The Malazan contest winner!

Hey there!

Boy, was there interest for this one! When I initially discussed doing this with Erikson's publicist, I never would have thought that this contest would be so popular!

Finally, I have drawn the name of the luck winner: Christian Foster, fromTockwith, York, UK. As winner, the first five volumes of the Malazan series will be delivered right to his door!

Many thanks to Transworld for accepting to do this. I can never say it enough: Without their support, contests such as this one would never see the light.

Thanks to all the participants. May good fortune smile upon you next time! As I said before, I am on the verge of announcing a new contest next week, as well as working on one or two others. So stay tuned for more!

And for those who are wondering when the name of the winner of a copy of Tad Williams' Shadowplay will be announced, along with Penguin Books we've decided to wait until the release date is closer. Which means that everyone can still register for that contest! Just send your contact info at, with the "SHADOWPLAY" header.

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

In hardcover:

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams continues to hang in there, maintaining its position at number 18. The latest volume of The Wheel of Time has been on the NYT list for ten consecutive weeks.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down 5 positions, finishing its sixth week on the bestseller list at number 20.

James Luceno's The Rise of Darth Vader continues to slip, down 4 spots and ending its fourth week on the prestigious list at number 23.

Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes drops 2 positions, finishing its 12th week on the list at number 27.

In paperback:

Terry Goodkind's Chainfire is down 2 spots, ending its third week on the NYT list at number 25.

Lord of Snow and Shadows

As was the case with Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, I've had my eyes on Sarah Ash's The Tears of Artamon trilogy for quite some time. Every time I'd enter a bookstore, inevitably I would be drawn to those novels. Hence, I was very happy when Transworld offered to send me review copies of all three volumes. Lord of Snow and Shadows is the first book in the trilogy.

Having never read anything by Ash, I didn't know what to expect from this novel. And I'm pleased to report that it's a good read. Not a work that stands out, but a nice read nonetheless.

The worldbuilding is interesting. Honestly, it's probably the best aspect of the book. The setting appears to be somewhat similar to Eastern Europe. But it's not set in the traditional medieval environment. Technology has evolved and plays a role in this tale. Which means that Lord of Snow and Shadows is no sword & sorcery tale. Magical arts and alchemy are also part of the story, but not quite openly. Indeed, mystery shrouds anything even remotely associated with magic. The imagery is at times fascinating, especially with everything that has to do with the technologically advanced kingdom of Tielen.

The narrative is smooth enough to make this book an easy read. Having said that, there are a number of scenes where things drag. And by the same token, there are a few scenes in which I thought that things had been rushed. But overall, the pace flows relatively well.

In my opinion, this novel's weakness lies in the characterizations. One facet of this story which may put off readers is the fact that the main character, Gavril, is a wimp. I understand that Ash wanted to create an anti-hero, and she certainly did. But I fear that she may have taken it a bit too far. Fortunately, in the end, Gavril comes around -- although not in a manner that may be satisfactory, especially to male readers. Also, there are a number of clichés with this cast of characters. But show me a fantasy story that doesn't have any. In any event, a number of clumsy characterizations doesn't take too much away from the quality of this book.

Even if you can see particular plot twists coming from a mile away, Sarah Ash comes up with a few storylines that offer unexpected surprises. I was quite pleased by the fact that the author brings this novel to a close with a satisfying ending.

Moreover, Ash demonstrates that underneath what might appear to be a simple enough fantasy tale, this series could well be something that hides more depth than what is visible at face value.

Lord of Snow and Shadows could well be the starting point of a promising trilogy.

The final verdict: 7/10

The ELANTRIS contest winner

Hi guys!

Just wanted to announce that the name of the lucky winner has finally been drawn. It's Roshan Sadanani, from Charlotte, USA. Expect a copy of the book to be delivered right to your door!;-)

Many thanks to Tor Books for accepting to support this contest. Without them, this would never have been possible.

The Malazan contest winner will be announced before the end of the week, so stay tuned. In addition, there is another contest on the way, coming to you in early January. I'm also trying to have a copy of Goodkind's PHANTOM up for grabs, but I don't know yet if I can make it happen. I'll let you know. . .

New R. Scott Bakker Interview

As promised, here it is!:-) A Q&A with R. Scott Bakker is always interesting, as you'll see!

Dear Mr. Bakker,

Let me start by thanking you for being gracious enough to take some precious time off your indubitably busy schedule to answer these questions. But with the imminent release of The Thousandfold Thought, know that your fans are extremely excited about this chance to hear from you in person.

- Given the complexity of many of your characterizations, is there a character that you particularly enjoy/enjoyed writing? Why is that? By the same token, is there a character that you absolutely don't like writing about? For what reason?

