The Prince of Mist

Having thoroughly loved both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, I can't wait for Carlos Ruiz Zafón to release the newest installment in that series. As a rule, you know I usually try to steer clear from YA material. But when I received a package containing the English translations of two of Zafón's early works aimed at the young adults' market, my curiosity was piqued.

As soon as I was done with George R. R. Martin's multilayered A Dance With Dragons, I knew I needed to read something light. Hence, Zafón's The Prince of Mist appeared to be just what the doctor ordered.

Here's the blurb:

It's wartime, and the Carver family decides to leave the capital where they live and move to a small coastal village where they've recently bought a home. But from the minute they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In that mysterious house still lurks the spirit of Jacob, the previous owners' son, who died by drowning.

With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the strange circumstances of that death and discover the existence of a mysterious being called the Prince of Mist--a diabolical character who has returned from the shadows to collect on a debt from the past. Soon the three friends find themselves caught up in an adventure of sunken ships and an enchanted stone garden--an adventure that will change their lives forever

Although the original story takes place in a town on the southern coast of England during WWII, the author opted for a more generic location for the translation. As is habitually his wont, Zafón's evocative prose paints a vivid picture that makes the town and its characters come to life.

I don't know how he always manages to do it, but Carlos Ruiz Zafón's characterization is the most incredible aspect of this novel. The main protagonists, Max, Roland, and Alicia, are all well-drawn characters. But the supporting cast features a number of intriguing and three-dimensional characters in their own right. By some unfathomable means, the author can, in a paragraph or three, introduce you to an endearing character that echoes with depth. This was the case with both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, but it's even more impressive in a work in which Zafón didn't have that much room to manoeuver.

Zafón's tale brought me back to my early teenage years. If you have ever been forced to move suddenly as a child and your life was turned upside down, The Prince of Mist will bring back lots of memories. Growing up, family, and time are themes which are explored in this book. Although it's a lighter read meant for a younger public, you can nevertheless see the genesis and echoes of a number of storylines that will make the author's future international bestsellers such unforgettable reading experiences.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's writing style and tone make for a pleasant read. One might think that some of the plotlines are a bit predictable, yet true to himself Zafón has a few unexpected surprises up his sleeve.

To a certain extent, The Prince of Mist is a coming-of-age story which demonstrates that your entire life can change during the course of a summer. The pace is fluid throughout, which means that you'll go through this novel in a sitting or two.

If you are looking for a light yet rewarding read for your summer vacation, you might want to consider Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Prince of Mist.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

2011 World Fantasy Awards Nominations

The 2011 nominations have been unveiled:


Lauren Beukes, Zoo City [Jacana (South Africa)/Angry Robot]
N K Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, [Orbit]
Graham Joyce, The Silent Land [Gollancz/Doubleday]
Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven [Viking Canada/Roc/Harper Voyager UK]
Karen Lord, Redemption In Indigo [Small Beer Press]
Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death [DAW]


Elizabeth Bear, Bone and Jewel Creatures [Subterranean Press]
Michael Byers, The Broken Man [PS Publishing]
Elizabeth Hand, “The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon” [Stories: All-New Tales]
Tim Lebbon, “The Thief of Broken Toys” [ChiZine Publications]
GRR Martin, “The Mystery Knight” [Warriors]
Rachel Swirsky, “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window” [Subterranean, Summer 2010]

Short Fiction

Christopher Fowler, “Beautiful Men” [Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts, edited by Stephen Jones, Ulysses Press]
Karen Joy Fowler, “Booth's Ghost” [What I Didn't See and Other Stories, Small Beer Press]
Kij Johnson, “Ponies” []
Joyce Carol Oates, “Fossil—Figures” [Stories: All-New Tales]
Mercurio D. Rivera, “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” [Black Static #18, 08/09.10]


John Joseph Adams, ed., The Way of the Wizard [Prime]
Kate Bernheimer, ed., My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me [Penguin]
Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas, eds., Haunted Legends [Tor]
Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, eds., Stories: All-New Tales [Morrow/Headline Review]
S. T. Joshi, ed., Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror [PS Publishing]
Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, eds., Swords & Dark Magic [Eos]


Karen Joy Fowler, What I Didn't See and Other Stories [Small Beer Press]
Caitlin R. Kiernan, The Ammonite Violin & Others [Subterranean Press]
M. Rickert, Holiday [Golden Gryphon]
Angela Slatter, Sourdough and Other Stories [Tartarus Press]
Jeff VanderMeer, The Third Bear [Tachyon]


Vincent Chong
Kinuko Y. Craft
Richard A. Kirk
John Picacio
Shaun Tan

Special Award Professional

John Joseph Adams, for editing and anthologies
Lou Anders, for editing at Pyr
Marc Gascoigne, for Angry Robot
Stéphane Marsan and Alain Névant, for Bragelonne
Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi, for ChiZine

Special Award Non-Professional

Stephen Jones, Michael Marshall Smith and Amanda Foubister, for Brighton Shock!: The Souvenir Book Of The World Horror Convention 2010
Alisa Krasnostein, for Twelfth Planet Press
Matthew Kressel, for Sibyl's Garage and Senses Five Press
Charles Tan, for Bibliophile Stalker
Lavie Tidhar, for The World SF blog

Award Judges

Andrew Hook
Sacha Mamczak
Mark Rich
Sean Wallace
Kim Wilkins

Congrats to all the nominees!

George R. R. Martin interview with CBC

Finally, my tax dollar being used for something worthwhile! ;-)

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning is down two positions, ending the week at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf debuts at number 32.

Félix J. Palma's The Map of Time is back on the list at number 34.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up one spot, finishing at number 1.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up two positions, ending the week at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up eighteen spots, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storms of Swords is up two positions, ending the week at number 7.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is up two spots, finishing the week at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up five positions, ending the week at number 11 (trade paperback).

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up eight spots, finishing the week at number 17.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows debuts at number 26 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars returns on the list at number 31.

Justin Cronin's The Passage returns on the list at number 33.

Putting the "Epic" into Epic Fantasy panel from SDCC

2011 Comic Con: "Putting the 'Epic' into Epic Fantasy" Panel from Suvudu on Vimeo.

2011 Comic Con: "Putting the 'Epic' into Epic Fantasy" Panel - Part II from Suvudu on Vimeo.

Thanks to Shawn Speakman for posting these on Suvudu.

George R. R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Kevin J. Anderson, Christopher Paolini, Peter Orullian, Patrick Rothfuss, and K.J. Taylor discussed epic fantasy during this SDCC 2011 panel. Too bad only about 30 minutes out of the 102-minute footage are available at the moment.

Hopefully Shawn can retrieve the rest. . .

Japanese Spider-Man Trailer

Looks so much better than The Green Lantern Hollywood production!

Particularly liked the cat being cut into. . . :P

A bit of humor

Ford vs Chewie! Hilarious!!!

Number 1!

As expected, George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons debuted at number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The high ranking means that you can now get the book at about 50% off, both online and in bookstores everywhere.

And you can see me die gloriously! :P

Win a copy of Jim Butcher's GHOST STORY

Thanks to the cool folks at Roc, I have five copies of Jim Butcher's Ghost Story up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...

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

Timothy Zahn contest winner!

