The Dark Defiles

Well, things have certainly changed since 2008. Back then, advance rave reviews regarding Richard Morgan's forthcoming The Steel Remains proclaimed that fantasy was about to get real. The author's fantasy debut was heralded as the work that would turn the genre on its head. With such lofty expectations, before the book even hit the shelves worldwide, it was no wonder that The Steel Remains failed to amaze SFF fans eagerly awaiting its release. Indeed, although it was an entertaining and action-packed read, unfortunately it was nowhere near as groundbreaking as advertised. In my opinion, Morgan relied too much on shock value. Instead of focusing on multilayered plotlines and his habitually superior storytelling skills, the author's main problem was that he went only for the grit, the nastiness, the explicit language, the "in your face" violence, the gore, the drugs, the sex, homosexuality, etc. Stripped of those elements, however, The Steel Remains didn't have a whole lot to offer in terms of plot.

Though not perfect, The Cold Commands was an improvement in pretty much every aspect of the tale. A lot of filler material created numerous pacing issues, yet plotlines progressed and hinted at a bigger, more ambitious overall story arc. It's no secret that epic fantasy has become nastier and more violent in the last decade or so. Dark and brooding epics have irrevocably altered the sub-genre, even if some authors are attempting to reverse that trend. Although it featured its fair share of blood, violence, and sex, in The Cold Commands Morgan avoided many of the pitfalls that made The Steel Remains at times so offputting by creating a better balance between all that grit and the actual storytelling.

Fastforward to 2014. . . Downgraded to trade paperback format on this side of the Atlantic, the final installment in A Land Fit For Heroes, The Dark Defiles, will be published next week with very little fanfare. Hard to believe that the series everyone was talking about six years ago is receiving little coverage now that it's coming to an end. Too bad, as this third volume probably is the best of the bunch. Once again, far from perfect and suffering from some of the same shortcomings as its predecessors, The Dark Defiles nevertheless brings the series to a close in interesting fashion.

Here's the blurb:

Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold meets George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones in the final novel in Richard K. Morgan’s epic A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, which burst onto the fantasy scene with The Steel Remains and The Cold Commands.

Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions—Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth—Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.

The worldbuilding is one of the facets with which Morgan has been decidedly inconsistent throughout this trilogy. Within the pages of The Steel Remains this aspect was, to a large extent, quite barebone. Thankfully, the author didn't play his cards as close to his chest in the second installment and we learned a lot more about the universe and how it worked. These revelations demonstrated that there was more depth to A Land Fit For Heroes than met the eye. Once more, I particularly enjoyed how Morgan used some science fiction elements in his worldbuilding We learn much more about the mysterious Kiriath and their technology. And even though most of their secrets remain undisclosed, the author opens up about the Aldrain and their origins, the Dark Court, and the ikinri'ska.

As was the case with its predecessors, The Dark Defiles is another character-driven book and the various story arcs focus on the three main characters: Ringil Eskiath, homosexual hero of the infamous battle of Gallows Gap; Archeth, a kiriath half-breed abandoned by her brethren and now advisor to the Emperor of the Yhelteth Empire; Egar the Dragonbane, who fought for the Yhelteth Empire during the War against the Scaled Folk and was driven away by his own people. All three protagonists remain too edgy and over-the-top for their own good, which makes it difficult to relate to any of them and root for them. Back in The Steel Remains, Morgan created a cast of morally and sexually ambiguous characters, but failed to inject enough life into their personalities and back stories to make them memorable. Character development was much more present in the first sequel and the same can be said of The Dark Defiles. Trouble is, there are constant inner monologues occurring inside every character's mind, which often gets quite annoying. It always gets in the way of the narrative and I feel that it seldom brings anything to the tale.

