SPELLBINDER contest winners!

Hi there!

The names of our winners have been drawn. They will each receive a copy of Melanie Rawn's Spellbinder delivered right to their door! In addition, Melanie herself will be sending them a little present! Many thanks to Tor Books and Melanie Rawn for their support!

The winners are:

- Steven Tschoerner, from Austin, Texas, USA (Draegan on Fantasybookspot.com)

- Cynthia Medeiros, from Chico, California, USA (Thianna on melanierawn.com)

- April Caneja1, from Goodyear, Arizona, USA (Arcy on melanierawn.com)

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 26th)

In hardcover:

Mark Z. Danielewski's Only Revolutions debuts at number 13. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Hunters of Dune is down seven spots, ending its fourth week on the bestseller list at number 16. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Brooks' Armageddon's Children is down seven positions, finishing its third week on the prestigious list at number 18. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Goodkind's Phantom is down two spots, ending its ninth week on the NYT list at number 24. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Karen Traviss' Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines is down five positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 31. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a free copy of Terry Pratchett's WINTERSMITH

Hi guys!

The good folks at Transworld have decided to support another contest. This time, they will hook up five lucky winners with Terry Pratchett's newest, Wintersmith. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "WINTERSMITH." 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!

One Book. . .

I've been seeing this thing for months now. So I figured it was about time for me to do it!:-)

1. One book that changed my life is:

Without the shadow of a doubt, Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. A whole new generation of readers fell in love with the fantasy genre by reading the Dragonlance Chronicles. I wouldn't be doing this today if it wasn't for these two authors.

2. One book that I've read more than once is:

Hmmm, there is a number of them. . . One that comes to mind is Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World. Up to the sixth volume of The Wheel of Time, I kept rereading the entire series when a new installment was released. A series which I'll evidently reread at some point is Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen.

3. One book I'd want on a desert island is:

Probably Robert Jordan's Lord of Chaos. In my opinion, it's the best volume of The Wheel of Time, with an ending that blew my mind. I can still remember reading it for the first time, when Mazrim Taim and the Asha'man surround the Aes Sedai. "You will kneel to the Lord Dragon, or you will be knelt." Pretty good stuff, that!;-) Steven Erikson's Memories of Ice would make a great candidate as well.

4. One book that made me laugh is:

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens was a lot of fun. So was Gaiman's Anansi Boys last year.

5. One book that made me cry is:

Hmmm, can't quite recall a book that actually made me cry. But I have to say that there were a few powerful scenes in Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate that really touched me. In addition, that scene in Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams, the one in which we discover that Lan wouldn't ride alone in the Last Battle, was quite something.

6. One book that I wish had been written is:

Dune 7 by Frank Herbert.

7. One book that I wish had never been written is:

Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind, as well as every subsequent Sword of Truth installment. Not only was that a crappy novel to begin with, it was a lame Ayn Rand manifesto. The first book in which Goodkind showed his true colors. Funny how most "serious" readers and aficionados of the genre dropped this series as if it were a stinky turd at that point. . .

8. One book I'm currently reading is:

Next up is Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things.

9. One book I've been meaning to read is:

Oh boy, there are so many of them awaiting my attention. But one that's been nagging at me for a while now is Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Feel free to do the same, if you are so inclined. . .:-)

Good Omens

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. Crazy, isn't it!?! Good Omens spent years among my "books to read" piles. Although I knew how good it was, there was always another novel clamoring for my attention.

Why read it now, after more than a decade? Well, I needed to read it at some point, that's for sure. And I was waiting for my review copy of Gaiman's Fragile Things, so I figured it would put me in the appropriate mood.

Written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens is an irresistible joyride! Understandably, anything produced by these two authors simply cannot not be fun. The witty sense of humor for which they are both known permeates the entire narrative.

Nevertheless, using Armageddon as the backdrop of the tale was a tall order. That they managed to turn the end of the world into something so hilarious is quite a feat. If you need a break from works by authors such as Hal Duncan, R. Scott Bakker, Steven Erikson and co., Good Omens turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. Intelligent and funny, this book provides a pleasant interlude in between bigger and "deeper" works of speculative fiction.

When the Antichrist is "accidentally" misplaced at birth, the master plan leading humanity toward the Last Battle Between Heaven and Hell takes an unanticipated turn. Crowley, a demon, and Aziraphale, an angel, have grown quite fond of the world and its inhabitants. Which means that Armageddon doesn't necessarily sit well with either of them. Populating this unique take on the eternal battle between good and evil is a cast of memorable characters. Among them, a group of children proceed to re-enact the Spanish Inquisition, hoping to turn it into the British Inquisition. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse become bikers. A witchfinder recruit falls for the witch he was sent to neutralize. Add to the mix aliens, tunneling Tibetans, and the rediscovery of the lost continent of Atlantis, and you've got an enjoyable reading experience ahead of you!

Good Omens is as fun a novel as you are likely to read. If, like me, you have yet to give it a chance, please do so ASAP. You won't regret it!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More reactions!

Jay Tomio offers his thoughts on the online review debate. As always, he writes a very interesting piece. You can read it here.

It's nice to be a fan of the genre. . .;-) I like it!

THE ICE DRAGON contest winners


The names of the winners have been drawn. Which means that both of these lucky people will have a copy of George R. R. Martin's The Ice Dragon delivered right to their mailbox! Many thanks to Tor Books for their support!

