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

In hardcover:

Michael Chabon’s Moonglow is up one position, ending the week at number 13.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up four spots, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is up five positions, ending the week at number 9.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! =)

The Forgetting Moon


I was intrigued by Brian Lee Durfee's The Forgetting Moon as soon as I read the cover blurb. And when I got in touch with Joe Monti, the Editorial Director at Saga Press, he said that the book was a direct heir to the great Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, Katherine Kurtz, and late 90s-style that's evident in Kate Elliott, Brent Weeks, Brian Staveley, and few others these days. As was the case with The Dragonbone Chair, Monti claims that Durfee is playing with all the tropes, and it's fun to see how he plays it out. After reading that email, how could I not give this fantasy debut a shot?

Weighing in at nearly 800 pages, The Forgetting Moon is a huge novel. And it does feature a very interesting and compelling story. Trouble is, that tale is buried under such an enormous amount of superfluous and often pointless material that it makes sifting through it all quite off-putting at times. In my humble opinion, getting rid of all that overburdening excess would shave off between 250 and 300 pages and would make for a better balanced and more enjoyable reading experience. It would allow all the nice and captivating elements of the story to truly shine and elevate this work to another level. Unfortunately, as things stand, you have to dig through too many extraneous scenes, conversations, and other redundant or nonessential sequences to get to the good stuff. And I'm not sure that most readers will be willing to go through this often arduous process.

Here's the blurb:

A massive army on the brink of conquest looms large in a world where prophecies are lies, magic is believed in but never seen, and hope is where you least expect to find it.

Welcome to the Five Isles, where war has come in the name of the invading army of Sør Sevier, a merciless host driven by the prophetic fervor of the Angel Prince, Aeros, toward the last unconquered kingdom of Gul Kana. Yet Gault, one of the elite Knights Archaic of Sør Sevier, is growing disillusioned by the crusade he is at the vanguard of just as it embarks on his Lord Aeros’ greatest triumph.

While the eldest son of the fallen king of Gul Kana now reigns in ever increasing paranoid isolationism, his two sisters seek their own paths. Jondralyn, the older sister, renowned for her beauty, only desires to prove her worth as a warrior, while Tala, the younger sister, has uncovered a secret that may not only destroy her family but the entire kingdom. Then there's Hawkwood, the assassin sent to kill Jondralyn who has instead fallen in love with her and trains her in his deadly art. All are led further into dangerous conspiracies within the court.

And hidden at the edge of Gul Kana is Nail, the orphan taken by the enigmatic Shawcroft to the remote whaling village of Gallows Haven, a young man who may hold the link to the salvation of the entire Five Isles.

You may think you know this story, but everyone is not who they seem, nor do they fit the roles you expect. Durfee has created an epic fantasy full of hope in a world based on lies.

As an artist, Brian Lee Durfee has an uncanny eye for detail. His descriptive prose paints a vivid picture which creates a vibrant imagery that literally leaps off the page. That would be a great asset, if only it wasn't done in such an over-the-top manner. Indeed, as far as descriptions are concerned, it appears that the author is trying to give Tolkien a run for his money. I kid you not. It's that hardcore throughout The Forgetting Moon. À la Robert Jordan, Durfee describes in minute details every single facial and physical feature of every single man and woman appearing in any given scene, as well as every last stich of embroidery on every single dress or gown. Sometimes, less is more. In order not to bury readers under a ton of extraneous details, Durfee needs to find the appropriate balance between providing that evocative imagery which allows readers to live vicariously through the prose and the extreme minutia that bogs down the narrative and serves little purpose in the greater scheme of things.

I've read in an interview that Durfee would like to make every installment in this series 55 chapters long. This, I believe, would be a mistake. A book needs to be as long as necessary to convey its tale in full to readers. Some will be incredibly long, like Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson and A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin, while others will be decidedly short, like Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Padding a story with unneeded and disposable material will only result in a bloated and overwritten work concealing instead of revealing everything that's good about its characters and its storylines. Hence, I feel that a trimmed down version of about 500 pages or so would have worked much better and ultimately would have made Durfee's The Forgetting Moon the SFF debut of 2016. Alas, it was not to be. . .

In style and tone, the author also needs to decide what he wants his The Five Warrior Angels series to be. Although he's striving to write a throwback epic fantasy, an homage that recaptures everything that made Jordan's The Wheel of Time, Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and other bestselling series such memorable reads back in the day, too often The Forgetting Moon reads like a YA novel. I understand that the majority of the protagonists whose points of view we follow are adolescents. And yet, the same can be said of Martin's A Game of Thrones, in which most of Starks are even younger than Durfee's characters, and that book never reads like something not meant for an adult audience. Other readers and reviewers have mentioned how dark and violent this debut can be. It is that, no doubt about it. But it features none of the nuances and gray areas and moral ambiguity that have made works by R. Scott Bakker, Joe Abercrombie, and Mark Lawrence such unforgettable reads. In many ways, the graphic violence and gore found in The Forgetting Moon reminded me of those found within the pages of Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains. Beyond the shock value they provide, it was more or less gratuitous and purposeless. This is especially obvious with everything that has to do with the Angel Prince's entourage. They are so evil, badass, and cruel that it turns them into little more than exaggerated caricatures. The shades of gray that are hallmarks of all great grimdark novels/series are peculiarly absent. Everything is either black or white.

