David Walton contest winners!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Pyr, our winners will get their hands on a copy of David Walton's Supersymmetry! For mor info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Mitja Lisjak, from Stanjel, Slovenia

- Christian Rast, from Bayreuth, Germany

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on Ian M. Banks' Matter for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one man it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever.

Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyond recognition to become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilizations throughout the greater galaxy.

Concealing her new identity - and her particular set of abilities - might be a dangerous strategy, however. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.

MATTER is a novel of dazzling wit and serious purpose. An extraordinary feat of storytelling and breathtaking invention on a grand scale, it is a tour de force from a writer who has turned science fiction on its head.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 21st)

In hardcover:

Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath is down one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is up four spots, finishing the week at number 3.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One maintains its position at number 10 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download Steven Erikson's Forge of Darkness for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Forge of Darkness: Now is the time to tell the story of an ancient realm, a tragic tale that sets the stage for all the tales yet to come and all those already told...

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power… and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm, and as the rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...

Steven Erikson entered the pantheon of great fantasy writers with his debut Gardens of the Moon. Now he returns with the first novel in a trilogy that takes place millennia before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and introduces readers to Kurald Galain, the warren of Darkness. It is the epic story of a realm whose fate plays a crucial role in shaping the world of the Malazan Empire.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can once again get your hands on the digital edition of Glen Cook's The Swordbearer for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A young man’s dreams of warfare and glory turn into a bitter nightmare when an invading army, led by the Dark Champion Nevenka Nieroda and his twelve Dead Captains, the Toal, besieges his father’s feudal fortress. Nieroda and the Toal demand the surrender of an ancient artifact long-believed to be a myth. With the walls breached and his family slaughtered—or worse—Gathrid flees into the wilderness beyond his familiar castle walls.

Lost and alone in the woods, hounded by the Dead Captains, Gathrid takes refuge in a vast cavern. There he discovers an ancient sword— Daubendiek, the Great Sword of Suchara, the fabled weapon once wielded by the legendary tragic hero of an ancient age, Tureck Aarant. Daubendiek, a restless and thirsty blade, promises Gathrid the ability to claim his vengeance. But as he begins to take that vengeance, Gathrid starts to understand the terrible price that the sword will exact of him. Enemies soon become allies and strange bedfellows abound as the prophesies of an age swirl into chaos.

Bradley P. Beaulieu contest winners!

These three lucky winners will get their hands on a copy of Bradley P. Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, compliments of the folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Frank Johnston, from Northampton, Pennsylvania, USA (Ancalagon on Reddit)

- Nick Guido, from College Station, Texas, USA

- Ashley Sowa, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Don't know for how long, but you can now download Songs of Love and Death, a speculative fiction anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois featuring an all-star list of contributors, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In this star-studded cross-genre anthology, seventeen of the greatest modern authors of fantasy, science fiction, and romance explore the borderlands of their genres with brand-new tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods in a postapocalyptic America to faery-haunted rural fields in eighteenth- century England, from the kingdoms of high fantasy to the alien world of a galaxy-spanning empire, these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate.

Award-winning, bestselling author Neil Gaiman demonstrates why he’s one of the hottest stars in literature today with “The Thing About Cassandra,” a subtle but chilling story of a man who meets an old girlfriend he had never expected to see.

International blockbuster bestselling author Diana Gabaldon sends a World War II RAF pilot through a stone circle to the time of her Outlander series in “A Leaf on the Winds of All Hallows.” Torn from all he knows, Jerry MacKenzie determinedly survives hardship and danger, intent on his goal of returning home to his wife and baby—no matter the cost.

New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher presents “Love Hurts,” in which Harry Dresden takes on one of his deadliest adversaries and in the process is forced to confront the secret desires of his own heart.

Just the smallest sampling promises unearthly delights, but look also for stories by New York Times bestselling romance authors Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, and by such legends of the fantasy genre as Peter S. Beagle and Tanith Lee, as well as many other popular and beloved writers, including Marjorie M. Liu, Jacqueline Carey, Carrie Vaughn, and Robin Hobb. This exquisite anthology, crafted by the peerless editing team of George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is sure to leave you under its spell

Jeff Somers contest winners!

Thanks to the author's generosity, our three winners will receive autographed print copies of Jeff Somers' short story, "The Pale."

You can download "The Pale" for only 0.99$ here. The first two installments, The Shattered Gears and The Walled City, are available for the same price.

The winners are:

- Pat Lefebvre, from Montréal, Québec, Canada
- Todd Yuninger, from Paradise, Pennsylvania, USA
- Paulina Piazza, from Markham, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

I don't know why the digital editions of Guy Gavriel Kay's novels are always so expensive, but that's the way it is. =( One of his signature works, The Lions of Al-Rassan, is available for a limited time for only 4.99$ here. Considering that all of his other books go for 10$-16$ a piece, it's a very good deal!