This lucky guy will get his hands on my Advance Reading Copy of Timothy Zahn's Star Wars: Choices of One! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Nick Baker, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Suvudu video interview with Brandon Sanderson

2011 Comic Con: Brandon Sanderson at Suvudu from Suvudu on Vimeo.

Shawn Speakman from Suvudu shot this interview with bestselling author Brandon Sanderson as the SDCC.


R. Scott Bakker interview (part 2)

Adam, Larry and I interviewed Bakker earlier this spring to help promote The White-Luck Warrior (Canada, USA, Europe). Follow this link to read the Q&A if you missed it last June.

In order to get the interview online prior to my departure for my Eastern European adventure, Scott and I decided to post the better part of what we had on hand and wait for my return before posting the rest.

These questions have to do with a lot of metaphysical stuff such as damnation, magic, the Inchoroi, and more. As you can expect, this is true hardcore stuff! Many thanks to all the fans who submitted questions for this interview.

Be forewarned that some of the answers contain information that could be construed as spoiler material. Nothing major; nothing that can spoil the books for you. But still, something to keep in mind. . .


We see that the interpretation of damnation is local in the sense that, e.g., sorcery is viewed as damnable in Momemn but not in Shimeh. Is the reality of damnation local as well? In particular, is a Cishaurim who dies in the streets of Carythusal damned?

Damnation is not local. There is a right and wrong way to believe in Eärwa, which means that entire nations will be damned. Since the question of just who will be saved and who will be damned is a cornerstone of The Aspect-Emperor’s plot, there’s not much more that I can say.

The caprice of the Outside (where the distinction between subject and object is never clear) is such that those rare souls who walk its ways and return never seem to agree on the nature of what they have seen. Since only demonic (as opposed to angelic) Ciphrang can be summoned and trapped in the World, practitioners of the Daimos can never trust the reports they receive: the so-called Damnation Archives in the Scarlet Spires are rumoured to be filled with wild contradictions. The Damned themselves only know that they are damned, and never why.

Unlike the Gnosis or Anagnosis, Psukhe seems to have come from humans directly(instead of Nonmen). Did the nonmen ever have anything to do with Psukhe? Did humans prior to Fane have anything to do with Psukhe?

Prior to Fane, the Psukhe as an arcane art was unknown, though there are legendary hints and mythic innuendos of certain sightless individuals harnessing inexplicable powers in moments of extraordinary anguish.

Everything comes down to meaning in Eärwa. Where sorcery is representational, utilizing either the logical form (as with the Gnosis) or the material content (as with the Anagogis) of meaning to leverage transformations of reality, the Psukhe utilizes the impetus. Practitioners of the Psukhe blind themselves to see through the what and grasp the how, the pure performative kernel of meaning–the music, the passion, or as the Cishaurim call it, the ‘Water.’ As a contemporary philosopher might say, the Psukhe is noncognitive, it has no truck with warring versions of reality, which is why it possesses no Mark and remains invisible to the Few.

This is why the Psukhe never occurred to any of the other more ancient arcane traditions. As the old saying goes, the man with a hammer thinks every problem is a nail. For the bulk of Eärwa’s history, it’s very possibility remained invisible.

Is Aurang special amongst the Inchoroi in his ability to use Sorcery? Or were all Inchoroi, his brother included, amongst the Few? 

The Inchoroi only possessed the Tekne when they arrived in Eärwa. All of the Inchoroi are the products of successive Graftings, species-wide rewrites of their genotype, meant to enhance various abilities and capacities, such as the ability to elicit certain sexual responses from their victims (via pheromone locks), or the capacity to ‘tune sensations’ and so explore the vagaries and vicissitudes of carnal pleasure. The addition of anthropomorphic vocal apparatuses is perhaps the most famous of these enhancements.

The Grafting that produced Aurang and Aurax was also devised during the age-long C no-Inchoroi Wars, one of many failed attempts to biologically redesign themselves to overcome the Nonmen. But they had been outrun by their debauchery by this time, and had lost any comprehensive understanding of the Tekne. The Graftings had become a matter of guesswork, more likely to kill than enhance those who received them. The Inchoroi filled the Wells of the Aborted with their own in those days.

Aurang and Aurax are two of six who survived the attempt to Graft the ability to see the onta.

Wutteat mentions that he journeyed with the Inchoroi across the void, and that Sil rode him. The Appendix of TTT says that dragons were created after the first engagement between the Nonmen and Inchoroi, where Sil was killed. Did the Inchoroi, for some reason, leave their dragons behind in the first battle?

Wutteat is the prototype, the genotypical template the Inchoroi used to spawn the Wracu. In a sense, he is no more ‘another dragon’ than the original 1889 prototype for the metre in Sevres, France is another metre.

Were there ever Nonmen in Eänna? And if not, why not? They certainly seem to have had both the time, capability and inclination for an invasion before the Inchoroi showed up. Instead they just fortified the passes. Why?  

The Nonmen do not multiply anywhere near the rate as Men. Their ambition, moreover, has little regard for geography for its own sake. For them, to conquer means to gain power over their brothers: all other forms of dominance are beneath their contempt. This is the reason they paid so little attention to the Halaroi in Eärwa, apart from their need for labour and congress. What transpired in Eänna, they cared not at all.

When the Inchoroi began using Men to master the Aporos and produce the first Chorae, they gave the first sorcery-destroying spheres to the Sranc, only to discover that the creatures were far too reckless. Having fixed and morbid habits of ornamentation, the Sranc rarely valued the spheres, and were thus prone to lose them.

So the Inchoroi began giving them to the Men of Eärwa, hoping to incite them to rebellion. But the Halaroi had no stomach for rousing a feared, and most importantly, absent master, and so rendered the deadly gifts to their Nonmen overlords. The Inchoroi then looked to Eänna, where the Men were both more fierce and more naive. They gave the Chorae to the Five Tribes as gifts, and to one tribe, the black-haired Ketyai, they gave a great tusk inscribed with their hallowed laws and most revered stories–as well as one devious addition: the divine imperative to invade the ‘Land of the Felled Sun’ and hunt down and exterminate the ‘False Men.’

The Nonmen only rebuilt and reinforced the Gates after the first great migratory invasions generations later.

What can you tell us about the Consult's level genetic engineering? 

I would love to tell you about the Consult’s level of genetic engineering, but they insist on revealing the mad extent of their depravity themselves in The Unholy Consult.

Terry Brooks contest winner!

This luck lady will receive an Advance Reading Copy of Terry Brooks' forthcoming Shannara novel, The Measure of the Magic. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Natalia Bartouzzi, from Grenoble, France

Many thanks to all the participants!

WTF???? (part 2)

Tyra Banks promotes her forthcoming fantasy novel on Good Morning America. . .

Check it out here on

Who wants to wear a Smize!?! :P

The Quantum Thief

Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief garnered rave reviews when it was released in the UK last year. Some went as far as to claim that it was the very best science fiction debuts in years.

Sadly, I never received a review copy of the UK edition, so I relished the opportunity to finally give it a shot when the American version ended up in my mailbox.

And although it is a fun and entertaining read, I felt that far too many of the concepts were underdeveloped in a way that prevented this work from being as memorable as it could have been.

Here's the blurb:

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur. . .