As was the case with the second volume, the pace was probably the aspect of this novel which left the most to be desired. It starts very slow as we follow the companions' quest to find the last resting place of the Illwrack Changeling. Everything picks up in Archeth storyline, as the science fiction elements are introduced and suddenly I was hooked. Problem is, Ringil's chapters, meandering as they are, more or less kill whatever momentum generated by Arceth and Egar's POV sections. Which makes for a skewed reading experience. Through Archeth's chapters we learn more about Kiriath secrets, making these portions real page-turners. On the other end, though Ringil's chapters provide their fair share of revelations, everything moves at a much slower pace and are often kind of boring.

Although the ending offers some sort of resolution, by reaching the last page of The Dark Defiles readers will find themselves with way more questions than answers. Some people have asked me about A Land Fit for Heroes being connected with the broken moon and the Takeshi Kovacs books. I'm afraid I haven't read them all and I'm too far-removed from them to make the connection, if indeed there's one. All I know is that, even though the author does provide a number of answers before the end, not everything makes sense and in some respects I'm still a bit perplexed as to what the entire series was all about. There are quite a few surprises along the way, an impressive body count, and an ending of sorts. And yet, Morgan definitely leaves a lot of threads up in the air, which leaves the door open for more to come. He's under contract to write two science fiction books next, so it remains to be seen if a return to fantasy will be considered. . .

To a certain extent, beyond the grit, the profanities, the gratuitous sex scenes, and the graphic violence, The Steel Remains left readers with rather thin plotlines. The Cold Commands turned out to be an improvement in that regard, and so is The Dark Defiles. Still, it's likely a case of too little, too late. And since it suffers from pretty much the same shortcomings as the second volume, The Dark Defiles simply cannot save the day by elevating this series to another level. Expectations were certainly too high to begin with, but by focusing on shock value Richard Morgan failed to imbue this fantasy trilogy with most of what makes his science fiction works such remarkable reads.

If you like your fantasy dark and gritty, chances are that you might enjoy Morgan's A Land Fit for Heroes. And now that you can read all three volumes back-to-back, I figure readers might pick up a lot of the nuances that SFF fans who were forced to wait years between installments probably missed. It might not be as special and groundbreaking as publishers initially made it out to be, but fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, and George R. R. Martin may find a lot to like about this series.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

Win a copy of Jacqueline Carey's POISON FRUIT

I have three copies of Jacqueline Carey's Poison Fruit, the latest installment in the Agent of Hel series, up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Roc! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The hot-as-Hel series with the “Sookie Stackhouse type of vibe” (Paranormal Horizon) is back—but this time the paranormal Midwestern town of Pemkowet is feeling a frost in the air and the residents are frozen in fear...

The Pemkowet Visitors Bureau has always promoted paranormal tourism—even if it has downplayed the risks (hobgoblins are unpredictable). It helps that the town is presided over by Daisy Johanssen, who as Hel’s liaison is authorized by the Norse goddess of the dead to keep Pemkowet under control. Normally, that’s easier to do in the winter, when bracing temperatures keep folks indoors.

But a new predator is on the prowl, and this one thrives on nightmares. Daisy is on her trail and working intimately with her partner and sometime lover from the Pemkowet PD, sexy yet unavailable werewolf Cody Fairfax. But even as the creature is racking up innocent victims, a greater danger looms on Pewkowet’s horizon.

As a result of a recent ghost uprising, an unknown adversary—represented by a hell-spawn lawyer with fiery powers of persuasion—has instigated a lawsuit against the town. If Pemkowet loses, Hel’s sovereignty will be jeopardized, and the fate of the eldritch community will be at stake. The only one who can prevent it is Daisy—but she’s going to have to confront her own worst nightmare to do it.

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

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 22nd)

In hardcover:

Kim Harrison’s The Witch With No Name debuts at number 5.

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is down three spots, finishing the week at number 6.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons maintains its position at number 11.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones maintains its position at number 13.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane maintains its position at number 20 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time only, you can download Laird Barron's The Imago Sequence for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The title story of this collection — a devilishly ironic riff on H. P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s model” — was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, while “Probiscus” was nominated for an International Horror Guild award and reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 19. In addition to his previously published work, this collection contains an original story.