The winners are:

Tina Marroum, from Willowdale, Ontario, Canada (loathsome warg on asoiaf.westeros.org)

Christophe Choumert, from Berkeley, California, USA (namo on malazanempire.com)

Thanks to all the participants!

***A lot of people have been asking me if, after winning a contest, they can participate in a subsequent contest. The answer is yes, of course! If you're fortunate enough to win a few, all the more power to you!***

Quote of the day

If you want to be seen, stand up.

If you want to be heard, speak up.

If you want to be appreciated, shut up!

Interview with Joel Shepherd

Hi there!

In collaboration with Pyr Books, I recently ran a contest in which the prize was a couple of copies of Joel Shepherd's Crossover. The premise of the story seemed interesting, so I invited the author for a chat. I wanted this Q&A to introduce Joel and his work to you guys. You'll see that he's got a lot to say!;-)

You can learn more on his website: www.joelshepherd.com



- 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 CROSSOVER.

Crossover is the first book in the adventures of Cassandra Kresnov. Sandy (Cassandra) is an experimental artificial person, created to fight a war for the progressive League against the conservative Federation. The League took a risk in making her more intelligent than their usual creations, in order to make her more dangerous... but this gave Sandy a greater degree of creative free will as a result, and she decided she didn't like the League's war, and defected to her former enemies, the Federation. The story starts in Tanusha, the 57-million-strong capital metropolis of the planet Callay, where Sandy is incognito attempting to make for herself a new life as a civilian. Except that her past, of course, catches up with her, and mayhem ensues.

Crossover has elements of cyberpunk, military SF and political thriller, but is neither entirely one nor the others. Mostly it's a character driven story about a woman struggling to make sense of her own existence, and to find a place for herself in a frequently hostile world.

- What can readers expect from the subsequent two volumes of the series?

A further development of Sandy, her relationships and circumstances in Tanusha, some of which improve, and some get worse, but none of which are ever simple. I've been really pleased with the number of different levels on which Sandy's character works, both on the personal and dramatic level, and also on the more philosophical issues that her existence raises. And of course there's any number of great action sequences for her to get involved with. After you spend this much time with a character, she begins to seem like an old friend, so it's been really nice to get to know Sandy better over the course of the series.

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

I'd like to think I've got more than one! But overall, I think maybe realism. It's one thing to come up with a cool idea for a story, but another to make it seem like it's really happening as the reader reads it. I've always loved stories that seem absolutely real, whether in books or on film or TV, where the creator steps aside from the process and makes him or herself invisible, thus allowing you to suspend all disbelief and just sink into the story and become absorbed by it. That's what I try and do in my writing, to create an immersive experience. Probably the biggest part of that is character development, which is hugely important to me.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration?

There's lots of people I admire, but I don't really like listing them because lists just feel too forced and artificial. And I admire lots of writing that isn't fiction, too, like current-affairs columnists... I get inspiration from lots of places, TV and movies too. But I will say that CJ Cherryh was a big influence on me growing up, she was the first writer who demonstrated to me that head-burstlingly intelligent, and wickedly entertaining, were not mutually exclusive concepts.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write CROSSOVER and the Cassandra Kresnov series in the first place?

I'd had an idea for a super-warrior in my head for a long time, I've long been fascinated by the concept of great power, and the morality plays entailed in deciding how to use such power. Not in superheroes so much, because so few of the great American superheroes actually kill anyone, which seems to me the true essence of great power -- the power of life and death. Comic book superheroes always seemed to me to be dodging the issue -- the villain threatens to kill entire nations, and Superman responds by punching him in the jaw... no. That's a false moral choice, because Superman gets off cheap -- he never has to make the truly hard choices, the choice of whether or not to take life... and possibly a lot of life... and as such, he never acquires much depth for me as a character. Sandy's dilemma is much deeper, because all of her power is derived from lethal force, and she's the kind of person who'd much rather be loving life than taking it.

But it never occurred to me to make her fully artificial until one day I was reading the manga of 'Ghost in the Shell' by Masamune Shirow, and some characters were talking about how in that world, cyborgs with human brains have souls, and wholly artificial minds do not. It seemed a strangely metaphysical and possibly indefensible notion... and what if you were artificial, and quite certain you had a soul, and deserved all the same rights as cyborgs or straight humans, but no one believed you? And then it occurred to me that this could be the super-warrior concept I'd had before, and the proverbial light flashed on in my head -- her ethical dilemmas, her struggle for a purpose in life, the discrimination against her, the fear she generated, the broader politics of her creation... etc. And I knew I had to write a book about her. Possibly several books.

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

The 'android cliche', as Sandy calls it. She herself becomes a victim of these cliches in the series, because the cliches inform the Tanushan public's concept of what and who she is. She's either a murderous killing machine of pre-programmed malevolence, or she's an automaton incapable of true feeling... and even amongst those people who like her, there's that expectation that she should feel a desperate yearning to be human. Which Sandy thinks is pathetic, because to her mind, she's human already, just made of different stuff. The technology that created her is a convergence of the artificial with the organic -- artificial systems imitating organic systems so closely that it's very hard to tell the difference, either physically or philosophically. For Sandy, it's a struggle to be judged by who she is and what she does, and not by what she's made of.