The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut

Rajaniemi's debut is a hard scifi offering, yet it doesn't read like one. It's more of a character driven science fiction book, making it easier to read and more accessible than regualr hard scifi novels. Problem is, we are bombarded by concepts and ideas throughout the book, especially at the beginning. There is obviously much more depth than meets the eye, but the author offers basically no explanation regarding these. Hence, all the concepts that make The Quantum Thief such an interesting and thought-provoking read, turn out to be so underdeveloped as to rob this work of most of what could have made it a great read. It is a good read, mind you.

But I have a feeling that depth was sacrificed for the sake of a fast-moving rhythm. Hence, though The Quantum Thief is a complex and inventive work filled with wonders, the book doesn't hit you with the knockout punch that I expected. Rajaniemi left the door open for various sequels, so here's to hoping that the forthcoming installments will shine some lights of that panoply of concepts and imbue these works with more depth.

Hannu Rajaniemi's storytelling skills are right up there with the best writers of the genre. His witty narrative was reminiscent of Scott Lynch's, making this one a joyride to flip through. The characterization was well-done and focuses on the three main protagonists: Jean, Mieili, and Isidore. Mieil could have used a bit more depth, but the other two principal characters are surprisingly well-drawn.

The Quantum Thief moves at a breakneck pace. On the upside, this means that there is never a dull moment from start to finish. The downside would have to be that depth in regards to worldbuilding and characterization was sacrificed, lessening the impact many of those aspects could and should have had for the sake of a quick rhythm.

In the end, The Quantum Thief is a fun and fast-moving read. But the lack of depth and development prevent this one from living up to its full potential.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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

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

In hardcover:

Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning is down one position, ending the week at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

MaryJanice Davidson's Undead and Undermined debuts at number 26.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Hit List is down twelve spots, finishing the week at number 35.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up five spots, finishing at number 2.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings maintains its position at number 6.

George R. R. Martin's A Storms of Swords maintains its position at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows maintains its position at number 12.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down six positions, ending the week at number 16 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down thirteen spots, finishing the week at number 24 (trade paperback).

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down four spots, finishing the week at number 25.

Gail Carriger's Heartless is down fifteen positions, ending the week at number 26.

Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is down two spots, finishing the week at number 27.

Game of Thrones panel from San Diego Comic-Con

Good stuff! =)

Exclusive extract from Melanie Rawn's THE DIVINER

Thanks to the folks at Daw Books, here's an excerpt from Melanie Rawn's forthcoming The Diviner. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Bestselling author Melanie Rawn's triumphant return to high fantasy.

The only survivor of royal treachery that eliminates his entire family, Azzad al-Ma'aliq flees to the desert and dedicates himself to vengeance. With the help of the Shagara, a nomadic tribe of powerful magicians, he begins to take his revenge-but at a terrible cost to himself

The Diviner is a prequel to The Golden Key (Canada, USA, Europe), which was co-authored by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot.


Why, Azzad al-Ma'aliq asked himself for the thousandth time, were women so expensive? And not just in the cost of trinkets, either. They demanded a man's time and exhausted his patience—not to mention his energy. They required so much attention. And thoughtfulness. And conversation.

And money, he thought ruefully, patting the folds of scarlet silk wound around his waist, where until an hour ago a fabulous pearl necklace had been concealed. It was now somewhere in the rubbish heap behind Ashiyah's house. Instead of squealing with delight at the gift, she'd thrown it out her bedroom window.

The idea had been for Ashiyah to undress him—slowly if she liked, quickly if that was her mood; he was always generous and accommodating, wasn't he?—and discover his latest gift, and thereupon would ensue—

But it hadn't. She'd come at him spitting and clawing, furious that he was late. A hundred women in Rimmal Madar would have waited years just for a smile from the latest handsome al-Ma'aliq male in a long line of handsome al-Ma'aliq males, and yet Ashiyah had behaved as if a paltry couple of hours was good and sufficient reason to rip his face to shreds.

He'd backed off, desperately groping for the pearls hidden in his gold-and-green striped sash. For just an instant the ploy succeeded; covetous joy sparked hotter than anger in her magnificent eyes when she saw the jewels.

Then she seized the necklace and tried to strangle him with it.

Between his knees, Khamsin heaved an almost human sigh. Azzad patted the stallion's arching black neck. "Do you think you need to tell me I'm a fool? Believe me, it's nothing I haven't told myself a thousand times. But she is spectacularly beautiful. And it would infuriate her husband spectacularly if he ever caught us!"

The vexing Ozmin had in recent months been Azzad's guide through the bureaucratic snarl of the Sheyqa's tax collectors. It was the al-Ma'aliq's contention that their lands were being singled out for heavier tribute than usual, and Za'avedra el-Ibrafidia al-Ma'aliq—in futile hopes of rousing her second son to anything even vaguely resembling familial responsibility—assigned Azzad the disagreeable duty of untangling (which meant bribing) enough functionaries to support a protest in the law courts. Absurd, of course; everyone knew it was the Sheyqa who had ordered the extra taxes, and only the Sheyqa would have any say in easing them. Not for the first time, Azzad joined his relations in cursing the ancestor who had thought it expedient to make a bond of defense with a woman everyone had fully expected to die in battle against the heathen—or to be murdered by one of her own lethal siblings in their quest for family dominance.

But Sheyqa Nizzira's great-grandmother had not died, and the oath remained binding, and here they all were: sworn to the descendant of an arrogant bitch from some obscure southern tribe whom Acuyib had inexplicably blessed in war.

"At least I don't have it as bad as Ammineh," he muttered. The stallion's ears twitched, but Azzad's tone indicated nothing more than the usual complaining, so Khamsin ignored him. "She has to sleep with the son of that miserable barghoutz. For a little while, I slept with Ashiyah."

Not that Ashiyah's whisperings on his behalf when she summoned her husband to share her pillows had done the al-Ma'aliq any good. Azzad hadn't courted Ashiyah only for her usefulness—though had she been skinny and plain instead of sumptuously beautiful, he simply would have closed his eyes or told her that making love in the dark was so much more sensuous. Ayia, memories of her bed would have to sustain him until the next luscious lady presented herself to his fastidious notice. He wondered with a sudden grin which woman he could bestow his favors on to infuriate Ashiyah most when she heard of it.

He rode through the dark streets toward home, paying no attention to his surroundings. He didn't need to; Khamsin was familiar with this route. Azzad's nose identified the streets for him without his being fully aware of it. The stench of tanneries and butcher shops. The softly tantalizing scents from bakeries in Ayyash Sharyah. The tang of dinner spices wafting silently down from upstairs living quarters in Zoqalo Zaffiha, where from dawn until dark the hammers of brass and bronze and tin workers clanged. The long narrow alley where the stink of dye vats and wet wool was bearable only by daylight, and only because of the eyes' delight in the rainbow shanks hung from balcony to balcony overhead to dry. All workshops were shut up tight now, all streets and squares deserted. No one called out invitations to see or sample various wares, so Azzad was left alone with his thoughts.

Khamsin picked his way along the dirt and cobbles toward home while Azzad dreamed of Beit Ma'aliq's cool fountains, and fruits plucked ripe from the trees, and an evening spent listening to his sisters sing. The girls were of an age now to be of use to an older brother. Perhaps, he mused, fingers toying with the fine bronze wire tassels on the reins, now that they were almost marriageable, some of their prettier friends might be amenable to a dalliance. . .