Extract from Chrysler Szarlan's THE HAWLEY BOOK OF THE DEAD

Here's an extract from Chrysler Szarlan's The Hawley Book of the Dead, courtesy of the folks at Random House. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

For fans of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and A Discovery of Witches comes a brilliantly imagined debut novel brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic.

Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

Brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a brilliantly imagined debut novel from a riveting new voice.


I arrived at the theater early, just after four. I walked under the ladder of a man updating the marquee. The Bijoux was an old theater, and we liked to keep some things a little old-fashioned to match its age. We hadn’t yet gone completely digital, like most of the Strip. The marquee proclaimed the great revelation and the maskelyne mind—the amazing maske lynes’ venetian carnevale—mascherari.

When Jeremy and I began our act together, we played small houses, just the two of us, sometimes even bars and the occasional wedding. The basis of magic is a good story, and the stories we told at first were simple, like the Something Out of Nothing story, turning thin air into doves or ravens, always adding something a little disruptive, lovely, or large. We worked our way up, and in time the illusions got bigger and more splen did. We built enough of a reputation and audience to justify leasing our own theater. We discovered the Bijoux then, the magical elements still in place after all its incarnations.

The Bijoux’s history mirrored the unsettled nature of our ever-changing city in the desert. Originally a vaudeville house built in 1913 on Fremont Street, it was revamped for magic when Harry Houdini came through, and trapdoors for every possible purpose were installed. In a fit of nostal gia, its owner moved it to the Strip in the 1960s, when Fremont Street was dying, and the Bijoux was repurposed as a supper club. Then the New York–New York Casino was built around it, and it became a movie palace under the Statue of Liberty. When we leased it for our shows, we added lighting and fly elements. We built a turntable to revolve sets, and a huge lift. But much of the theater remained the way we’d found it, mysterious. The feeling prevailed that at any moment the ghost of Houdini or Al Jol son or Judy Garland might wander by.

An ancient man let us in through the stage door the day we first viewed it. He wore a stained red cardigan, faded overalls, and bedroom slippers. His hair was cropped short, his pink scalp showing through the white stubble. His eyes shone silver, clouded with cataracts. He locked the door behind us and shuffled down the hall without a word. He motioned to us to follow.

He led us backstage, through a maze of fraying curtains. Racks of se quined costumes bloomed with dust, last worn by chorus girls who were now grandmothers. Steamer trunks were stacked or spilled open, revealing the stage props of another age: top hats and bouquets of disintegrating paper flowers. A ventriloquist’s dummy stared at us with his shrewd doll’s eyes. The old man stopped at the edge of the stage but signaled us to walk onto it. Then he threw a switch and we stood blinking out at the candy box house, row upon row of velvet seats, gold balconies.

I jumped when he spoke. “You’re standing on a trapdoor built for Harry Houdini. 1921. Of course, Houdini wasn’t a true magician. Really only an escape artist.” He said it dismissively. “I saw Devant’s ‘Asrah’ here. Now that was magic. The lady I fell in love with was his assistant. 1919. And Chung Ling Soo was here, when I was a boy. 1914. Performed one of the greatest illusions I’ve ever seen. The one that finally killed him.”

Jeremy and I glanced at each other, and I knew with the sure knowl edge of the married that he was thinking the same thing I was. If this man was telling the truth, he’d have been over a hundred years old.

“Born with the century. December thirty-first, 1899.” Maybe the old guy had a career as a psychic. “Never did see your great-great-grandfather, John Nevil,” he said to Jeremy. “But your great-uncle played this theater. 1923.”