Here's the blurb:

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan -- poet, diplomat, soldier -- until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated -- and feared -- military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.

In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve -- for a time -- the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate -- and increasingly torn by her feelings -- is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.

Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake -- or destroy -- a world.

You can also get your hands on David Gemmell's Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

He is a man of many names. Some call him the Golden One; others, the Lord of the Silver Bow. To the Dardanians, he is Prince Aeneas. But to his friends, he is Helikaon. Strong, fast, quick of mind, he is a bold warrior, hated by his enemies, feared even by his Trojan allies. For there is a darkness at the heart of the Golden One, a savagery that, once awakened, can be appeased only with blood.

Argurios the Mykene is a peerless fighter, a man of unbending principles and unbreakable will. Like all of the Mykene warriors, he lives to conquer and to kill. Dispatched by King Agamemnon to scout the defenses of the golden city of Troy, he is Helikaon’s sworn enemy.

Andromache is a priestess of Thera betrothed against her will to Hektor, prince of Troy. Scornful of tradition, skilled in the arts of war, and passionate in the ways of her order, Andromache vows to love whom she pleases and to live as she desires.

Now fate is about to thrust these three together–and, from the sparks of passionate love and hate, ignite a fire that will engulf the world.

Readers who know the works of David Gemmell expect nothing less than excellence from this author, whose taut prose, driving plots, and full-bodied characters have won him legions of fans the world over. Now, with this first masterly volume in an epic reimagining of the Trojan War, Gemmell has written an ageless drama of brave deeds and fierce battles, of honor and treachery, of love won and lost.

Kushiel's Chosen

This review comes late, I know. Several years late, to be honest. As I mentioned in my review of Kushiel's Dart, I felt pretty dumb to have waited for over a decade to finally give this series a shot. Especially given the fact that Jacqueline Carey's debut ended up being the very best fantasy debut I have ever read. And with the second installment being nearly as good as the first volume, I can confirm that this trilogy deserves the highest possible recommendation!

Indeed, taken together, Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen are the best two-punch combination to ever mark the beginning of a fantasy series. Yes, better than Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates, better than Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt, better than Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin, and yes, even better than George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. And to the newer generation of SFF readers who mocked my review of Kushiel's Dart on Reddit last summer, claiming that it couldn't possibly be that good, it is better and more ambitious that the first two novels written by such talented authors as Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, and Brandon Sanderson. It is that and more. A lot more!

As an avid reader, the shelves of my apartment are full of books. My locker is full of boxes of novels and I also have boxes and boxes full of them in storage elsewhere. Try as I might, I couldn't find Carey's first series last summer. And thanks to the author, she cobbled together a set of the first three installments that she sent my way so I could review them. Having now read two of them, I can't thank her enough for doing this, for it's been a long time since I've read such extraordinary fantasy works.

Here's the blurb:

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. The inhabiting race rose from the seed of angels and men, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman, the first to recognize that she is one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. He trained Phèdre in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber--and, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze.

When she stumbled upon a plot that threatened the very foundations of her homeland, she gave up almost everything she held dear to save it. She survived, and lived to have others tell her story, and if they embellished the tale with fabric of mythical splendor, they weren't far off the mark.

The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phèdre's brow, and they are not finished with her. While the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe another should wear the crown... and those who escaped the wrath of the mighty are not yet done with their schemes for power and revenge.

Jacqueline Carey's debut was fantasy on a grand scale. In scope and vision, Kushiel's Dart was as impressive as other opening chapters of bestselling SFF series such as Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, and Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. I opined that time would tell if the rest of the trilogy and the subsequent series would show as much depth, but Carey's debut was a dense and complex novel that delivered on all fronts. Well, I'm happy to report that Kushiel's Chosen is another sprawling work that builds on the storylines introduced in its predecessor and take them and their characters even further on another convoluted tale of love and betrayal.