There’s no one I really dislike writing - it’s more a matter of each posing their own peculiar challenges at particular points. Kellhus is typically the most difficult, simply because it’s hard to convincingly portray someone that damn smart. Others, like Cnaiur, oscillate between extreme difficulty and writing themselves. I had expected he would be the most difficult (after Kellhus of course) to write in The Thousandfold Thought, but thanks to the Melvins and Lustmord, he ended up writing himself. Conphas is easily my favourite. Sometimes I laugh my ass off while writing his sections.

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

This question is hard because I still feel I have so much to learn. I think my strength is that I set explicit challenges for myself - extreme challenges in some cases. For every scene, I always ask myself what I want my words to do. Most times I fall short of my goals, sometimes I satisfy them, and every once in awhile - like the scene I call ‘Esmenet’s Song’ in The Thousandfold Thought - I sit back and think, ‘There’s no way I wrote that...’

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

I used to read everything, years and years ago, but the deeper I wandered into university, the more and more I became addicted to ‘primary texts.’ I lost the ability to read for pleasure’s sake, but I think I’m on the slow road to recovery. In the genre, I probably admire George R R Martin the most, not only for his story-telling skills, but because his books made me realize that my little hobby - writing complex fantasy - could very well strike a chord with readers. Reading him was a revelation of sorts. Most recently, I finished Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which, meta-fictional wanking and meta-wanking aside, is nothing short of brilliant.

- Many purists, epic fantasy aficionados, and critics now consider you one of the best fantasy authors in the world. Is there added pressure when it comes down to writing a new addition to the series?

Finding it. Difficult. To breathe...

This is crazy. Are you serious?

Well first off, you should know that I don’t write fantasy - only hacks write fantasy. My books are about the triumph of the human spirit which just happen to have everything you would find in The Wheel of Time...

Look. See the damage you’ve done?

Seriously though, I have found myself freaking out on occasion. I wouldn’t say I’m the most psychologically robust person in the world. I feel like an imposter answering questions like this, and I get chilled by the shadow of the giant shoe some part of me knows is about to drop. I’ve suffered a few instances of depersonalization and derealization... The jargon helps.

But when a story ‘clicks’ for me - I’m not sure how else to explain it - the old priorities reassert themselves, or so it seems. The big temptation, I think, when you start garnering critical acclaim, is to start writing for your critics, which can have disastrous consequences. You write for your readers. It’s not as simple as that, but it’s where I hang my hat.

- In addition, The Thousandfold Thought sets the bar rather high. Will you approach writing The Aspect-Emperor differently now that your writing skills have reached (in my opinion at least) a new level of quality?

Thanks, Pat. I think my writing has gotten stronger with each book, and I’m hoping to put these new skills to work in The Aspect-Emperor. I’m excited by the prospect, primarily because the canvas is so much bigger - so much more (please don’t groan) Tolkienesque. The story is still the same as when I conceived it some twenty years ago, but where I used to despair of being able to do it justice (after so long, the plot of The Second Apocalypse has become something of a religious fetish in my mind) I now feel I have the tools that I need.

But when I reflect on The Prince of Nothing, I sometimes worry. Despite all the flaws, all the ways it makes me cringe, it seems like a kind of monument to me, like something truly iconic. It has a peculiar magic, like a spell an author can only hope to cast once in his or her lifetime. That’s the way it seems.

Pretty melodramatic, huh?

- What would you say was the hardest part of the entire process involved in the writing of the THE PRINCE OF NOTHING? Each new addition reveals yet more depth to a series which has shown just how rich and complex it truly is. What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the series in the first place?

I could go on and on about the complexities. I just spent so much time layering things into the world and story - it almost feels geological when I think about it. The framework arose from my attempt to ‘make good’ on all the work I put into my D&D campaigns back in the eighties. The story proper grew around the character of Kellhus, who arose from the biggest revelation I suffered in my first year of university back in 1986: the realization that belief systems are more a product of social function than of ‘truth.’

Standing inside a given belief system, canonical claims always seem ‘obviously true,’ so much so that we reflexively use them as the yardstick of other belief systems, while remaining utterly oblivious to the fact that others are doing the exact same thing with the same depth of conviction. We seem to forget that having conviction, no matter how soulful or meaningful or redemptive, is as much an indicator of deception as it is of accuracy. Ignorance is invisible, after all. Thanks to psychological mechanisms like confirmation bias, fundamental attribution error and self-exceptionalism, we’re quite content with the embarrassing notion that we somehow just ‘lucked into’ the one true belief system. And why not, when it’s the only yardstick we have? Everything else has to come up short. Outsiders are judged and found wanting.

When you consider the pivotal role belief plays in action and the ways social systems depend on the repetition of interrelated actions to exist (if everyone starting doing different things all at once - like NYC transit workers deciding to fart in front of the TV rather than going to work - society would collapse) then you can see that the primary function of belief systems is to conserve actions, not to be ‘true.’ This is why social systems collapse when belief in them collapses, which is arguably what happened in the old Soviet Union.