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

Either would be excellent of course... but the bestseller would be the most excellent. Awards are as much about luck as skill, and while there's some luck involved in selling well, I think sales are a more accurate reflection on general success as an author (though still imperfect, of course). Also, a Hugo would mean approval from the specific group of SF fans who attend Worldcons... which would be great, but I'm just as keen on appealing to the vast majority of people who don't attend Worldcons. Fandom is great, but should not be the final word on success or failure in the genre.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction 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 guess the counter-question is 'respect from whom?' From literary elites... well, I don't know they get much respect these days from the general public either. In fact, most people out there have as little respect for any genre of books as another, because most people don't read. I don't think SF & Fantasy should fret too much because a small minority of self-proclaimed literary arbiters don't like us much. To use a purely business analogy, I think we should continue to grow our marketshare out into the untapped masses faster than our competition, thus capturing more total readers than them. At which point, who cares if some minority doesn't like us?

- Pyr Books are slowly but surely establishing themselves as a quality outfit in the publishing world. More and more, the Pyr logo is associated with quality products and great reading experiences. What differentiates Pyr Books from the other fantasy/scifi imprints out there?

That might be a question best aimed at Pyr Editor Lou Anders. But from what I've seen, I think Lou's figured that there's a certain class of books that were getting ignored by the big publishers -- well written, intelligent, and while certainly entertaining, perhaps not falling neatly into the clearly defined categories that mainstream publishing sometimes prefers. So I think a Pyr book is usually going to be something that pushes the genre in a slightly different direction than it's been before.

- There appears to be a budding fantasy/scifi scene in Australia. Recent years have seen the emergence of authors such as Sara Douglass, Jennifer Fallon, Fiona McIntosh. Why has it taken so long for Australian writers to get recognition abroad?

I'm not sure. I think maybe there's been a perception in the past that 'Commonwealth authors' write differently to what American audiences are accustomed to. But I think we're getting to that inevitable point where it doesn't make much difference where you come from, so long as you write a good story and prove you can sell.

- With the three Cassandra Kresnov novels already out Down Under, what projects are you currently working on? How long till those novels become available in North America and Europe?

I'm working on a fantasy series, the first novel of which has been renamed 'Sasha', and has been sold to Hachette Livre Australia. International distribution should follow, but we're not at that stage yet... so maybe two years before it's seen outside of Australia, maybe less. There's four books in the series, and they're a fairly unconventional fantasy series -- no magic, no elves, very heavy on character, realism, and the big issues of human civilisation (nationalism, religion, war, etc). I've been told it's pretty intense.The rest of the Cassandra Kresnov series will be out in America shortly, and also (it now appears) the UK -- Breakaway in April 2007, and Killswitch sometime after that.

- Anything you wish to add?

Only that I've been thrilled at how well Crossover's been selling so far, and I hope it continues!

FRAGILE THINGS contest winner


The name of our lucky winner has been drawn. As such, he will receive a copy of Neil Gaiman's newest release, Fragile Things. Many thanks to HarperCollins for supporting yet another contest.

The winner is:

James Krstulovich, from Springfield, Illinois, USA (Warmsoda on malazanempire.com)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 19th)

In hardcover:

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Hunters of Dune is down two positions, finishing its third week on the bestseller list at number 9. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Brooks' Armageddon's Children is down five spots, ending its second week on the charts at number 11. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Goodkind's Phantom is down four positions, finishing its 8th week on the NYT list at number 22. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Karen Traviss' Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines debuts at number 26. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

The eternal debate pertaining to book reviews

Hi there!

The endless discussion concerning the worth or lack thereof of online book reviews has been resuscitated yet again. Gabe Chouinard wrote a post on the subject while reviewing Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter. If you frequent most of the big fantasy message boards, you are probably aware of this ongoing debate. But since many people here are not active members of any message boards, I thought that this could be of interest.

Ken (The Neth Space) has done a good job coming up with all the links. If you are interested in learning more, check it out here. As for me, this thing was old months ago. So I feel no urge to jump in and add my two cents.

Personally, I review books based on a set of criteria that make or break novels for me. Am I better than anyone else? You tell me. I have no pretention to be. I do my own thing, that's all. And considering the number of people stopping by every week, I believe it's safe to assume that a vast number of readers have come to enjoy my style and trust my judgement. To me, a review should tell me if the book is good or not, and elaborate on exactly why that's the case. I understand Gabe Chouinard and Larry's (Dylanfanatic) point of view. They would like reviews to go beyond the novel, beyond the story. They want reviews to explore the underlying themes, reviews that break down the plot and put its components under the microscope. Finally, after undergoing that process, reviewers should write an eloquent piece that will expose what they have unearthed. A worthwhile endeavor, no doubt. Why can't there be more reviews like this? they wonder.

The truth is quite simple. Because 99% of readers basically don't give a fuck. It's all about the books and their stories. It's about the characters that come alive. It's about tales that capture our imagination. It's about the reading experience. I think that some reviewers suffer from self-delusion when it comes to their apparent self-importance.

At heart, although publishers consider me an "official" book reviewer, I'm still just a fan of the genre. I've been a fan for more than two decades, so applying a new label on my person won't change that. I'm still one of the guys. And as such, I write reviews for the fans. This blog's objective has always been to spread the word about all that's good in the fantasy/scifi/speculative fiction genres, and to raise awareness in books and authors that deserve to get more exposure. It's never been about me. Who am I, anyway? It's the books and the authors who write them that matter.

