More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Legends, an anthology edited by Ian Whates, for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Legends is an anthology of all original stories written to honour the memory of one of Britain’s greatest fantasy authors. Determined warriors, hideous creatures, wicked sorceries, tricksy villains and cunning lovers abound as fantasy’s finest imaginations do their best and their worst. James Barclay reveals the origins of his elite mercenary band The Raven, Adrian Tchaikovsky unveils new aspects of the realm of the Apt, Tanith Lee, Joe Abercrombie, Storm Constantine, Stan Nicholls, Juliet E McKenna and more weave their magic as only they can. Produced in cooperation with the David Gemmell Awards, Legends will, in part, act as a fund-raiser for the awards.

Steel yourself, throw caution to the wind, and dare to enter the realm of Legends.

Ian McDonald contest winners!

Our winners will receive a complimentary copy of Ian McDonald's Empress of the Sun, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Pete Rauske, from Chicago, Illinois, USA

- Bethany Cardone, from Burke, Virginia, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download C.J. Cherryh's Hammerfall for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

One of the most renowned figures in science fiction, C.J. Cherryh has been enthralling audiences for nearly thirty years with rich and complex novels. Now at the peak of her career, this three-time Hugo Award winner launches her most ambitious work in decades, Hammerfall, part of a far-ranging series, The Gene Wars, set in an entirely new universe scarred by the most vicious of future weaponry, nanotechnology. In this brilliant novel -- possibly Cherryh's masterwork -- the fate of billions has come down to a confrontation between two profoundly alien cultures on a single desert planet.

"The mad shall be searched out and given to the Ila's messengers. No man shall conceal madness in his wife, or his son, or his daughter, or his father. Every one must be delivered up." -- The Book of the Ila's Au'it

Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of his father, he has dedicated his life to overthrowing the Ila, the mysterious eternal dictator of his world. For years he has successfully hidden the visions that plague him -- voices pulling him eastward, calling Marak, Marak, Marak, amid mind-twisting visions of a silver tower. But when his secret is discovered, Marak is betrayed by his own father and forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of his world's madmen to the Ila's city of Oburan.

Instead of death, Marak finds in Oburan his destiny, and the promise of life -- if he can survive what is surely a suicidal mission. The Ila wants him to discover the source of the voices and visions that afflict the mad. Despite the danger sof the hostile desert, tensions within the caravan, and his own excruciating doubts, Marak miraculously reaches his goal -- only to be given another, even more impossible mission by the strange people in the towers.

According to these beings who look like him yet act differently than anyone he has ever known, Marak has a slim chance to save his world's people from the wrath of Ila's enemies. But to do so, he must convince them all -- warring tribes, villagers, priests, young and old, as well as the Ila herself -- to follow him on an epic trek across the burning desert before the hammer of the Ila's foes falls from the heavens above.

Written with deceptive simplicity and lyricism, this riveting, fast-paced epic of war, love, and survival in a brave new world marks a major achievement from the masterful C.J. Cherryh.

L. E. Modesitt, jr. contest winners!

Our three winners will get their hands on a copy of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s latest installment in the Imager Portfolio, Rex Regis, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Eric Schwartz, from Versailles, Kentucky, USA

- Larry Watkins, from Sierra Vista, Arizona, USA

- Brian Cleary, from Tampa, Florida, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Catherynne M. Valente's Six Gun Snow White for only 2.76$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title s heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves.

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents--a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.

New Steven Erikson Interview

Don't know exactly why it took so long for this interview to go up, but the folks at just posted the interview they did with the author back in the summer of 2012 on their website! Here's a teaser:

You spoke about humor in your script. There is a lot of humor in the Malazan series. Do you envision it as a comic relief or is it really a part of the series, something meaningful?

In many respects, I’m not writing fantasy with tragic elements, I’m writing tragedies with fantastic elements. But you have to relieve the pressure for the reader, and for me, because if I were to sustain that pressure for 320 000 words per book, that will be just overwhelming for both of us. So there needs to be occasions to be entertained or to laugh, as a cathartic release to all the heavy stuff that’s going on. As long as it’s tied to the characters, and is character-based humor, then I’m happy to do it. And it is fun for me as well.

Follow this link to read the full piece!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 24th)

In hardcover:

Patricia Briggs’ Night Broken debuts at number 2.

Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance is down four spots, finishing the week at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s Mentats of Dune debuts at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

R.A. Salvatore's Night of the Hunter debuts at number 19. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Andy Weir's The Martian is down seven spots, finishing the week at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Kim Harrison’s The Undead Pool is down fourteen spots, finishing the week at number 25.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is up one position, ending the week at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up one position, ending the week at number 11.

Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale is down six positions, ending the week at number 18 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up five spots, finishing the week at number 18.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down seven positions, ending the week at number 19.

Stephen King's Under the Dome, part 1, debuts at number 24.

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is down one position, ending the week at number at number 25.

Excerpt from Joe Abercrombie's HALF A KING

Joe Abercrombie just posted the first few chapters of his upcoming novel, Half a King, on his website! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Follow this link to read the sample chapters!

Extract from Kristen Britain's MIRROR SIGHT

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Daw Books, here's an extract from Kristen Britain's Mirror Sight for you to read! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Karigan G'ladheon is a Green Rider--a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. This corps of messengers, each gifted with a brooch of office that imparts a unique magical ability to its wearer, was founded over a thousand years ago during the terrible time of the Long War.

During that spell-fueled war, Sacoridia was besieged by the sorcerous armies of the Arcosian Empire, led by Mornhavon the Black. When Sacoridia finally triumphed, Mornhavon resorted to dark magic that rendered his twisted spirit immortal. Determined to keep the realm safe from this terrifying enemy, multitudes of Sacoridian magicians sacrificed their lives to build the immense D'Yer Wall, imprisoning the dangerous spirit of Mornhavon in Blackveil Forest, which uncontrolled magic had mutated into a perilous and unnatural place.

For over a thousand years, the magic of the D'Yer Wall protected the people of Sacoridia, but as the centuries passed, memory of how the wall had been built was lost as a traumatized nation turned its back on magic. And when a malicious entity cracked the massive wall, there were none left who knew how to repair it. Desperate to regain the knowledge and repair the ever-expanding breach in the wall, agents of the king scoured the kingdom for magical relics and information. Finally, in a last-ditch attempt to gain time, Karigan, whose Rider brooch enabled her to "fade"--sometimes traversing the layers of time and space--was able to catapult the spirit of Mornhavon into the future. But how far into the future was anyone's guess.

