's true that there is little action.

As is often the case with trilogies, the first volume is inevitably the introduction to a larger tale. Yet more than half of Shaman's Crossing feels like an introduction to the introduction. And I will admit that perhaps the military life at the Academy might have been overdone at times. Having said that, I will also say that I've enjoyed every moment of it. But like a lot of readers, I would have liked to learn more about what was going on in the rest of the world.

The novel nevertheless contains a number of powerful scenes, chief among those that which gave the book its title and cover art. Dewara proved to be a fascinating character.

Analyzing this book as a whole, I get the feeling that Mrs. Hobb has been laying a LOT of groundwork for the rest of the series. There is a vast amount of information passed on to readers. The authors goes to great lengths to impart knowledge on the history of the land and its cultures, on the political system that governs Gernia, on the social structure, etc. As was the case with the Liveship Traders, the emancipation of women appears to be a concept that will continue to have a certain importance in the story. In addition, Shaman's Crossing is imbued with a spiritual dimension which was absent in her previous works. And everything seems to hint that environmental issues will likely play a major role in this trilogy.

All in all, a very interesting and refreshing debut to what could be Robin Hobb's most ambitious series yet. I will eagerly await the release of its sequel!

The final verdict: 8/10

New Raymond E. Feist Interview

Here is a link to a brand new Raymond E. Feist interview. Some of you may remember that the author accepted questions from fans earlier this summer. Well, I have just been notified that the Q&A is now available online.

As always, the interview is very interesting. And I was glad to see that a few of my own questions made it to the final version!;-)

Check it out:

Dune: The Battle of Corrin

Rarely has a series, which showed so much promise in its first volume, fallen so short in subsequent installments. If I could sum up Dune: The Battle of Corrin with one word, it would have to be "lame." I wasn't expecting much after the lackluster performance offered by Herbert and Anderson in Dune: The Machine Crusade. But even with such low expectations, the novel disappointed on basically every level.

As far as the prose is concerned, the authors keep repeating themselves at every turn, which makes for a very sluggish pace.

The characters and dialogues, which clearly went downhill in the last volume, are downright insipid in this one. To say that most characters are cardboard cutouts is actually a compliment. I don't believe there is a single three-dimensional character in this book.

But the most disappointing aspect of this book/series is the fact that it fails miserably in its attempt to shine some light on concepts which played such an important role in the original Dune series. To begin with, we realize that several concepts introduced in this trilogy are, in the end, invariably useless in the bigger scheme of things. The Titans, the cymeks, the Cogitors; the authors simply get rid of them.

The plotlines pertaining to the Zensunnis and Arrakis, which were initially interesting, lose all their appeal. We don't learn much about those who'll one day become the dreaded Fremen. The Battle of Corrin, arguably the momentous event which set in motion the events that will converge in Dune, is extremely lame. Nothing grand about that confrontation, which somehow became legendary.

The birth of the Bene Gesserit, the creation of House Corrino, the very first Mentat, Harkonnen's betrayal and his subsequent fall into infamy, the first Guild Navigator, the clash between Atreides and Harkonnen, the fall of the thinking machines, the Cult of Serena; nothing is remotely good or interesting enough to save this novel or the series as a whole.

Overall, a very unimpressive conclusion to a very deficient trilogy. And in light of all this, I can't quite believe that this duo will go forward and tackle a project of such magnitude as the one that Dune 7 represents. If Frank Herbert indeed left copious notes behind at the moment of his death, publish the notes. That's it! It is almost sacrilegious that the final chapter of the Dune saga will be written by Herbert and Anderson. . .:-(

The final verdict: 6,5/10

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 20th)

In hardcover:

Terry Brooks' High Druid of Shannara: Straken debuts at number 5.

Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing debuts at number 33.

And just a side note to mention that Raymond E. Feist's Flight of the Nighthawks has now reached number 6 on Amazon UK.

In paperback:

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell debuts at number 33.