What do I consider a good review? Something that let's me know the strengths and weaknesses of a novel, for one thing. Something that will hopefully pique my curiosity. Something that let's me know if this book is worth buying or not, or if I should just wait for the paperback. Reviewers who ramble on about underlying themes and write a piece that is akin to a philosophical essay lose me by the second paragraph. This stuff just makes me want to commit suicide. If you read my book reviews, you are aware that I always attempt to break down a book based on worldbuilding, characterization, pace, prose, storylines, and overall quality. It might not be the case for everyone, but that's what I look for in a book.

I can't stand John Clute. Sue me. Also, I can't read a review by Harriet Klausner without feeling nauseous. In the end, I think that it's the readers who decide what they're looking for in a reviewer. I'm persuaded that it's all about the style of his or her reviews and, more importantly, in the trust they have in his or her judgement. I enjoy Rob Bedford and William Lexner's styles and I have come to rely on their opinion. Because they're better reviewers than the others out there? No. Simply because we have similar tastes in books and because their reviews scratch my itch.

As for "fan" reviews having no credibility, I beg to differ. While it's true that a majority of them are not necessarily well-written and could be a little more concise, I always enjoy discovering what people have to say about books I've reviewed. Why? Because these guys and gals didn't get a free copy or an ARC from the publisher. They don't have access to the author or his or her editors. What gives them a credibility that no "official" reviewer possesses is the fact that they have paid 30$ and more of their hard-earned money to purchase a book, oft-times based on one of our "official" reviews. Book reviewers don't move books. Fans, however, do. Some of us would like to think that we play a major role in the process, but do you sincerely believe that people like Jay Tomio and I created that enormous buzz surrounding Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora on Westeros? Sure, along with Ran we got the ball rolling. But it's when the fans got on the bandwagon that things began to snowball. Hence, fan reviews have their place, and I encourage fans to keep posting their reviews on every message board. Just a suggestion: you might want to run a spelling and grammar check before posting it, though!;-)

Hmmm. . . I did say I wasn't going to say anything about this debate. . . So I figure I better shut up now! Click on the link at the beginning of this mini-rant to see what the noise is all about!:-)

Into a Dark Realm

The first volume of the Darkwar Saga, Flight of the Nighthawks, was a throwback book, the best novel written by Raymond E. Feist in years. Into a Dark Realm once again marks the return of the Feist of old. Sadly, it's not the Raymond E. Feist of the 80s and early 90s, but the Feist who brought us books like Krondor: The Betrayal and Talon of the Silver Hawk. Hence, after a ripping yarn like Flight of the Nighthawks, Into a Dark Realm is a disappointing sequel.

As was the case with the Conclave of Shadows trilogy, the main problem originates from the fact that the author manifestly lacks enough material to fill three volumes adequately. Conclave of Shadows, in my humble opinion, should have been a single novel. In the same vein, the Darkwar Saga likely should be a duology.

Into a Dark Realm was a very odd reading experience. Indeed, some of its storylines are fun and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the plotlines pertaining to Tad, Zana and Jommy. Accordingly, they followed the logical progression from the first volume. Miranda's dealings with the Assembly on Kelewan allowed us to see her play a more active role.

Unfortunately, a big portion of this novel revolves around the storyline concerning Pug's visit to the Dasati homeworld. And that's where the story takes an abrupt turn for the worse. The pace becomes increasingly sluggish, and at times the story becomes extremely boring. Instead of relying on his storytelling skills, Feist forces us to endure unending discussions concerning the Dasati and their universe. And after a few of those, it becomes more and more difficult not to lose interest. There is an "insider" storyline, in which a young Dasati warrior named Valko takes center stage. But the alien Dasati culture fails to capture the reader's imagination. Even Nakor and Magnus' presence is nowhere near enough to make things interesting.

There is a pleasant surprise at the very end, something that was truly unexpected. But it's too little, too late. This book is a decidedly uneven effort from an author who is definitely much better than this. At times entertaining and at times dull, Into a Dark Realm just doesn't have enough "meat" to make a worthy sequel to Flight of the Nighthawks.

On a more positive note, Feist does set up everything for the final chapter in the Darkwar Saga. Let us hope that the third installment will live up to the expectations generated by the quality of the first volume of this series. . .

The final verdict: 7/10

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

THE CROOKED LETTER contest winners!

Hi there!

Well, we finally have our two winners! Many thanks to Pyr Books for their support. I'm really looking forward to reading Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter, and I hope our two winners will enjoy their prize.:-)

The winners are:

Peter Schroeder, from Harrison Township, Michigan, USA (Fred Gaidin on wotmania.com)

Kendall P. Bullen, from Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Quality television

I don't think I ever mentioned this, but I'm a sucker for reality shows. Not all of them, mind you. Yet I find a few of them hilarious.

One of my personal favorites is Blind Date. I'm persuaded that you are familiar with the concept: A guy and a girl are paired up to spend the day together, and cameras follow the progress of their date. Understandably, the producers appear more interested in "Dates from hell" than "Matches made in Heaven." Still, win or lose, most shows are a lot of fun to watch. Let's face it: We have all been on dates we'd rather forget. Some more than others, that's for sure. But it's always fun to watch two strangers try to hit it off, or not to.