He could see his mother's face even now: stern, implacable, her dark eyes knowing every wayward thought in his head, and a single word on her lips as sharp as the silver needle that was her family's name and crest: No. Whatever women he amused himself with, none of them could be of rank or wealth.

Then again, Za'avedra el-Ibrafidia might turn a blind eye to such an association, in the way of mothers who knew their sons. If he compromised a nobleman's daughter, he would be forced to wed her. The very thought made him shudder. Getting married. Fathering children. Living a settled life. Doing something useful for the family—something unutterably boring. Staying with one woman for the rest of his life, or at least until her parents were dead. No, when he married—if he married—it would be to a girl with no relations whatsoever, not a single woman or man of her family alive anywhere to trouble him on her behalf when he wanted a little variety in his bed. Azzad considered it grossly unfair that only a Sheyqa and her immediate family were permitted more than one spouse, the justification being that for from them sprang the strength of the nation in the form of strong daughters and sons.

He snorted. Of all the descendants that Sheyqa Nizzira and her sons and daughters had produced so far, Azzad had heard very little to recommend any of them. Fifty of them now; he'd heard this morning that his cousin Ammineh had given birth to a daughter, and—

"Fifty! Acuyib save me! The celebration feast!"

Khamsin didn't bother to swing an ear around this time, but when Azzad hauled back on the reins the stallion snorted and pranced a few steps in protest. He wanted his stall and his evening feed, Azzad knew—but all the al-Ma'aliq had been invited to the palace tonight to celebrate Ammineh's little girl, and in anticipating an evening with Ashiyah, the royal command had completely slipped his mind.

With a groan—he'd never get there in time and would have to think up some plausible excuse for his tardiness—he turned Khamsin toward the palace. A brisk trot and a shortcut or two, and maybe he'd arrive during the dancing or while an especially incredible creation of the Sheyqa's kitchen staff was being presented, or—well, he'd spent all his twenty years being lucky, and there was no reason to think tonight would be any different.

* * *

"Esteemed Majesty," the eunuch whispered at Sheyqa Nizzira's shoulder, "not all of them drink enough."

The Sheyqa smiled, clapping her hands in time to a spirited tune, following the dancers' swirling silks and exposed flesh with her gaze. The youth on the far left, the one who was dark and muscular and half-naked, he might do for later tonight. She kept her eyes on him, annoyed by the interruption, knowing it was necessary to reply. Without moving her lips, she said, "I never meant them to."

"But—Revered Majesty—your kinsmen from beyond the Steeps said—"

She saw the concert master watching her, and gave him the signal that indicated her choice of the beautiful dark boy. He nodded once, and turned to give his own instructions. To the eunuch, the Sheyqa said, "All that is required is that most of them are drunk. Go away. All will be as it should."

"You have commanded it, Exalted One." Bowing low, he melted away into the shadows.

She returned her attention to the boy whose new role in the dance now required him to shed almost all his clothes. He was the coveted one, the desired one; all the other young men faded into the corners of the room while concubines belonging to Nizzira's sons danced to tempt him.

"No difficulties, I trust, Highness?" asked the al-Ma'aliq seated nearest her—father of Ammineh, smug enough to make Nizzira's palm itch for her knife.

Instead she waved a well-manicured hand, rings sparking a dozen colors by lamplight. "That silly eunuch frets as if he truly were a woman, instead of merely not a man. Do you enjoy yourself, my friend?"

"Truly, Highness, it is a night for jubilation at Acuyib's great generosity to both our houses. For is it not said," he added, his smile dazzlingly white below a luxuriant black mustache, "that the fiftieth of a Sheyqa's descendants shall be the joy of her age? My own father finds it so." He directed a fond glance at the drooling ninety-year-old moron who, determined not to wait on grandchildren to fulfill his ambition, had killed seven successive wives in the getting of his first forty-nine offspring. The fiftieth, sole product of the eighth and final wife, attended the old man so devotedly that he practically chewed his food for him. The Sheyqa found this utterly disgusting—but what offended her more deeply was the reference yet again to the long-gone al-Ma'aliq power. That senile, toothless old man ruling Rimmal Madar? It didn't bear contemplation.

What she said, in a mild tone, was, "I hope your daughter has given me a child just as fine for my fiftieth."

"I am confident that she has, Highness." Another raising of the wine to his daughter's accomplishment.

The Sheyqa nodded, smiled, and drank. The exquisite young boy had spurned the attentions of all the girls, no matter what they did to entice him: it was his role to reject them, and eventually to prostrate himself at the Sheyqa's feet. She watched as he began the moves that culminated the dance, reflecting that it really was a fine thing to be past the age of childbearing, and not have to limit herself only to those men she had married for money or land or political alliance. Carelessness in this regard had been her own mother's downfall—one did not bear the child of a Hrumman servant, no matter how tempting his golden looks might be, not when there had never been an al-Ammarizzad born with blond hair. Husbands were tedious at times, but not even a Sheyqa could mortify them in such fashion. It was said she had died of a fever, and all her husbands were seen to mourn her—none of them less sincerely than Nizzira's father, who had administered the "fever" in a cup of wine. The act had sealed Nizzira's accession to the Moonrise Throne, for not only had her father taken on the task and thus the responsibility if caught, that he had not been caught was warning enough. No one in the palace wish to be similarly administered to. The other husbands had been dealt with in Nizzira's own time, and their offspring as well, and now all of her own husbands were either dead or divorced.

So she could have anyone she wished these days. Truly, it was most liberating. When the boy began his approach, she forgot to wonder if what was between his thighs was natural or cleverly provoked by drugs. The latter, she thought, rightly judging the glaze in his eyes. But it mattered for nothing; he really was quite the loveliest thing she'd ever seen.

She was just beginning to plan the end of her evening when the first al-Ma'aliq began to vomit.

* * *

No one was on the last mile of the palace road. Azzad cursed. No other late arrivals with whom to slide, practically unnoticed, inside the gates. He couldn't even pretend he'd been there all along, caught up in greeting friends or seeing to the comfort of his older relations. His esteemed father would see through that in a twitch of a lamb's ear.

Khamsin suddenly froze—ears pricked, head thrown back, the whites showing in his black eyes. Azzad frowned. Usually he had his hands full preventing the stallion from challenging every other stallion on the palace road, for which the Qoundi Ammar on their grand white horses did not thank him.

But there were no Qoundi Ammar lining the palace road tonight.

He was alone.

And on the soft evening breeze his inferior senses finally recognized what Khamsin's nose had already warned of: fire.

* * *

One hundred twenty-six of the almost four hundred al-Ma'aliq had to be helped from the banqueting hall to the outer courtyard, robes stained and bellies churning. The Sheyqa waved aside the mortified apologies of Ammineh's father.

"Young men will overindulge, you know it is so," she said as servants hurriedly cleaned up the messes. "Think no more on it, my friend. Come, let's not ruin the celebration."

On the expert advice of distant relations whose help she'd sought for this purpose, she'd made sure that all of the "drunks" would be young men, easily excused in their excesses. For their elders, she had something else in mind.