Yet Another Robin Hobb Interview

Here is a link to another interview, this one on the French website Have no fear, however. The interview is both in its original English version and the French translation. Again, very interesting stuff!:-)

Here is the link:

By the way, I am currently reading Hobb's Shaman's Crossing, so expect a book review soon.

New Robin Hobb Interview

My friend Jay has had the privilege to do an interview with Robin Hobb. Here is the link to it:

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 13th)

Nothing to report in hardcover. . .

In paperback:

R. A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms: The Two Swords debuts at number 35.

Terry Goodkind's New Book

Most of you know that I don't particularly hold Mr. Goodkind in my heart. But since the author has legions of fans, I just wanted to inform you that the newest volume of The Sword of Truth series will be released on March 20th 2006.

The novel will be titled Phantom, and it will be a -- supposedly -- direct sequel to Chainfire.

That should satisfy some people. . .;-)

New Poll: The Changing of the Guard???

Hi guys!

I've been asked this question throughout the summer, and in all sincerity, I cannot provide an answer or even an opinion. A lot of readers have been asking me who is the heir apparent in the fantasy genre.

With J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series coming to a close in the next volume, no one knows if this writer will ever attain even a fraction of the success that Harry and co. has generated. But Rowling is in a class of her own. . .

Come next month, we will only have a single volume left to complete the titanic The Wheel of Time series. And again, even though Robert Jordan has already signed with Tor Books for his new series, will he ever top the bestseller lists like he's been doing for more than a decade? And with Goodkind's The Sword of Truth (thankfully) coming to an end with the release of the next two volumes, who will be the next big thing???

At the moment, both George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb seem quite secure in their position. But as with Jordan, can Martin ever hope to create another series like A Song of Ice and Fire?

Can authors like Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Stephen R. Donaldson, Raymond E. Feist, and David Eddings return to their former glory?

A lot of people would be temped to mention the name of Steven Erikson. But although an extremely gifted author, he has not yet generated an appeal that has reached most fantasy readers. Aficionados venerate his work, but the masses have not yet caught up with the buzz. R. Scott Bakker? China Miéville? Both are very good writers, but are not always accessible for the regular fantasy fan.

Guy Gavriel Kay? Tad Williams? Greg Keyes? J. V. Jones? David Farland?

Who knows??? Do you believe that we will see a changing of the guard, such as the one that took place in the early 90s? Or do you believe that both Jordan and Goodkind will continue to make regular appearances on the NYT bestseller list? Is there an heir apparent, after all?

Let's see what you guys come up with!:-) As always, I will be posting this on the usual message boards. . .

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 6th)

Nothing to report in hardcover. . .

In paperback:

Troy Denning's Star Wars: The Joiner King drops one spot, ending the week at number 33. This is the novel's third week on the list.

Harry Potter Mania

The sixth title, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, set a new world record for a first printing, with 10.8 million copies hitting stores on July 16, 2005.

JK Rowling's new Harry Potter book sold an astonishing 6.9 million copies in America in its first 24 hours - averaging better than 250,000 sales per hour and smashing the US record held by the previous Potter release. Sales for the sixth instalment of Rowling's fantasy series easily outpaced those for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which came out in 2003 and sold five million copies in the first 24 hours. Acknowledging that some shops quickly ran out of books two years ago, Scholastic has already increased the print run for the latest Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from 10.8 million copies to 13.5 million.

British publisher Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. sold more than 2 million copies in the first 24 hours, also a record.

More recent numbers are not yet available. But they are sure to be astounding. Add to that the fact that translated versions will be released during the fall, and this latest Potter installment could well shatter Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code enormous sales.

Dune: The Machine Crusade

In my last book review, I commented that it had taken me quite some time to finally give this second trilogy of prequels a chance because the previous series left a lot to be desired. The Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson duo was, in my humble opinion, not up to the task of tackling an enormous project such as Dune. Hence, you can imagine my surprise when I realized that Dune: The Butlerian Jihad more than lived up to the hype. I even went as far as to claim that the book would have made Frank Herbert proud. . .

Thus impressed by the first volume, I was eager to read its sequel. Unfortunately, Dune: The Machine Crusade is a major disappointment. How, after writing a very good opening chapter in this saga, the authors could come up with such a letdown, such a lackluster effort, I'll never know.