Today was a good example of how a guy can totally blow a sure thing. This baseball player is on a date with an extremely attractive brunette, and she's sending him all sorts of signals that she wants him to take it to the next level. Seeing that even booze won't unscramble his radar, she leans close and kisses him. Now, that got his attention all right. The problem is that the idiot managed to screw up the whole deal by uttering a single sentence. "Does that mean we can go back, and I'll bang you backwards?" he asks. I don't know where he was from, but over here this crap won't fly! Oddly enough, it was at that moment that the girl completelylost interest. Funny, that. . .

Although this guy was a total asshole, when I see something like that I'm always reminded of one of the show's "Worst Dating Moments." This happened two years ago, if I'm not mistaken. The guy and his gal are in the cab, on their way back home. Things have not gone well. Our man is acutely aware that sex, a blowjob, the hot tub, a hug, or even a goodnight kiss are not within the realm of possibilities. Hence, instead of trying to save face and leave the girl with what little dignity he can garner after making a fool of himself, he decides to go all out. What did he do? you wonder. Our ladies man elected to fart in the cab, something he apparently found incredibly funny.

Now, I'm a single guy, always looking for ways to attract lovely young ladies. And strangely, farting has never been part of my repertoire. Perhaps that's the reason why I'm single!?! No but seriously, what makes a guy who knows he has absolutely no chance to even kiss the girl on the cheek go, "Well, this date's in the crapper. Nothing I say or do can change that. So why don't I end things with a bang, and let one rip on national tv?" It defies comprehension!

I know that girls are a lot more openminded these days, but farting!?! This guy was obviously out of ideas. I need your help to try to explain this queer phenomenon. What pushes a guy to act so stupidly!?! So guys, try to help me understand what went through this person's mind when he decided to let on rip. Is farting now socially acceptable!?!

Every time I think about this, I keep seeing the poor girl calling her girlfriends later that night. "How did it go!?! He farted in the cab! No, listen, I'm telling you. He just let one rip and started laughing like it was the funniest joke." For some reason, I doubt that young lady got in touch with the producers of Blind Date to ask them to set her up with another upstanding gentleman!

Ah, the things we do for you, ladies. . .;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 12th)

In hardcover:

Terry Brooks' Armageddon's Children debuts at number 6.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Hunters of Dune is down four positions, ending its second week on the NYT list at number 7.

Terry Goodkind's Phantom is down four spots, finishing its seventh week on the prestigious list at number 18.

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

CROSSOVER contest winners!

Hi guys!

Well, the names of our two winners have been drawn. The lucky bastards will each receive a copy of Joel Shepherd's Crossover. Many thanks again to the good folks at Pyr Books for supporting this first contest with us. Hopefully it is the first of many!;-)

Here are the winners:

Sam Estabrooks, from Cropseyville, New York, USA (Mr Smash on asoiaf.westeros.org and The Right People board)

Doug McEachern, from Brooklyn, New York, USA (Mr. X on asoiaf.westeros.org and The Right People board)

Thank you all for participating and stay tuned for more!:-)

Another Neil Gaiman contest

They have a couple of books up for grabs on Neil's own message board. But you have to be a member in order to participate. Click here for all the details.

Good luck!

New Melanie Rawn interview

Hi guys!

Here it is! Melanie emailed me her answers last night. As was the case with my interview with George R. R. Martin last spring, I sent her quite a few questions. And in the end, understandably, a few were discarded and remain unanswered.

I am well aware the most of you will be disappointed by the fact that the questions pertaining to her long absence and news concerning The Diviner and The Captal's Tower figure among the casualties. And I'm sure Melanie is as well. Still, if there are certain topics that she doesn't wish to elaborate on at this moment, who are we to judge? These answers will come in their own time. Hopefully on this blog!;-)



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 SPELLBINDER.

Holly McClure is a Witch, and somewhat surly about her single gift: her blood seals other magicians' spells. Her new boyfriend, U.S. Marshal Evan Lachlan, doesn't know she's a Witch. He finds out. Complications, as they say, ensue.

After such a long relationship with DAW Books, why change publishers to have SPELLBINDER released by Tor Books?

Tor bought the book.

How rewarding is it to see that your first two trilogies are still in print and have been re-released in trade paperback editions?

It's seriously cool to see Michael Whelan's cover art big enough so it can be appreciated! I gotta tell ya, though, I own the original "Dragon Prince" painting, and there is absolutely no way to comprehend how gorgeous his work is until you've seen it full-size, up close and personal.

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

I'm pretty good at throwing characters against a wall to see how--or if--they bounce.

What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the "Dragon Prince" and the "Dragon Star" series in the first place?

I was reading a history of Saudi Arabia, and in one of the last chapters was a description of a group of princes out hawking--in Jeeps. I liked the image (except for the Jeeps!) and sat down to entertain myself by seeing where it might go. I put the princes on horses, sent them out into the desert--and suddenly they were hunting dragons.

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

Kazander. The guy simply rode on in and took over. I kept having to find ways to get him off-camera so he didn't steal the whole show.This is where I get to mention my all-time favorite quote about writing. John Fowles, in THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN: "It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live." This is, of course, scant solace when some moron you really needed in a later chapter gets himself knifed and says to you, "Hey--I'm dying here! You want to write down my last words or something? 'Cause I figure I got maybe four breaths left, so--" You get the idea.