Realizing that this might be their only chance to enter Blackveil and examine the tainted peninsula, King Zachary sends Karigan and a contingent of Sacoridians beyond the wall, along with an equal number of Eletians--the immortal race that eons ago lived in what is now Blackveil Forest. But in addition to the unnatural dangers of the forest itself, Karigan and her small delegation have been followed by a secret rebel sect--descendants of the original Arcosian invaders, and during a showdown between these two groups, Mornhavon suddenly reappears.

In the magical confrontation that follows, Karigan is jolted out of Blackveil and wakes in a darkness backer than night. She's lying on smooth, cold stone, but as she reaches out, she realizes that the stone is not just beneath her, but above and around her as well. She's landed in a sealed stone sarcophagus, some unknown tomb, and the air is becoming thin.

Is this to be her end? If she escapes, where will she find herself? Is she still in the world she remembers, or has the magical explosion transported her somewhere completely different? To find out, she must first win free of her prison--before it becomes her grave. And should she succeed, will she be walking straight into a trap created by Mornhavon himself?


When Vasper the royal armorer tightened the side straps on the king’s breastplate and then stepped away, Laren noted two important things: The first was that Zachary had not yet recovered much of the weight he had lost since his wounding from the assassin’s arrow. His cheeks were more sharply defined making his expression more severe. He had trained away any remaining weakness and excess flesh with Arms Master Drent. She thought, perhaps, he worked too hard. Maybe he thought that by doing so he could erase the past. She did not know if it worked. What she did know is that it left him all sinew and muscle.

The second important thing Laren noticed as he turned to gaze at himself in the mirror, tugging on the breast plate to check its fit, was that this was not his parade armor. This was true battle-worthy steel lacking decorative embellishment. The only ornamentation was the silver etching of the firebrand and the crescent moon across his breast. This was Zachary’s war armor.

They’d been slowly readying for conflict with Second Empire, making plans and contingencies. There had been minor skirmishes in the north country, but no out and out battles, no formal declaration of war. Still, she should not have been surprised to find her king preparing here in his private arming chamber on so personal a level for a time when he might have to lead his forces onto the field of battle. She found herself startled on some level. Disturbed.

I pray he has no need to go anywhere near a battlefield, she thought. Second Empire was a people without a country and only a small rebel army. Given time, they’d be brought to heel, but their forces were slippery, very slippery, and were backed by a necromancer. Should Mornhavon reappear and reinforce them . . . No, she did not wish to think of it.

Zachary turned toward Laren, faced her, but gazed thoughtfully into the air somewhere over her head. Where did his thoughts travel? What did he see?

“Your Majesty?” She stepped forward.

Her voice roused him from some reverie. “Yes?”

She bowed. “I—I was wondering if I might have a moment to speak privately with you.” She almost hoped he’d refuse her.

“Of course, but let me get this off first.”

Vasper came forward and helped the king unbuckle and remove the breastplate, which he set on an armor tree next to other pieces that made up the full suit. On the walls, alongside tapestries depicting battles of old, hung the weaponry and shields that had belonged to past kings, some marred by hacking blades, others pristine pieces of parade armor, gleaming with the heraldry of the clans and the sigil of Sacoridia. Zachary excused Vasper as well as his Weapon, leaving the two of them alone together, the westering sun flowing through the window turning the steel in the room bronze. Laren hesitated, wishing for a way out, but she must not delay any longer.

“What is it, Laren? You look . . . bereft. What is wrong?”

It was not, she thought, so far from the truth. “Zachary,” she said very softly. “I . . . I thought you should know. The standard time has elapsed and . . .” She took a deep breath. “It is time to acknowledge that Karigan is not coming home.” He stared, his eyes boring into her. There was a smoldering quality to them that had not been there before. Before the arrow. Before the betrayal of some of his closest advisors. Before Karigan had gone missing. The dark gaze did not make her task any easier. “We have removed her from the active duty rolls, and I intend to notify her father myself, in person, since he has been such a good friend to His Majesty and the messenger service.” This, she knew, would be as difficult, if not more so, than facing the king. It had been bad enough telling Stevic G’ladheon she’d sent his daughter into Blackveil. “Zachary, it has been too long. She is not coming back.”

He turned away from her to face the window. “Her brooch has not returned.”

“That is true. When a Rider has passed, his brooch will always find its way home.” She clenched her fists. She knew it all too well. “But it does not indicate that she still lives. It may be that Blackveil is too great a barrier for even a Rider brooch to find its way home, or, as has happened historically, it will take years before it returns to us. I believe the record stands at about a hundred years in one instance.” She had to convince Zachary Karigan would not be coming back. She had accepted it herself, mostly. A small part of her held out hope, but it had diminished as the days rushed by and there was still no sign or word of Karigan.

She’d watched Condor closely, hoping the horse sensed something about his Rider with that special connection that messengers and their horses shared, but it was difficult. He appeared neither content nor disconsolate. He ate his feed, but dragged, heaving long, heavy sighs. Often he just stood in the pasture with head lowered, the picture of dejection. No, he wasn’t declining, precisely, but he wasn’t thriving either. She could not divine what went on in his horse brain. Each horse handled the passing of its Rider differently.

The time had come to end the limbo, to seek closure. It was time to declare Karigan dead.

“Your Riders will be holding a memorial circle for Karigan tonight should you and the queen wish to attend.”

He bowed his head. “I feared it, that this time would come. However, I do not wish to believe it. She has survived other dangerous missions. She has always returned.”

Laren did not think she needed to remind him that Karigan’s walking into Blackveil Forest had been her most perilous deed of all. And it appeared that, even in death, she had bought them more time against Mornhavon. Lynx said Karigan had wounded him, and the forest had lain quiescent ever since.

Zachary strode to the window, placed his hands on the wide stone sill. The lowering sun washed across his face. The window looked out on the west castle grounds where the mounted units, including her Riders, liked to exercise their horses. A barely perceptible smile formed on his lips as he immersed himself in a pleasant memory. He looked so very tired to her, and she did not think it was just the pressures of his kingship.

“It seems I failed,” he said.

“Failed? What do you mean?”

