New Tad Williams website

Hi guys!

I just wanted to let you know that there is a brand new website dedicated to the works of NYT bestselling author Tad Williams.

Check it out at

Things have just begun, but the admins promise more to come in the near future. So keep an eye on that website!;-)

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

In hardcover:

Raymond E. Feist's Flight of the Nighthawks debuts at number 26. For more info about this novel: Canada, USA, Europe

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

Caitlin Sweet Interview

Hi guys!

As promised, here is the interview Larry and I did with Canadian author Caitlin Sweet. As you will see, it's a pretty comprehensive Q&A. I think all the parties involved did a pretty good job!;-) Many thanks to Larry for helping me put this together.

If you wish to learn more about the author and her novels, check out her website:

In addition, she also has her own forum at

Please note that this interview has been posted online on last Sunday.



The following interview with Caitlin Sweet was done as a collaborative effort between Pat of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and Larry (wotmania/OF Blog of the Fallen). We agreed that we would divide the interview into two parts, with Pat concentrating on asking questions relating to the general descriptions of Sweet’s two published books, A Telling of Stars and The Silences of Home and her experiences with the fantasy industry, while Larry would devote the second section toward exploring a more behind-the-scenes look of the author as a person. Here is the result of our collaboration with an author who has much to say and hopefully will be a voice in fantasy for years to come.

For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is A TELLING OF STARS.

A Telling of Stars is the story of an 1year-old girl whose family is murdered by a band of Sea Raiders, members of a race cursed by the legendary Queen Galha. The girl, Jaele, sets off in pursuit of one of the Raiders, bent, of course, on exacting a bloody and satisfying revenge. She follows in Queen Galha's footsteps, inspired by her legend, and determined to gather others to her cause. One of these others is Dorin, a young man with whom she conducts a troubled, on again-off again love affair. Dorin changes Jaele, as do all of the people, places and creatures that she encounters; her quest, and her ultimate confrontation with the Sea Raider, end up unfolding very, very differently from what she'd initially hoped for.

The story is fairly simple, since it's told from only one point-of-view, but there are overlapping timelines, and the language is fairly dense and "lyrical" (the adjective most commonly applied to it!). It's also a pretty short book, in fantasy terms: just over 300 pages.

Same as the first question, but in regards to THE SILENCES OF HOME.

This story is set many hundreds of years before Jaele's time, and follows the seminal events of Queen Galha's reign - the events that became the legend that so inspired Jaele. As it turns out, the truth of the original Sea Raider attack, and Galha's epic revenge, was far, far less flattering than the legend. The story centers around a group of characters whose conflicts and passions mirror and even affect the larger developments within the realm.

Silences is a longer book than Telling; its prose is less poetic, and there are many more points-of-view. The two books may be connected, but they're also very different, which is appropriate and, if I may say so, kind of cool!

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

My inability to make characters and situations black-and-white. See the epic fantasy answer below for more on this!

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?

It is actually, and I'm fairly ashamed to admit it! My excuse, these past six years, has been my kids: I now read only before I go to bed, and thus get through only about one book every month or so, if I'm lucky...ah, how times have changed! It took me nearly the entire summer, last year, to read Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and about that long to conquer Scott Bakker's tomes. Because it takes me so long to read anything, I try to read as widely as I can. So the authors I revere tend to be either genre authors who've been around for a long time (Ursula LeGuin, Patricia McKillip) or non-genre authors whose backlist I've discovered belatedly (Patrick White, an Australian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the 1970's, is one of these), or just non-genre authors, like Ian McEwan. All these authors, genre and non-genre, have a fairly stunning command of narrative; they write character-centred stories, using prose that's often unabashedly gorgeous. I also love Latin American authors. Borges is my hero; I was lucky enough to read his Ficciones in the original Spanish while I was at university.

What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write both your novels in the first place?

When I started A Telling of Stars (at age 21), I was attempting to recover from serious heartbreak and needed a cathartic creative outlet; I was also trying to write something that wouldn't be like so much of the adult fantasy I'd been reading, which had been disappointing me. (Again, I'll refer you to my epic fantasy answer for more in this vein...) So the spark was both personal and aesthetic. Silences was a more intellectual undertaking: I wanted to explore the relationship between history and legend, truth and propaganda. I was also interested in how individuals interact with the events of history. Thankfully, though, the intellectual spark was accompanied by an equally strong conception of the characters. I find that starting with only themes, and fleshing out characters according to these themes, doesn't work for me.

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

Oh, man, do I have to choose? Can't a girl have it all!?!

Hmm. I'll go with World Fantasy. Much as I'd revel in the cold, harsh cash afforded by a NYT ranking, I'd revel more in the acclaim of members of the fantasy community I've always admired and enjoyed so much. Seriously!

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?

Incredibly special. I was a bit of a latecomer to the online scene, but thanks to the admonishments of other authors (Bakker foremost among those) and fans, I finally did get my website going, a year ago. My forum followed a little after that. I was utterly blown away by the welcome I found there, and by the generosity of the readers who had no idea who I was, initially, but went off and bought my books anyway. And it's such an amazing thing, to be able to answer questions they have, or respond to comments and criticisms, directly. Like, within minutes! Yes, I'm still a bit wide-eyed - and it's fantastic.

Are you surprised by what little support you receive from the Canadian media? R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson rank among the best fantasy authors out there, yet both of them appear to get very little recognition in their own country. Only Guy Gavriel Kay seems to have gone through that obstacle, and that's after years of producing exceptional novels.