The eunuch approached right on time, bowing, begging Her Glorious Majesty to accede to the Qoundi Ammar's request that they might demonstrate their joy in her fiftieth descendant. The Sheyqa smiled. "Very thoughtful. My thanks and compliments to the qabda'an, but it can wait until tomorrow. I shall even bring along my little Sayyida to see the salute in her honor."

"Highness," said Sayyida's grandfather, "the disgraceful actions of my kinsmen have soured the atmosphere within. The fresh air of the courtyard would be most welcome, would it not?"

Naturally the al-Ma'aliq would wish to revel in a show of military precision by the elite guard. They thought it a tribute to them. Fifty years ago—at about the time of Nizzira's birth, in fact—a renegade faction of al-Ma'aliq had been the only troops ever to defeat the proud invincible Qoundi Ammar. The doddering old fool down the table from Nizzira had been the one to punish his wayward kinsmen—thereby gaining for himself royal assistance in his claim to leadership of the family. But the necessity still galled, all these years later. Had things been just slightly different, one of the al-Ma'aliq women would now occupy the Moonrise Throne. "Never trust them, my daughter—never, never. They were kings once, and would be again if they could. Keep them under your eye always."

Ayia, not her eye—her heel. And even that had not been enough. Who knew but that Ammineh had been dangled before her fool of a son in hopes of precisely these circumstances: an al-Ammarizzad with al-Ma'aliq blood, who one day would seize the throne? Restored to its former glory, the family would make certain that all the mighty deeds of Nizzira's own forebears were appropriated to their renown.

Never. Never. There were, among her forty-nine other strong, clever, ambitious sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters, many now at an age to begin vying for precedence in the succession—which amused her. She intended to live to be at least eighty years old and die in bed with a beautiful boy in her arms—not with a knife in the spine as her grandmother had done. (Not Nizzira's knife, to be sure, though she had hated the old woman, and she had enjoyed tremendously the execution of the cousin who had done it.) Her plans for the al-Ma'aliq tonight were in part to warn her own offspring that such could just as easily happen to any of them, should she become displeased. Another lesson learned from her esteemed father.

But not a flicker of these thoughts showed in the Sheyqa's face. She chewed another candy, pretending to consider, then nodded. "Very well. Let us go outside and see what the qabda'an has arranged for our amazement tonight. Something spectacular, I hope, with lots of pretty riding, and that trick they do with their swords and axes. Have you ever seen it? Truly extraordinary."

* * *

Azzad urged Khamsin back toward the city, and the closer he got to home the brighter the sky became. The breeze had died, and smoke billowed straight up into the heavens. Smuts of soot began to drift down onto his blue cloak. People in outlying districts leaned out windows or stood atop the flat roofs of their houses to get a better view—but as he neared home he had to slow the big stallion to avoid the milling crowd. Only when he turned onto Sharyah Ammar Zaqaf—the Street of the Red Roofs—did he realize that there was no rush toward the flames with buckets of water to fight the fire. The faces he saw, lit crimson by fireglow, were curious and apprehensive at the same time—like dogs confronted by poisonous snakes.

Abruptly furious, he dug his heels into Khamsin, caring nothing for whoever might get in the way. Down the wide avenue he galloped, past shops crammed with silk and silver where his five sisters loved to dawdle of a morning before the heat grew oppressive. At the very end of the double rows of plane trees was the walled magnificence of Beit Ma'aliq: the house of his family. The gate was high and narrow and closely woven, all fanciful curves and bright flowers, like a woman's embroidered shawl draped shoulder-to-shoulder across her slender back—only this embroidery was of iron. Tonight the vivid colors of the painted metal were black against a background of flames.

Someone grabbed at Khamsin's bridle—a mistake that nearly cost him a hunk of shoulder as the stallion snapped angrily. Azzad kicked the man and wheeled Khamsin around toward the back entrance. The surrounding wall was much too high for him to see over, but through small, iron-barred apertures cut into white-plastered brick he caught glimpses of the blaze. And no people. Not one single person was outside in any of the courtyards.

When he got to the rear gate, he understood why. Through the twisting painted iron he could see the sprawl of the main house, and the doors leading out to the stable yard—and the stout planks nailing them shut.

There was yet one more way to get in. Frantic now, he turned Khamsin to the alleyway behind the stables and fumbled in his green-and-gold sash for the key. The postern gate into the gardens was made of wood. Even as he turned the corner, he saw that it too was ablaze, and as he neared he smelled the stench of rancid oil.

Beyond the high walls spread the garden with its languid flowers and many fountains. Above was the two-story arrareem, the women's private chambers that no man dared enter without Za'avedra's invitation. Azzad coaxed Khamsin nearer, fighting the horse's terror of fire, standing in his stirrups to see over the wall. All the windows spewed fire through ornamental wooden grilles out onto balconies. Behind those windows lived his mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, the wives and daughters and infant sons. And from within he heard screaming.

He swung one leg over Khamsin's neck, preparing to dismount. The stallion, wiser than he, sidled away from the postern gate toward the opposite wall. Azzad was too fine a rider to lose his balance—yet neither could he leap down, for Khamsin had trapped his other leg against the bricks. And the instant his rump connected with the saddle again, the horse pivoted neatly on his hind hooves and galloped down the alley.

He could not turn Khamsin back to Beit Ma'aliq. The stallion had had enough of fire and smoke, and no intention of allowing his chosen master to commit suicide. Cursing, Azzad lifted his head into the wind of Khamsin's gallop, feeling the tears dry on his cheeks.

Blazing windows, barred doors, oil-soaked wood—all the women and children of his family would die tonight in an inferno of the Sheyqa's making. Azzad knew he would hear their screams the rest of his life.

Khamsin finally slowed at the outskirts of the city. Azzad had no notion of where they were or how many people had been trampled to get them there. He understood one thing only: the Sheyqa had murdered helpless women and children in their beds, and he would have no qualms about murdering every man of the al-Ma'aliq at the palace tonight.

His cousin Ammineh too would die, and her baby with her—no, Sayyida was the granddaughter of the Sheyqa, she would be spared. And she would be the only al-Ma'aliq left.

Unless Azzad could get to the palace in time.

Peter Jackson's third production video for The Hobbit

Win a copy of Jon Sprunk's SHADOW'S LURE

I have three copies of Jon Sprunk's Shadow's Lure for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The unforgiving Northlands . . .

In Othir, he was at the top of the food chain—an assassin beyond compare, a dark shadow in the night. But Caim left that life behind when he helped an empress claim her throne. And now his past has come calling again.

Searching for the truth behind the murder and disappearance of his parents, Caim discovers a land in thrall to the Shadow. Haunted by temptations from the Other Side, he becomes mired in a war he does not want to fight.

But there are some things a son of the Shadow cannot ignore, and some fights from which he can’t run. In this battle, all of Caim’s strength and skill won’t be enough. For none can resist the Shadow’s Lure

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

Damn it feels good to be a Lannister


New Canadian cover art for the trade paperback edition of Guy Gavriel Kay's UNDER HEAVEN

I love it!

This new trade edition of Under Heaven sports a Tang Dynasty painting on the cover and will also contain a Book Club readers guide. It will be released in September 2011.

Sam Sykes contest winner

This lucky winner will receive autographed copies of Tome of the Undergates (Canada, USA, Europe) and Black Halo (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Sam Sykes himself!