Given things like this, I asked myself what a martial artist who used the functionality of belief as well as his sword and his hands would look like, and I came up with Kellhus.

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

The New York Times bestseller, because then I could buy a World Fantasy Award - maybe two or three of them. I would like to move out of this grungy little apartment, buy a flat screen HDTV, and it would be nice to own a car with a CD player, but aside from that my primary interest is in being read. My goal is to challenge as many people as I can possibly challenge: I really believe we’re entering a phase of history where we’ll need as much conceptual flexibility as we can get. And if I can pass on a few philosophical stretching exercises, then I will have been part of the solution I think.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I was curious about the prospect of winning awards - yes, I was vain enough to think I had a shot - but when The Darkness that Comes Before didn’t even make the list for the Sunburst Awards here in Canada... well. My agent even warned me: epic fantasy doesn’t win refereed awards. I’d like to chalk it up to the perennial inferiority complex we fantasists have. It sometimes seems that the awards go to those who bring fantastic elements to a literary format, and of course I’m trying to do the exact opposite. But that’s likely just a flattering rationale.

Maybe my stuff just isn’t good enough.

Either way, life is about honour, not honours. So the cliche goes.

- What's the progress report pertaining to NEUROPATH? What can you tell us about the premise of the story? Anything new you wish to share with your fans? Something to whet their appetite. . .

I’m working on the rewrites as we speak, and I should have something for my agent to shop around by February. In many ways, I’m doing the same thing I did with The Prince of Nothing: I’m embracing the genre, telling a classic psychothriller tale, in order to explore its significance from the inside out.

I got a good vibe about this book.

- What extensive research did the writing of the THE PRINCE OF NOTHING entail?

It wasn’t so much a matter of doing specific research - like I’ve been doing for Neuropath, for example - as the result of twenty years being a student and an information junkie. I seem to be a little bit interested in everything. Outside of philosophy, I’m as shallow as an ice rink, but I’m at least as broad as the blue line.

- The series has garnered what can best be described as a cult following. However, many doubt that it will ever become "mainstream." With that in mind, how rewarding is it to realize how successful the series has been and continues to be to this day?

It probably is too challenging to go mainstream in a manner analogous to Martin or Jordan. All I know is that it has already exceeded my initially pessimistic expectations. I have regrets, especially about the difficulties with The Darkness that Comes Before, primarily because I know they are largely the result of my immersion in the world and my inexperience as a storyteller. But the fact is I’m paying my rent, all of my publishers are very happy with the numbers, and those people who love the books, really do love them. Hoping for more is understandable, but expecting more would be presumptuous and self-defeating. I started working in the fields when I was nine years old. I put myself through university by working midnights at a grocery store - fourteen years I spent there. Drudgery was my middle name. Right now my life is slack - I know it, and I’m not about to second-guess it.

- I am aware that The Darkness that Comes Before has been translated in French. How many foreign sales have you been able to secure so far?

Hmm. So far it’s also being translated into Spanish, German, Polish, Czech, Romanian, and Russian. Not bad for a newbie, I think!

- The fact that you have your own forum on the internet is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

It’s very cool, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a mixed bag, because it is. The web is a precarious place for an author to be. Say you knew that two people were whispering about you in the next room. What would you do? Ignore them and continue cleaning your toe jam, or hold your breath and try to hear what they’re saying. I think it’s human nature to do the latter, even though there’s something unhealthy about doing it. The web is a big whisper, and once you strain your ears to listen, it becomes very hard to stop. For me, anyway, it tends to become a kind of psychic noise pollution, and it interferes with the clarity that is so integral to my writing. The problem is that the more I log on the more I succumb to a morbid curiosity for the vox populi - even though afterward it feels like sticking myself with pins.

Some people really don’t like me.

On the other hand, however, the actual interaction is absolutely priceless - there’s no better way to work out your thoughts on a topic than to debate them on a web forum. Then there’s the desire to give back to those who actually spent a part of their lives - because that’s what money is: what we get for surrendering part of our lives to assembly lines, kitchens, highways, or whatever your occupation happens to be - to share your thoughts and your stories. And the web is the perfect way to do this, even if you find yourself saying RAFO over and over again, and your readers keep pointing out inconsistencies that you missed, or factual mistakes that you made, or seem to think your imaginative excesses offer clues to your sex life or psyche or...

Which is to say, keep you honest!

- Are you surprised by what little support you receive from the Canadian media? You and Steven Erikson rank among the best fantasy authors out there, yet both of you Canucks appear to get very little recognition in your own country.

Don’t get me started. It all comes back to the pigeonhole. We have a brain you can fit into a shoebox in a universe so big it defeats the speed of light. As a result, we constantly simplify things by using evaluative tags - things that identify, interpret, and dismiss all at once. ‘Epic fantasy,’ unfortunately, is one of those tags. And despite my early hopes and considerable literary hubris, my work has not managed to shine through.