He shook himself as if suddenly recalling her presence. As he gazed at her, she saw something of the young boy she’d once known, before he’d grown into a man and become a king, hardened by all its responsibilities.

“I’d made an oath,” he said. “To myself. To protect her. And I failed.”

Laren’s shoulders slumped. His quiet anguish was worse than any display of grief or outrage. When she’d learned of the dangerous mutual attraction between Karigan and Zachary, she’d tried to quell it for the sake of the realm. She’d sent Karigan away on errands, kept them separated, but to no avail. And now there was this. She would never have wished to keep them separate in this manner.

“She is . . . was . . . a Green Rider,” Laren replied. “If you exerted your will to protect her from all harm, she would not have been able to perform her duty, follow her calling. That surely would have killed her just as readily as her stepping into Blackveil.”

“I know it,” he said, gaze downcast. “But still, I could have—”

“Stop!” He looked at her, startled by her sharpness. Lost. “There is nothing you could have done. She was the best one to send into Blackveil. I knew it, and you knew it. Yes, I question myself all the time, and the doubts flood in, late at night, in the back of my mind, but I come back to the same conclusion each time. Whenever I assign a Rider to an errand, I wonder if they’ll return, and sometimes they don’t. But if I allow my desire to protect them to get in the way of the realm’s business, nothing would get done. The realm would not move forward. My Riders—your Riders—do their work willingly because they believe in their country and their monarch. Karigan believed no less than any other.”

She reached into the inner pocket of her shortcoat and pulled out an envelope with “King Zachary” written across it in Karigan’s exacting hand. She had considered not bringing it to him, thinking it would only deepen his feelings for Karigan even in her death, and she did not want it to come between him and his new queen. But, while Laren might act for the good of the realm, she was also human.

“We’ve been cleaning out Karigan’s room so I can take her belongings to her father.” Laren remembered the few books, a blue gown that had once been quite gorgeous but was now in rough shape; hair ribbons and combs, slippers, a few oddments of jewelry. It might have seemed strange that there were not many personal items in a Rider’s room, but the nature of the messenger service required that they often be on the road and rarely home long enough to accumulate possessions. As for Karigan’s cat, Ghost Kitty, he’d taken to sleeping with Mara, but could still be found hanging about Karigan’s room much of the time.

“As we packed,” Laren continued, “we discovered some letters. It appears she knew there was a good chance she was not coming home. She left one for her father, which I’ll be taking to him, and one for the Riders, which I’ll be reading at the memorial tonight. And, she left one for you.”

She strode over to him, by the window, took his hand in hers and squeezed it, then pressed Karigan’s letter into it. She excused herself with a bow, but she didn’t think he noticed her departure. A final glance revealed him gazing out the window, the letter unread in his hand.

Jupiter Ascending Trailer 2

After the first trailer, I was saying that time would tell if this movie would be good or just another visually stunning turd. After watching this second trailer, my money is on it being a turd. . . :/

New excerpt from George R. R. Martin's THE WINDS OF WINTER

GRRM just posted a new sample chapter from The Winds of Winter on his website!

Follow this link to read it. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles-until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires?

And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend

Extract from Jon Sprunk's BLOOD AND IRON

Here's an extract from Jon Sprunk's Blood and Iron, compliments of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand. Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.


The wagon rumbled down the hard-beaten roadway. Jirom picked at the scabs on his arms as he looked out through the iron bars. The rattle of chains and the clop of hooves drowned out the breeze and the buzzing insects flying past his cage. The sun was only halfway to its zenith, but already the day was sweltering. Not so hot as the desert, yet still enough to drive a man mad.

His scalp itched, too, where the hair was growing in. He’d kept it shaved for years, but he didn’t think anyone was going to give him a razor after what he’d done. Breaking the jaw of a smart-mouthed drover on the first day of the journey had been satisfying, but now they kept him in the cage night and day. He ate in the cage, slept inside it, and shit and pissed through the hole in the floor. He’d long since gone nose-deaf to his own smell.

Standing up, he met the gaze of Umgaia in the next cage. Their wagons were linked together and pulled by the same train of oxen. Umgaia smoothed her luxurious hair over her shoulder and winked at him with the single eye in the center of her forehead. “It’s soon time for another show.”

Beyond her wagon, the brick walls of a settlement emerged from the dusty savannah. Another village, another show. Chief Proctor Mituban was, among other things, a procurer for his master, Lord Isiratu. The wagon train held tribute from a dozen holdmasters, as well as some curiosities that Mituban had encountered during his trek around the territory. At every stop along the road to Sekhatun, the caravan displayed its oddities to the common people.

Jirom leaned against the bars of his cage as the wagon train rolled past the fields and pastures surrounding the village. The smell of manure clung to the air. He had seen hundreds of settlements like this in his soldiering days. Akeshia was said to be the world’s breadbasket for good reason. Every year shipments of wheat were sent to nations near and far, and Akeshian merchants brought back a wealth of cotton, timber, and gold. It wasn’t difficult to believe that someday her armies would march to the far corners of the earth. Long ago, that notion had inspired Jirom to take up a spear and seek his fortune, but a series of misadventures, and some poor choices on the part of his employers, had set him on another path.

He settled back onto the floor and rested his back against the bars. The gladiator circuit was renowned for its brutality. If he was fortunate, he’d get put against a few young bucks like the Lion with more muscles than sense, but eventually he would be pitted against someone better. It was just a matter of time.

When the caravan reached the village, a crowd had gathered. Looking out over their brown faces, Jirom remembered his childhood and the bubbling excitement he’d felt whenever someone new came to his tribe’s remote corner of the world. That same excitement was reflected in the eyes watching him pass.

The wagons stopped at the village center and pulled into a semicircle. Caravan guards went around, watering and feeding the animals. The doors of the lead wagon opened, and Chief Proctor Mituban appeared, wearing a long robe of ivory-white with a crimson sash around the middle. The village elders kept their distance until Mituban beckoned them closer.

“Come and see,” Mituban said for everyone to hear, “the wonders I have collected for our lord and master!”

Jirom didn’t move as Mituban walked past his cage, introducing him as “the cannibal gladiator from the dark heart of Abyssia!” even though he’d never been to that land. Umgaia was billed as “the fabled cyclops of Sidon.” People gawked as they passed by, pointing and laughing. Jirom suppressed the desire to reach out and strangle the first person to stray within arm’s reach. Instead, he sat back and closed his eyes, and tried not to dwell on the humilia-tion. He had been a soldier and a warrior, but now he was an animal in a cage. Something hit him in the shoulder and rolled off. He looked down at the dry turd on the floor beside him and clenched his hands into fists.