The Canadian publishing industry is incredibly small. The Canadian genre publishing industry is microscopic. So no, I'm not that surprised about the lack of media exposure. My first novel was reviewed in the Globe & Mail, which is Canada's national newspaper, but my second wasn't. I got to appear on a few TV shows (Breakfast Television, Richler Ink), do a few readings...I didn't expect much more than this. In Canada, there's a limited amount of review space, and most of it's devoted to international heavy-hitters, or to that odd bird that's known as "CanLit," written by a handful of well-known authors, and whichever up-and-comings manage to fit that mould. Fantasy simply has no "open the paper on Saturday morning to check out the book reviews" kind of presence, here. This is terribly disappointing, but not surprising. Which leads me to your next question:

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.

I'm not holding my breath, sadly. I think that we may see more fantasy authors being accepted in that elusive "crossover" way, which will give them a much broader audience. I'm always interested to see where certain authors' books are shelved, in bookstores: I've found Gaiman, Tolkien and select others on the "Fiction" shelf, far away from that genre section at the back that most buyers of "real" fiction would never deign to set foot in. Putting Gaiman and Tolkien in the Fiction section is a value judgment, and I don't think this is likely to change. You never know, though: perhaps with authors like Gaiman (and Rowling, too) ascendant, in pop culture terms, fantasy will start to get read more, respected more. I've been told many, many times, "I don't usually read fantasy, but I LOVED your books." Which, while it may be a back-handed compliment, is also an indication that people will pick up something they've heard or read about, even if it's not something they'd normally choose. So I guess it's a matter of keeping the online reviews and interviews coming, and the websites up, and the fans clamouring - maybe the rest of the world will catch on!

What made you choose to write an epic fantasy? Were there any perceived conventions you wanted to twist or break? Why do you think that epic fantasy has such a vast and fractured fanbase -- those who either rabidly support or denounce a particular author?

I don't think I've actually written any epic fantasy, yet! I enjoy reading fine epic fantasy, from time to time (and I agree there's lots of it - don't get me wrong), but I don't feel able or even really willing to write it. So far I haven't been interested in working with absolutes, maybe because they too often come off like stereotypes with capital letters. Good and Evil, Magic, Power, True Love, Quest, Battle, Big Finish - I've read and believed in these narrative elements, but I've also, and more often, read and been annoyed by them. I love the escape inherent in fantasy, but I find that the fantasy that usually works best for me involves ambiguity. My own books reflect this, particularly Telling, which was my attempt to turn stereotypes on their head. I wanted to write about a frustrating relationship, a quest that didn't quite work out, a bad guy who maybe wasn't. Silences is similar; the characters are neither fully good nor fully bad, and none of them is evil. This is perhaps (and here's another segue!) why my books often don't appeal to people who adore epic fantasy.

So: why is the fanbase fractured...Because fantasy readers are so accustomed to being defensive about reading genre at all that they naturally get territorial with other fantasy readers, too? Because despite the breadth of interpretation inherent in the term "fantasy," some readers are adamant that one author, or one sub-genre, are the Platonic Forms of authors and sub-genres? I'm not actually sure. All I know is that all the in-fighting belittles the genre. Opinions are fine. Differing tastes: no problem. But it seems so unnecessary, to attack authors or other readers; to savage books that don't conform to one's own tastes, and to savage other readers' preferences. What I do like to see is healthy, constructive, rigorous debate - something that also happens, in fantasy circles. Thank goodness.

What can you tell us about your future projects?

Having just explained why I haven't written epic fantasy yet, I hope someday to try something on a larger scale. Some, dare I say, multi-volume thing. I've been playing with an ancient-Mediterranean-inspired story for half a year now, and although I've just put it aside, I do intend to go back to it. In the meantime, I'll probably stick to the kind of thing I've written so far: character-driven stories, told with a certain degree of lyricism and allusiveness. You never know, though: I might write something totally un-Sweetian...


In this second set of questions, the focus is more on the intersections between Caitlin’s personal and professional lives. Instead of focusing so much on the mundane business of how the author goes about constructing the scenes, the emphasis is more on how real life matters, from raising children to related activities to real-life issues that appear to be reflected in Caitlin’s works are addressed. It is important to remember that authors are not composing their works in a vacuum and that their works very often reflect wider issues. So with this in mind, on to the second set of questions and answers done over a series of emails:

Based on many conversations that we've had over the past year, you talk a lot about your young daughters and the activities you do with them. What influence has raising your children had, if any, on how you view life and, by extension, on the writing of a story?

The quick, easy answer is that every single thing I do, think and feel is colored by the existence of my children - but that's way too sweeping! And not entirely true, though that might seem blasphemous to other parents out there. I was a writer long before I was a parent, and writing is still a refuge, of sorts: a place I go, a thing I do, that's about me as an individual. I've never experienced anything as emotionally and mentally consuming as being a parent, and a full-time one at that. (I actually found it much easier to balance things when I was working full-time and being a mother only for the couple of hours before the girls' bedtime.) So I need my writing now, more than ever. It keeps me separate from my mother-self, and usually allows me to return to that other self with a bit more equanimity and patience (though sometimes it doesn't work like that, either: when I was writing Silences, and feeling absolutely euphoric about how it was going, I was generally pretty snappish with my kids).

Practically speaking, having to juggle child-rearing and writing has been a very, very good thing. I'm a mother first, a writer second, but when I do get those two hours to myself in the afternoon, I focus immediately. I was never able to do this, before the kids.

Being a mother has influenced the content of my writing, too: I feel different, describing parent/child relationships, now that I've had children. Alea, in Silences, was a wonderful character to write: I got to trace her development from girl to young woman to pregnant woman to mother of a baby girl, and it felt natural and true. I'm not saying that people who haven't had children can't write about them (that would bring up all sorts of issues of voice appropriation, which I might not be up to tackling!). But now I understand, in a visceral way, how amazing, difficult and mind-boggling having babies and small children is, and that's a definite plus, when it comes to writing about these things.