Other than seeing a number of plotlines that will ultimately converge in Dune, this book basically falls short on ever level.

The characterizations are, for the most part, mediocre. Vorian Atreides, Xaver Harkonnen, Serena Butler, Iblis Ginjo, characters that were so interesting in the previous novel, become cardboard characters with absolutely no depth. The new concepts such as Omnius, Erasmus, the Titans, the Cogitors, etc, lose all their appeal. The potential was definitely there, but poor execution by the writers precludes anything good from emerging from those ideas.

Like the characterizations, the dialogues go nowhere. And since you don't believe in the characters, the whole "religious" aspect of the Butlerian Jihad doesn't fly too high. And since that "holy war" is the driving force of this series, you can imagine what negative repercussions this has on the tale. There is an expression: "All killer, no filler." Well, Dune: The Machine Crusade is just filler. Nothing special at all. . .

The events chronicled in this novel span a period of more than a decade, which makes for a very sluggish pace in various portions of the story.

The only aspect of this tale which continues to be interesting is the revelations that shows how the Zensunnis and the Zenshiites will become the fearsome Fremen of Arrakis.

All in all, quite a disappointment. Probably as bad as Dune: House Corrino. I will read the final volume, but will have absolutely no expectations. . .

The final verdict: 7/10

Katrina: Before and After

Katrina and the destruction the hurricane has wrought in New Orleans the other regions in the south of the USA continue to appear on every newscast. And understandably, given the immensity of the damages and human suffering, it will likely be the case for weeks to come.

Sarah, one of my readers, used to live in New Orleans. She has been posting updates on her blog concerning that ordeal. Hence, if you wish to read a firsthand account of those events, prior and following the hurricane, you can log on to

Who knows? Maybe reading such blog entries will encourage more people to help and donate money to support that cause.

As for you Sarah, although we have never met, my thoughts are with you. . .:-)

Please make a donation. . .

Hi guys!

In light of everything that has occurred in New Orleans and other locations in the south of the USA, I believe that no one should remain indifferent to such a fate. As I did like year for the tsunami victims, again this year I have donated money to help the hurricane victims. They sorely need our aid.

Please make a donation at either or And remember that there are no small donations. . . Every penny is important.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 30th)

In hardcover:

David and Leigh Eddings' Crystal Gorge debuts at number 31.

In paperback:

Troy Denning's Star Wars: The Joiner King drops one position, ending the week at number 32. The novel has been on the bestseller list for two weeks.

As for J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the book still holds the number 1 spot on the USA Today bestseller list.

Dune 7

Here is something I just found out on

"Frank Herbert left a detailed and expansive outline for "Dune 7," which wraps up many storylines introduced in the original six Dune Chronicles, plus the story will finish numerous loose ends from the six prequels written by Brian and Kevin. In breaking down the outline to begin writing, Brian and Kevin realized the novel would be close to 1500 pages long; therefore, they are dividing the story into two volumes, to be titled HUNTERS OF DUNE and SANDWORMS OF DUNE (titles suggested by Frank Herbert).

Brian and Kevin are working on the final outline and chapter breakdown and intend to write both volumes together, beginning in March. Tentative plans are to release HUNTERS in fall 2006 and SANDWORMS in fall 2007. Brian and Kevin have completed THE ROAD TO DUNE, which will be available in September 2005."

Hmmm, I'm not sure how I feel about this. There have been rumours pertaining to this for years now, but I did not know that everything was ready to get under way. . . It's one thing to write prequels to please fans by allowing them to return to the Dune universe. But it's quite another to tackle the final project of a man who is probably one of the most gifted speculative fiction author who has ever lived.

And no matter how good these books turn out to be, they can never hope to measure up to Frank Herbert's previous works. Hence, although I'm incredibly eager to know exactly how the story ends (since both Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune were great novels), I don't believe that these two last Dune novels can live up to the hype. . . And satisfy the legions of fans who have been waiting for this for more than 2 decades.