Jeremy was descended from a magical family. Jeremy’s great-great-grandfather, John Nevil Maskelyne, had been one of the few innovators in the long history of magic. He invented magical levitation, and when he retired, he sold that trick and others for an obscene amount of money. Some descendants of John Nevil struggled to make magic pay, squander ing their inheritance from the Original Levitating Girl on magic ephem era, on water torture boxes and fancy dress for the stage and hiring the prettiest assistants. But Jeremy’s grandfather and father coddled their share of John Nevil’s profit. They shunned the stage, were bankers both, per formed another kind of magic by making money appear. Jeremy didn’t grow up with the magical arts as a kind of second language, touring England and the Continent with magician parents as some of his cousins had. But when he was a boy, in the attic of the family home in Devon shire, he came across an old leather-bound book, scratched and shredding, full of odd symbols and drawings of elaborate machinery, written in code it would take him months to decipher. One of John Nevil’s magic note books. It was Jeremy’s start in stage magic, the start of his journey to Las Vegas, to me, and then the Bijoux. John Nevil Maskelyne’s history was the spark to our success as magicians, in the tiny minority who actually made a living from magic. The old man seemed to know all about it.

On that first day in what would become our theater, Jeremy told him, “You have the advantage of us, I’m afraid.”

He extended a gnarled hand for Jeremy to shake. “Pleased to meet you. Wesley Knowles. Otherwise known as one of the Five Chinese Brothers. Not Chinese, not even Asian. Not brothers. Don’t expect you ever heard of us. We were tumblers and jugglers. Minor act. Stopped performing after the Oriental craze went bust with the country. 1929. I stayed on here. Marooned. Before Vegas was even Vegas, only a railroad town. I’m the sole survivor. Now the oldest living authority on theatrical magic of the twentieth century. Last magic act to play this house was Blackstone. The father, not the son. 1957. Until you, that is. If you stay. Hope you do. Bring the magic back.”

Wesley had a keen knowledge of every trick or illusion ever performed, and often gave us ideas, solving problems we came up against with simple and elegant machinations. For he stayed with us or, rather, with the the ater. He had rooms above the stage. As far as we could tell, he never left the building. Wesley was frail but not decrepit, whatever his age. If he was 103 when we met him, he would have been 113 on the day Jeremy died. He was there on that day of the lilacs. He always was.

From the book THE HAWLEY BOOK OF THE DEAD by Chrysler Szarlan.  Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Chrysler Szarlan.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Brian Staveley's The Emperor's Blades for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

And the same goes for Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire here!

Here's the blurb:

Brandon Sanderson, fantasy's newest master tale spinner, author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

Readers of Elantris thought they'd discovered someone special in Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn proves they were right.

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

Peter Watts contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, our winner will receive a copy of Peter Watts' Echopraxia! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Greg Patenaude, from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

Quote of the Day

Some ghosts are harder to ignore than others.

- RICHARD MORGAN, The Dark Defiles (Canada, USA, Europe)

I'm about 250 pages into this one, and for quite a while it was more of the same as the first two volumes. But the author recently added a little scifi twist to one of the storylines and all of a sudden I'm hooked! Hopefully it will last... =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 15th)

In hardcover:

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks debuts at number 3.

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Son of No One debuts at number 13.

Patricia Briggs’ Shifting Shadows debuts at number 16.

In paperback:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is up four positions, ending the week at number 11.

Seanan McGuire's The Winter Long debuts at number 12.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down one position, ending the week at number 13.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one one position, ending the week at number 20 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Legion: Skin Deep

Given the enormous size of his novels, I had always wondered if Brandon Sanderson could write good short fiction. Considering just how bloated his latest works were, I doubted that short stories and novellas could be a format that he would be comfortable with. And yet, his Legion novella turned out to be the opening chapter of what I felt could be Sanderson's most fascinating creation yet. Some say that good things come in small packages and in this case they were absolutely right!

So when the sequel, Legion: Skin Deep, was part of a Subpress package I recently picked up at the post office, I knew I was giving this one a shot ASAP!