Once more, the worldbuilding was absolutely amazing. As I mentioned in my review of Carey's debut, the backdrop for this series isn't the traditional European medieval setting. It is more akin to the Renaissance era and it is set in an alternate version of Western Europe. Terre d'Ange occupies the territory which we know as France and was founded by Elua and his Companions, all of them fallen angels. Elua's motto was "Love as thou wilt." Which means that love and physical pleasure are important facets of D'Angeline society. As a matter of course, sexuality once again lies at the heart of this story, and service to the angel Naamah continues to be one of the most important religious institutions of Terre d'Ange. Kushiel's Dart was a sprawling novel, more far-reaching than most fantasy debuts, and the same can be said of Kushiel's Chosen. I was hoping that the author would take us on journeys that would enable us to discover more about her universe and I wasn't disappointed. Beyond the alternate France, other countries such as Italy, especially Venice, Croatia, and Greece are explored and play a big role as Phèdre's tale moves forward. Richly detailed and imagined in terms of cultures, religions, and politics, Jacqueline Carey produced another textured and sophisticated novel that hits all the right buttons. As was the case in the first volume, the web of murder and political intrigue woven by the author is as impressive and unanticipated as the politicking of such masters as George R. R. Martin and Katherine Kurtz. Like its predecessor, Kushiel's Chosen is almost impossible to put down.

Jacqueline Carey writes with an elegance that reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay. I'm a plot guy, always have been and always will be, and I seldom praise a writer's prose. And yet, Carey's prose is something else and it just might be the very best in the genre today. Even the darkest and more shocking scenes are written with a distinctive literary grace, making them even more powerful than they would be in the hands of a less gifted author. Her spellbinding prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty that never fails to fascinate. Moreover, à la Robin Hobb, Carey also possesses a subtle human touch which imbues certain sequences with even more emotional impact. Truth to tell, I don't believe that Jacqueline Carey ever received the credit she deserved for writing such incredible books.

Last year in my review of Kushiel's Dart, I mentioned that a woman who embraces her sexuality can be quite intimidating to men. Even more so, I reckoned, to male SFF geeks. I felt that Phèdre's disturbing (according to some, even in today's Western society) sexuality, what with it tinged with sadomasochism, most probably had something to do with the fact that the Kushiel trilogy was not held with such high esteem as some of the boys' club favorites like Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, etc. Truth to tell, as a younger man I's sure I wouldn't have ever gotten into Carey's books. I also believe that Phèdre's sexuality and the way sex is portrayed and used throughout these books likely have something to do with the fact that Carey's novels seldom make the cut when feminist SFF bloggers/reviewers suggest books and series written by female SFF authors to read. Be that as it may, in order to understand and appreciate Phèdre's psyche and motivations, I still believe one must be part of a more mature audience. But not just because of the sex and other R-rated elements. As a matter of fact, I feel that it would be too easy to simply focus on the sexuality which permeates every aspect of these novels. Yes, sexuality lies at the heart of these books, no question. But there is much more than that. These stories are filled with nuances and nothing is ever black or white. Kushiel's Chosen is another remarkable and intricately plotted story featuring an unforgettable cast of characters that will leave no reader indifferent.

The book features the first person narrative of Phèdre nó Delaunay, a deeply flawed character. Still, her strengths and weaknesses make her genuine and her perspective, that of an older Phèdre relating the story of her past, misleads readers on numerous occasions by playing with their expectations. Once again, the supporting cast is comprised of a variety of three-dimensional men and women. Many of them, in their own way, through their interactions with Phèdre, add even more layers to an already multilayered plot. Several characters from Kushiel's Dart return in this sequel, but there are also quite a few new faces that will help or hinder Phèdre along the way. And even though it is Phèdre's POV which gives the book its unique flavor, this one would never have been such a satisfying read without the presence of such characters as Melisande Shahrizai, Joscelin Verreuil, Queen Ysandre, Phèdre's Boys, the pirate lord Kazan Atrabiades, and many more. And thankfully, once more, à la Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, and L. E. Modessit, jr., Carey doesn't follow the path of least resistance and her characters remain true to themselves. For good or ill.

In terms of rhythm, I feel that Carey paced this work perfectly. Kushiel's Chosen is another doorstopper of a book, yet it's a real page-turner. The author has a knack for coming up with plot twists that suck you in and won't let go, forcing you to read just another chapter. Which then forces you to read another one and another one, and so on and so forth. Doubtless, like its predecessor, Kushiel's Chosen makes for compulsive reading! Simply put, Kushiel's Chosen is another sophisticated and convoluted read full of wonder and sensuality. Written on an epic scale and with an elegance seldom seen in this subgenre, Jacqueline Carey did it again, proving that Kushiel's Dart was no fluke. Edgy and sexy, true. Yet it's also as complex, satisfying, and rewarding as any of the best works of fantasy, past or present, have to offer.

Hard to put down and highly recommended. Which means that you should drop whatever you are reading now and get your hands on both Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen ASAP if you haven't read them yet!

The final verdict: 9/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can once again download Mark T. Barnes' The Garden of Stones for 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When the Shrīanese Empire explodes into civil war, fighters of all kinds flock to the banners of their lords. Indris, a skilled swordsman and brilliant sorcerer, seeks to end the bloodshed once and for all. He knows this war is simply a ruse—a power play by a ruling Family desperate to take control of the Empire by any means necessary. Indris cares little for the politics except to see that justice is upheld. But even he can't see the terrible price his opponents are willing to pay to secure their legacy.