The worldbuilding is top notch. A lot of work went into the creation of this universe and it definitely shows in the history of the various lands, the different societies, their religions, etc. Brian Lee Durfee has created a richly detailed and fascinating world, one that truly comes alive through his descriptive narrative (even if it's almost always overdone). Fantasy tropes abound throughout, what with the orphaned village boy, old prophecy, quest for magical weapons, dark-cloaked assassins, the return of an ancient god, yada yada yada. And yet, though we were promised otherwise, none of these tropes were used to twist readers' expectations in unanticipated and interesting ways. At least not in this book. I reckon it may occur in subsequent volumes, but there is nothing in The Forgetting Moon that subverts those clichés. Which, as I was told to expect the unexpected, was a disappointment. Also, the presence of elves and orcs just bearing different names was a bit lackluster, especially given the care with which Durfee created everything else. I have a feeling that perhaps the author was a bit too ambitious with this project, or at least with this debut. He strove to produce something truly epic, something that echoed with depth, something quite vast in scope. But he might not have reached the stage in his writing career where he can write a novel/series that can do justice to what he envisioned. Time will tell if Durfee can up his game and bring The Blackest Heart, the second installment, and the other forthcoming sequels to the next level.

The characterization is definitely the aspect that leaves the most to be desired. Although The Forgetting Moon is meant to be a blend of epic fantasy and grimdark, the perspectives of Nail, Tala, Jondralyn, and Ava Shay all read like YA material. Which is a problem, for as far as style and tone are concerned, this sort of narrative is a world away from what epic fantasy and grimdark works ought to be. Tala's POV, especially, makes little sense. That quest to save her friend was often ridiculous. Only the tormented perspective of Gault Aulbrek reads like something aimed at an adult audience, but it only serves to accentuate the stylistic discordance between the various POVs. Another thing that might not sit well with some readers would have to be the decidedly out of place and awkward sexualized descriptions of girls/women, even though most of the viewpoint characters are female. And given the treatment authors such as Bakker and Lawrence received at the hands of the SFF feminist clique, I have a feeling that Durfee might well be crucified if they ever read his debut. The supporting cast is comprised of a number of equally uninspired and engaging secondary characters. There are those who are simply over-the-top like Squireck Van Hester and Val-Draekin, while others have more substance like Shawcroft and Roguemoore. Due to the novel's bloated size, it takes a very long time for things to start to make sense and to get an inkling of the protagonists' importance and place in the greater scheme of things. Brian Lee Durfee does indeed have a few surprises up his sleeve, but at times I felt that it was a case of too little, too late.

Understandably, the pace is atrocious. With the narrative bogged down by an unending supply of superfluous scenes and details, it makes for a very slow-moving affair. I've always admired Guy Gavriel Kay for his ability to convery more in a sentence than most writers in a paragraph. More in a paragraph than most writers in a chapter, and more in a chapter than most writers in a full novel. Durfee is the polar opposite. He needs a paragraph to convey something that normally requires a sentence and a chapter for what could usually be conveyed in a paragraph or two. This prevents the book from ever gaining much momentum. Having said that, regardless of a rhythm that crawls forward at a snail's pace, there is always that little compelling nugget that keep you turning those pages. Buried deep underneath all that excess material, there is always a new revelation that demonstrates that there is an absorbing story at the heart of this book. Courageous readers will keep going, chapter after chapter, but boy does the author make you work for that progress. And therein lies this debut's biggest failings. Not every speculative fiction fan will be willing to work this hard to unearth these golden nuggets of storytelling.

Another complication is that there is no ending per se. Just a "to be continued" message with no resolution of any sort. This, in my opinion, is a huge gamble, both for the author and his publisher. You are basically asking readers, who just went through nearly 800 pages of a tale that offers absolutely no payoff at the end, to trust you and have them fork out their hard-earned money for the sequel. Most fantasy debuts, even when they are part of a planned trilogy or longer series, are more or less stand-alone in terms of structure. Even though they leave the door open for a lot more to come, there is usually a payoff at the end, as every debut author attempts to close the show with a bang that will reel in readers and force them to read whatever comes next. Using this episodic approach is extremely risky, methinks. Time will tell if this gamble will pay off in the end.

The Forgetting Moon could have been the fantasy debut of the year. No doubt about it. Sadly, the novel suffers from too many shortcomings that prevent it from achieving its full potential. We can only hope that Brian Lee Durfee can raise the bar and elevate his game without making the same mistakes in the second volume.

I'm not going to say that Durfee might be the next Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, Tad Williams, or Steven Erikson. He's not. But given his black-and-white style and the scope of his vision, if he corrects the flaws that plagued his debut, he could definitely become the next Brandon Sanderson. And that's not a bad thing!

The final verdict: 6.75/10

You can read an extract from the book here.