Don’t give them what they want. Just sit back and think of something else.

After a meal of hard bread and a cup of water, the menagerie packed up. The oxen were re-hitched, and the wagons rolled out past the crowd of watching villagers. Jirom chewed on his crust and simmered.


The sounds of pipes and laughter floated through the camp. The oxen murmured in their roped enclosure. Wagon drivers and guards sat around the fires, passing skins of beer back and forth.

Jirom wrapped his shirt around the lock of his cage door. Earlier in the day, while the guards grew lax under the afternoon sun, he’d grasped a fist-sized rock from the ground and hidden it under his shirt. All afternoon he had contemplated what to do. Fight his captors and likely be killed? Perhaps. Dying on his feet had long been his professed ideal, but these past few years he’d come to understand that even a life of degradation was better than death. He’d thought about escaping every day since his capture, but never with much optimism. Anyplace beyond the reach of Akeshian justice seemed too far away. And there was the matter of his brand, which wouldn’t be easy to hide. He couldn’t walk around with his face covered for long without raising suspicions.

He watched the sentries. When they wandered to the far side of the camp, past the chief proctor’s pavilion, its white silk walls glowing in the moonlight, he slammed the rock against the lock. The muffled clang sounded loud to his ears. He hunkered down and waited, but no one came to investigate.

A desert owl hooted somewhere in the darkness.

He struck again. This time his blow glanced off, and he hit his knuckles on a bar. Hissing, he swung again and froze as a metallic snap echoed through his cage. He waited for a dozen pounding heartbeats and then pushed. The cage door swung open.

Still clutching the rock, he hopped down. The feel of solid ground under his feet was a relief. He took a step but halted as he saw Umgaia watching him. She sat near the edge of her cage, wrapped in a blanket. They looked at each other for a moment, and then she flicked her hand toward the darkness beyond the camp. Get away.

He went to her door instead. She watched as he tested the bars. The lock on her cage was older than his, probably because Mituban didn’t think her likely to escape. Jirom hit it before he could talk himself out of it. The lock’s metal face bent on the first blow and cracked open on the second. He opened the door and held out a hand, but she backed away. Jirom heard the footfalls behind him an instant before the whip slashed across his shoulders.

He turned and swung at the sentry standing behind him, not realizing he still held the stone until it collided with the guard’s temple. Bone crunched, and the guardsman crumpled to the ground like an empty sack. Jirom stood over the body, weighing the stone in his hand. It suddenly felt much heavier. He tensed at a touch on his flayed shoulder.

“You must go, gladiator,” Umgaia whispered.

“Come with me.”

“No.” She smiled and was transformed into a true beauty despite her deformity. “Out in the world I would just be a beggar, not even fit for a whore. Mituban feeds me well and his men leave me alone.”

Before he could stop her, she scurried back into her wagon and closed the door.

Fool of a woman.

With a last look at her, he turned toward freedom and stiffened as several shapes emerged from the darkness. The sentries hemmed him in, their spears leveled. Jirom looked over his shoulder. Three guards brandishing stout clubs came around the corner of his wagon.

Jirom hefted the stone. A fierce heat rose in his chest. This was his moment. Fight to the death. Feel his enemies’ blood on his hands. Scream out his rage and loathing as he fell beneath their spears.

Jirom opened his hand and let the rock fall to the ground. He braced himself, but the club striking the middle of his back still drove the wind from his lungs. A spear butt barely missed shattering his kneecap as it knocked him off his feet, and then he was under a pile of pummeling fists and bludgeons. When they hauled him to his feet, blood poured from his face and dripped down onto his bare chest. The guards dragged him back toward this cage, but a voice stopped them.

“Here. Let me see him.”

They held Jirom up by his arms as the chief proctor came out from his pavilion. The top buttons of his robe were undone, revealing a patch of black hair. He sipped from a slender glass as he strode over to them. “What’s all this?”

Two sentries hauled the body of the man Jirom had killed into the light. Mituban’s gaze went from the corpse to Jirom. “How dare you raise your hand to one of my servants, slave? You are the property of Lord Isiratu!”

Jirom said nothing. Mituban stepped closer, peering into his eyes. “I can see you are nothing more than a beast, unfit for the company of men. I would have you executed, but that pleasure belongs to His Lordship. Believe me, before the end you will beg for d—”

The rage exploded inside Jirom. With a violent shudder, he threw off the men holding his arms. A red haze blurred his vision, but through the fog he could see Mituban on the ground, grasping at the large hands clutched around his neck. Jirom wrenched, and the lord’s struggles ceased. His wine glass lay broken in the dirt.

A sharp crack echoed in Jirom’s ears, followed by a red-hot pain at the back of his head. As he slumped forward, the last thing he saw was the chief proctor’s expression of complete surprise.

Win a copy of Aidan Harte's IRENICON

I have two copies of Aidan Harte's Irenicon up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at Jo Fletcher Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The river Irenicon was blasted through the middle of Rasenna in 1347 and now it is a permanent reminder to the feuding factions that nothing can stand in the way of the Concordian Empire. The artificial river, created overnight by Concordian engineers using the Wave, runs uphill. But the Wave is both weapon and mystery; not even the Concordians know how the river became conscious – and hostile.

But times are changing. Concordian engineer Captain Giovanni is ordered to bridge the Irenicon – not to reunite the sundered city, but to aid Concord’s mighty armies, for the engineers have their sights set firmly on world domination and Rasenna is in their way.

Sofia Scaglieri will soon be seventeen, when she will become Contessa of Rasenna, but her inheritance is tainted: she can see no way of stopping the ancient culture of vendetta which divides her city. What she can’t understand is why Giovanni is trying so hard to stop the feuding, or why he is prepared to risk his life, not just with her people, but also with the lethal water spirits – the buio – that infest the Irenicon.

Times are changing. And only the young Contessa and the enemy engineer Giovanni understand they have to change too, if they are to survive the coming devastation – for Concord is about to unleash the Wave again…

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

C. S. Friedman contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on a signed copy of C. S. Friedman's Dreamwalker, compliments of the folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Benjamin Bodenheim, from Monsey, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Cover art for Ian Cameron Esslemont's ASSAIL

Here's the blurb:

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait - hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.

Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers that Shimmer, second in command, feels should not be sought. Also heading north, as part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. With him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past and yet commands far more power than he really should. It is also rumoured that a warrior, bearer of a sword that slays gods and who once fought for the Malazans, is also journeying that way. But far to the south, a woman patiently guards the shore. She awaits both allies and enemies. She is Silverfox, newly incarnate Summoner of the undying army of the T’lan Imass, and she will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond. Casting light on mysteries spanning the Malazan empire, and offering a glimpse of the storied and epic history that shaped it, Assail brings the epic story of the Empire of Malaz to a thrilling close.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, opening volume in the incredible Malazan Book of the Fallen series, for only 5.88$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order--an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

Musical Interlude

Cool tune and nice video!

Excerpt from L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s CYADOR'S HEIRS

Here's an exclusive sneak peek at L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s forthcoming Recluce novel, Cyador's Heirs, courtesy of the author! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Decades after the fall of Cyador, its survivors have re-established themselves in Cigoerne, a fertile country coveted by hostile neighbors in less hospitable lands. Young Lerial, the second son of Duke Kiedron, lives in the shadow of his older brother Lephi, the heir to their father's realm. Lerial's future seems preordained: He will one day command his brother's forces in defence of Cigoerne, serving at his older sibling's pleasure, and no more.

But when Lerial is sent abroad to be fostered by Major Altyrn to learn the skills and wisdom he will need to fulfil his future duties, he begins a journey into a much larger world that brings out his true potential. Lerial has talents that few, as yet, suspect: He is one of those rare beings who can harness both Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape the world and define the magic that exists within it. And as war finally engulfs the fringes of Cigoerne, Lerial's growing mastery of Order and Chaos is tested to its limits, and his own.


The boy and the girl sit on a carved wooden bench in the shade beside the small courtyard fountain. He has pale white skin, unruly red hair and a strong straight nose just short of being considered excessive. Her hair is black, as are her eyes, and her skin is smooth, if the light tan of aged parchment. Her name is Kyedra. His is Lerial.

Four guards watch them. Two wear white long-sleeved tunics with faded green trim, and bear scarce cupridium blades in worn scabbards. The other two sport silvered iron breastplates over dull crimson short-sleeved tunics. Their shortswords are of dark iron, carried in oiled leather scabbards that are more like large knife sheathes. The Lancers in green watch the guards in crimson, while the guards in crimson watch the boy. No one watches the girl, who fingers a heavy brocade head scarf that she has let slip to reveal some of her hair and her lower face, an act that would be severely condemned were she of lesser rank, older, or in public.

“Why are your guards called Lancers?” She finally breaks the silence.

“They’re supposed to be called Mirror Lancers, but no one except the family or other Lancers calls them that. I forget why.” Lerial has not forgotten. He would prefer not to explain, especially when speaking the Hamorian of Afrit, but since the girl just introduced to him as Kyedra less than a quarter glass before speaks no Cyadoran, he has no choice but to speak in her tongue.

Once more, the two do not speak for a time, until the girl asks, “Does your name mean something special in your tongue?”

Lerial considers what he should say for a moment before replying. “My grandfather was the Emperor Lephi. One of my ancestors was the Emperor Kerial. My grandmother felt I should be named after both.”

“There are no Emperors in Hamor. There never have been.” Her voice is firmly serious.

“They were Emperors of Cyador,” declares Lerial.

“The land that the sea destroyed?”

“The sea only destroyed Cyad. That was the capital… and maybe Fyrad. The Accursed Forest destroyed most of the other cities and covered the land with endless forest. That was why we came to Hamor.”

“My father says you never should have come. He says that Afrit will never be the same.”

Lerial knows not to say anything about that. “Why did your father bring you here?”

“He said I should see Cigoerne. He said it was different.”

Lerial can feel that there is more she has not said. “Is it?”

Kyedra nods solemnly.

“How is it different?”

“I thought it would be smaller, and that all the people would be taller.”

“Why? Because we have held the river for years against the Heldyans?”

“Father doesn’t like them. He likes them less than you.”

“What about the raiders from the south?”

“He doesn’t like them either. They smell bad, he says.”

Lerial nods and waits.

“How did you come to Hamor?” Kyedra asks after another long silence.

“You don’t know the story?” Surely, the daughter of the Duke of Afrit should know that, thinks Lerial.

“I know the sea destroyed Cyador… Cyad, anyway. You came across the Great Western Ocean on a white metal ship. You threatened to sink all the ships in the harbor at Swartheld. My grandfather allowed your father –”

“My grandmother. The Empress. Go on.”

“My grandfather allowed your grandmother to purchase these lands. That’s what I know. Tell me something I don’t know.”

“My grandmother was the Empress. She gathered the Mirror Lancers and the Magi’i onto the Kerial. That was the last fireship. They got out of the harbor at Cyad just before the big waves smashed and swallowed everything. Then they took the ship to Fyrad, but the entire city was gone. There was just a big bay there. All the towns along the coast were gone, too. So she ordered the captain to cross the ocean to Hamor. Some people died. When they got to Swartheld… well, you know that part. Then the fireship carried them up the river here, and the Magi’i and the Lancers began to build. My grandmother told them what to do. The fireship stopped the Heldyans and the raiders from Merowey from coming downriver and bothering people. That was what Grandmother promised.” Lerial stops and looks at Kyedra, then says, “It wasn’t that simple. That’s what…” He does not finish the sentence, realizing that he doesn’t want to admit that it was his mother who had told him that building Cigoerne and expanding the lands controlled by the Magi’i had been anything but simple.

“What about your grandmother?” asks Kyedra.

“I told you about her.”

“You said what she did. You didn’t say what she was like. Was she ugly, the way…” The girl stops.

Lerial does not press, knowing that someone, perhaps her father, had said that about his grandmother. “She was kind to me, but she didn’t put up with any misbehavior. She even swatted my brother.” Lephi deserved it. He was hurting the cat that lived in the stable. “She was grand and tall, and no one argued with her. Not any of the Magi’i or the Mirror Lancers. Not even my father, and certainly not my aunt.”

“Your aunt?”


“She was the healer who saved Uncle Rham, wasn’t she?”

“She is.” Lerial knows he should not mention that Rham had attempted an ambush that would have killed his aunt, not when his brother the duke – and Kyedra’s father – is meeting with his own father. He still thinks Rham was sneaky and evil. He does not even consider saying so.