A true epic, the first book in the Echoes of Empire series creates a spellbinding new world. With its twisted politics, new races, compelling heroes and villains, and unique magic, The Garden of Stones is a lyrical fantasy on the grandest scale.

And you can also get your hands on the sequel, The Obsidian Heart, for the same price here, as well as the third volume, The Pillars of Sand, here.

Musical Interlude

Awesome track! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

I don't know for how long, but all the Mongoliad installments are now on sale! You can download the first volume for only 1.99$ here. You can also get your hands on the second installment for the same price here, and the same goes for the third volume here. And I just realized that you can get volume 4, Katabasis, and a volume 5, Siege Perilous, for 1.99$ each as well.

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

With bonus material! This Kindle edition features extra content only found in the Collector’s Edition of The Mongoliad: Book One, including an illustrated character glossary, a Foreworld map, and Sinner, a prequel to the Mongoliad series.

The first novel to be released in The Foreworld Saga, The Mongoliad: Book One, is an epic-within-an-epic, taking place in 13th century. In it, a small band of warriors and mystics raise their swords to save Europe from a bloodthirsty Mongol invasion. Inspired by their leader (an elder of an order of warrior monks), they embark on a perilous journey and uncover the history of hidden knowledge and conflict among powerful secret societies that had been shaping world events for millennia.

But the saga reaches the modern world via a circuitous route. In the late 19th century, Sir Richard F. Burton, an expert on exotic languages and historical swordsmanship, is approached by a mysterious group of English martial arts aficionados about translating a collection of long-lost manuscripts. Burton dies before his work is finished, and his efforts were thought lost until recently rediscovered by a team of amateur archaeologists in the ruins of a mansion in Trieste, Italy. From this collection of arcana, the incredible tale of The Mongoliad was recreated.

Full of high adventure, unforgettable characters, and unflinching battle scenes, The Mongoliad ignites a dangerous quest where willpower and blades are tested and the scope of world-building is redefined.

A note on this edition: The Mongoliad began as a social media experiment, combining serial story-telling with a unique level of interaction between authors and audience during the creative process. Since its original iteration, The Mongoliad has been restructured, edited, and rewritten under the supervision of its authors to create a more cohesive reading experience and will be published as a trilogy of novels. This edition is the definitive edition and is the authors' preferred text.

Chuck Wendig contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive a copy of Chuck Wendig's Zer0es, courtesy of the fine folks at HarperCollins. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Josh Atkins, from Westbrook, Maine, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 14th)

In hardcover:

Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath debuts at number 4.

R.A. Salvatore's Archmage debuts at number 17.

Christopher Moore’s Secondhand Souls is down eleven positions, ending the week at number 18.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is down three spots, finishing the week at number 7.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is down three spots, finishing the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is down two positions, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

Seanan McGuire's A Red-Rose Chain debuts at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Unnatural Creatures is a collection of short stories about the fantastical things that exist only in our minds—collected and introduced by beloved New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman.

The sixteen stories gathered by Gaiman, winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, range from the whimsical to the terrifying. The magical creatures range from werewolves to sunbirds to beings never before classified. E. Nesbit, Diana Wynne Jones, Gahan Wilson, and other literary luminaries contribute to the anthology.

Sales of Unnatural Creatures benefit 826DC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students in their creative and expository writing, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

Win a copy of C. A. Higgins' LIGHTLESS

I have three copies of C. A. Higgins' Lightless for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Del Rey. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

With deeply moving human drama, nail-biting suspense—and bold speculation informed by a degree in physics—C. A. Higgins spins a riveting science fiction debut guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Long before A Game of Thrones became an international phenomenon, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin had taken his loyal readers across the cosmos. Now back in print after almost ten years, Tuf Voyaging is the story of quirky and endearing Haviland Tuf, an unlikely hero just trying to do right by the galaxy, one planet at a time.

Haviland Tuf is an honest space-trader who likes cats. So how is it that, in competition with the worst villains the universe has to offer, he’s become the proud owner of a seedship, the last remnant of Earth’s legendary Ecological Engineering Corps? Never mind; just be thankful that the most powerful weapon in human space is in good hands—hands which now have the godlike ability to control the genetic material of thousands of outlandish creatures.

Armed with this unique equipment, Tuf is set to tackle the problems that human settlers have created in colonizing far-flung worlds: hosts of hostile monsters, a population hooked on procreation, a dictator who unleashes plagues to get his own way . . . and in every case, the only thing that stands between the colonists and disaster is Tuf’s ingenuity—and his reputation as a man of integrity in a universe of rogues.