As for how I view life: it's amazing how children make you remember what it was like to be a child. I watch my girls as they struggle and marvel at life, and find ways of putting these feelings into stories and pictures, and it makes me feel that what I'm doing with my writing is just part of that continuum.

In a recent email, you told me that you were giving a talk to a group of Grade 8 students about 'what it's like to be a writer.' If you don't mind, could you please tell us what you talked about and how the students reacted?

I was told to keep the comments very personal: when I first thought of myself as a writer, how I went about becoming a published one, what it's like to be one full-time. So I did a lot of talking about Caitlin Sweet: The Productive Early Years and Sweet in University: the Long Drought. I brought in some props, including the manuscript of my very first book, written when I was 13. I passed it around; some of the kids flipped through it for a long time. (It's handwritten, as all my first drafts are, and it's WAY neater than all the books that have followed!) I was also asked to give them advice, which, in point form, was:

- be flexible. Write on the subway or in a park, in a restaurant, on little bits of paper - whenever and wherever you feel like it. Don't think you need to have a system, at first. And if strictness ends up being the best, go for it.

- while you're being flexible, be focused, too. Learn how to write, only - to put other things aside, even if it's only for half an hour at a time.

- find a community. This could be friends, family - anyone in your daily life whom you're sure will give you solid, constructive responses to your writing (the ones who'll always love whatever you write are adorable and fabulous, of course, but do try to secure some actual objective readers, too!). Go online and find a weblog or a writers' forum. Find a bunch of sources of feedback: this is the one thing you'll need more than anything. Writing is solitary, and it's easy to lose concentration, confidence and even enjoyment when you spend too much time in your own head.

- expect to have other "real" jobs, while you're writing. Or marry someone rich.

- experiment with all sorts of genres, but be confident about whatever kind of writing you decide you love the most. For years people pressured me to read and write something "real," something that wasn't fantasy. I had no interest in doing this, and I did feel a bit weird about it, initially, a bit ashamed because I was being made to feel like what I was writing was inherently lower-quality than mainstream fiction. After I got over being ashamed, I got mad and defensive, and that was no good, either. Now I'm just proud of what I write. Try for this confidence right from the beginning!

How they reacted...well, pretty much how I expected 45 13-year-olds to react, I guess! The vice-principal, who was in the room for about five minutes, said later, "I couldn't believe how engaged they were with what you were saying!" To which I said, "Aha - so lounging back in your chair, balanced precariously on its back two legs, and smirking at your friends counts as engaged?" To which she said, "Uh huh!" It was a classic pack-mentality scenario: none of them wanted to seem too interested. Once I got one of the students on her own, though (when she was walking me back to the staff room), she asked me all sorts of questions. I do think there were a few in the bunch who really listened. Unfettered by the potential for sniggering or ostracization, the two teachers asked me loads of questions!

One uniformly positive gleaning, for me: when I asked how many of them read fantasy, nearly every single one put up his/her hand. I said, "Not just Harry Potter - other fantasy too" - and the hands stayed up. They were utterly unembarrassed about this particular admission, and this pleased me greatly!

Sounds like a very interested group! I remember from our earlier interview a year ago of you talking about your love for Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles and hearing how for many of these students Harry Potter may inhabit a similar place in their hearts. What do you believe it is about The Black Cauldron or Harry Potter that seems to captivate a reader and in some cases inspire them to reach out toward other works? Some people might mean it in a derrogatory fashion, but there does seem to be something 'special' about those books we discover when we are young, those books that are 'the stuff as dreams are made on,' as Shakespeare said in The Tempest. Any thoughts on this matter? Also, how would you relate your published and unpublished writings to the books you read in your childhood?

I wrote A Telling of Stars because I was longing to recapture the sense of wonder I'd always felt as a child, immersed in young adult fantasy - the kind of wonder I wasn't finding in most of the adult genre books I was reading, all those years later. Wonder, escape, emotional and moral resonance: all of these were traits I encountered in the work of Lloyd Alexander, Ursula LeGuin, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner. The stuff of dreams, indeed. I guess it's possible to ascribe dreaminess to the state of childhood itself - except that, when I re-read these books, I feel pretty much the same way I did when I was eleven. So yes, they're special. They enlighten and entertain, at once; they're simple in a gratifyingly elemental way, without being simplistic. (Although I've only read the first of the Harry Potter books thus far, I have the impression that, despite their increasingly voluminous word counts, they're fairly simple narratives too, in that same satisfying fashion. A boy, his friends, his school, a supreme baddie - there you have it!) (I by no means intend to imply that it would be simple to write such books. See below!)

It's strange: although I still think of y/a fantasy as my inspiration, I haven't had the urge to write any myself - or not since I was in high school, anyway. This might be because, at some level, I'm terrified. I remember Lloyd Alexander writing something along the lines of, "It's much harder to write for children than it is to write for adults" - and I believe this, for me, at least. Perhaps this is partly because of the added pressure. Adult readers are often creatures of habit, whose opinions and tastes have largely been formed already; but kids...well, they're more flexible, more open-minded, in terms of what kinds of books they'll tackle. These books have the potential to change their lives. So I've been dancing around the idea of a y/a endeavour - unsure, but also undecided. You just never know...

Since one year has passed since the release of The Silences of Home, what has changed in your professional life?

Actually...not a whole lot! I'm still waiting for my books to be picked up by publishers outside Canada (ah, that elusive U.S. deal), and my sales in Canada continue to be tepid, and there's no mass market release of Silences on the horizon yet. I feel a bit like I'm in a holding pattern, somewhere above my next career development - whatever that will be! But people I trust assure me that it'll just be a matter of time; that I've written a couple of good books that'll gradually start garnering more attention.