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Don't know for how long, but you can get your hands on the digital edition of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart, which could well be the very best fantasy debut ever, for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

Quote of the Day

Women are a mystery.

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

Tad Williams' THE WITCHWOOD CROWN delayed

Everyone part of Tad Williams' mailing list received Tad and Deborah's "Happy New Year" email this afternoon, and there was some unexpected news:

We’ve just heard that publication of ‘The Witchwood Crown’ has been delayed two months to June. We’re not entirely clear on all the details. Partly it’s this: it’s a big book, the copy-editing was complex and took a gargantuan amount of time, and other aspects of the book’s production were affected too; and partly it’s because sales and marketing want more time to more effectively sell the book. We don’t know anything more than that at the moment, but will tweet or facebook when we do.

Two months is not that bad, but it still sucks. . . :/

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Two magicians shall appear in England.

The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me...

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

The Ruins of Ambrai

Like a multitude of fantasy readers of my generation, I was a big fan of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince and Dragon Star series back in the 90s. And when The Ruins of Ambrai, first volume in the Exiles trilogy, was published in 1994, I purchased the hardcover edition as soon as it came out. Did the same when its sequel, The Mageborn Traitor, was released. Daunted by the proliferation of big fantasy series on the market, like I did with several other SFF sequences, I elected not to read them until the entire trilogy was done. Which, in this case at least, was a good thing. For as most of you know, the final installment, The Captal's Tower, has yet to see the light. But now that Rawn began working on the third volume last year, I've decided that it was high time to give this series a shot.

According to most of the author's fans, Exiles is by far Rawn's best work to date. Understandably, I had lofty expectations when I sat down to read The Ruins of Ambrai. Other than her latest high fantasy series, The Glass Thorns, published by Tor Books, I've read everything she has written. Hence, I know what she brings to the dance, so far be it from me to doubt anyone's claim that this trilogy is Melanie Rawn writing at the top of her game. But as I've said before, expectations have a way to come back and bite you in the ass, and this is exactly what happened to me with this one.

After a confusing beginning and an uninspired few hundred pages, I had a feeling that this novel would be a complete disaster. I mean, nothing worked for me and this was by far the author's weakest book that I had ever read. I should have known better than to throw in the towel, for Rawn came through with a captivating engame and an interesting finale. Sadly, it wasn't enough to save the book. It's not a total loss, mind you, and I do want to read the subsequent volumes to discover what happens next. But even though it got better toward the end, The Ruins of Ambrai suffers from too many shortcomings to be a satisfying reading experience in its own right. Given how much love this series has been getting over the years, one has to wonder if The Mageborn Traitor raises the bar to another level, for the first installment cannot possibly warrant that much appreciation. Only time will tell. . .

Here's the blurb:

A thousand years ago, Mageborns fled prejudice and persecution to colonize the planet Lenfell—pristine, untouched, a perfect refuge for those whose powers were perceived as a threat by people not gifted with magic. But the greater the magic, the greater the peril—and Lenfell was soon devastated by a war between rival Mageborn factions that polluted land, sea, and air with Wild Magic and unleashed the hideous specters known as Wraithenbeasts.

Generations after that terrible war, with the land recovered from crippling wounds and the people no longer threatened by genetic damage, Mageborns still practice their craft—but under strict constraints. Yet so long as the rivalry between the Mage Guardians and the Lords of Malerris continues, the threat of another war is ever-present. And someone has been planning just such a war for many long years, the final strike in a generations-old bid for total power…

Worldbuilding is a facet in which Melanie Rawn usually shines and to a certain extent that's the case with this novel. She created an intriguing matriarchal society and is in complete control of the genealogy and the convoluted history of her universe. Problem is, the presentation of everything leaves a lot to be desired. As far as the setting is concerned, the world and its people truly come alive through the author's vivid narrative. But most of the information is conveyed to the reader through some massive info-dumps that really bog down the narrative. Too often the reader is subjected to a barrage of names/family trees/family connections/history. This is as confusing as it is overwhelming, and makes it quite difficult to keep track of everyone's loyalty and where they fit in the greater scheme of things. Interestingly enough, I didn't have any problem with the over-the-top matriarchal society and its ramifications until I got to the Selective Index at the end of the novel. When I learned the planet was colonized during what is referred to as the Second Great Migration by thousands of mainly Catholic settlers following a 7-year intergalatic voyage, things immediately went downhill. Since Rawn doesn't elaborate on any detail that could have explained the shift from a more patriarchal to a decidedly hardcore matriarchal society, all of a sudden one of the underpining elements of the series' backdrop lost most of its credibility and didn't make any sense anymore.