You can also download Alien Contact, a science fiction anthology edited by Marty Halpern and featuring short fiction by renowned authors such as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, and many more for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


From War of the Worlds to Invasion of the Body Snatchers… From ET to Close Encounters of the Third Kind…creators of science fiction have always eagerly speculated on just how the story of alien contact would play out.

Editor Marty Halpern has gathered together some of the best stories of the last 30 years, by today’s most exciting genre writers, weaving a tapestry that covers a broad range of scenarios: from the insidious, to the violent, to the transcendent.

Fool's Quest

Although it was a slow-moving affair that ended with a major cliffhanger, I pretty much loved everything about Robin Hobb's Fool's Assassin, and I was really looking forward to finding out what would happen next. So it was with great pleasure that I sat down to read Fool's Quest when I returned from my trip to Chicago. One word of advice before we go any further into this review, however. If you haven't read The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles, you need to do so before you continue reading The Fitz and the Fool trilogy.

Indeed, the storylines from all these series "officially" merge at the end of Fool's Quest. As a result, to prevent the feeling of being left out of the loop and for the ending to make any sort of sense, one must have read Hobb's other series. Other than the Soldier Son trilogy, the author's other series occur in the same universe and have thus always been connected, with events from one having repercussions in the others. And yet, a ton of readers enjoyed The Tawny Man series without having read the Liveship Traders. But that is no longer the case, for the events featured in Fool's Quest are brought to a close in a way that appears to indicate that the final volume will be a tapestry woven of varied threads from all those book sequences. Hence, if you want the ending to make sense, I urge you to read The Liveship Traders and The Rain Wilds Chronicles.

Here's the blurb:

Ranking alongside George R. R. Martin as a groundbreaking master of fantasy, New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb delivers the second book in her long-awaited Fitz and the Fool trilogy.

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter.

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

I couldn't put into words just how special and wonderful it was to be reunited with Fitz and all the other old characters in Fool's Assassin. Having waited impatiently for that novel for over a decade, my expectations were extremely high. And yet, for all of my lofty expectations, Fool's Assassin delivered on all fronts. True, there were definite pacing issues throughout the book, but in my opinion Robin Hobb needed to lay a lot of groundwork for the sequels to come. And now that I've reached the end of Fool's Quest, it is evident that the first installment needed to be that vast slow-paced introduction, so the author could get the ball rolling and for the important scenes and the finale to have any sort of emotional impact, not only in Fool's Assassin but in the second volume as well.

Having said that, the pace remains an issue throughout the better part of this work. Probably not as bad in that regard as its predecessor, yet Fool's Quest is another extremely slow-moving tale. I understand that Hobb needed time to portray just how the Fool must heal and how Fitz, no longer a young assassin, must prepare himself for the journey to come. Still, I'm not sure that every single chapter was absolutely necessary, though they do indeed allow reader to follow by increments just how close they were and how close they will become once more. But there's no denying that the sometimes sluggish rhythm might put off some readers.

Mourning his daughter's disappearance, Flitz is afflicted by self-doubt. I really enjoyed how Hobb portrayed him as a heartbroken man who gradually climbs out of the pit of his self-pity and who'll plan his revenge. The same goes for the Fool. Blinded and vulnerable at first, as he heals the Fool will prove to be as crafty and driven as he used to be in the past. Many of their scenes are very emotional and add yet more layers to this convoluted story. Another character who gets more "airtime" is Chade. Like his former apprentice, he's no longer a young man, but having both Chade and Fitz working together brought back so many memories from the first trilogy. As a POV protagonist, Bee doesn't get as many chapters as in the first installment. Which is a bit of a shame, as her role as shaysim is fascinating and I can't wait to discover what the author has in store for her.

No other SFF author writing today possesses Hobb's deft human touch. She can make you laugh and cry at will, often in the same chapter. As I mentioned, there are some powerful scenes featuring Fitz and the Fool. But there are also emotionally charged ones between Fitz and Chade, Fitz and Kettricken, as well as Fitz and his daughter Nettle and her husband Riddle. Some of these scenes are big and far-reaching, while most are small and intimate, but no less important and/or gut-wrenching. Robin Hobb has become a master at this sort of thing and she pulls on readers' heartstrings whenever the mood strikes. Hence, for all that the pace may be slow at times, things are never dull and long-time fans likely won't mind at all.