In terms of my actual writing process, this past year, things have changed. I'm still only writing in the afternoons for about two hours, as I did when I wrote Silences, but I'm grappling more with concentration and material. (The concentration issue could be due to the fact that I'm such a known quantity at the coffee shop where I write. Anyone remember what happened when Norm used to walk into Cheers?) As I've mentioned elsewhere, writing Silences was a smooth, nearly effortless process. I've felt nothing like that since. I'm not complaining, mind you: I've only written two books, and it's not at all surprising that the writing of subsequent ones will feel different. But it has been hard. I spent about six months planning my next book, then started writing last September - and I stopped writing, about a month ago. Not forever: I'm sure I'll return to the idea (especially since more than 200 pages have been written!). But it wasn't working, for a variety of reasons that were new to me. I'm now back to the planning stage, with a whole new concept. This also feels like a lack of focus, somehow, and it's unsettling. But I'm dealing with it, one anxiety attack at a time!

A positive note to finish this answer on: I'm finally feeling like my books are getting read, by considerably more people than before. This is probably thanks to the Internet, where I took up e-residence about a year ago, on my own website and on Not only are people reading the books; they're also discussing them, and I'm able to follow it all in ways I couldn't have, a year ago. For example, A Telling of Stars was picked as Book of the Month for May on sffworld, and I know this was because people are more familiar with me, now that I have a forum there. And both books have also been recommended for a wotmania book club. This is good stuff, and I'm grateful for it.

Speaking of this work-in-progress, anything that you can tell us about it? Is it markedly different from the prior story you were writing in terms of plot, style, or feel?

Yes to all of the above! It's funny: just after I'd started writing my ancient-Mediterranean-inspired book, I also started posting about it online, answering readers' queries about it, etc. Then, six months later, the thing stalled. Or I did. Whichever: I'm not writing it any more. So now I'm spooked, maybe - wary of giving away too much, or leading people to expect that I'll be writing something I don't end up writing. Let's just say that my current project is still in the planning stages; that yes, it's very, very different from my prior attempt, as well as my first two published books, and that this is extremely exciting. Ask me this again in a few months; if I'm making amazing headway and am absolutely certain this book will continue to develop, I'll be a bit more generous with the details!

You bring up your experiences with online sites such as sffworld and wotmania. Tell us, what are some of the themes from your books that you've noticed people have talking about that you yourself never really had considered when you were writing the books?

I find it's not so much the themes as the interpretations of them that have sometimes caught me off guard. Telling has been mentioned on several evangelical Christian websites and blogs, by people who claim to have been moved by themes of forgiveness and personal redemption. The themes themselves were ones I was aware of; the interpretation was a surprise. Gender issues also come up a lot. I wasn't attempting to be provocative, when I made Telling's protagonist an 1year-old girl; I was simply writing what started out as a very personal, quasi-autobiographical story. Then the readers weighed in. "Why a female main character?" asked one male interviewer, with an "aren't I causing trouble?" glance; shortly after this interview, the book was mentioned, in glowing terms, on a website devoted to feminist fantasy. While I don't necessarily mind the plethora of literary criticism-inspired readings of my books, I do want to make it clear that I never explore my themes in any sort of didactic fashion. I had no intention of writing a Feminist Novel - which brings me to your next question.

A recurring topic that I've seen at various sites and blogs deals with gender and fantasy. Over at your official forum, you once addressed that issue in regards to how certain readers were reacting to your books. Would you mind telling us about some of those reactions and to what degree gender plays a role in your fantasies?

My books feature some pretty strong female characters, and some matrilineal societies. They also include a few conflicted, sensitive male characters. This is an organic thing, not a calculated one - as I mentioned above, I had no desire to make gender an overt thematic issue. However, reader reaction to these characters has definitely been overtly gender-based! One reviewer was critical of my male characters because "there wasn't a Conan in the bunch"; another reader called them "ciphers, every last one." The language of the books, and the kinds of stories they tell, have also been both praised and condemned along gender lines. "Quasi-poetic, feminine, self-indulgent" said one of Telling's reviewers; "lyrical and moving and deeply feminine" said another. Which is really, really interesting, to me. Are there masculine and feminine ways of writing fantasy? Do most male authors write fast-paced, workmanlike prose about battles and power politics and kings, while female authors stick to "quieter", more character-driven tales and lusher language? And are there masculine and feminine ways of reading fantasy? These topics feel like quicksand, to me: compelling, impossible to ignore, but also dangerous. I detest generalizations, but I also think it's disingenuous to insist that gender isn't an issue, in fantasy. It is. For a long, long time, genre was written mostly by men, and read mostly by men. That's changed (in fact, some statistics show readership being predominantly female, now), but there's still a certain level of discomfort or even puzzlement when it comes to gender roles. Why else would that interviewer have asked me "why a female protagonist?"

You mentioned the gender thread on my forum. The subject initially took the form of a poll, which asked whether male readers identified more with male characters, and female readers with female characters. The answers seemed to show that male readers generally do have more interest in reading about protagonists of their own gender, while female readers don't really care. Since I myself have no hard-and-fast answer to the gender question, I'll end with a question of my own, posed in that same thread . Something for readers of this interview to ponder!

"Do male/female readers tend to identify with protagonists of their own gender because they might reflect the readers' own experience - or is it because these characters play broader gender roles with which the readers are more comfortable?

Very good question, very tough to answer, but I’ll provide my personal response as a comment to the post. And now, I had planned asking this ever since we began this interview, but now it might seem to be an odd juxtapositioning of questions, especially after your thoughtful response above, but here's a recent picture that I would like for you to explain. What is going on behind the scenes to make that picture such a sight to behold?

Ah. Yes, well, behind the scenes...