Thanks to Penguin, I have received some attention here and there, and I sometimes wish I could pull it together enough to manage what Rob Sawyer has accomplished in terms of homegrown media exposure. Part of the problem, I sometimes think, is that here in Canada the literary culture has a powerful nationalistic subtext - not surprising when you consider overwhelming influence of American mass culture - which has led to an almost academic inwardness. The only way to get onto the conveyor belt is to write about Canada, which I have yet to do.

If I ever become commercially successful, I imagine things will change. Canadians love Canadians who manage to beat the Americans at their own game. Failing that, I suppose I could try breast implants or talking out of my butt. Worked for Pamela Anderson and Jim Carey.

- Having read The Thousandfold Thought, I've been telling everyone who will listen to me that it just might be the best fantasy novel that will see the light in 2006. For the benefit of those who have not read it, and without revealing too much, what would you like to tell your fans about it?

I thank you for that, Pat. Word of mouth has been the primary engine for The Prince of Nothing from the start. All I can tell you is what I hoped to accomplish. I wanted to create a world as deep and as consistent as Middle-earth, but as unsentimental and as gritty as the real thing. I wanted to write something that was truly epic and truly fantastic, something religiously faithful to the genre, and yet utterly unlike anything fans have read before. I wanted to tell a story that, when completed, left readers of all stripes feeling as though they had climbed something, even if the full dimensions of the structure escaped them.

The Thousandfold Thought is the summit.

- Some readers have commented on the fact that there is an inordinate amount of semen in the series. Is there a reason for that?

I read somewhere that the average man produces enough ejaculate to fill a bath-tub over the course of his lifetime. By my own estimates, the books contain a small fraction of that - a quart or so at most. So those readers are quite mistaken...

Semen was magical to our ancestors, though it has become quite taboo for us. Think of the Old Testament, which certainly spills a lot of ink about ‘seed.’ The word itself comes to us via old French from the Latin word for seed. Suggestively, the ancient Greek word, s‘ma, meant sign or token or signal. It belongs to a nexus of meanings that are conceptually crucial, I think. But most importantly, it is the visible link between generations, the rope that binds each of us both to the generations that have come before and to our shared animality. When you think of this in the context of Esmenet, who is the perspectival focal point for most of the references, I think you’ll quickly see that my use of the word is far from gratuitous.

- Throughout the trilogy, you have shown your desire to take your tale on the path less traveled. The Mideastern setting, as well as the religious and philosophical aspects, are great examples of how you took epic fantasy on a different path. Was it something that you truly wanted to work on, or did it just happen that way?

I think it just happened that way. I wanted something literate and cosmopolitan, so the Hellenistic Eastern Mediterranean just became the associative quarry where I cut most of my stone.

- Were you surprised that Penguin Books Canada, a publisher not particularly known for producing much works in the fantasy genre, gave you your first opportunity?

I certainly never expected it, but when you consider that they first published Guy Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry it makes sense. They’re actually something of a powerhouse when it comes to Canadian SF&F.

- Since there was no glossary in The Warrior-Prophet, I was a bit shocked to see such a comprehensive glossary in The Thousandfold Thought. Was it difficult to get your publishers to go along with the idea?

Not at all, though they did ask me to keep it as concise as I could. It was part of the plan from the very beginning. A tip of the hat to The Return of the King.

Either that or plain old thievery.

- Will we continue to learn more about the Consult and the Inchoroi from Seswatha's dreams, or will there be more information given in the next series?

There will be much, much more information. As I think I mentioned earlier, a larger part of the world, especially when it comes to the Sranc and the Nonmen, will come into the narrative spotlight. I get giddy just thinking about it!

- Speaking of the next series, what can you tell us about The Aspect-Emperor?

As those who frequent the Three Seas Forum know, I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to potential spoilers. I’m one of those people who covers their ears and sings nonsense when people even mention something I want to read or see. All I’ll say is that it begins approximately 20 years after the conclusion of The Thousandfold Thought.

- Do you have any details concerning a possible upcoming book tour to promote the release of your new novel? Fans are curious to know if you'll be stopping by in their home towns.

Not at the moment. I know I’ll be flying out to Calgary and Vancouver, but not much else.

- Honestly, do you believe that the fantasy genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

If I have my way.

I have some pretty insane ambitions and rapping the insular knuckles of the literary mainstream is one of them. Let them kneel at our pew for a change. To bring commercial genres to the literary mainstream is to use genre as a literary resource for literary readers. To bring literature to commercial genre is to use literature as a resource for popular readers. I’m not interested in singing to choir. I want to write for people who could be potentially offended by what I have to say. I want to start discussions, not rehash them or string them along. The irony, of course, is that this is what literature is supposed to do. Span perspectives, not entrench them. Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost sight of this.