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.

Theme song by Aretha Franklin, baby! R-E-S-P-E-C-T!It has to do with taste and timing. For instance, the Victorians loathed Jane Austen (two notable exceptions were Sir Walter Scott, who loved the elegance of her writing, and Robert Louis Stevenson, who said that every time Elizabeth Bennett opened her mouth, he wanted to go down on his knees!). Somebody someday is going to figure out that there's some really good writing as well as really good storytelling going on in fantasy. But I'm not going to hold my breath.There's an interesting problem fantasy writers run into all the time, and it's this: What do we tell people when they ask what we write? If we say "fantasy," it's automatically assumed we write children's books, and then we have to go through a whole long explanation that the questioner doesn't really care about anyhow because none of the rest of us is J. K. Rowling. If we say "adult fantasy," it's an equally automatic assumption that we write pornography--which involves an even longer explanation that the questioner doesn't care about either. Can't win for losin', as my Daddy used to say. So maybe it's a matter of getting people clued in that there are more than two kinds of fantasy fiction.

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

Y'know, I've never been asked to write the first line of my obituary before.

This is akin to another question beloved of interviewers (but not of writers!): "What's your best book?" My answer to that one is always, "I desperately hope I haven't written it yet."

With a new generation of readers who have perhaps never read your books or heard of you, do you feel as though you have something to prove?


THE GOLDEN KEY was a collaboration between yourself, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliott. Do you have plans to collaborate on new projects in the future, with them or other authors?

The three of us deliberately set out to make the process something we could all enjoy (we'd heard tales…). We knew that readers can be skeptical of multi-author books, so we were determined that they would get the full experience of each of us; in this, I think we succeeded. We also decided that this would be a unique event in our writing lives, because we knew we could never be guaranteed the same quality of experience.

What authors make you shake your head in admiration?

A lot of people, in my genre and out, whose names I'm not going to list because I'd inevitably leave somebody out and thereby tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing. (And there's a clue in there to one of my favorite writers--points for anybody who spots it!)

Before your hiatus, you ranked among the "big names" of the fantasy genre.

Man, I wish somebody had told me that at the time.

Since then, the landscape of the genre went through many changes, and now authors such as Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Terry Goodkind and Neil Gaiman are on top of the totem. Where does Melanie Rawn stand in the fantasy field in 2006?

Way out in the tall, tall grass.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the younger Melanie Rawn concerning her writing career?

I think I did okay, actually--especially considering that I wrote things because I needed to write things, and never consciously considered a "career." In fact, the first time anybody ever used that word to me, I gaped like a goldfish.

Is a World Fantasy Award something you covet?

A nomination is something I'd like. Jennifer, Kate, and I were nominated for Golden Key, and it was a tremendous honor.

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?

I love it.

Writers work in a vacuum, pretty much. So it's great to make that contact.People who've met on the bulletin board are now married. There are children named for my characters (which is classic "goes around comes around" because Mom got my name from--wait for it--GONE WITH THE WIND). They talk politics, current events, movies, music, school, personal problems, everything. They're wonderfully supportive of each other. I think they're an example of the best that an Internet community can offer.

Anything else you wish to share with your fans?

Have a good time with Spellbinder--please just laugh in all the right places, okay?


The Temeraire series has been optioned for film

Today the Hollwood Reporter exclusively revealed that the Temeraire book series by Naomi Novik has been optioned for film, and by none other than Peter Jackson.

Now, is that cool or what!?!;-)

Win a free copy of George R. R. Martin's THE ICE DRAGON


Well, this is turning into another free books galore!;-) I just received word that the good folks at Tor Books have agreed to support yet another contest, this time for George R. R. Martin's newest, The Ice Dragon. Two lucky winners will receive this one in their mailbox! For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "DRAGON." 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.

Also, if you scroll down, you'll realize that there are quite a few contests under way. Feel free to register to win Melanie Rawn's Spellbinder, Joel Shepherd's Crossover, Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things, Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter, and Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate.

Good luck to all the participants!

Win a free copy of Kate Elliott's SPIRIT GATE

Hey there!

The good people at Tor Books have agreed to hook up two lucky winners with a copy of Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate, the first volume of her new series Crossroads. For more info about this novel: Canada, USA, Europe.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "SPIRIT." 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!

A Game of Thrones

Yeah, yeah, I know. . .

I'm ten years late reviewing George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. And to add insult to injury, I have no excuses. How could I, since I was offered an ARC in the summer of 1996? What could I possibly say in my own defense? Just that I didn't want to begin another "ongoing" series and was planning to read the whole thing when the final volume was released. At least that was the plan. . . As you can see, I ultimately caved in well short of my goal after a decade of self-control!

So how does one review a book which appears to be well on its way to become a classic of the genre? I knew I needed to worry about the rabid members of the Brotherhood without Banners. If I didn't like A Game of Thrones, I feared that they would hunt me down, abduct me, castrate me with a blunt knife, tie me up and then force me to listen to various Terry Goodkind audiobooks till death mercifully claimed me. . .;-) Talk about pressure! In the end, I decided to approach this novel as if it was any other book that comes into my hands. I wanted to evaluate it on its own merit, and that's what I endeavored to accomplish.