Not a fan of major cliffhangers in general, I can't say I was pleased to see Fool's Quest end with another such finale. Don't get me wrong. The novel is brought to a close in such a way that I'll be foaming at the mouth and checking my mailbox several times a day as soon as word gets out that the ARCs of the third volume have been sent to reviewers. But I much preferred when Hobb's novels were a bit more self-contained and featured an ending that brought some sort of closure and resolution, however tentative they turned out to be. Still, "officially" merging the Farseer and the Elderlings storylines in such a fashion at the very end opens the door to a great many questions. Will the third installment tie up all the loose ends and pave the way for more adventures in the future? Or will the book somehow be the culmination of all five series? Whatever the case may be, I can't wait to find out!

Some reviewers claim that Fool's Quest is a return to form for various important characters like Fitz, Chade, and the Fool, and that it's also a return to form for Robin Hobb herself. I beg to differ. Other than the pace and the cliffhanger at the end, Fool's Assassin showcased pretty much everything that helped Hobb become a bestselling author. While this second volume does show a bit more character development as far as some fan-favorite protagonists are concerned, it simply builds on all the groundwork set up in its predecessor. And it sets the stage for what should be an unforgettable final installment.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of one of the earliest science fiction novels by rediscovering Jack Finney’s internationally acclaimed Invasion of the Body Snatchers—which Stephen King calls a story “to be read and savored for its own satisfactions,” now repackaged with a foreword by #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz.

On a quiet fall evening in the peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovers an insidious, horrifying plot. Subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms are taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, friends, family, the woman he loves, and the entire world as he knows it.

First published in 1955, this classic science fiction thriller about the ultimate alien invasion and the triumph of the human spirit over an invisible enemy has inspired multiple film adaptations and entertained readers for decades. This repackaged edition features a new cover by Hugo award–winning illustrator, John Picacio and a foreword by New York Times bestselling author, Dean Koontz.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 7th)

In hardcover:

Christopher Moore’s Secondhand Souls debuts at number 7.

Stephen King's Finders Keepers is down five positions, ending the week at number 19.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is up one position, ending the week at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one spot, finishing the week at number 4.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is up one spot, finishing the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven maintains its position at number 10 (trade paperback).

Extract from BOOKBURNERS, Episode 2

This from Serialbox.com:

Magic is real…and some books have teeth.

This September, urban fantasy is getting new blood with Bookburners, the first serial from Serial Box. Following a black-ops anti-magic squad backed by the Vatican, Bookburners is a 16-episode story, released weekly in digital and audio versions.

Magic is real, and hungry—trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. Her brother wasn't so lucky. Freshly awake to just what dangers are lurking, she joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad—but the demons she's hunting may be hunting her in turn.

Written by a team of authors including Margaret Dunlap (Eureka and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries), Mur Lafferty (The Shambling Guide to New York City) and Brian Francis Slattery (Lost Everything), the group is lead by rising genre star Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead and the Craft Sequence). Bookburners wanders from police procedural to New Weird, dabbling in most genres in between, and will keep you hungry for more, week after week.

While the series officially launches on September 16 the with the release of Episode 2, we have the first Episode up for all to enjoy on SerialBox.com.


Here's the blurb for episode 1, which you can read here.

NYPD Detective Sal Brooks is no rookie—but even the most hardened cop would think twice when they see their brother open a book and become…well…something entirely not their brother. When her attempts to solve the case cross paths with a mysterious team led by a priest, she starts to realize that the world is far more than what is seems, and, just maybe, magic is real—and hungry.


If you enjoy the excerpt, here's a teaser from the second episode:

If I could be anyone else now, he thought, anywhere else, I’d be happier.

His bedroom was at the end of the long hallway. He went in and sat at the desk at the window. He put the book in front of him on the desk and opened it. It was written in a language he didn’t recognize, with letters he’d never seen before. Were they even letters? Was it some kind of code? It was impossible to tell. He started leafing through the book, thinking there might be some diagrams or pictures, something to tell him what the book was about. There weren’t. It was just page after page of indecipherable characters.

Then, under his fingers, the book got even warmer. The ink on the pages wriggled. The lines moved, rearranged themselves into words Gabriel knew, sentences he understood. He was in the middle of a story, a vast one, full of characters and action, too much to comprehend at once, too compelling to ignore. He flipped back to the beginning of the book, the first chapter, and read the first sentence.

“Gabriel,” said a voice close by.

His mother was standing right behind him. She put her hand on his shoulder. His father stood on his other side, smiling, hands in his pockets.

“How are you here?” Gabriel said.

“Just keep reading,” his father said.

The walls of the room began to glow, as if they were made of paper and there was a warm light behind them. They wavered. A ripple passed through them. The floorboards heaved and settled, heaved and settled. Gabriel could hear more people behind him, friendly voices and laughter. He looked up at his father. His father wasn’t his father anymore. He was someone Gabriel didn’t recognize, but knew was a friend, a good friend. His mother had changed, too, into someone else, someone Gabriel felt he had known for years. They had traveled the world together.