I’m convinced that the division between the commercial and the literary is an artificial one, and that universities are the primary institutional culprit, not the media corporations (which is not to let them off the hook). The same firewalls that provide academic communities the freedom to explore what they will has produced standards of artistic merit drastically removed from those with only their socialization in popular culture to draw on. Isolate any conversation long enough, and it will eventually become esoteric to the point of general unintelligibility. Far from being the heights of contemporary culture, universities have become vacuums, sucking up the individuals with the talent and sensitivity that mass culture so desperately needs, using institutional pressures to rewire their priorities and tastes (just try, without embarrassment, arguing the virtues of epic fantasy in an English literature class), and putting them to work for the also-trained, where everyone can collectively bitch and moan about the commodification of culture and cretinization of the masses. They rob us with one hand, then dare wag their finger with the other. "Look how poor you are."

There’s lots of bullets that need to be bitten, I think. Pass the ammo.

Well, thanks again for accepting to do this. I wish you continued success, and wish you the best for the release of The Thousandfold Thought.

Thank you, Pat. It’s been a pleasure.

The THUD! contest winner

Hi guys!

I just wanted to let you know that the name of the winner has been drawn. It's Robert Morgan, from Edinburgh, Scotland. He will receive a copy of Terry Pratchett's Thud!

Once again, many thanks to Transworld for accepting to do this. Without their support, this contest would not have been possible.

Thanks to all the participants! Perhaps you'll be lucky and win the Erikson or Sanderson contests!:-) The winners will be drawn later this week.

So stay tuned for more!

Year-End Awards

Hi there!

Well, having read 45 books this year, I thought it would be interesting to come up with my own year-end awards!:-) Feel free to leave a comment, whether you agree or not. Everything is based on the novels/series I've read in 2005.

Here are the categories:

Most Promising New Voice:

- Brandon Sanderson, author of Elantris

Most Ambitious Project:

- Neal Stephenson, for his The Baroque Cycle
- Kim Stanley Robinson, for his thought-provoking The Years of Rice and Salt

A Jewel in the Rough:

- The LonTobyn Chronicles (Children of Amarid, The Outlanders, Eagle-Sage) by David B. Coe

Greatest Comeback:

- Stephen R. Donaldson, for The Runes of the Earth

Unexpected Surprise:

- Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn

Most Accessible Author:

- Robin Hobb

Don't Believe the Hype:

- The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Sky's the Limit:

- R. Scott Bakker

Most Entertaining Read:

- Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
- Thud!, by Terry Pratchett

Most Underrated Book:

- Shaman's Crossing, by Robin Hobb
- The Runes of the Earth, by Stephen R. Donaldson

Most Hyped Novel:

- Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan
- A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin

Most Disappointing Books/Series:

- Legends of Dune, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
- His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

Best Finish:

- The Tousandfold Thought, by R. Scott Bakker
- Fool's Fate, by Robin Hobb

Worst Finish:

- The Battle of Corrin, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Best Series:

- The Tawny Man, by Robin Hobb
- The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson
- The Prince of Nothing, by R. Scott Bakker

Fantasy's Best-Kept Secret:

- L. E. Modesitt, jr.

Favourite Books:

- Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan
- Fool's Fate, by Robin Hobb
- The Thousandfold Thought, by R. Scott Bakker

Happy Holidays!!!

Hi guys!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hopefully you will all have a great time during the Holidays!;-)

The names of the winners of the Pratchett, Erikson and Sanderson contests will be drawn this week, so stay tuned because you might win some books!:-) I may not be Santa, but I do my best!

Also, early in January I'll be announcing yet another contest, this time the prize being another very popular novel. Be sure to stick around for that.

And I personally wanted to thank you all for being there, and for making this weblog what it has now become. Without you guys tuning in, I could never have done it. So many thanks to you!

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is on the decline, dropping 5 spots to end its fifth week on the NYT list at number 15.

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is down 4 positions, finishing its ninth week at number 18.

James Luceno's The Rise of Darth Vader drops down 8 spots, ending its third week on the bestseller list at number 19.

Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes is also on the decline, going down 6 positions to finish its eleventh week on the NYT list a number 25.

In paperback:

Terry Goodkind's Chainfire is up 5 spots, ending its second week on the prestigious list at number 23.

More free books to win!!!

Well, here we go again!

Returning from work, I got two great news via email. The first came from Tor Books' publicity department. They gave me the "go ahead" to set up a contest in collaboration with them. Which means that there is now a copy of Brandon Sanderson's Elantris up for grabs! For those who are interested, I have just written my book review on Elantris. So check it out, if you haven't already!;-)

For those who wish to participate, send your full mailing address to reviews@(NO-SPAM), with the header "ELANTRIS." Be sure to remove the no-spam addition. The winner will be announced in January. He or she will have a copy of the novel delivered right to their door!