The winner is:

- Justin Landon, from Washington D. C., USA

Many thanks to all the participants! =)

Quote of the Day

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.


Words to live by.

Win a copy of Mark Lawrence's PRINCE OF THORNS

I have three copies of Mark Lawrence's fantasy debut, Prince of Thorns, up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Ace. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Here's the blurb:

Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.

Once a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

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


Well, this one was a chore, no question about it. Had I not been reading this during my trip through the Southern Balkans and had access to my collection, I would never have finished reading this novel. It's been a while since I've been this underwhelmed by the work of a quality author.

Oddly enough, at first I was thoroughly captivated by the premise of the book. The first portion of Embassytown had me enthralled and I felt that this one could potentially make me miss out a couple of nights of drinking and mingling with fellow travelers. But the middle part slowed down to an atrocious crawl, boring me out of my mind. It got to be so bad at one point that I considered quitting. Only the fact that this was written by China Miéville kept me plodding on.

Here's the blurb:

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.

Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.

And that is impossible.

As I mentioned, I found the whole premise based on language to be fascinating at first. Miéville does an awesome job when it comes to setting the mood. As is usually his wont, Embassytown and its environs take on a life of their own, almost becoming characters in their own right.

The two main themes appear to be language and colonization. I feel that Miéville did a good job with the introduction of those concepts within the narrative and how closely the themes are linked in the overall plot. Trouble is, the execution throughout as the tale progresses was clumsy and uneven, killing what seemed to be a number of engrossing storylines as the plot goes nowhere for about 150 pages.

I don't believe that it was due to the fact that the project was too ambitious. Miéville starts the novel with panache and the story immediately captures your imagination. The author also brings this book to a satisfying end, so the novel is not all bad. But for some unfathomable reason, Miéville sort of gets lost in the middle portion of Embassytown and it takes forever for him to take control once more. I have a feeling that the entire premise would have worked better as a conceptual exploration of themes. The novelization of said themes, at least within the pages of Embassytown, didn't quite work the way Miéville probably envisioned them to. God knows it left this reader totally underwhelmed. . .

The characterization was also an issue. Avice as a first-person narrator could not convey the depth of the themes explored in this book. Surprisingly, though this is a first-person narrative, we learned very little about the main protagonist. I for one could not care less about her. Hence, witnessing events unfolding through her eyes likely didn't help at all. Still, it's weird how captivating her narrative could be at the beginning, as Miéville paved the way for what was to come, and then become so uninteresting as we reach the middle part of the novel.

The pace left a lot to be desired. As mentioned, everything flows well in the first hundred pages or so. But then for some unknown reason, the middle portion of Embassytown kills the momentum of the book. And the novel never gets its rhythm back. Miéville closes the show with style, but the damage was done.

In the end, it's not just a pacing issue. As a whole, I felt that the characters, the various plotlines, and the oh-so-important language aspects were decidedly underdeveloped. The premise and the early parts of Embassytown made it look like a brilliant work. Sadly, the lack of execution and the underdeveloped facets of this novel prevented Embassytown from being as good as it was meant to be.

Disappointing and at times frustrating. . .

The final verdict: 6.75/10

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

Musical Interlude

Fucked-up NTEIBINT remix of Daft Punk's Derezzed from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack!

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

In hardcover:

Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning is down one position, ending the week at number 14. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Todd and Anne McCaffrey's Dragon's Time debuts at number 21.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Hit List is down five spots, finishing the week at number 23.

Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse is up two positions, ending the week at number 24.

Félix J. Palma's The Map of Time debuts at number 34.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down two positions, ending the week at number 6.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down six spots, finishing at number 7.

George R. R. Martin's A Storms of Swords is down three positions, ending the week at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up one position, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down six spots, finishing the week at number 11 (trade paperback).

Gail Carriger's Heartless debuts at number 11.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down four positions, ending the week at number 12.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up eleven spots, finishing the week at number 21.

Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War returns at number 25.

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: The Dead Town is down fifteen spots, finishing the week at number 27.

Peter F. Hamilton cover design competition

Looking ahead to the October publication of one of Britain’s bestselling Science Fiction writers, Peter F. Hamilton’s first short story collection in thirteen years, Manhattan In Reverse, Pan Macmillan is running a Peter F. Hamilton artwork competition in conjunction with SFX magazine. Two lucky winners will see their jacket designs adorn special eBook editions of two stories from the collection.

Manhattan in Reverse takes us on a journey from a murder mystery in an alternative Oxford in the 1800s to a brand new story featuring Paula Mayo, Deputy Director of the Intersolar Commonwealth’s Serious Crimes Directorate. Dealing with intricate themes and topical subject this top ten bestselling author is at the top of his game.

Pan Macmillan will be releasing two short stories from the collection in eBook format a month early. SFX online and Pan Macmillan are looking for jacket designs for both stories. Pan Macmillan have provided cover briefs, with contributions from their senior designer, from Peter’s editor Julie Crisp and from Peter himself, together with a design template and submission guidelines. The two winning designs will be selected by a judging panel that includes Peter, his publishing team at Pan Macmillan and SFX staff.

Peter said ‘There’s so much promising design talent out there and I’m excited to see how my stories are interpreted.’


• Pan Macmillan has provided cover briefs for the short stories "The Demon Trap" and "Footvote" – clink on the links to view the briefs. These are exactly the type of briefs that professional artists will receive when they are commissioned to create cover artwork. Read them carefully because they are essential in helping you make your creative choices.

• You can provide entries for either or both stories

• Your entry must be supplied in its complete form as a 300 dpi high resolution Jpeg or PDF under 2MB

• Your entry must be 240mmx156mm

• Your entry should be submitted to

• Only original artwork or digital artwork will be considered and all artwork must be sent with your name, contact telephone number and email address in the body of the email and clearly marked in the subject header ‘Short story artwork competition’. Incomplete entries will be disqualified.

• Entries must be received by Pan Macmillan on or before the closing date of 1 August 2011 before 5.30pm GMT. Pan Macmillan may require a higher res version of the file at a later date

Best of luck to everyone who'll give it a shot! =)

Win an autographed copy of Melanie Rawn's THE DIVINER

I have five signed copies of Melanie Rawn's The Diviner for you to win, courtesy of the nice folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Bestselling author Melanie Rawn's triumphant return to high fantasy.

The only survivor of royal treachery that eliminates his entire family, Azzad al-Ma'aliq flees to the desert and dedicates himself to vengeance. With the help of the Shagara, a nomadic tribe of powerful magicians, he begins to take his revenge-but at a terrible cost to himself

The Diviner is a prequel to The Golden Key (Canada, USA, Europe), which was co-authored by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot. It is said that both Elliott and Roberson will also write prequels to The Golden Key.

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

Excerpt from Jon Sprunk's SHADOW'S LURE

Thanks to the cool folks at Pyr, here is an extract of Jon Sprunk's Shadow's Lure. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The unforgiving Northlands . . .

In Othir, he was at the top of the food chain—an assassin beyond compare, a dark shadow in the night. But Caim left that life behind when he helped an empress claim her throne. And now his past has come calling again.

Searching for the truth behind the murder and disappearance of his parents, Caim discovers a land in thrall to the Shadow. Haunted by temptations from the Other Side, he becomes mired in a war he does not want to fight.