Here's the blurb:

Brandon Sanderson is one of the most significant fantasists to enter the field in a good many years. His ambitious, multi-volume epics (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive) and his stellar continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have earned both critical acclaim and a substantial popular following. In Legion, a short, distinctly contemporary novella filled with suspense, humor, and an endless flow of invention, Sanderson revealed a startling new facet of his singular narrative talent. In the stunning sequel, Legion: Skin Deep, that talent is on full display.

Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the new story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are hired by I3 (Innovative Information Incorporated) to recover a corpse stolen from the local morgue. But there’s a catch. The corpse is that of a pioneer in the field of experimental biotechnology, a man whose work concerned the use of the human body as a massive storage device. He may have embedded something in the cells of his now dead body. And that something might be dangerous…

What follows is a visionary thriller about the potential uses of technology, the mysteries of the human personality, and the ancient human need to believe that death is not the end. Legion: Skin Deep is speculative fiction at it most highly developed. It reaffirms Sanderson’s place as one of contemporary fiction’s most intelligent—and unpredictable—voices.

Legion: Skin Deep will feature a full-color dust jacket, and two full-page, full-color interior illustrations by Jon Foster.

In addition, upon publication, everyone who has preordered Legion: Skin Deep direct from SubPress will receive a free copy of the ebook.

It was with pleasure that I got reacquainted with the main protagonist, Stephen Leeds. The man suffers or benefits from a very strange mental condition. He has the ability to create a variety of hallucinations possessing a vast array of personalities and skills. These personae live with Leeds and continue to help/hinder him as he attempts to live a life as normal as a man with such a mental condition can hope for. While reading the first novella, I was afraid that having to deal with multiple personalities would be tricky, but Sanderson pulled it off with aplomb. Indeed, this is what gave Legion such a unique flavor. And the author pushes the envelope even more by introducing yet more hallucinatory men and women to help Leeds crack this new case. Somehow, he pulls it off again and Legion: Skin Deep is even more ambitious than its predecessor.

The first person narrative of Stephen Leeds continues to be what makes these novellas so special. Witnessing events unfold through Leeds'e eyes allows readers to get better acquainted with the various hallucinatory personae, which is a real treat. The decidedly thought-provoking premise, that the human body and its cells can be used as vast receptacles to store information, leads Sanderson to explore the potential use of biotechnology and its repercussions. Which makes for a very interesting read.

The novella format keeps the pace moving briskly. Even if it is more than twice as long as its predecessor, all too quickly we reach the end of Legion: Skin Deep, hoping that there is more to come. Once more, there is a lot more depth than meets the eye, and it is evident that the Legion novellas will doubtless be an engrossing and entertaining series. Brandon Sanderson remains ambitious as ever, even if with a novella he couldn't work with the sort of scope he is used to with novel-length projects.

Once again, I find myself hoping that we'll have the opportunity to discover more about Stephen Leeds and his hallucinations in the near future, and that those new adventures will also be in the form of short stories or novellas. The strictures of writing short fiction forces Sanderson to write with a much tighter focus, which makes for a more satisfying reading experience. The author has a tendency to concentrate on extraneous plotlines that don't always have much importance in the greater scheme of things. These meandering storylines habitually kill the flow of a novel and are often just filler material. Not so in Legion: Skin Deep. The format insures that it's mostly killer and no filler.

Legion: Skin Deep will please Sanderson's legions (Sorry for the same pun again. I couldn't resist!) of fans and will probably gain him some new followers. God knows I'm looking forward to what comes next!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title, check out the Subterranean Press website.

For those interested in these novellas, you can still download the first one, Legion, for only 2.99$ here.

Quote of the Day

Disappointment is a slow poison.

- RICHARD MORGAN, The Dark Defiles (Canada, USA, Europe)

Musical Interlude

I had this song stuck in my head during the entire weekend, so it's only natural that I share it with you! :P

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time only, you can download The Best Horror of the Year, volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness.

With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow’s comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction readers have come to expect—and enjoy.