Ad Astra 2006. 25th anniversary year. Many genre luminaries, many scintillating panels and readings and impassioned philosophical discussions at the hotel bar. But THE event of the convention was the Sunburst Award auction. The Sunburst Award ( a highly coveted Canadian literary genre prize. The auction: an array of genre-related memorabilia. The auctioneers: two oddly attired women with loud voices. Or not so oddly attired, considering it was a con, and the day of the masquerade, at that. Lesley Livingston was in the purple sequins, and I was in the pink (also the name of a classic album by The Band, but I digress). We talked. We strutted. We attempted to channel the many hot alien women of the original Star Trek series (who inevitably ended up tearing Captain Kirk's shirt with their scary 1960s nails). We sold some fantastic merchandise - and then we sold ourselves. Yup. In order to raise funds for a prestigious literary award, Lesley and I offered ourselves as dinner companions to the highest bidder. We stood in front of the crowd, then, and waited, and babbled a bit, into the odd silence that had fallen. Peter Halasz, co-founder of the award, finally made an opening bid. Something pretty modest, if I recall correctly - and I do, because the winning bid was also somewhat modest. But at least there was another bidder. A bidder who was sitting in the back row, but who was about two feet taller than everyone else; a shaggy-haired, legs-in-the-aisle guy whose brain was palpably large. "$35!" this man called - and thus it was that R. Scott Bakker won Lesley and Caitlin at an auction. There were photos, afterward - in the bar, of course. I don't believe he ever did buy us dinner. I expect a refund of $17.50 at some point.

It was fun. I mean, really FUN. And I'm glad there are pictures. At least I think I am...

Fun, yes, I believe ‘fun’ would indeed be the word to describe this! Thanks again for explaining this and thanks again so much for agreeing to do this interview with us, Caitlin. It’s been a pleasure as always and we would like to wish you the best of luck with your career and most importantly, with those near and dear to you.

Throne of Jade

This just in: Naomi Novik is good!

Like most people who've read Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon, I was enchanted by Novik's debut. Still, since this trilogy is unlike anything else in the current market, I wasn't entirely certain the author could return with something as enjoyable. After all, writing the sequel to a wonderful book is a writer's most difficult challenge. Yet Naomi Novik passed this test with flying colors!

In my humble opinion, Throne of Jade is even better than its predecessor. Indeed, it shows more depth and makes for another pleasant read.

Novik's writing skills have improved. Not that I found them lacking in the first volume, but the prose is impeccable in this sequel. Her narrative flows particularly well, making Throne of Jade yet another page-turning reading experience.

The novel begins some time following the ending of Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon. England is proud of its hard-earned victory against Napoléon's bold scheme. But a Chinese embassy has traveled to London to demand the return of Temeraire. According to the envoys, the Celestial breed is too exalted to be utilized to wage war and to have a vulgar soldier as companion.

The characterizations are again interesting, with both Laurence and Temeraire understandably stealing the show. But the author shows great skills in her rendering of the uneasy rapport between the Westerners and the Chinese envoys. As Laurence and his crew are forced to embark on a long journey to China, we have the opportunity to learn a lot more about that disparate group of protagonists.

More so than in volume 1, Naomi Novik displays a great eye for details, which adds another dimension to the story. The imagery of it all is remarkably arresting.

The author successfully captured China's "flavour." I was impressed at how easily and almost seamlessly Novik was able to incorporate her dragons to the different environments. Once more, she demonstrates her mastery of the Napoleonic era. Moreover, she is obviously conversant with Imperial China's history and culture as well. All of which brings this tale to a level that few alternate history books can match.

Throne of Jade is one terrific novel! Naomi Novik is rapidly leaving her mark in the fantasy circles, and this sequel allows her to prove to everyone that she appears to be here to stay.

I'm really looking forward to reading the last volume, Black Powder War. So far, the Temeraire trilogy has been a fast-moving and incredibly fun series. Let's hope that Novik caps it all off with an exclamation point!

If you wish to treat yourself to something special, look no further. This is the perfect novel if you are looking for a change from all those dark and brooding fantasy epics.

The final verdict: 8,5/10

For more info on this book: Canada, USA, Europe

Win a free copy of Naomi Novik's BLACK POWDER WAR

Hi there!

The nice people at Del Rey Books have accepted to support another Naomi Novik contest. Which means that there are now two copies of Black Powder War up for grabs!

The rules are the same as usual. I have admit that I'm perplexed by the fact that a vast number of people are unable to follow what I consider to be terribly simple rules. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(anti-spam) with the header "WAR." 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!

THRONE OF JADE contest winners

Hi guys!

I just wanted to let you know that the names of the two lucky winners have been drawn. A pair of Stevens will thus receive a copy of Naomi Novik's Throne of Jade delivered right to their doorstep! Many thanks to Del Rey Books for being gracious enough to supply this neat prize!

The winners are:

Steven Tschoerner, from Austin, Texas, USA (Draegan on the MB)

Steven C. Moss, from Fort Mohave, USA (Stevem on the ASOIAF MB)

Thanks to all the participants! Stay tuned for more!;-)

Congrats to David Forbes!

Indeed, David just let me know that his debut novel is already going back to print! I reviewed The Amber Wizard earlier this year and believed it is a promising debut novel. So it's rather nice to see that readers have given it a shot.

For more info on The Amber Wizard: Canada, USA

You can learn more about David and his book at

House of Chains

What else can I possibly say!?!

I'm rapidly running out of superlatives and hyperboles when it comes to praising Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Indeed, the publishers should print a disclaimer such as: Warning: This series may be addictive.

In terms of vision and imagination, Erikson is without equals. And I'm making this bold claim after reading the first four volumes of this grand saga. I say so because with the completion of House of Chains, the Malazan series is already head and shoulders above any other works of fantasy in print today. I can only imagine to what level reading Midnight Tides and The Bonehunters will bring it.