“Is she your favorite aunt?”

“I suppose so. She’s my only aunt. Do you have a favorite aunt?”

“Father only has brothers. They can’t have consorts unless he doesn’t have children. I have two brothers. They’re still little. Do you have other brothers or a sister?”

“Besides my brother Lephi, I have one sister. That’s Ryalah. She’s just two.”

“I wish I had a sister.”

Thinking about Ryalah, Lerial can’t imagine why anyone would want a sister. He also doesn’t want to talk any more to the strange girl he is supposed to be nice to, but he dutifully asks, “Why?”

“My brothers are always fighting. They play rough.”

“Sisters can play rough.”

“Not in the Palace of the Duke of Afrit. Not in Swartheld.” She pauses. “This isn’t much of a palace. It’s nice, but it’s small.”

Lerial glances around the north fountain courtyard, some twenty yards on a side. It doesn’t seem that small to him, although his mother has told him that it is tiny compared to the vanished Palace of Light.


The sun beats down on the palace, and Lerial tries not to trudge as he makes his way out into the private south courtyard that has always served as the arms practice area for the family – since the palace was completed some ten years earlier. The north and south courtyards are the same size, half that of the main central courtyard, with its multiple fountains and its wall gardens. The north courtyard has two fountains, making it cooler than the south courtyard, with its small single fountain its paved open area for weapons practice, while the central courtyard boasts four fountains, spaced so that their mist cools the entire open space.

The wooden wand Lerial carries feels heavier than the cupridium blade he will use once his father has decided he is accomplished enough to ride with the Lancers on patrol missions, against either Heldyan border forces or the nomadic raiders that occasionally make their way northward through the grasslands of Merowey.

Lerial knows the heavy feel of the wand comes from what awaits him in sparring with Lephi, who is only three years older, and not that much taller, but far more at ease with a weapon in his hand than is Lerial, whether the weapon is a sabre or a bow or lance, not that Lerial has had any practice with a lance, and little enough with a bow.

“Are you ready?” asks Lephi from the sunlit center of the courtyard, where he stands waiting, raising the heavy wooden wand that approximates a Lancer’s sabre.

“I’m coming.” Lerial walks from the shadows cast by the three upper levels of the palace and into the sunlight, a brightness whose intensity always seems to surprise him. He can feel the fine grit under the soles of his boots, grit that is everywhere no matter how often the rough courtyard tiles are swept.

Lephi, of course, stands with his back to the sun. Lerial takes a position with the brilliant white sun to his left and motions with his wand for Lephi to move to a point directly across the circle marked in red and black tiles.

“You can’t do that in battle,” observes Lephi.

“No… but I can choose to fight or not and take a position.”

“Not always.”

Lerial just waits for Lephi to move or attack.

After several moments, Lephi moves, taking a position directly across from his younger brother. Lerial sets his feet, lifts his blade, and concentrates on Lephi and his brother’s wand.

Lephi half-turns, starts to what looks to be a thrust, but Lerial knows the movement is a feint, because his brother’s feet do not move, nor does he shift his weight. Instead of trying to block a thrust that will not come, Lerial merely holds his guard. Then Lephi suddenly drops and brings his wand up, and Lerial barely can beat down the thrust and has to move to the side.

Wands move quickly, and then even more quickly. Lerial is already sweating heavily with the effort of countering Lephi’s constant attacks, thrusts, and counterthrusts… and just trying to react.

Abruptly, Lephi turns a thrust into a twisting move that rips Lerial’s wand out of his sweaty hand. The older youth grins. “You didn’t see that one.”

Lerial doesn’t reply but moves to the side of the circle to recover his wand. When he picks it up, the grip of the hilt feels rougher in places where grit has clung to the dampness from his hand. Maybe that will help.

In the shadows, he can see Amaira, and her mother, his aunt Emerya, and Ryalah, all three sitting at a small table. Amaira and Ryalah are playing pegboard, but Emerya has been watching the sparring. Why? The other courtyards are cooler. He is still wondering when Lephi speaks.

“That was quick. Do you want to try again?” Lephi lifts his wand.

Lerial considers the invitation, ignoring Lephi’s tone, a tone that implies that Lerial is smaller and weaker, and always will be. He smiles, painful as it is. “I won’t get any better if I don’t keep trying.”

“That’s the spirit.”

Again, Lerial can sense the undertone by which Lephi suggests all the trying in the world won’t help Lerial. He finds his teeth clenching. He takes a deep breath and tries to relax before he slowly walks back and takes a position on the edge of the circle.

Lerial and Lephi spar for almost a glass.

By the time they are both exhausted, Lerial’s shirt is dripping wet, and he has bruises in too many places. Those bruises would be far worse if Lephi had not pulled his strikes, Lerial knows, and that leaves him feeling even more despondent when he leaves the circle.

Ryalah and Amaira have left, perhaps following Lephi, but Emerya remains at the table near the small fountain.

“You worked hard, Lerial,” she says kindly.

“Hard, yes, but not good enough to hold my own.” Lerial takes a deep breath. “There ought to be a way for me to do better against Lephi.” He tries to keep his words from sounding despondent, even though that is how he feels. He glances at his aunt, whose once shimmering red hair is now mostly white, although he can sense that she still is a strong healer with a core of black order.

“There is… if you’re willing to work at it,” Emerya says quietly.

“There is? Really? Can you show me?”

“If you’re willing to pay the price.”

The utter seriousness of her tone and the feeling of truthfulness behind her words cools his enthusiasm almost as quickly as a bucket of winter water from the Swarth might have.

“Come see me after dinner. If anyone asks, tell them that I think it’s time for you to learn something about battlefield healing.”

“Won’t that be lying? If it is, Mother will know.” If she concentrates.

“I’m supposed to begin teaching you about some healing, and I will. That will help you with blade work.”

Lerial can’t help but frown.

“Trust me. It will. It will also be harder than practicing with Lephi… until you learn how.” Emerya smiles. “That’s true of every skill worth having, you’ll discover.”

“You sound like Grandmere.”

“Where do you think I learned such matters?” For a moment, Emerya seems to be somewhere else. Abruptly, she smiles. “After dinner, then? My apartments?”