But there are some things a son of the Shadow cannot ignore, and some fights from which he can’t run. In this battle, all of Caim’s strength and skill won’t be enough. For none can resist the Shadow’s Lure


Caim drew in a breath and held it. The bow shaft creaked as he pulled the string back to his ear.

Forty paces away, the target turned his head, but then went back to his meal. Caim measured the distance again, allowing for wind and a slight difference in elevation. The temperature had dropped to near freezing with the sun’s setting, which would affect the arrow’s flight.

“Still playing around out here?” a voice whispered in his ear.

Caim shivered as Kit passed through him, and then she was beside him. Her hair gleamed like quicksilver in the dying light.

“You’re going to shoot without giving him a chance?”

“Don’t—” he said as she leaned across his field of vision to look down the arrow.

The mark glanced up again. Caim’s hands were cramping from the cold, the bowstring biting into his fingers.

“—move” he breathed.

But it was too late. The stag gathered its legs and leapt away between two leaning evergreens. Snow from dislodged branches showered over its trail. Caim ducked away from Kit and tracked his quarry’s movement through the thicket. Time slowed. In the space between two heartbeats, he found the target and shot.

The arrow spun in a tight spiral as the stag emerged from the trees, hooves churning in the deep snow. Caim leaned forward as the arrow and its target collided. The stag’s high-pitched squeal startled him when the missile punched into its side. The arrow struck high and behind the foreleg. The stag foundered, but then it took off through the snow. How long could it run? By the brightness of the blood running down its tawny coat, the shot had punctured a lung.

Caim fumbled for his quiver as he ran after it, but the stag raced like lightning through the snow. In another few heartbeats, it would be gone. His breath burned in his chest as the creature passed behind a thick bole. What emerged on the other side nearly caused Caim to stumble in his tracks. It had the rough size and shape of the stag, but its coat was silky black like the fur of a jungle cat. Two slender horns of bone-white ivory rose from the back of the narrow skull. A twinge ached in Caim’s chest, and the stag returned, galloping away through the snow. Without thinking about it, he reached out to the shadows gathering in the trees around him. The stag snorted as a ribbon of darkness fell over its face. It slid in the snow, just a momentary hitch in its gait, but that was enough for Caim to draw and fire. The second arrow went high. He shot the third almost without aiming. It looked like it was going to veer wide until the stag blundered into its path. This time the animal fell.

When Caim caught up, the stag was kicking weakly on its side. There was no sign of the strange transformation it had undergone. Caim drew one of the long suete knives sheathed in the harness at the small of his back and put the animal out of its misery. He tied its legs together while bright red blood pumped out into the snow.

Kit floated at his side and watched the animal’s last throes. “Did you see the way it looked at you? It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Kit continued to chatter as Caim dragged the carcass in the direction of his camp. He hadn’t known what to expect when he decided to come north. Eregoth loomed in his memory like a half-forgotten nightmare, but the last Nimean outpost was six days behind them and they hadn’t seen another living soul since. Of course, he traveled cross-country, avoiding anything more established than hunting trails. Game was plentiful; he wouldn’t starve if he could manage to keep from freezing to death. But he hardly slept anymore, and when he did the dreams were waiting for him, worse than before. And he saw things, too. Shadow things, like what happened with the stag. They appeared without warning, day and night. Ever since Othir.

“You’re passing it,” Kit chided over his head.

Caim stopped beside a screen of brush. Through the canopy of tree branches, the sky was a sheet of cobalt. The moon hung low, a slender sickle among the evening’s first stars. He dropped his prize and knelt down to clean it. With the bloody meat in hand, he kicked snow over the carcass and tromped through the undergrowth.

His camp was a lean-to and a fire pit, which had gone out in his absence. Once he got the fire going again, he spitted the meat and set it over the flames. Then he cleaned his hands in the snow and settled back against the tree supporting his impromptu shelter.

Kit appeared before him, standing in the fire. Her arms were folded across her chest, a bad sign. Caim took a deep breath to prepare for the onslaught.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Waiting for my supper.”

“You know what I mean!” She waved her hands over her head. “Why are we here?”

“You know why, Kit.” He broke a pair of semi-dry branches in half and tossed them into the fire. “You were all in favor of this before.”


“Back in Othir. You heard me explain it to Josey. You didn’t have any objections then.”

“Yes, I did. I just didn’t voice them.”

He turned the spits. “Then you forfeited your chance.”

“I’m voicing them now! Look at you. You’re half-frozen, living like an animal. And you don’t have any idea what you’re searching for. Do you?”

Caim grunted, but it came out like a clearing of his throat. When was the last time you agreed with anything I did, Kit? But she was always there, every time he fell down, even if sometimes it was only to throw salt in his wounds. “I’m tired, Kit. Let it go.”

She floated over to sit beside him and leaned against his arm. Ghostly tickles raised gooseflesh under his leathers. “Why don’t we go to Arnos? Just the two of us, down to the Midland shore. Bright beaches, clear waters. By the time we get there, it would be warmer—”

He scooted away from her. “Cut it out, Kit.”


With a last glower, she vanished. No sparkles, no glitter. Out in the gathering darkness, an owl hooted. The air seemed colder when she was gone. What was he trying to prove? That he didn’t need anyone? He’d spent most of the first week after he left Othir looking over his shoulder, hoping Josey had ignored his admonition not to come after him. Even after he stopped looking back, that didn’t make his decision to continue north any easier. The encounter with Levictus was still fresh in his mind.

The wind died down for a moment, making the sorcerer’s next words resound like thunder crashing over Caim’s head. “She dwells in the peerless realm of her ancestors, beyond the veil in the Land of Shadow.”

The Land of Shadow. Children’s nonsense. But it wasn’t. Caim reached out his hand and called to the darkness. A patch of shadow appeared in his palm. It came with hardly any effort. The shadows. The stag. His dreams. What else was changing?

Caim gave a mental push and the shadow slid away. After giving the spits another turn, he ducked inside the lean-to, where his few possessions were pushed against the canvas wall. On top of the pile lay a long bundle wrapped in burlap. He reached inside and pulled, and the sword slid clear of its housing with a whisper. The black blade reflected no shine from the firelight. It had lain in the ground behind Kas’s cabin for almost twenty years, yet showed not the least sign of tarnish.

Where did you come from?

As if in answer, a tremble slithered up his arm. And then the night came alive. The sky lightened to milky gray. The trees stood taller and shed their shady cloaks, and the snow gleamed beneath him like a blanket of stardust.

Caim thrust the sword back into its scabbard. When his hand left the hilt, his vision returned to normal. With a grimace, he folded the burlap over the end and shoved the entire thing under a blanket, where it made a conspicuous hump. He pulled over the bulging satchel. Under layers of spare clothes, he found a narrow book bound in a black cord. It was Archpriest Vassili’s personal journal, given to him by Josey. There had also been papers for safe passage, but he’d burned them. From what he had seen journeying north, any document found on his person tying him to the new empress would do him more harm than good. If things had been bad in Nimea before the Church’s downfall, they were worse now. There was no law beyond the length of a sword’s blade. The nobles squabbled over land rights while the commons stole off to become brigands.

Caim cracked open the book, and a square of parchment slid out onto his lap. He held it up. A capital letter J was stamped in gold wax over the fold. A letter from Josey, tucked where he would find it. Was it a plea for him to come back? Or a warning to stay away and never return? He shoved it in the back of the book.