The political intrigue at the heart of the tale is also a bucket that doesn't always hold much water. True, there are many unexpected political twists and turns, but the inherent details suffer from just a little bit of analysis. Ambrai, for example, appears to have been one of the world's largest economic and cultural centers. And yet, when the city gets destroyed gratuitously, the majority of its citizens murdered like vermin, an act of utter cruelty and violence, the council doesn't seem to mind much. For all that one of the greatest cities that world has ever known has been devastated with extreme prejudice, it's pretty much business as usual afterward. Even an incredibly ineffectual organisation like the UN would have, pointless as the exercise would have been, vehemently criticized and condemned in no uncertain terms such a barbarous act. The same thing occurs following the apparent destruction of the Lords of Malerris. In addition, the political system as a whole doesn't always make much sense. Early on, we learn that a democracy governs the various provinces. Be that as it may, it is evident that Anniyas rules over the council with an iron fist in what is essentially a dictatorship. And yet, when the time comes for a meaningless motion to be accepted, an extremely tight vote is necessary to see it go through. I understand what the bad guys are attempting to accomplish, but it's just that the politicking involved is at times quite gauche in its execution. And the much-anticipated revolution, when it finally comes, occurs "off screen." As a result, unless you can overlook such weaknesses in the backdrop of this tale, the overall plot finds itself on very thin ice throughout the entire book.

Moreover, having what could be one of the most pivotal plot points of the story rely on the decryption of an old nursery rhyme did stretch the bounds of credulity past their breaking point. Melanie Rawn is not usually a writer that takes cheap shortcuts, so it was disappointing to see the good guys puzzle out this secret so easily.

If there is one specific aspect Rawn habitually excels at, it would have to be characterization. She has a knack for creating endearing characters and her works are usually filled with memorable protagonists. The Ruins of Ambrai does indeed feature a few, but there are also too many characters that don't remain true to themselves and act in ways that goes against everything we've been told about them. I liked the idea of having three sisters seperated and warded so they can't remember each other and I was looking for some kind of balance between the different perspectives. That didn't quite happen and this lack of balance influenced the plot in a negative way. There is too much of Sarra, period. And a good portion of the scenes she appears in are ultimately unnecessary and could have been replaced by a brief summary of her comings and goings. All that traveling across the world to retrieve Mage Guardians turned out to be extraneous for the most part and did little but bloat an already too large pagecount. Regarding Sarra, I'm still trying to understand why anyone in the Rising would defer to a petulant, annoying, and often clueless adolescent girl. Sarra and her sister Glenin are two sides of the same coin. The former is over-the-top good, in that she wants to end poverty, inequalities, etc. Glenin, on the other hand, due to her upbringing is the polar opposite and is over-the-top evil and cruel. In the end, their being too much, one way or the other, makes it impossible to relate to either sister. Collan, the bard, was interesting at the start, but the inevitable love story with Sarra more or less killed whatever he had going for him. Which leaves young Cailet, by far the most compelling of the sisters. Her storylines offers the most fascinating surprises and I'm looking forward to discovering what Rawn has in store for her in the future. The supporting cast is made up of quite a few engaging men and women, chief among them Gorynel Desse, many of which die before the end of the novel. Melanie Rawn has never been afraid to kill off important characters, so it was nice to see her add a few to the bodycount in this one. I just wish Sarra would have been part of those dead bodies. I found her to be insufferable throughout and I'm aware that she's in for the long haul. So there's no helping that. . .

Having everyone warded and not remembering each other makes for some confusing storylines and it can be rough going through some sections. And once the wards finally come down, it defies comprehension how quickly everything comes together between Collan and Sarra and Cailet and their entourage. The final showdown, with the rebellion not even part of the narrative, is also a bit weird. Also, the aftermath of the Captal's battle with the man responsible for so many atrocities is never truly explained. I'm still not sure how or why everything happened the way it did.

In terms of pace, The Ruins of Ambrai is a slog for more than two-thirds of its length. The beginning introduces all four main protagonists before they are warded and is very slow-moving. The action takes place over the course of 25 years, and it is often confusing because at this juncture it is impossible to know how these different threads are connected. In the next few hundred pages, Sarra, Collan, and Cailet don't remember who they are, so again the reader is often left wondering what the heck is going on. Gorynel Desse appears to be the only one who knows and he's definitely not telling anyone. The last hundred pages or so see the rhythm pick up as we move toward the endgame. Things finally start to make sense and, even though a lot of storylines are rushed, the resolution of these elevates the plot to another level. Too bad all the info-dumps, the poor political intrigue, and the occasional clumsy execution prevented this book from achieving its full potential. In the long run, Rawn closes the show with style and aplomb with an ending that promises a lot of good things to come. It's just that you have to go through a lot of extraneous material to get to the good stuff.

Now that all of the groundwork has been laid out, I'm hoping that Melanie Rawn can return to form and that The Mageborn Traitor will be everything it can be. Unfortunately, although it gets much better at the end, all those aforementioned shortcomings make The Ruins of Ambrai Rawn's weakest work to date.

Please note that both The Ruins of Ambrai and The Mageborn Traitor are currently not available in digital format. I asked the folks at Daw Books and they said that they wouldn't be made into ebooks until they had a manuscript for The Captal's Tower in hand.

The final verdict: 6/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

This deal is currently available in the UK only (and maybe elsewhere in Europe) and it's a good one!