He looked up, into the darkened window. It was a mirror now. It was a vertical pool of water, still and unbroken. It carried his reflection. And he could see that he was not himself.

He had changed into a younger man, tired after a long trip but satisfied with what he had done. No. He was an older woman, flooded with memories of decades spent with her partner, two women living on the edge of a knife. She wouldn’t take any of it back. Now he was an artist at the end of his life. He’d made a series of paintings that he already knew would outlast him. Two hundred years from now, they would fill people with awe. Now he was a girl, with all her life in front of her, nothing but possibility. She was surrounded by crowds, family, friends, people who would soon change her life.

The water on the wall became a waterfall, and it unfurled into a river that flowed between his feet. The walls gave way and the ceiling opened up. The floor broke apart into a rich soil. Trees shot from the ground, climbed into the night sky, and spread their limbs above Gabriel’s head until they covered the stars. Gabriel looked down at the book on the desk, the open page. The ink was moving faster and faster, words flashing by, sentences shooting across the paper like arrows. He knew it was all going more quickly than he could read, but somehow he understood it all. He was ecstatic, breathless. So carried away that he didn’t notice at first that his fingers had sunk into the book itself. His hands had melted into the paper, until it was impossible to say where he ended and the book began.


This second episode will be released on September 16th and you can pre-order it here.

Sample chapters from Kameron Hurley's EMPIRE ASCENDANT

The folks at tor.com have recently posted an extract from Kameron Hurley's Empire Ascendant. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Every two thousand years, the dark star Oma appears in the sky, bringing with it a tide of death and destruction. And those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers. The kingdom of Saiduan already lies in ruin, decimated by invaders from another world who share the faces of those they seek to destroy.

Now the nation of Dhai is under siege by the same force. Their only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a disease, one of their former allies takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat them, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the Empire’s undoing.

But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

In this devastating sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages and sentient plants, dark magic, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.

Follow this link to read the extract. . .

Musical Interlude

Hard to believe that without the success of this first track by Eazy-E with a dope beat by Dr. Dre and the subsequent success of rap groups like NWA and Public Enemy, chances are there would never have been Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye, Snoop Dogg, and all the others. . .

Crazy how one little thing like that can cause ripples and have so much musical influence down the line. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Teresa Frohock's Miserere for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina's soul, but Catarina doesn't want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen's hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven's frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina's wrath isn't so easy to escape!

Extract from Brandon Sanderson's SHADOWS OF SELF

The folks at tor.com just posted a new extract from Brandon Sanderson's upcoming Shadows of Self. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author returns to the world of Mistborn with his first novel in the series since The Alloy of Law.

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.

The trilogy's heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are "twinborn," meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn's society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts. This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial's progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they've been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

Follow this link to read the extract. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

This Labor Day weekend (not sure if it's a worldwide promotion), you can get the digital edition of Robert Jordan's The Complete Wheel of Time for only 44.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Wheel of Time®, Robert Jordan's internationally bestselling fantasy series, has captured the imaginations of millions of readers worldwide.

This ebook contains the full text of the fourteen books of The Wheel of Time, plus the prequel novel New Spring.

By Robert Jordan
The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven
Lord of Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Winter's Heart
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams

By Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The Gathering Storm
Towers of Midnight
A Memory of Light

Quote of the Day

There is no rock on which the mortal soul may founder but that contains some frail tendril of human kindness struggling to grow; this much I have found to be true.

- JACQUELINE CAREY, Kushiel's Chosen (Canada, USA, Europe)

About 450 pages into this one and it's almost as good as its predecessor, Kushiel's Dart.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Emma Jane Holloway's A Study in Silks for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London Society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

The digital edition of Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes is still available for only 2.99$ here. This is the opening volume of a series that's been a very pleasant surprise thus far!

Here's the blurb:

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Billions died, civilization fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland.

Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions protect a last few thousand survivors in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. Scarred and traumatized by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes fight the armies of ravenous ex-humans at their citadel’s gates, lead teams out to scavenge for supplies—and struggle to be the symbols of strength and hope the survivors so desperately need.

But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins. And just a few miles away, another group is slowly amassing power . . . led by an enemy with the most terrifying ability of all.

But even better, three of its sequels, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, and Ex-Purgatory, can be downloaded for only 1.99$ each!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 31st)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Finders Keepers returns at number 14.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is up one position, ending the week at number 1 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian debuts at number 3.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is down two spots, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven maintains its position at number 10 (trade paperback).