Second great news -- and even more exciting -- came from one of my contacts at Transworld. When we set up the Erikson contest for The Bonehunters, I suggested that we could also do a contest in which the prize would be a complete set of the first 5 volumes of the series. I thought that it could be a good way to generate some interest with those fantasy readers who, for a variety of reasons, had not yet picked up one of Erikson's novels.

So what it boils down to is this: I have a set of the Malazan saga up for grabs! That means that the lucky winner will receive Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, and Midnight Tides! Believe me when I tell you that it doesn't really get better than this!;-) For those who wish to participate, send your contact info to the aforementioned email address, but with the header "MALAZAN."

Good luck to all the participants!

P. S. By the way, feel free to let me know what upcoming fantasy/scifi novels you would like to have a chance to win. Setting up those contests can be a little time-consuming. But if I know that there is a lot of interest pertaining to a particular book, I can try to pull some strings in order to see if I can make it happen!:-)


This novel had been staring at me every time I entered a bookstore. I would pick it up, read the blurb, and think that it sounded pretty interesting. I posted about it on numerous message boards. Like me, most people had seen Elantris but had not bought it. After a while, readers' reviews began to surface and the consensus was definitely good.

I contacted Brandon Sanderson via his website to see if he could possibly get me a review copy. By the way, the author is very nice and quite accessible. You can check him out at And between the two of us, we managed to get Tor Books to hook me up with a copy.

Having finished Elantris, I can now tell you that it is indeed a good novel. There is a lot to enjoy, and only a little not to love about this fine tale.

Sanderson reminds me a lot of David Eddings and J. V. Jones, at least in terms of style and for the dialogues. Steering clear from the now popular "darker" fantasy tales which are rapidly becoming the norm in today's market, Elantris is a relatively "light" fantasy.

Let's begin with all that is good about this book. For those of us who can still appreciate this sort of thing, the prose is above and beyond what I have come to expect nowadays. The novel is truly well-written. The narrative flows extremely well, and the pace is brisk enough to keep you turning those pages.

Elantris being a stand-alone novel, the story is more or less self-contained. This will indubitably please all those readers who have grown tired of long, unending series. But Sanderson leaves enough things up in the air, hence leaving the door open for a possible sequel.

I found the worldbuilding to be quite interesting, and the city of Elantris itself to be fascinating. Too bad we don't learn more about it. This novel may not resound with as much depth as Guy Gavriel Kay's stand-alone books. Yet there is still a richness of details that we don't often see in stand-alone works. I think that Sanderson did a great job with the limitations associated with any self-contained story. The religious aspect are well-defined and so are the different societies, if a little less. . .

I have to admit that the ending packs a powerful punch, bringing this book to a very satisfying end. It was nice to see the different storylines converge to a climax like this. It proves that Brandon Sanderson not only knows how to spin a good yarn, but how to end it with an exclamation point.

Elantris is a character-driven book. There is no question about that. And although I enjoyed it, I found that the characterizations at times left some things to be desired. Like many Eddings and Jones' characters, the main characters were always to quick to catch on on some secrets, etc. It's all a little too easy for my taste at times, and that made me grit my teeth. Sarene, especially, who singlehandedly puts the king in his place, alters the way the aristocracy views the world, and defies a man bent on toppling a kingdom and a religion. Don't get me wrong. The characters are fun, witty, and there is a lot of humour in this book. It's just that I believe that a little darker, grittier aspect would have been more appropriate in some instances.

In the end, what makes Elantris so special is the fact that it's so accessible. This is a book that basically anyone who likes a good fantasy epic can enjoy. And the fact that it is a stand-alone novel makes it even more appealing. This book was more popular than expected in hardcover. And I'm persuaded that it will be a huge success when it is released in paperback.

Keep an eye on Brandon Sanderson, for he just might be one of the bright new voices in the fantasy genre. And if it's not too late, you can also add Elantris on your Christmas present list!:-)

The final verdict: 7,5/10

The new issue of Gryphonwood is out!

You can see the online version here:

As always, it contains a bunch of fantasy short stories and other related material. Plus, you get a couple of my book reviews from this fall, as well as the interview I did with Robin Hobb last summer!:-)

Check it out!

Win a free copy of Terry Pratchett's THUD!

Yes, here we go again! In collaboration with Transworld, a copy of Pratchett's latest is now up for grabs!:-) And the great thing is that the winner will have the book delivered right to his or her door!

You know the drill by now. To register, just send an email containing your full mailing address to reviews@(NO-SPAM), with the header "THUD!" Just remove the No-spam addition. Yes, it's that simple!

The name of the lucky winner will be drawn right after the Holidays. Once again, this contest if open to all. Good luck to all the participants!