Lou Anders contest winners!

Our winners will get their hands on a copy of Lou Anders' Frostborn, compliments of the folks at Crown Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Abigail Tassin, from Dexter, Michigan, USA

- Doug Sturtevant, from Chandler, Arizona, USA

- Luke Kasprowicz, from San Diego, California, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Now a major motion picture starring Anton Yelchin, Willem Dafoe, and Addison Timlin, and directed by Stephen Sommers.


BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Dean Koontz's The City.

“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.

Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil. His account of these shattering hours, in which past and present, fate and destiny, converge, is a testament by which to live—an unforgettable fable for our time destined to rank among Dean Koontz’s most enduring works.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 8th)

In hardcover:

Brent Weeks’ The Broken Eye debuts at number 5. For more info about this title: Canada, USA.

Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life maintains its position at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Diana Gabaldon's Written in My Own Heart's Blood is up one position, ending the week at number 16.

John Scalzi’s Lock In debuts at number 20.

In paperback:

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

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down seven positions, ending the week at number 15.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down five positions, ending the week at number 16.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is up one position, ending the week at number 19 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down nine positions, ending the week at number 25.

Win a copy of Tad Williams' SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY

I have an autographed copy of Tad Williams' Sleeping Late on Judgement Day up for grabs, compliments of the author himself! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Where does an angel go when he’s been to Hell and back?

Renegade angel Bobby Dollar does not have an easy afterlife. After surviving the myriad gruesome dangers Hell oh-so-kindly offered him, Bobby has returned empty-handed – his demon girlfriend Casmira, the Countess of Cold Hands, is still in the clutches of Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. Some hell of a rescue.

Forced to admit his failure, Bobby ends up back at his job as an angel advocate. That is, until Walter, an old angel friend whom Bobby never thought he’d see again, shows up at the local bar. The last time he saw Walter was in Hell, when Walter had tried to warn him about one of Bobby’s angel superiors. But now Walter can’t remember anything, and Bobby doesn’t know whom to trust.

Turns out that there’s corruption hidden within the higher ranks of Heaven and Hell, but the only proof Bobby has is a single feather. Before he knows it, he’s in the High Hall of Heavenly Judgement – no longer a bastion for the moral high ground, if it ever was, but instead just another rigged system – on trial for his immortal soul…

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day is the third installment of Tad Williams’ urban fantasy Bobby Dollar series!

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

Thirty years of Fionavar

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area, why not join Guy Gavriel Kay and Bakka Phoenix Books as they celebrate 30 years of Fionavar!?!

Follow this link for more information! =)


I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer when I was a teenager more than 25 years ago. Other than a few vague images imprinted inside my brain, I'm afraid that I almost forgot everything about it and I've been meaning to give it another shot for a long time. I bought a copy of the mass market paperback last year and I felt that it was time to finally give it a go. To see if I would enjoy it as much as my adolescent self, of course, but mostly to see if this science fiction classic had aged well and could still amaze a new generation of SFF readers.

As was the case when I reread James Clavell's Shogun, I was afraid that it wouldn't live up to the lofty expectations associated with such a seminal work. After all, Neuromancer sold millions of copies and earned Gibson the science-fiction "triple crown" by winning the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was the very first novel to win all three awards. But that was in 1984. Would it be as good thirty years down the line?

Here's the blurb:

The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus-hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century’s most potent visions of the future.

William Gibson popularised the concept of cyberspace and even coined the word. Gibson's debut also launched the cyberpunk subgenre.Thirty years ago, the idea of a junkie-hacker forced to hack the computer system of a major corporation was something edgy. What was so futuristic in 1984 now sounds incredibly familiar, right? Which goes to prove just how avant-garde Neuromancer was when it was initially released. Three decades later, Gibson's vision of the future may not be as noir, but it is quite recognizable in several aspects of our lives.