The lines on the book’s smooth vellum pages were penned in Vassili’s cultured hand. He read a page or two each night. So far he hadn’t found anything useful, mostly passages about the archpriest’s early days as a praetor in Belastire.

Caim touched the key-shaped pendant, another gift from Josey, under his shirt as he flipped through the pages until something caught his eye.

Eighth day of Atrius, 1123

We have arrived in Othir after fourteen days on the road. Despite the
speed of our passage, I was the last of the conclave to arrive, a fact which shall
no doubt be used against me.

We were received at DiVecci in the afternoon. Just as I suggested in my
treatise, the Inquest has been expanded several times beyond their original
. . .

The next couple words were indecipherable. Then:

The oubliettes beneath the castle stink of river water and are bursting with
prisoners, many of them imperialist agitators, but one caught my attention.
Something about his eyes. I have decided to return tomorrow and inquire about

Hearing the sizzle of dripping fat, Caim lurched forward and caught the meat before it fell into the fire. He peeled off strips with his teeth and hissed as he gulped down the steaming flesh, then turned back to the journal. The text went on to tell how Vassili liberated a young man from the torture cells beneath Castle DiVecci and decided to keep him as a ward.

The prisoner’s name was Levictus.

By the time Caim finished the page, the sun had gone down. He put the book away, tossed another couple branches on the fire, and crawled under his shelter. As he lay there, gazing up at the stars through gaps in the canopy, Josey intruded into his thoughts. What was she doing? Was she safe? Had she forgotten about him? But the more he thought of her, the more he knew he’d made the right decision. She was an empress now, and he was a penniless freebooter without a home or history.

His last thoughts, as he drifted off, were about Kit. He regretted the way he had spoken to her. Promises of making it up to her lulled him into an uneasy slumber.

* * * * *

Caim could tell he was dreaming by the phosphorescent tint of the starshine and the springy softness of the grass underfoot. He stood beside a split-rail fence as tall as his chest. Beyond it stretched a long yard of tar-black earth. He was eight years old again. Small. Scrawny. Weak.

The fence rail was coarse under his palms. A big man knelt in the center of the yard. Caim’s breath remained trapped in his lungs as he looked upon his father. Over him towered a cloak-shrouded scarecrow. Moonlight illuminated the face of a young Levictus, with a midnight blade in his hand. The scene played out as it had a thousand times before. The blade swooped down. Caim bit his lip to stifle the scream. He wanted to run away, but he could only stand and watch as his father crumpled to the ground, the familiar sword’s hilt protruding from his chest.

Levictus turned, and another figure came into view, garbed in a black cloak like the wings of a giant bat. A cold finger of dread scratched down Caim’s backbone. He started as a dry branch snapped beneath his foot. The figures looked toward him from across the yard.

A sharp pain pierced his right ear. Caim tried to let go of the rail, but his hands wouldn’t obey. Shadows swirled as the figures melted away into the night, leaving his father alone in the yard. Caim wanted to go to him, but his head hurt so much. He focused on his fingers, willing them to let go. His arms shook with the effort.

Just . . . let . . . go
. . . .

A titanic roar jerked Caim awake, to find a huge shape looming above him. Massive jaws studded with fangs opened beneath a snub nose. Tiny eyes peered from under tufts of dark fur. Caim started to lift his arms, but the bear’s plate-sized paw knocked him sideways.

Rocks gouged his back as he skidded over the hard ground, and another roar filled his ears. He reached for his knives, but his right arm was pinned underneath him. The fingers of his left hand were stiff with cold, but he made them curl around a hilt and pull it free. As the animal lurched over him, Caim thrust upward. The knife’s point struck hide as hard as old timber, and the air rushed from his lungs as clawed paws came down on his chest. The bear’s jaws gaped wide, spewing the stench of rotten meat into his face. Caim freed his trapped arm in time to wedge it between his throat and the bear’s teeth. The jaws slammed shut on his forearm. Spots of light danced in front of Caim’s eyes as he stabbed repeatedly into the animal’s side, but he might as well have been chopping down a tree with a spoon. Growls pierced his skull as he was thrashed from side to side. Biting back on his fear, Caim reached out to the shadows. He could feel them lurking around the edge of the camp, but he couldn’t summon the momentary calm he needed to call them. The spots began to swirl as his free hand swept back and forth across the ground, searching for . . . for . . .

I’m going to die.

With that realization, the terror receded long enough for him to detect a familiar feeling in his chest, a tugging he’d felt before. Then a horrific screech split the night, and a long, low shape rose above the bear’s rugged shoulder. Blacker than the night sky, it clove to the darkness. Wide, lambent eyes gazed down as its mouth closed around the bear’s neck.

The bear roared and threw Caim away. He rolled over several times before crashing into the base of a tree. He tried to sit up and sucked in a short breath as a sharp pain erupted down his leg. He lay still, gasping in the snow, as the two beasts rolled across the ground, clawing and biting at each other. The bear’s struggles grew weaker by the heartbeat; its attempts to dislodge the huge shadow slowed until the great animal finally collapsed in a heap.

A cold dread settled in Caim’s stomach as the shadow beast released the bear’s throat and stared at him from atop the shaggy corpse. Then it climbed down out of sight and disappeared. Caim craned his neck, but there was no sign of it. The pressure in his chest faded.

Caim reached up to touch the side of his face. His fingers found a warm slick of blood and the loose flap of his earlobe attached by a thin membrane. With a grunt, he tore off the skin and dropped it in the snow. His body hurt all over. His forearm throbbed where the bear’s teeth had shredded his jacket sleeve and the flesh underneath. Lines of blood dripped down his hand to stain the snow. A darker pool was spreading under his left leg from a set of long parallel gouges.

Moving slowly, Caim crawled past the carcass to the remains of his fire. He blinked back the darkness from the edges of his vision. He couldn’t afford to pass out. Even if he didn’t freeze, he would bleed to death before morning. The warmth of the fire pit felt good against his face and hands. Working quickly, he shoved his knives into the bed of coals. Then he sat up, wincing, and pulled open the gashes in his pant leg and sleeve. Blood poured from both sets of wounds. He pulled the first knife out of the fire and slapped its glowing red tip against the raw meat of his thigh. Blazing pain shot straight to his brain. For an instant he was back on the roof of the palace in Othir. Josey’s face hovered over him, saying something, but he couldn’t hear a word.

Reality returned as he pulled the cooling blade away. The stench of burnt flesh clogged the back of his throat. The leg wound was blackened and puckered, but most of the bleeding had stopped. Before he could think it through, Caim pulled the second knife from the coals and placed it across the two larger bite marks on his forearm. The pain wasn’t as bad the second time, or maybe he was getting numb to it. When he was through, he slumped back on the ground.

Stars twinkled overhead. Save for a low buzzing in his head, the night was quiet. He wanted to close his eyes and sleep, but he fought it off and started crawling. He snagged the straps of his gear as he passed the wreckage of his lean-to. Dragging the bundles, he pushed onward into the night. If he kept moving until morning, he might survive. If his wounds didn’t reopen while he crawled. If he wasn’t visited by any more uninvited guests.

If. If. If.

With the buzz droning in his ears, he took it one painful inch at a time.