The Bonehunters Contest Winner!

Hi guys!

I just wanted to let you all know that the name of the big winner has finally been drawn! It's Joseph Coeshaw, from Avon, UK. Thanks to all the participants, and there were many!

Many thanks to Transworld for graciously accepting to do this with me. Without their support, this contest would not have been possible!

Stay tuned for more!;-)


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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows slips one spot, ending its fourth week on the NYT list at number 10.

James Luceno's The Rise of Darth Vader maintains its position, remaining at number 11 for its second week on the prestigious list.

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams also maintains its position, ending its 8th week on the NYT list at number 14.

Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes is down 3 spots, finishing its tenth week on the bestseller list at number 19.

In paperback:

Terry Goodkind's Chainfire debuts at number 28.

Giants of the Frost

Time Warner Books sent me this book as part of the same package which contained Kitty and the Midnight Hour. And since I rather enjoyed that novel, I elected to give Kim Wilkins' Giants of the Frost a shot. The book will be released soon, so what the heck. And again, I was rewarded with a very interesting and enjoyable read.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of the dark urban fantasy sub-genre. Having said that, following a major epic like Bakker's The Thousandfold Thought, Wilkins' book was a welcome change.

I truly had no expectations regarding this novel. I had never heard of the author, to tell the truth. Hopefully more and more people will now check her out! Time Warner also sent me her first novel, The Autumn Castle, which I will definitely read.

This tale revolves around one of the oldest clichés in storytelling: forbidden love. This is something that could push potential readers away. But Wilkins does a very good job, and she tackles that cliché in a very adroit manner.

The characterizations are at times wonderful, at times okay, and at times lacking in substance. The main character, Victoria Scott, is drawn in minute details. As far as three-dimensional characters go, you can't ask for anything better than that. Unfortunately, most of the "legendary" characters, those who live in Asgard, are not as well-drawn. Loki, in particular, left a lot to be desired.

The worldbuilding is particularly interesting. There is a rich blend of Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore that is at times fascinating.

The premise of the story is quite engaging. Victoria, fleeing her mother and another failed marriage, takes a job as a scientist on an isolated island in the Sea of Norway. There, away from her problems, she hopes to complete her doctoral thesis. But she soon discovers that there are a number of mythic tales and rumors associated with the island. And more frightening than the island's mysteries is the fact that everything is hauntingly familiar. Then, a stranger appears on the almost-deserted island, turning her life upside down. To her dismay, she learns that their destinies are connected, dating back to a conflict centuries old.

Well-written, well-paced for the most part, Giants of the Frost is a fine novel. If you are looking for something a little different, give this Kim Wilkins offering a chance. You can also visit her website at

The final verdict: 7,5/10

The Prince of Nothing contest winner

Hi guys!

Well, the name of the lucky winner has just been drawn! And it's Dave Northeast, from Oshawa, Canada.

As promised, he will receive a hardcover set of The Prince of Nothing trilogy, which includes The Darkness That Comes Before, The Warrior-Prophet, and of course The Thousandfold Thought.

Many thanks to Overlook for not only helping me to set this up, but for the greatest prize so far! I would also like to thank all the participants. Stay tuned for more!;-)

By the way, the Erikson contest winner will be drawn next week! It could be you!:-)


R. Scott Bakker Interview on the way!

Hey there!

Just received word from Scott, and he's interested in doing an interview. The only thing is that he's going on vacation for the next couple of weeks. So the interview will take place in January.

Which means that early in 2006, we'll have a Q&A with the man who wrote what just might be the best fantasy novel of the coming year!

Stay tuned!

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows slips a little, but manages to remain in the top 10. The book ended its third week on the NYT list at number 9.

James Luceno's The Rise of Darth Vader debuts at number 11.

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is hanging in there, dropping 3 positions to finish its seventh week on the bestseller list at number 14.

Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes is up 4 spots, rising to number 16 for its ninth week on the NYT list.

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

The Radioactive Redhead

I received this book as part of a package from Penguin Books. I had never heard of both John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem. But the premise of the story appeared funny enough, and I could use something "light" to read. So I decided to give The Radioactive Redhead a shot.

And once more, I was rewarded with a very entertaining read. This book would be perfect for the beach, the airport, or the plane. Not too long, with a narrative that flows well, it makes for a quick read. Even better, it will get at least a smile, a smirk, a laugh or a chuckle per chapter!

The Radioactive Redhead is a scifi novel that doesn't take itself too seriously. So don't expect worldbuilding of the first order, resounding depth, or deeply realized characters. This is futuristic pulp for readers who wish to enjoy the ride. And it is a fun ride!

Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last private investigator on Earth. Somehow, if that's possible, this character is sort of a cross between James Bond and Kramer. Helping him is his Artificial Intelligence sidekick HARV. The problem is, this AI wishes to experiment and elects to go through a sex change, becoming the female HARA. Zach thought that HARV could be an annoying pain in the butt, so he is quite unprepared for what comes next.