The author's prose creates a vividly realized imagery. That, as much as the plot itself, makes Neuromancer such an unforgettable read. Caught stealing from his last employer, Case, the main protagonist, found himself with a crippled nervous system preventing him from accessing the Matrix. Unemployed, addicted to hard drugs, and suicidal, Case desperately searches for a miracle cure in various illegal clinics. Case is saved by Molly, an augmented mercenary for a mysterious ex-military officer known as Armitage. The man offers to cure Case in exchange for his services as a hacker. What follows is the kind of rollercoaster ride that captured the imagination of a generation of genre readers.

Case, drug addict, douchebag, and cyberspace hacker, is the book's anti-hero. He forms an unlikely duo with Molly, a Razorgirl with extensive cybernetic modifications. Blackmailed and with his death assured if he doesn't follow Armitage's orders, Case has no choice to to go along with the other man's schemes. But it soon appears that Wintermute, a powerful artificial intelligence created by the Tessier-Ashpool family, is in control. Soon, Case and Molly find themselves in something that could change the world forever. The supporting cast don't always play a major role as the story progresses, and yet Neuromancer would never have been such a memorable read without the presence of characters such as the Finn, Dixie Flatline, Maelcum, and Peter Riviera.

The pace is brisk throughout. The relatively short and quick chapters keep the plot moving forward, often at breakneck speed. Weighing in at only 271 pages, one gets through Neuromancer in no time. The vivid setting, the disparate characters, and the rhythm make this novel a true page-turner! Neuromancer may have been published in 1984, yet William Gibson's debut is still a thoroughly enjoyable book today, even if it may not be as edgy and prophetic as it was thirty years ago.

Give it a shot and see why it remained in print for three decades and has astonished countless readers around the world!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Karen Miller's latest novel, The Falcon Throne, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


A bastard lord leads a rebellion against his tyrant king -- and must live with the consequences of victory.

A royal widow plots to win her daughter's freedom from the ambitious lords who would control them both.

An orphaned prince sets his eyes on regaining his father's stolen throne.

And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn that the greater the power, the more dangerous the game.

A masterful tale of the thirst for power and the cost of betrayal. Epic fantasy at its bloodiest, action-packed best.

Lev Grossman contest winner!

Our lucky winner will receive a complimentary copy of Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land, courtesy of the folks at Viking. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Kevin Shallow, from Apollo Beach, Florida, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Charlie N. Holmberg's The Paper Magician for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ania Ahlborn's The Neighbors for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Andrew Morrison sacrificed everything—his childhood, his education, and the girl of his dreams—to look after his alcoholic mother. But enough is enough, and now he’s determined to get out and live his life. That means trading the home he grew up in for a rented room in the house of an old childhood friend—both of which are in sorry shape.

The only thing worse than Drew’s squalid new digs and sullen new roommate is the envy he feels for the house next door: a picture-perfect suburban domicile straight out of Norman Rockwell, with a couple of happy householders to match. But the better acquainted he gets with his new neighbors—especially the sweet and sexy Harlow Ward—the more he suspects unspeakable darkness beyond the white picket fence.

At the intersection of Blue Velvet and Basic Instinct lies The Neighbors, an insidiously entertaining tale of psychological suspense and mounting terror by the boldest new master of the form, Ania Ahlborn.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 1st)

In hardcover:

Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life is down four spots, finishing the week at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Diana Gabaldon's Written in My Own Heart's Blood is down three positions, ending the week at number 17.

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is down two positions, ending the week at number 20.

Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land is down twenty spots, finishing the week at number 21. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

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

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is up one position, ending the week at number 8.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down one position, ending the week at number 11.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down three positions, ending the week at number 16.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is down three positions, ending the week at number 20 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is down five positions, ending the week at number 21.

Reading list

Every week or so, I receive random emails and messages from SFF fans requesting recommendations regarding what to read next. Most of them ask me about finished series or stand-alone novels, hopefully available in paperback or ebook formats.