Pretty much all of the digital editions of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn titles can be downloaded for £0.99 or £1.99. Also included in this promotion are The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. Find out more about this deal here.

Marc Turner's When the Heavens Fall and Dragon Hunters are also available for only £0.99 here.

There a lot of Joe Abercrombie books at £0.99 and Neil Gaiman's American Gods can also be downloaded for that low price! =)

Speculative fiction Top 10 of 2016

It's that time of year again! Here are my favorite reads among SFF works published in 2016. Simply click on the title of each novel to read its review. I finished Corey's Babylon's Ashes yesterday, so the review for that one is coming soon.

As always, this shortlist won't satisfy everyone out there. But it features what I consider to be this year's most compelling reads! =)

1- Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

2- The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien... and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.

3- The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

The much-anticipated third installment of R. Scott Bakker’s acclaimed series, The Aspect-Emperor.

Praised by fans and critics worldwide, R. Scott Bakker has become one of the most celebrated voices in fantasy literature. With The Great Ordeal, Bakker presents the long-anticipated third volume of The Aspect-Emperor, a series that stands with the finest in the genre for its grandiose scope, rich detail, and thrilling story.

As Fanim war-drums beat just outside the city, the Empress Anasurimbor Esmenet searches frantically throughout the palace for her missing son Kelmomas. Meanwhile and many miles away, Esmenet’s husband’s Great Ordeal continues its epic march further north. But in light of dwindling supplies, the Aspect-Emperor’s decision to allow his men to consume the flesh of fallen Sranc could have consequences even He couldn’t have foreseen. And, deep in Ishuäl, the wizard Achamian grapples with his fear that his unspeakably long journey might be ending in emptiness, no closer to the truth than when he set out.

The Aspect-Emperor series follows Bakker’s Prince of Nothing saga, returning to the same world twenty years later. The Great Ordeal follows The Judging Eye and The White-Luck Warrior, and delivers the first half of the conclusion to this epic story. Returning to Bakker’s richly imagined universe of myth, violence, and sorcery, The Aspect-Emperor continues to set the bar for the fantasy genre, reaching new heights of intricacy and meaning.

4- Javelin Rain by Myke Cole (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Javelin: A code denoting the loss of a national security asset with strategic impact.

Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions.

Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost…

Being a US Navy SEAL was Jim Schweitzer’s life right up until the day he was killed. Now, his escape from the government who raised him from the dead has been coded “Javelin Rain.” Schweitzer and his family are on the run from his former unit, the Gemini Cell, and while he may be immortal, his wife and son are not. Jim must use all of his strength to keep his family safe, while convincing his wife he’s still the same man she once loved. Only what his former allies have planned to bring him down could mean disaster not only for Jim and his family, but for the entire nation…

5- The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end it’s win or die.

6- Eagle in Exile by Alan Smale (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove, Alan Smale’s gripping alternate history series imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has survived long enough to invade North America in 1218. Now the stunning story carries hero Gaius Marcellinus deeper into the culture of an extraordinary people—whose humanity, bravery, love, and ingenuity forever change his life and destiny.

In A.D. 1218, Praetor Gaius Marcellinus is ordered to conquer North America and turning it into a Roman province. But outside the walls of the great city of Cahokia, his legion is destroyed outright; Marcellinus is the only one spared. In the months and years that follow, Marcellinus comes to see North America as his home and the Cahokians as his kin. He vows to defend these proud people from any threat, Roman or native.

After successfully repelling an invasion by the fearsome Iroqua tribes, Marcellinus realizes that a weak and fractured North America won’t stand a chance against the returning Roman army. Worse, rival factions from within threaten to tear Cahokia apart just when it needs to be most united and strong. Marcellinus is determined to save the civilization that has come to mean more to him than the empire he once served. But to survive the swords of Roma, he first must avert another Iroqua attack and bring Cahokia together. Only with the hearts and souls of a nation at his back can Marcellinus hope to know triumph.

7- Babylon's Ashes by James S. A. Corey (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

A revolution brewing for generations has begun in fire. It will end in blood.

The Free Navy - a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships - has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them.

James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network.

But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny, and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante's problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity.

8- Willful Child: Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new Science Fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous, and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space. 

The continuing adventures of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.'

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen series has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an Science Fiction novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

9- The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff, the first entry in a whimsical, fast-paced supernatural series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels—a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again.

22000 B.C. A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll get a big promotion.

And now it’s time . . . .

The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word.


2015. A thief named Coop—a specialist in purloining magic objects—steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him—and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of The Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him.

It’s a doomsday device. They think . . .

And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.

10- Dreamweaver by C. S. Friedman (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

When Jessica Drake learned that her DNA didn’t match that of her parents, she had no idea that investigating her true heritage would put her family’s lives in danger, and ultimately force her to cross into another world.

There, in an alternate Earth dominated by individuals with frightening mental powers called Gifts, Jessica learned of a curse within her blood, one so terrifying that all who possessed it were destroyed on sight. For she is a Dreamwalker, and the same dark Gift that allows her to enter the dreams of others will eventually destroy her mind and spread insanity to all around her.