On his way to accept a contract, Zach is attacked by droid assassins. He barely manages to survive, only to find out that an entertainment network is attempting to kill him as part of a new reality show Let's kill Zach.

To add to his problems, Zach unwittingly becomes the bodyguard of Sexy Sprockets, a teen superstar. Sexy, on her farewell tour, has been receiving death threats from a terrorist organization known as PATA: People Against Talentless Acts.

Hence, trying to survive the reality show episodes, work out some domestic problems with his girlfriend, save Sexy's life and career, live with his new sidekick, all makes for an entertaining read!

This novel will certainly never win a Nobel Prize. But if you are looking for something funny to read this Holiday season, The Radioactive Redhead is definitely for you.

The final verdict: 7/10

The Thousandfold Thought

Understandably, it was with great eagerness that I wanted to sink my teeth into this book, the last volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. Although very sluggish in rhythm at times, The Warrior-Prophet had the sort of ending that set the stage for so much more. Hence, the question was whether or not Bakker could close the show with a flourish.

Believe me when I tell you that The Thousandfold Thought doesn't disappoint! Simply put, it's brilliant!

As was the case with its predecessors, it is an intelligent work, in every run of the mill. This novel, in my humble opinion, will satisfy purists and aficionados in a manner that will certainly make you beg for more.:-) Again, the psychological, philosophical, and religious aspects of this grand epic will undoubtedly prevent this incredible trilogy from ever becoming mainstream. Yet now, more than ever, I'm convinced that this state of affairs will allow The Prince of Nothing and its sequels to retain their uniqueness in the fantasy genre. Which, in the end, is probably priceless.

Bakker's original Mideastern setting continues to be fascinating, as well as a breath of fresh air compared to what is currently on the market. Once more, the worldbuilding is of the first order. It's pure delight to be drawn into this richly detailed universe. In addition, The Thousandfold Thought contains an encyclopedic glossary, a good portion of which I read during my lunch break today. Over 100 pages of pertinent information! I have to admit that I'm more than a little surprised that his publishers elected to include such a detailed glossary. Indeed, it has to be the most comprehensive one since the appendices found within the one-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings.

The most enjoyable facet of this novel is the fact that R. Scott Bakker turns everything around, demonstrating just how good a storyteller he can be. So expect the unexpected. And throughout the entire tale, everything resounds with a depth which we rarely encounter in today's fantasy market.

In The Darkness that Comes Before and The Warrior-Prophet, it was the tapestry woven by the characters and their actions that kept me turning those pages. The Prince of Nothing is populated by a cast of deeply realized characters. And nowhere is it more apparent than in The Thousandfold Thought.

If you believe that you know where Bakker is going with everyone, then you are sadly mistaken. The storylines take various unanticipated twists and turns, surprising the readers on more than one occasion. The characterizations, which were so impressive in the first volume, didn't progress as much in the second one. However, there is evident character growth in this one, enough to please even the most demanding fans.

As impossible as it may sound, just about every character has a role to play in the outcome of the Holy War. And you better buckle up, for Bakker has a lot in store for Achamian, Esmenet, Kellhus, Conphas, Maithanet, Proyas, and all the others. They are all, in different degrees, important.

Another fascinating aspect of this book turns out to be the many revelations pertaining to the Apocalypse, the Consult, the Inchoroi, the Nonmen, the No-God, the Gnosis, the Cishaurim, etc. The glossary also contains a wealth of information concerning these things and a lot more.

Bakker maintains that almost poetic way he has with battle narrative. There is a certain sense of wonder with the way the author depicts battle scenes. And with the battle of Shimeh comprising about 100 pages of this final volume, fans of action should be more than satisfied!

As for the meeting between Kellhus and Moënghus, I will say nothing. This book review will not contain any spoilers. Read the book if you wish to find out! One thing is for sure, the last 2 chapters of The Thousandfold Thought set the stage for the upcoming series. And I just can't wait to get my hands on it!

As for the mechanical aspects of the novel, the prose is impeccable. The narrative is concise and flows seamlessly. The dialogues are genuine. And the pace is crisp. To tell the truth, I can't really find any negative comment to offer. It's that damn good! And the author manages to cap it all off with the sort of ending that's well worth re-reading a time or two.

The Thousandfold Thought will -- at least until a new contender makes its presence known -- be the book to beat this year. Having set the bar rather high, Bakker may have written what could possibly be the best fantasy novel to be released in 2006. This book deserves the highest possible recommendation. This saga is definitely a "must read" work.

So pre-order it, or buy it as soon as it becomes available. It will be released in hardcover by Overlook and in trade paperback by Penguin Books Canada.

The final verdict: 9,5/10