In terms of worldbuilding, Martin utilizes the traditional medieval backdrop to stage this multilayered tale. Yet there are a number of additions, such as the Wall, that differentiate his world from what has become the norm in the field. This being the first volume of a long series, I have a feeling that the author only offered us a glimpse of his detailed universe. Subsequent volumes will likely demonstrate that this is just the tip of the iceberg in that regard.

The narrative really takes you away, bringing Martin's world to life with an arresting imagery. The dialogues are top notch, and everything rings true. Relatively short chapters keep the reader turning those pages, always eager for more. George R. R. Martin proves to be a master storyteller, dosing every chapter with new knowledge that keeps the story moving forward, while simultaneously revealing secrets from the past.

But what truly sets A Game of Thrones apart from the competition is the characterizations. Simply put, Martin could well be the most gifted fantasy author in that department. What makes this such a feat is the fact that he juggles with a multitude of POV characters, all of them disparate and three-dimensional. For my money, this was the most enjoyable facet of this book. Every character feels "real" and it never looks as though the author is pushing the envelope with any of them. Jaime and Cersei Lannister are two exceptions. But I believe that they become POV characters in the sequels, which should flesh them out a lot more.

And amidst all that deviousness, ruthlessness, and backstabbing, Martin manages to infuse those characters with a deeply involved humanity that only Robin Hobb can match. One only has to look at the relationships between Jon and Arya, Robb and Bran, Jon and Samwell Tarly, Eddard and Catelyn Stark and their children, Tyrion and Bran, etc, to witness this. Seeing the tale unfold through the eyes of so many different characters was without a doubt the most satisfying aspect of this book.

Of course, I was aware that there would be quite a few casualties in this one, with many more to come! Still, I should probably count my blessings and appreciate the fact that my favorites -- Jon Snow, Arya and Tyrion -- have managed to survive. However, I figure that they'll undoubtedly get killed before long! Sansa, who annoys the hell out of me, will likely be there for the long haul. . .

If I were to compare the opening chapter of the three "big" fantasy epics out there -- Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen -- I'd say that A Game of Thrones is probably the most satisfying first volume of the three series. Indeed, even though it lacks the "epic" stuff which both The Eye of the World and Gardens of the Moon are made of (some would claim that this is what sets A Game of Thrones apart), it is a more coherent and easy-to-get-into novel.

This just in: George R. R. Martin is good! Remember: You read it here first!;-)

The final verdict: 9/10

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

Before buying from Amazon, consider this. . .

Hi there!

I've been meaning to do this for a while now, but somehow life always got in the way. Better late than never, as they say!

I've been meaning to add Clarkesworld Books to my links, and as you can see it's done. Neil not only runs a speciality store, but a quality store. And as such, he can cater to all your fantasy/scifi/horor/speculative fiction needs. With good prices and a variety of shipping options, it's the place to go to purchase books. In addition, he usually has signed copies and other special features that you won't find elsewhere.

Moreover, the main reason to use Neil's services is because he's one of us -- a fan. So next time you wish to buy a book, check him out before you business with Amazon or other online bookstores.

Hopefully I've managed to pique your curiosity. Feel free to peruse Neil's website at www.clarkesworldbooks.com and see what he has to offer, both in terms of new and used novels. Ask anyone who's done business with him, and they'll doubtless only have positive things to say about Clarkesworld Books.

My shameless plug of the month!;-)

A new fantasy blog has seen the light. . .

Hi guys!

Eos Books, the fantasy and scifi imprint of HarperCollins, has a new blog. I stumbled upon this news while visiting David Forbes' website. This blog contains a lot of info about authors such as Robin Hobb, contests, reviews, etc. Pretty much like the Hotlist, but with a bigger budget!;-)

You can check it out here.

And as they are the ones with a portion of my fantasy manuscript, perhaps one day you'll see something about me on that blog!:-) It's nice to see that some publishers are finally recognizing the advantages of the blog format. May this become a trend!

Win a free copy of Sean Williams' THE CROOKED LETTER


Pyr Books are gradually making a very good name for themselves, with many of their releases pleasing fans and reviewers alike. As such, Pyr Books are a welcome addition to the speculative fiction publishing world.

Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter was brought to my attention by a number of positive reviews. To all ends and purposes, this novel appears to be something else, something special. So much so that it prompted me to contact Pyr Books and I'm now eagerly awaiting the arrival of my review copy. You can read more about this book on their website.

Here are the three reviews that so piqued my curiosity:

- William (the one presumably responsible for the death of Emerald City, and who is in the process of singlehandedly killing the Hugo Awards altogether!;-)) posted his on Speculative Reviews.

- Ken (whose Stack has just been revealed!) posted his on The Neth Space.

- Rob (whose questions for our interview with Greg Keyes I'm still waiting for!;-)) posted his on sffworld.com.

I'm glad to report that the good people at Pyr Books have accepted to supply two lucky winners with a complimentary copy of The Crooked Letter. And if those aforementioned reviews don't encourage you to register to this contest, I suggest you check your pulse because you might be dead!:-)

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "CROOKED." 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 (September 5th)

In hardcover:

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Hunters of Dune makes an impressive debut, appearing at number 3 on the NYT list. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Terry Goodkind's Phantom drops down four positions, ending its sixth week on the bestseller list at number 14. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Anne and Todd McCaffrey's Dragon's Fire makes a return on the charts, finishing its fifth week on the prestigious list at number 30. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

Win a free copy of Neil Gaiman's FRAGILE THINGS

Hi there!