Now the deadly wraiths known as reapers, created to hunt down the last Dreamwalkers, are starting to target her family. In order to destroy them she must seek out a mysterious shapeshifting tower where the secret of the reapers’ creation—and her own Dreamwalker heritage—can be found. Joining forces once more with the ex-Shadow Isaac and loremaster Sebastian, she travels to the Badlands, a region on the alternate Earth from which no traveler has ever returned.

But her efforts to unlock the secrets of the past will soon ignite the flames of an ancient war, as the deadand the undead gather to fight their final battle against the Dreamwalkers—with Jessica and Isaac on the front lines, and the fate of her entire homeworld at stake.

Cover art for R. Scott Bakker's THE UNHOLY CONSULT

How's that for an early Christmas present!?!

We now have the cover art for R. Scott Bakker's The Unholy Consult, which will be released in July 2017! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Chuck Wendig's Invasive for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Hannah Stander is a consultant for the FBI—a futurist who helps the Agency with cases that feature demonstrations of bleeding-edge technology. It’s her job to help them identify unforeseen threats: hackers, AIs, genetic modification, anything that in the wrong hands could harm the homeland.

Hannah is in an airport, waiting to board a flight home to see her family, when she receives a call from Agent Hollis Copper. “I’ve got a cabin full of over a thousand dead bodies,” he tells her. Whether those bodies are all human, he doesn’t say.

What Hannah finds is a horrifying murder that points to the impossible—someone weaponizing the natural world in a most unnatural way. Discovering who—and why—will take her on a terrifying chase from the Arizona deserts to the secret island laboratory of a billionaire inventor/philanthropist. Hannah knows there are a million ways the world can end, but she just might be facing one she could never have predicted—a new threat both ancient and cutting-edge that could wipe humanity off the earth.

Reading more SFF female authors: Final tally

Most of you probably recall that my original "Reading more female SFF authors" post created somewhat of a stir last winter. Thousands of hits, a massive load of Twitter crap, lots of comments here and elsewhere. Simply put, it was your regular minor SFF internet shitstorm. Nothing new. Nothing anyone hadn't seen before.

And though it wouldn't endear me to the SFF feminists and the PC police out there, in the end I made a decision to read at least ten speculative fiction novels written by women. Since I habitually read about 40 books a year, that would put my numbers at about 25% for 2016. I wasn't keeping track, yet I knew I was within reach of my objective when a fan emailed me to let me know that I had already reached my goal back in September.

With two more reviews in the pipeline which should see the light before the end of the year, that will bring my total to 44 books reviewed on the Hotlist. Fourteen of which were written by female authors. This adds up to 32% of my review output for 2016. Not bad.

Without necessarily meaning to, I also went for a good variety of subgenres and styles. Epic fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, magical realism, science fiction, even one YA novel. The final tally is as follows: Kate Elliott's Black Wolves, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Avatar, C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station, Nnedi Okorafor's The Book of Phoenix and Binti, Kelly Link's Get in Trouble, Naomi Novik's League of Dragons, Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark, Sarah Pinborough's The Language of Dying, Julie E. Czerneda's This Gulf of Time and Stars and The Gate to Future Pasts, N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, C. S. Friedman's Dreamweaver, and Melanie Rawn's The Ruins of Ambrai. Although they would like to, even the most rabid members of the PC police can't really find fault in the selection of authors I elected to go for in my desire to offer increased coverage of SFF books written by women. I mean, some are multiple award-winners, others are bestsellers. Some are both.

Problem is, although Carey's Kushiel's Avatar was by far the best novel I read this year (one of the very few titles to earn a perfect score), and although Okorafor's The Book of Phoenix, Pinborough's The Language of Dying, and C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station rank among the Top 10 speculative fiction books I've read in 2016, none of them were published this year. God knows it hasn't been a banner year for fantasy and science fiction, but as things stand the only 2016 title written by a female author to figure on my Top 10 of the year is Novik's League of Dragons. And it's barely hanging on at number 10. And now halfway through James S. A. Corey's Babylon's Ashes, unless things really go down the crapper before the end, I know that it will end up as one of my top reads of the year. Which would push the Novik out of my shortlist and make my Top 10 a male-only affair. . . :/

It's unfortunate, for only Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky was better than the Okorafor, the Pinborough, and the Cherryh. And it remains second to Carey's Kushiel's Avatar. Be that as it may, I know I'll get some flak from some people for this year's Top 10.

Which brings us to another point I made in that original post, the one about the sort of material I receive from publishers. Back in February, I posited that female speculative fiction authors often write in subgenres that don't appeal to me. Between July and December 2015, over 80% of the works by female authors I received were either paranormal romance novels (which I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole), steampunk novels (which I don't really care for), YA novels (my policy hasn't changed), or urban fantasy novels (which, for the most part, fail to catch my fancy). The numbers for 2016 are quite similar, adding up to about 75%. Someone told me that more than 40% of historical fantasy and epic fantasy novels are written by women. I have no reason to doubt this claim, but why then am I not receiving such works? It stands to reason that if I did, a higher percentage of the material I receive would get read and reviewed. So why the heck do I only get YA and paranormal romance novels, for the most part, books that immediately go into the boxes of stuff I donate to local library?