So again, here's my old list of the usual suspects:

- The Godless World by Brian Ruckley

- Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams

- The Dragonbone Chair (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Stone of Farewell (Canada, USA, Europe)
- To Green Angel Tower part 1 (Canada, USA, Europe)
- To Green Angel Tower part 2 (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Gap Saga by Stephen R. Donaldson

- The Real Story (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Forbidden Knowledge (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A Dark and Hungry God Arises (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Chaos and Order (Canada, USA, Europe)
- This Day All Gods Die (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman

- Black Sun Rising: Canada, USA, Europe
- When True Night Falls: Canada, USA, Europe
- Crown of Shadows: Canada, USA, Europe

- Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Fionavar Tapestry

- The Summer Tree (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Wandering Fire (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Darkest Road (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Tigana (Canada, USA, Europe)

- A Song for Arbonne (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Lions of Al-Rassan (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Sarantine Mosaic

- Sailing to Sarantium (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Lord of Emperors (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Last Light of the Sun (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Beyond this Dark House (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Ysabel (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Under Heaven (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series:

- Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty Goes to Washington (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty Takes a Holiday (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty Raises Hell (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty's House of Horrors ( Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty Goes to War (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty's Big Trouble (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kitty Steals the Show (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan

- Vellum (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Ink (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Cassandra Kresnov series by Joel Shepherd

- Crossover (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Breakaway (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Killswitch (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Jump 225 Trilogy by David Louis Edelman

- Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe)
- MultiReal (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Geosynchron (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Black Company by Glen Cook

- Chronicles of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Books of the South (Canada, USA, Europe.)
- The Return of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Many Deaths of the Black Company (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Otherland by Tad Williams

- City of Golden Shadow: Canada, USA, Europe
- River of Blue Fire: Canada, USA, Europe
- Mountain of Black Glass: Canada, USA, Europe
- Sea of Silver Light: Canada, USA, Europe

- The Magisters Trilogy by C. S. Friedman

- Feast of Souls (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Wings of Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Legacy of Kings (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker

- The Darkness that Comes Before (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Warrior-Prophet (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Thousandfold Thought (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Saga of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, jr.

- The Magic of Recluce (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Towers of the Sunset (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Magic Engineer (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Order War (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Death of Chaos (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Fall of Angels (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Chaos Balance (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The White Order (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Colors of Chaos (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Magi'i of Cyador (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Scion of Cyador (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Wellspring of Chaos (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Ordermaster (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Natural Ordermage (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Mage-Guard of Hamor (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Deryni Saga by Katherine Kurtz

The Chronicles of the Deryni

- Deryni Rising (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Deryni Checkmate (Canada, USA, Europe)
- High Deryni (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Legends of Camber of Culdi

- Camber of Culdi (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Saint Camber (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Camber the Heretic (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Histories of King Kelson

- The Bishop's Heir (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The King's Justice (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Quest for Saint Camber (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Heirs of Saint Camber

- The Harrowing of Gwynedd (Canada, USA, Europe)
- King Javan's Year (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Bastard Prince (Canada, USA, Europe)

King Kelson's Bride (Canada, USA, Europe)

In the King's Service (Canada, USA, Europe)

Childe Morgan (Canada, USA, Europe)

Deryni Anthologies

- The Deryni Archives (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Deryni Magic (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Deryni Tales (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson

- Lord Foul's Bane (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Illearth War (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Power that Preserves (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Wounded Land (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The One Tree (Canada, USA, Europe)
- White Gold Wielder (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Something by Roger Taylor

The Chronicles of Hawklan

- The Call of the Sword (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt
- The Fall of Fyorlund (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt
- The Waking of Orthlund (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt
- Into Narsindal (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Dream Finder (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Farnor (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Valderen (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Whistler (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Ibryen (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Arash-Felloren (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Caddoran (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

The Return of the Sword (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

This should keep some of you busy for a little while. . . ;-) If not, then you are shit out of luck!!! :P