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Since I've been pimping this series for years, I'm happy to report that you can now download Joel Shepherd's Crossover, opening volume in the Cassandra Kresnov sequence, for only 2.99$ here. Only until Sunday, so hurry up!

Here's the blurb:

Crossover is the first novel in a series which follows the adventures of Cassandra Kresnov, an artificial person, or android, created by the League, one side of an interstellar war against the more powerful, conservative Federation. Cassandra is an experimental design — more intelligent, more creative, and far more dangerous than any that have preceded her. But with her intellect come questions, and a moral awakening. She deserts the League and heads incognito into the space of her former enemy, the Federation, in search of a new life.

Her chosen world is Callay, and its enormous, decadent capital metropolis of Tanusha, where the concerns of the war are literally and figuratively so many light years away. But the war between the League and the Federation was ideological as much as political, with much of that ideological dispute regarding the very existence of artificial sentience and the rules that govern its creation. Cassandra discovers that even in Tanusha, the powerful entities of this bloody conflict have wound their tentacles. Many in the League and the Federation have cause to want her dead, and Cassandra’s history, inevitably, catches up with her.

Cassandra finds herself at the mercy of a society whose values preclude her own right even to exist. But her presence in Tanusha reveals other fault lines, and when Federal agents attempt to assassinate the Callayan president, she finds herself thrust into the service of her former enemies, using her lethal skills to attempt to protect her former enemies from forces beyond their ability to control. As she struggles for her place and survival in a new world, Cassandra must forge new friendships with old enemies, while attempting to confront the most disturbing and deadly realities of her own existence.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 17th)

In hardcover:

Brandon Sanderson's Words of Radiance debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Kim Harrison’s The Undead Pool is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 11.

Andy Weir's The Martian is down two spots, finishing the week at number 14. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down one position, ending the week at number 10.

Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale is down ten positions, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up three positions, ending the week at number 12.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down two positions, ending the week at number 12.

Seanan McGuire's Half-Off Ragnarok debuts at number 18.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings returns at number 23.

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords returns at number at number 24.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast For Crows returns at number 25.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Anne McCaffrey's The Dragonriders of Pern omnibus for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Finally together in one volume, the first three books in the world's most beloved science fiction series, THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN, by Anne McCaffrey, one of the great science fiction writers of all time: DRAGONFLIGHT, DRAGONQUEST, THE WHITE DRAGON. Those who know these extraordinary tales will be able to re-visit with Lessa, F'lar, Ruth, Lord Jaxon, and all the others. And for those just discovering this magical place, there are incomparable tales of danger, deceit, and daring, just waiting to be explored.

Honor Among Thieves

As most boys of my generation, I've always been a big Star Wars fan. Okay, so the second movie trilogy is something I often try to pretend never happened, but that's another story! Way back when, following the enormous success of Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars trilogy, I read a whole lot of novels set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Over the course of the years, I felt that the publishers were milking that commercial success to such a degree that they had effectively sold out. Hence, nowadays I only return to the Star Wars EU when Zahn or a writer I particularly enjoy come up with a new book. As a fan of James S. A. Corey's The Expanse series, when I learned that Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck were working on Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves, I knew I was going to read that novel as soon as it came out!

Here's the blurb:

Nebula and Hugo Award nominees Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—writing as James S. A. Corey—make their Star Wars debut in this brand-new epic adventure featuring Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia Organa. The action begins after the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, we go back in time and witness the early days of the Rebellion. Leia and her allies are searching for a safe haven where they can set up their new hidden base, all the while trying to find financial, political, and military support across the galaxy as they attempt to avoid the forces of the Empire. The beauty of Honor among Thieves is that it can be read and enjoyed by any Star Wars fans, regardless of the fact that you might not know anything about the Star Wars Expanded Universe. As such, it's very accessible and easy to read.

Although Luke and Leia are part of the tale, Han Solo and Chewbacca take center stage for the better part of the book. Scarlet Hark, a new female lead, is the other main protagonist. The Han Solo POV is a lot of fun to follow and makes for an entertaining read. And yet, probably due to the fact that they had little or no control over this project, I felt that the characterization and the worldbuilding left a little to be desired. With the Expanse, both authors have raised the bar quite high and I was expecting them to "jazz up" this new Star Wars offering in a way that would make it more satisfying than most EU works. I was hoping to see elements that make the Expanse the very best ongoing science fiction series in Honor Among Thieves, little things that would elevate this novel over its EU peers. Sadly, it wasn't the case.

Don't get me wrong. Honor Among Thieves is a fun read. And weighing in at only 288 pages, it's a very quick one. The crisp pace means that there is not a dull moment between the covers. Unfortunately, there is nothing special about the novel. Nothing that indicates that it was written by the extremely talented duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. I was hoping that Honor Among Thieves would sort of sate me, so to speak, as I eagerly await the release of Cibola Burn later this spring. But it wasn't meant to be. . .

Hence, I believe that it's more a novel for Star Wars EU fans than one for James S. A. Corey fans. Still, if you are in the mood for an adventure featuring the inimitable Han Solo and Chewie, Honor Among Thieves is a fun and entertaining read.

The final verdict: 7/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kevin Hearne's first volume in the Iron Druid Chronicles, Hounded, for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

BONUS: This special eBook edition includes two bonus short stories set in the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles: "Clan Rathskeller," and the eBook exclusive "Kaibab Unbound."


Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Extract from Andy Weir's THE MARTIAN

Andy Weir's The Martian is appearing on bestseller lists around North America and thanks to the folks at Crown Publishing here's an excerpt from the book! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?



Okay, I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and things don’t seem as hope-less as they did yesterday.

Today I took stock of supplies and did a quick EVA to check up on the external equipment. Here’s my situation:

The surface mission was supposed to be thirty-one days. For redundancy, the supply probes had enough food to last the whole crew fifty-six days. That way if one or two probes had problems, we’d still have enough food to complete the mission.

We were six days in when all hell broke loose, so that leaves enough food to feed six people for fifty days. I’m just one guy, so it’ll last me three hundred days. And that’s if I don’t ration it. So I’ve got a fair bit of time.

I’m pretty flush on EVA suits, too. Each crew member had two space suits: a flight spacesuit to wear during descent and ascent, and the much bulkier and more robust EVA suit to wear when doing surface operations. My flight spacesuit has a hole in it, and of course the crew was wearing the other five when they returned to Hermes. But all six EVA suits are still here and in perfect condition.