Steven Erikson has thus far established himself as a master storyteller. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is without the shadow of a doubt the most ambitious epic fantasy ever undertaken. And I have a feeling that, when all is said and done, this series might become the benchmark against which every other "great" fantasy series will be judged. Bold claim once more, to be sure. Yet I sincerely doubt that many people who have read these books would disagree with me. Yes, it's that damn good!

The incredibly convoluted storylines once again hint at a depth that is beyond compare. Yet the author's narrative plows through this complex ensemble of plots and sub-plots with an aplomb that leaves me awestruck.

As we learn more about the cast of characters, we discover just how fully realized a majority of them truly are. How Erikson continues to introduce us to a multitude of new characters in every subsequent novel leaves me utterly baffled. House of Chains begins with the story of Karsa Orlong, one of the violent Teblor warriors. The start of this particular storyline is very atypical of Erikson, and the reader is left wondering more than once. Only till a number of secrets are revealed, that is! The somewhat sluggish beginning would be the only downside to this novel.

Memories of Ice was a tough act to follow. After all, most fans seem to agree that the third volume is Steven Erikson at the peak of his art. I would tend to agree with that assessment. Although if he ever manages to top Memories of Ice, I'm persuaded that few of us will complain! Having said that, let us not forget that Deadhouse Gates was a ripping yarn in its own right. And it's to the subcontinent of Seven Cities that we return in House of Chains.

The events of the Chain of Dogs are past. The Whirlwind has begun, and the Army of the Apocalypse await the arrival of the Malazan punitive forces. In the heart of the Holy Desert of Raraku, Sha'ik Reborn will face Adjunct Tavore. Of course, House of Chains marks the return of many characters which made reading Deadhouse Gates such a memorable experience: Fiddler, Apsalar, Crokus, Iskaral Pust, Leoman, Toblakai, Heboric, Icarium, Mappo and many others.

With thrilling action throughout, this novel has enough twists and turns to satisfy even the most demanding readers. Moreover, it will keep you begging for more!

For all you readers clamoring for something "worthy" to sink your teeth into in between Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin's books, this series is definitely for you. But beware: You may find yourself reading new installments of The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ica and Fire while awaiting the newest Malazan offering!;-)

The final verdict: 9/10

For more information on this book: Canada, USA, Europe

NHL Playoffs: My predictions

Hey guys!

All right, here they are. Not everyone will agree with me, of course. But here are my predictions for the first round of the playoffs. Feel free to post your own predictions in the comment section if the mood strikes you!:-)

The East:

Ottawa vs Tampa Bay: Ottawa in 6 games
Carolina vs Montreal: Carolina in 5 games
New Jersey vs New York: New Jersey in 5 games
Buffalo vs Philadelphia: Buffalo in 6 games

The West:

Detroit vs Edmonton: Detroit in 5 games
Dallas vs Colorado: Dallas in 6 games
Calgary vs Anaheim: Calgary in 7 games
Nashville vs San Jose: San Jose in 6 games

Let's see if I've got the right of it, or if I'm full of crap!;-)

New Robin Hobb Contest!!!

Hi guys!

Well, I've just received word from HarperCollins UK and I'm pretty excited!:-) To coincide with my new Robin Hobb interview, Voyager Books have accepted to support another contest. And the prize they are offering is a big one!

One lucky winner (perhaps more!) will get his or her hands on a first edition hardback copy of Shaman's Crossing, signed by Robin. That's the UK edition, in case you are wondering. But even better, the winner will also received signed bookplates of Forest Mage, again signed by the author.

Now, if you are a fan of Robin Hobb, it doesn't get much better than this!;-)

The rules are the same as usual. I have admit that I'm perplexed by the fact that a vast number of people are unable to follow what I consider to be terribly simple rules. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "FOREST MAGE." 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!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April18th)

If I'm not mistaken, this is the first week since I've been tracking fantasy and scifi bestsellers that there is absolutely nothing to report. . .

Some support for a fellow Canuck!

Guy Gavriel Kay has represented Canada in outstanding fashion for over two decades. And with the emergence of incredible talents such as Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker in recent years, some fantasy fans have been wondering if Canadian authors are gradually taking over the world.:-)

As you well know, I'm a big supporter of Canadian talent. Indeed, David Keck was a bit taken aback by everything I was willing to do to get him some much-needed and much-appreciated exposure. And as such, I'm doing all I possibly can to insure that Canucks will one day create that evil empire spanning the fantasy genre. After all, at least according to Terry Goodkind, we Canadians are no better than those Iranian crackpots!;-) But I digress. . .

Not so long ago, Larry (Dylanfanatic for most of you out there!) started a thread on He was asking people for ideas pertaining to what a writer could do to increase his or her visibility. It was soon discovered that he was attempting to find ways to get Caitlin Sweet a bit of publicity.

If you've read both the Bakker and Erikson interviews, you are undoubtedly aware that the Canadian media provides very little (not to say none) support to Canadian fantasy authors. Don't ask why. It's a Canadian thing -- like us saying "hey" every two sentences!;-)

In order to help Caitlin get more exposure, I've elected to write this introductive post about her and her novels. Thus far, she has written two fantasy books. The first one is A Telling of Stars. (More info about it: Canada, USA, Europe) The second one is The Silences of Home. (More info about it: here)

You can learn a lot more about the author and her works on Caitlin Sweet's website: More importantly, you will find sample chapters which can be perused online. Her writing style has been compared to that of Ursula K. Le Guin. Read the excerpts and see if they pique your curiosity.

Here is a link to Larry's review of The Silences of Home: Book review

Both Larry and I will be interviewing Caitlin Sweet in the near future. So keep an eye out for that! Meanwhile, give this Canadian author a shot!

Oh, and before I forget! Caitlin was nice enough to provide a link to some pics of her, R. Scott Bakker, Guy Gavriel Kay, and a bunch of others. Check them out! Personally, I think that Scott should drop this fantasy writing thing and do some modeling instead!;-) He does strike a rather fine figure. . .