I have no idea.

Someone sent me a Reddit link a few months ago and that thread contained a number of posts by female SFF writers maintaining that blurbs and cover art for their novels were often misleading and were offputting to potential male readers. Again, I have no reason to doubt them. But given that the vast majority of SFF editors and marketing people are women, why would they do that? I no longer have that link, so I can't possibly quote anyone. But shouldn't this be something that these authors take up to the editors and have a woman-to-woman talk about it? I'm not 100% sure about this, but I seem to recall that Kate Elliott and Janny Wurts were part of that discussion. Neither of them are lightweights in the genre. I'd be interested to know what their editors would have to say about such claims. Sure, time was, keeping an author's gender ambiguous was considered a good strategy to get better sales. It happened with C. S. Friedman, C. J. Cherryh, and Robin Hobb. But in 2016, what with social media and the interaction one can have with readers/authors, does that rule still apply?

I mean, I never look at an author's gender before deciding whether or not to read a book. I read the blurb and then it's all a question of whether or not the premise speaks to me. If George R. R. Martin wrote a paranormal romance, I wouldn't read it. If R. Scott Bakker wrote a YA book, I wouldn't be interested in reading it. Guy Gavriel Kay published a poetry book a few years ago and it never crossed my mind to give it a shot. In the end, what could be construed as a bias against female SFF writers from lots of male readers/reviewers may be more of a case of stories that don't necessarily resonate with them. To be honest, a coming-of-age fantasy story about a young lesbian probably won't scratch the itch of a male teenager. But it could have more appeal with a female audience. And yet, if it's actually true that epic fantasy books written by female authors feature misleading blurbs that downplay the aspects that would appeal to epic fantasy readers and up the ante regarding the romance and sport urban fantasy-like covers that will scare away their intended audience, then maybe it's time for these writers to take the fight up to the powers that be. In the end, if some publishers are wilfully hurting their sales by shooting themselves in the foot, then maybe it's time for these authors and their agents to rattle a few cages higher up in the chain of command. Threads on Reddit might not be the way to go.

As for me, all I can do is to continue to offer increased coverage of SFF books written by women. For 2017, my objective is to try to read at least one such book every month. If my review output remains the same, that would put my numbers at 25% or more for the year. I'm really looking forward to Robin Hobb's eagerly anticipated Assassin's Fate. You can also expect reviews for Carey's Kushiel's Scion and C. J. Cherryh's Cyteen before long. I bought N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, so this one is coming as well. I was supposed to check out Kameron Hurley Worldbreaker books and Janny Wurts' The Wars of Light and Shadow this year, so I'll have to do that in the coming months. Given the multitude of SFF novels written by female authors I own, I'm spoiled for choice. Understandably, as I said last winter, this has more to do with my getting up-to-date with several female writers' series and will do little to help promote newly released material. But I do what I can. . . Let us hope that more 2017 speculative fiction titles will intrigue me enough to give them a shot, and perhaps they'll end up on my Top 10 twelve months from now.

Haters are going to hate. No matter what I do. No matter what I read.

But that's the way love goes. I can only hope that these authors will all benefit from the exposure a review from the Hotlist can bring.

Recluce Tales

Reading L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Recluce Tales, a new collection of short stories set in the Recluce universe, was a veritable trip back down memory lane for me. Looking back, I realized that other than Katherine Kurtz's Deryni sequence, the Recluce saga is the fantasy series I've been reading for the longest time. Indeed, I originally bought paperbacks of both The Magic of Recluce and The Towers of the Sunset circa 1992 or 1993. It doesn't make me any younger, that goes without saying. But it's also a testament to just how distinctive and remarkable this series remained for more than two decades.

Once The Death of Chaos was published, Modesitt maintained that no subsequent Recluce book would ever focus on future events. Hence, every new title took place at various periods in the past of the Recluce timeline, each one further fleshing out the already rich historical tapestry which forms the backdrop of this bestselling saga. In and of itself, Recluce Tales offers fans something quite special. Within the pages of a single book, readers are brought back in time and revisit various important eras that have shaped the universe over the course of about two millennia. Even better, two short stories even take us beyond the series' ending.

Here's the blurb:

For over a thousand years, Order and Chaos have molded the island of Recluce. The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world through eighteen books, L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s most expansive and bestselling fantasy series.

Recluce Tales: Stories from the World of Recluce collects seventeen new short stories and four popular reprints spanning the thousand-year history of Recluce. First-time readers will gain a glimpse of the fascinating world and its complex magic system, while longtime readers of the series will be treated to glimpses into the history of the world.

Modesitt's essay “Behind the ‘Magic’ of Recluce” gives insight into his thoughts on developing the magical system that rules the Island of Recluce and its surrounding lands, while “The Vice Marshal's Trial” takes the reader back to the first colonists on Recluce. Old favorites “Black Ordermage” and “The Stranger” stand side-by-side with thrilling new stories.