The Hab stood up to the storm without any problems. Outside, things aren’t so rosy. I can’t find the satellite dish. It probably got blown kilometers away.

The MAV is gone, of course. My crewmates took it up to Hermes. Though the bottom half (the landing stage) is still here. No reason to take that back up when weight is the enemy. It includes the land-ing gear, the fuel plant, and anything else NASA figured it wouldn’t need for the trip back up to orbit.

The MDV is on its side and there’s a breach in the hull. Looks like the storm ripped the cowling off the reserve chute (which we didn’t have to use on landing). Once the chute was exposed, it dragged the MDV all over the place, smashing it against every rock in the area. Not that the MDV would be much use to me. Its thrust-ers can’t even lift its own weight. But it might have been valuable for parts. Might still be.

Both rovers are half-buried in sand, but they’re in good shape otherwise. Their pressure seals are intact. Makes sense. Operating procedure when a storm hits is to stop motion and wait for the storm to pass. They’re made to stand up to punishment. I’ll be able to dig them out with a day or so of work.

I’ve lost communication with the weather stations, placed a ki-lometer away from the Hab in four directions. They might be in perfect working order for all I know. The Hab’s communications are so weak right now it probably can’t even reach a kilometer.

The solar cell array was covered in sand, rendering it useless (hint: solar cells need sunlight to make electricity). But once I swept the cells off, they returned to full efficiency. Whatever I end up doing, I’ll have plenty of power for it. Two hundred square meters of solar cells, with hydrogen fuel cells to store plenty of reserve. All I need to do is sweep them off every few days.

Things indoors are great, thanks to the Hab’s sturdy design.

I ran a full diagnostic on the oxygenator. Twice. It’s perfect. If anything goes wrong with it, there’s a short-term spare I can use. But it’s solely for emergency use while repairing the main one. The spare doesn’t actually pull CO2 apart and recapture the oxygen. It just absorbs the CO2 the same way the space suits do. It’s intended to last five days before it saturates the filters, which means thirty days for me (just one person breathing, instead of six). So there’s some insurance there.

The water reclaimer is working fine, too. The bad news is there’s no backup. If it stops working, I’ll be drinking reserve water while I rig up a primitive distillery to boil piss. Also, I’ll lose half a liter of water per day to breathing until the humidity in the Hab reaches its maximum and water starts condensing on every surface. Then I’ll be licking the walls. Yay. Anyway, for now, no problems with the water reclaimer.

So yeah. Food, water, shelter all taken care of. I’m going to start rationing food right now. Meals are pretty minimal already, but I think I can eat a three-fourths portion per meal and still be all right. That should turn my three hundred days of food into four hundred. Foraging around the medical area, I found the main bottle of vitamins. There’s enough multivitamins there to last years. So I won’t have any nutritional problems (though I’ll still starve to death when I’m out of food, no matter how many vitamins I take).

The medical area has morphine for emergencies. And there’s enough there for a lethal dose. I’m not going to slowly starve to death, I’ll tell you that. If I get to that point, I’ll take an easier way out.

Everyone on the mission had two specialties. I’m a botanist and mechanical engineer; basically, the mission’s fix-it man who played with plants. The mechanical engineering might save my life if some-thing breaks.

I’ve been thinking about how to survive this. It’s not completely hopeless. There’ll be humans back on Mars in about four years when Ares 4 arrives (assuming they didn’t cancel the program in the wake of my “death”).

Ares 4 will be landing at the Schiaparelli crater, which is about 3200 kilometers away from my location here in Acidalia Planitia.

No way for me to get there on my own. But if I could communicate, I might be able to get a rescue. Not sure how they’d manage that with the resources on hand, but NASA has a lot of smart people.

So that’s my mission now. Find a way to communicate with Earth. If I can’t manage that, find a way to communicate with Hermes when it returns in four years with the Ares 4 crew.

Of course, I don’t have any plan for surviving four years on one year of food. But one thing at a time here. For now, I’m well fed and have a purpose: Fix the damn radio.


Well, I’ve done three EVAs and haven’t found any hint of the communications dish.

I dug out one of the rovers and had a good drive around, but after days of wandering, I think it’s time to give up. The storm probably blew the dish far away and then erased any drag-marks or scuffs that might have led to a trail. Probably buried it, too.

I spent most of today out at what’s left of the communications array. It’s really a sorry sight. I may as well yell toward Earth for all the good that damned thing will do me.

I could throw together a rudimentary dish out of metal I find around the base, but this isn’t some walkie-talkie I’m working with here. Communicating from Mars to Earth is a pretty big deal, and requires extremely specialized equipment. I won’t be able to whip something up with tinfoil and gum.

I need to ration my EVAs as well as food. The CO2 filters are not cleanable. Once they’re saturated, they’re done. The mission ac-counted for a four-hour EVA per crew member per day. Fortunately, CO2 filters are light and small, so NASA had the luxury of sending more than we needed. All told, I have about 1500 hours’ worth of CO2 filters. After that, any EVAs I do will have to be managed with bloodletting the air.

Fifteen hundred hours may sound like a lot, but I’m faced with spending at least four years here if I’m going to have any hope of rescue, with a minimum of several hours per week dedicated to sweeping off the solar array. Anyway. No needless EVAs.

In other news, I’m starting to come up with an idea for food. My botany background may come in useful after all.

Why bring a botanist to Mars? After all, it’s famous for not having anything growing there. Well, the idea was to figure out how well things grow in Martian gravity, and see what, if anything, we can do with Martian soil. The short answer is: quite a lot . . . almost. Martian soil has the basic building blocks needed for plant growth, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in Earth soil that Mars soil doesn’t have, even when it’s placed in an Earth atmosphere and given plenty of water. Bacterial activity, certain nutrients provided by animal life, etc. None of that is happening on Mars. One of my tasks for the mission was to see how plants grow here, in various combinations of Earth and Mars soil and atmosphere.

That’s why I have a small amount of Earth soil and a bunch of plant seeds with me.

I can’t get too excited, however. It’s about the amount of soil you’d put in a window box, and the only seeds I have are a few species of grass and ferns. They’re the most rugged and easily grown plants on Earth, so NASA picked them as the test subjects.

So I have two problems: not enough dirt, and nothing edible to plant in it.

But I’m a botanist, damn it. I should be able to find a way to make this happen. If I don’t, I’ll be a really hungry botanist in about a year.