Accepting questions for a few interviews

If you frequent some of the message boards where I usually hang out, you are aware that I have a couple of interviews on the way. As always, I'm inviting the fans to submit their own questions. The most interesting ones will then be included in the "final cut."

You can now submit questions for the following interviews:

- Ian Cameron Esslemont

- Jacqueline Carey

- Robin Hobb

Just indicate to which author you want to ask your question.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Yet more books to win!

I just found out that my friends at have two contests running as we speak. So check out their website if you'd like to get your hands on some signed Naomi Novik novels, or if you want to have a chance to win Hal Duncan's Vellum.

As for me, it would be nice to "win" a book for a change!;-) Not that it's not fun putting together all those contests for you guys, but I sure would like to win something myself!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April11th)

In hardcover:

David Weber's In Fury Born is down 4 positions, finishing its second week on the NYT bestseller list at number 28. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe

Elizabeth Moon's Engaging the Enemy debuts at number 29. For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

News Update

Hey there!

Just thought I'd drop by and let you know what's coming up on the Hotlist!;-)

Book Reviews:

I'm still savoring Steven Erikson's House of Chains at home (who said it was the worst of the Malazan bunch???). For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe

At work, I will now be reading Naomi Novik's Throne of Jade. I'm curious to see if this sequel will live to the high expectations generated by His Majesty's Dragon. For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe


I have sent my questions to Tracy and Laura Hickman. This will be a long interview, so I'm not sure how long it will take them to answer all those questions.

Jake (from the wotmania fame) and I will have the privilege to interview Jacqueline Carey. The Q&A should be available in the next couple of weeks, which means that it will appear before the release of Carey's latest, Kushiel's Scion. For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe

Robin Hobb has agreed to do another interview with me! Look for it around June, prior to the release of the anticipated Forest Mage. For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe

Another interview I'm really looking forward to will be with Ian Cameron Esslemont, co-creator of the Malazan world with Steven Erikson and author of Night of Knives. Erikson has put me in contact with him, and hopefully we can do this soon! For more info about it: Canada, Europe

And of course, the full George R. R. Martin interview should be posted on May 2nd, day of my birthday!


There will be one for a couple of copies of Naomi Novik's Black Powder War. For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe

And as you know, I will also have three signed copies of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion up for grabs as well!

Exile's Return

Well, it's finally done. After toiling through three volumes of dubious quality, I have now read the Conclave of Shadows series. Most of you are well aware that I found the first two volumes to be of mediocre quality. Thankfully, Exile's Return is a little better. Yet it's not as if Feist set the bar very high with both Talon of the Silver Hawk and King of Foxes.

In the end, what it comes down to is that Raymond E. Feist never had enough material to write a trilogy. All those storylines should have comprised a single volume acting as a prequel to Flight of the Nighthawks. As a series, however, it ranks as one of the worst written by a "big name" author that I've read in quite some time. As such -- a veritable milking of the author's popularity -- I feel that Feist is no better than Terry Goodkind for taking advantage of his fans in such a manner. My only consolation is that Flight of the Nighthawks is considered a very good yarn, proof that Feist can still spin a good tale.

The ending of Exile's Return let us catch a glimpse of events to come. It also marks the return of old favorite characters such as Pug, Tomas, Nakor and a few others. But it's too little too late. The damage has been done -- irrevocably so.

The characterizations are once again deficient. Only in the latter portion of the novel, when the old characters become part of the story, do they improve a bit. But the fact that this entire story must be carried by Kaspar, former Duke of Olasko, proves to be its undoing. An uninteresting and two-dimensional villain in the previous volumes, I found it impossible to really get into his quest for redemption.

I was reading Exile's Return at work, while tackling Steven Erikson's House of Chains at home. Let's just say that Erikson makes Feist -- a world-renowned and NYT bestselling author -- look like a clumsy amateur. The gap in quality of enormous. And almost insulting. . .

Although the ending is interesting and shows that Feist is not done yet, it is not enough to save this series. Truth to tell, I never thought that Feist -- who has been one of my favorite fantasy writers ever since I was introduced to the genre -- could fall so low as to write something like the Conclave of Shadows.

For more information about Exile's Return: Canada, USA, Europe

The final verdict: 6,5/10

Friendly NHL Hockey Pool


Since people from all over the globe stop here every week, I was wondering if the hockey fans among you would be interested in a little hockey pool. With the NHL playoffs just around the corner, it could be fun! As a fan, I'll be in a number of pools in the coming weeks -- it's a Canadian thing! But I wanted to know if some of you would be interested in a friendly NHL hockey pool.

The rules would be simple. One round at a time, you get to choose which team would win a series. In addition, you get to foretell in how many games your team would do so. Picking the right team earns you 2 points, and getting the number of games right gets you an additional point.

For example, let's say Ottawa plays Tampa Bay. If you select the Senators to win in 6 games, you get 2 points if Ottawa wins the series. If they win it in 6 games, you get an extra point, for a total of 3 points.

There will be 8 series in the first round, which makes for a maximum of 24 points. At the end of each round, I'd compile the numbers and we'd all make our selections for the second round, and so on and so forth.

Just leave a comment if you are interested. I'm just trying to see if there is enough interest for us to do this!

Pat (Go Habs Go!)

The David Keck Contest Winner

Hi there!

Just wanted to announce the name of the lucky winner. That person will now receive a hardcover copy of David Keck's debut, In the Eye of Heaven. For those who have not read it yet, I have reviewed the novel last month.

The winner is:

John Zeleznik, from Syracuse, USA

Many thanks to Tor Books for letting us have a free copy of Keck's debut. Without their support, this contest would not have been possible.

Stay tuned for more!;-)

Sample chapters of David Keck's IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN available online

Just check out for more info!