The good folks at HarperCollins have agreed to support a second Neil Gaiman contest, this time for his new collection of short stories titled Fragile Things. For more information about the novel: Canada, USA, Europe. If you know anyone posting on a Gaiman message board, feel free to let them know about the contest!;-)

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "FRAGILE." 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.

While you're at it, why not register to the other two ongoing contests, if you haven't already!?! Just scroll down for the details.:-) Still up for grabs are a couple of copies of Melanie Rawn's Spellbinder (for more info: Canada, USA, Europe), as well as Joel Shepherd's Crossover (for more info: Canada, USA, Europe).

Good luck to all the participants!

Raymond E. Feist UK promo tour

Hi guys!

Raymond E. Feist will soon be embarking on a big tour in the UK, promoting the newly released Into a Dark Realm. To find out if the author will be in a city near you, click on this link.

No one ever comes around here. . . Why no love for Montreal!?!;-)

Shocking but true!;-)

Who would have thought!?! Not me, that's for sure.

But since my ARCs of Melanie Rawn's Spellbinder, Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things and Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith have yet to show up in my mailbox, and with my copy of Raymond E. Feist's Into a Dark Realm in transit somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I found myself facing quite the conundrum.:-) Namely, what to read next? Not that I lack any reading material, mind you. Heck, I have enough unread novels to keep me occupied for about two years running.

Be that as it may, that annoying little voice inside my head kept nagging me about a resolution I promised to keep. Last January, my New Year's resolutions included reading Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, as well as finally caving in and read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Well, summer is almost over and I've become an ardent Malazan convert.

So I told myself that it would be only natural to likewise give GRRM a shot. After all these years, every single volume in hardcover awaiting my attention and my A Game of Thrones ARC sitting there for the last decade, it felt as though I could do no less. Nay-sayers like Werthead and OsRavan doubted my resolve, and not without good reasons!;-) Bastards! Honestly, I'm doing this almost out of spite, to prove you guys wrong!;-)

Hence, ladies and gentlemen, please sit down for this news. This afternoon, with a steaming cup of coffee and using the Braveheart soundtrack as a backdrop, I sat down and began to read A Game of Thrones.:-)

Keeping two resolutions in 2006. . . What is this world coming to, anyway!?!

Flight of the Nighthawks

Those of you who remember my reviews of the installments of the Conclave of Shadows series doubtless recall how disappointed I was in Raymond E. Feist. That trilogy was a lackluster effort, if ever there was one. Hence, it's easy to understand why I was loath to read Flight of the Nighthawks when it was initially released, even though the buzz surrounding the first volume of the Dark War Saga was quite positive.

With the release of Into a Dark Realm just around the corner, I was nevertheless reticent to give this novel a shot. After all, I have dozens of "good" novels awaiting my attention in my ever-growing "books to read" piles.

Well, for those who -- like me -- have grown disillusioned with Feist's two latest series, I'm happy to report that Flight of the Nighthawks marks the return of the Raymond E. Feist who captured the imagination of millions of readers worldwide with the Riftwar Saga and the Serpentwar Saga. And yes, it's about time!;-)

While I was forced to plow through the author's last two trilogies, Flight of the Nighthawks basically read itself. A hidden threat seeks to plunge the Empire of Great Kesh into civil war and complete chaos. The Conclave of Shadows must act before all is lost, especially since the Brotherhood of Death -- the Nighthawks -- appear to be behind the plot.

There is very little worldbuilding to speak of, if not for Feist's fleshing out of the city of Kesh. It was nice to return to that place, which was reminiscent of Prince of the Blood.

Relatively short chapters with a rapid pace keep you turning those pages. It's been years since I've enjoyed a Feist offering this much.

As is often the case with Feist, it's all about the characters. Old favorites such as Pug, Miranda, Nakor, Caleb, and Magnus all have an important role to play in the story. The book also marks the return of Kaspar and Talwin and their cohorts. New and interesting characters include a few youngster like Tad, Zane, Jommy and Ralan Bek. All in all, a very nice cast of characters.

As the first volume of a trilogy, Flight of the Nighthawks pursues a number of storylines introduced in Exile's Return. Yet Feist doesn't elaborate a whole lot, seemingly content to set his pieces on the board and keep the surprises for the sequel.

A very satisfying read from an author who truly needed to regain his erstwhile form. This is Raymond E. Feist's best novel since Shards of a Broken Crown.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

The 2006 Hugo Awards

I've said it before and I'll say it again: William's blog is terrific! Here is a knowledgeable guy who writes good reviews and interesting articles. Earlier this week he wrote a piece criticizing the Hugo Awards. Whether you agree with him or not, I believe that he nailed it right on the head when he elaborated on what he considered to be the shortcomings of the format and the voting system.

Interestingly enough, his thoughts sparked up a lively debate. And as such, I think that many readers here would find that debate very informative. Hell, even Scott Lynch and George R. R. Martin dropped by to add their own two cents! Don't they know that they can do the same on this blog!?!;-)

You can read William's article here. Feel free to share your thoughts, as there are already something like 50 comments to his post. . .