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Catherynne M. Valente's The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Every once in a great while a book comes along that reminds us of the magic spell that stories can cast over us–to dazzle, entertain, and enlighten. Welcome to the Arabian Nights for our time–a lush and fantastical epic guaranteed to spirit you away from the very first page.

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars–each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales–even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun…

Sample chapters from Jim Butcher's THE AERONAUT'S WINDLASS

Jim Butcher posted the prologue and the first chapter from his upcoming The Aeronaut's Windlass on his website.

Here's the blurb:

Jim Butcher, the no.1 Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors . . .

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the leaders of Albion – to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake . . .

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Thug Notes Summary & Analysis

Wow! Best summary of that novel I ever heard! :P

The Pale Criminal

Needing something different for my trip to Chicago, as a lover of history I decided to buy used copies of the first couple of Philip Kerr books and I brought them along for the ride. Having now read two of them, I was happy to realize that these historical murder mysteries were just what the doctor ordered. I went through the first two volumes of the Berlin Noir trilogy in no time, and I'm looking forward to discovering where the author will take his stories and characters next!

Here's the blurb:

Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a “brilliantly innovative thriller-writer,” Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries that are nothing short of spellbinding. In this second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, The Pale Criminal brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he’d seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin—until he turned freelance and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.

The Pale Criminal occurs two years following the events of March Violets, in 1938, as Germany prepares to invade Czechoslovakia. As was the case with the first installment, it's that historical backdrop that gives the book its unique flavor. Though on occasions he is forced to rely on info-dumps to convey lots of elements, the author once again did a fantastic job recreating that particular period. It sets the mood and captures the political and social tension perfectly. The creeping paranoia encompassing Berlin and the rest of the country is particularly well-done.

As I mentioned in my review of March Violets, Bernhard Gunther is a tough, wise-cracking, and cynical PI. In the tradition of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, he could be nothing else. At times, it felt as though the author was struggling a bit to find Bernie's voice. I'm glad to report that this is no longer the case in The Pale Criminal. Indeed, Kerr gives us a more well-defined protagonist, and the author appears in a full control this time around. One of the first volume's shortcomings will likely be present in every single Bernhard Gunther novel. Unfortunately, too often the narrative gets bogged down in Chandleresque similes that bring nothing to the story and are just distracting, or even groan-inducing. Again, I understand that, to a certain extent at least, these books are supposed to be some sort of homage to the classic hardboiled noir detective novels. But sometimes Philip Kerr pushes this a little too far and it cheapens the whole thing somewhat. The man can craft classic noir plots, full of complexity and tension, in a setting that sets his stories apart from his peers. Hence, I feel that Kerr could do without these similes and still shine.

As I said before, Bernie is a man of his time, made even harder by the demands of his profession and the fact that he was cast out of the police force because he doesn't support Hitler's regime. The man is not always the most likeable of fellows. And yet, he remains the perfect protagonist to solve the cases on which he investigates, and you can't help but to root for the guy:

"I'm no knight in shining armour. Just a weather-beaten man in a crumpled overcoat on a street corner with only a grey idea of something you might as well go ahead and call Morality. Sure, I'm none too scrupulous about the things that might benefit my pocket, and I could no more inspire a bunch of young thugs to do good works than I could stand up and sing a solo in the church choir. But of one thing I was sure. I was through looking at my fingernails when there were thieves in the store."

The murders are much more gruesome and graphic in The Pale Criminal. I liked the fact that Kerr elected to explore the themes of homosexuality and occultism in Nazi Germany, which added yet more layers to an already convoluted tale. The plot is more chilling than in the first volume, as young Aryan teenage girls are abducted and made to look as though they have suffered Jewish ritualistic murders. Philip Kerr pushes the envelope further and with aplomb brings this one to a satisfying ending that makes you beg for more Bernhard Gunther cases.

Once more, the complex plot focusing on terrifying murders and theft will take the private investigator through every level of German society, from high-ranking and influential Nazi officials such as Himmler, to gang members and prisoners. And as was the case in March Violets, the more Bernie digs, the more he uncovers dangerous political ramifications that could get him killed. The pace remains crisp throughout and in true noir detective novel tradition, The Pale Criminal is a real page-turner that keeps you going, chapter after chapter, unable to stop yourself.

The Pale Criminal is another compelling blend of historical fiction and hardboiled murder mystery, better and more ambitious than its predecessor. Philip Kerr's Bernhard Gunther remains a flawed but endearing protagonist who tells a gripping and elaborate tale of murder.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe. You can also get this one as part of the Berlin Noir omnibus, which contains Kerr's first three Bernhard Gunther novels: Canada, USA, Europe.