The Bronze Canticles contest winners

Hi guys!

Well, the names of the lucky winners have been drawn. Each will receive a full signed set of Tracy and Laura Hickman's The Bronze Canticles. Special thanks to Time Warner Books for supporting this contest. Without them, these things would not be possible.

The winners are:

Steve Spaulding, from Minneapolis, USA (RaceBannon42 on the asoiaf message board)

Amy Feinstein, from Pittsburgh, USA (Ella at

Charles Nelson, from Wolfville, Canada (Nadir at

Dan Tutor, from Rossford, USA (MonCul at

Steven and Cindy Jones, from Lee’s Summit, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Stay tuned for more!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 4th)

In hardcover:

David Weber's In Fury Born debuts at number 32.

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

Win a free copy of Naomi Novik's THRONE OF JADE

Hi there!

Gee, but that interview teaser is really putting asses in the seats!

The nice people at Del Rey Books have accepted to support another Naomi Novik contast, this time for Temeraire/His Majstesy's Dragon sequel. Which means that there are now two copies of Throne of Jade up for grabs! And, even better, I will have 2 copies of the final volume for another contest next month!:-)

And if you scroll down, you'll realize that you can still win a copy of David Keck's In the Eye of Heaven, as well as a full set of signed The Bronze Canticles by Tracy and Laura Hickman.

The rules are the same as usual. I have admit that I'm perplexed by the fact that a vast number of people are unable to follow what I consider to be terribly simple rules. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(anti-spam) with the header "JADE." 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!

George R. R. Martin Interview Teaser

Hi there!

As you know, since I was granted permission to do this interview with GRRM to coincide with the paperback release of A Feast for Crows in the UK, I cannot post the whole Q&A until next month. But here is a teaser, just so you can patiently wait for the full interview.



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

Characters. Mind you, I don't discount the importance of style and plot and the other ingredients of fiction, but for me, the people will always be the heart of the matter. I want my characters to be as real to my readers as the guy next door... but more interesting.

What extensive research did the writing of the A song of Ice and Fire entail?

I've filled up several bookcases with books about medieval history. Feasts and fools and tournaments, warfare and women, various popular histories of the Hundred Years War, the Crusades, the Albigensian Crusade, the Wars of the Roses, etc. You can't read too much. You never know what information you may need.

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.

There's still resistance, but it seems to me that J.R.R. Tolkien is finally being accepted into the canon, however grudgingly, and that creates hope for the rest of us. In the end, though, only time will tell. Will today's bestselling fantasies still be read twenty years from now? Fifty? One hundred?

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

I won't say the plotlines have diverged, but the process of getting from here to there has taken more time and more pages than I initially estimated... perhaps because I found the places and people I encountered along the way so interesting. The secondary and tertiary characters are largely to blame, the spearcarriers who keep insisting that they're human too, when all I want them to do is stand there and be quiet and hold that spear. Yes, some of my initial plans have changed along the way. If they hadn't, I would just be connecting the dots, and that would drive me mad. Some writers are architects and some are gardeners, and I am in the second camp. The tale takes on a life of its own in the writing.

Is a series like A Song of Ice and Fire something you've always yearned to write, or was it something you came up with in the latter part of your writing career?

I've always loved fantasy, since I first encountered Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien in my high school days. I was writing sword & sorcery even in my fanzine days in the 60s, along with SF and horror and superhero yarns. Truth is, I like all the flavors of fantastic fiction, and for me it has never been a big deal to move from one genre to another.

How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

Hell, all writers dream of immortality, of being remembered beside Homer and Shakespeare and Dickens in the storytellers' pantheon. That's a determination that only posterity can make, however, and there's no point in dwelling on it. All you can do is try to write the best books that you possibly can, one page at a time.

George R. R. Martin Contest Winners

Well, here it is! The moment you have all been waiting for. It is now time to announce the names of our lucky winners!

First of all, let me thank both Random House (Bantam Dell) and HarperCollins UK (Voyager Books) for offering such great prizes to support this contest. 578 eager fans registered, making this the biggest contest I have run so far. Honestly, I doubt I'll ever beat that!

The Grand Prize Winner is:

Sarah Tolcser, from New Orleans, USA.

She'll be receiving a complete hardcover set of A Song of Ice and Fire, every volume signed by George R. R. Martin himself!

The two runner-ups are:

Mike Patterson, from Chicago, USA

Stephen Maddox, from Vancouver, Canada

Both will receive signed copies of the UK hardback edition of A Feast for Crows.

Many thanks to all the participants. By the way, I have received GRRM's answers to the interview questions. I cannot post the full Q&A until next month, but expect a teaser in the coming days!;-)

Stay tuned for more. . .

Win a free copy of David Keck's IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN

The good people at Tor Books have agreed to supply one lucky winner with a hardcover copy of David Keck's In the Eye of Heaven, which I have just reviewed. There has been a buzz surrounding the release of this novel ever since Steven Erikson mentioned it in an interview in January. Here's your chance to see what the book is all about, free of charge! Indeed, the winner will have his or her prize delivered right to their door!

The rules are the same as usual. I have admit that I'm perplexed by the fact that a vast number of people are unable to follow what I consider to be terribly simple rules. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(anti-spam) with the header "HEAVEN." 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!

Naomi Novik Contest Winner

Hi there!

Just wanted to let you guys know that the names of our winners have been drawn. Our three lucky winners will receive a copy of Naomi Novik's debut, His Majesty's Dragon.

Many thanks again to Random House (Del Rey Books) for accepting to do this. Without their support, there would have been no contest.

The winners are:

Ken Fergason, from Chandler, Arizona, USA

Brandon Herrington, from Lexington, South Carolina, USA

Luc Ouellette, from Rosemère, Québec, Canada