Recluce Tales is comprised of seventeen new short fiction pieces, three reprinted short stories (One of them first published in Speculative Horizons, a short anthology I edited for Subterranean Press a few years back), plus one essay elaborating on how the magical system and the series were born. The tales are presented in chronological order, which works perfectly. I must point out that this collection is not a good jumping point for new readers. For them, each story would be little more than vignettes and wouldn't make a whole lot of sense without context. This book is meant to be cherished by long-time fans who have always wanted more. Modesitt delivers on basically all fronts, filling in the blanks in the Recluce chronology with several pieces that will resonate with readers and add new layers to what has always been a complex saga.

Personally, I've always had a preference for the distant past of the Recluce universe. It's no surprise then that the short stories I enjoyed the most were those occurring many years prior to the events of The Magic of Recluce and The Death of Chaos. Modesitt immediately had me, hook, bait, and sinker, with the very first piece, "The Vice Marshal's Trials." It takes place prior to the founding of Cyador. "Madness?" occurs during the early history of Lydiar and "The Forest Girl" features Alyiakal before he became a legendary historical figure. "The Choice" elaborates on the history of the Emperor and his consort from Magi'i of Cyador and Scion of Cyador. "The Most Successful Merchant" is an unlikely love story that was unexpectedly interesting.

"Heritage" is one of the best pieces in this collection and recounts the destruction of Cyador through the eyes of the clairvoyant Empress Mairena. This one works as a prequel for Cyador's Heir and Heritage of Cyador. It was fun to reread "The Stanger" because I'm the one who edited it and first put it in print in 2010. It features a protagonist that disappeared before the end of Fall of Angels and explains how the expensive black wool came to be. "Songs past, Songs for those to come" features a well-known druid and how his machinations will have great repercussions in the years to come. "Sisters of Sarronnyn; Sisters of Westwind" is the very first Recluce short story Modesitt ever wrote and takes us back to the events chronicled in The Towers of the Sunset. Not only is it one of the best short fiction pieces in Recluce Tales, but it was an amazing treat to revisit Creslin and Megaera around the time of the birth of Recluce. These four stories are the most powerful found in this book and are worth the cover price on their own.

What comes next takes place closer and closer to the "present" of the Recluce timeline and doesn't pack the same kind of punch. "Artisan--Four Portraits and a Miniature" follows the life of an artist named Jyll, but it also features a younger Dorrin when he was known as the toymaker. This began as an odd one, but it ends on a strong note years after the founding of Nylan. In "Armsman's Odds," Asoryk and Daasn save a black mage from a trap set by a white mage. "Brass and Lacquer" also occurs in Nylan and is a tale of deception and its consequences. In "Ice and Fire," a young man uses order to help heal his aunt. "A Game of Capture" demonstrates how black engineers and order mages protect the secrets of the black ships. "The Assistant Envoy's Problem" felt kind of weird at the beginning, but it was nice to discover how Erdyl, Envoy of Austra in Brysta, managed to obtain trained guards to guard his residence without breaking the law.

"The Price of Perfect Order" is another quality tale in which black mages go to great lengths in order to protect their secerets and the price one must pay if they are caught stealing forbidden knowledge. It was great to find out more about Cassius' backstory and how he came to arrive in Recluce in "Black Ordermage." Not sure exactly how "Burning Duty" ended up in this collection. Stefanyk, one of the Prefect's guards, puts his career on the line by trying to salvage a magical chair meant to be burned. "Worth" provides answers to anyone who ever wondered what happened to Wrynn after The Magic of Recluce. And "Fame" closes the show and is a decidedly anticlimactic piece that takes place years following the events of The Death of Chaos. Yet it does show that fame is usually ephemeral.

As is habitually his wont, Modesitt came up with another intelligent, thoughtful, and entertaining read without unnecessary bells and whistles. Once again, Recluce Tales is adult fantasy by an author in perfect control of his craft and his universe. Like fine wine, L. E. Modesitt, jr. only gets better with time.

A must for all Recluce fans!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

Blade Runner 2049 trailer

Let us hope it's better than Star Wars: Rogue One. . . :/

Quote of the Day

History, Michio believed, was a long series of surprises that seemed inevitable in retrospect.

- JAMES S. A. COREY, Babylon's Ashes (Canada, USA, Europe)

This one is shaping up to be another great read!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Unbound, a fantasy anthology edited by Shawn Speakman, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Not bound, as a book. Free.

Like Unfettered before it, the contributing writers of Unbound were allowed to submit the tales they wished fans of genre to read—without the constraints of a shackling theme.

The result is magical. Twenty-three all-original stories are sure to captivate you—some will move you to tears while others will keep you turning the pages long into the night. The power of Unbound lies in its variety of tales and the voices behind them. If you are a fan of discovering new writers or reading the works of beloved authors, Unbound is for you.

Return to Landover with Terry Brooks. Go to trial with Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher. Enter the Citadel and become remade with Rachel Caine. Survive a plague with John Marco and his robot companion Echo. Be painted among the stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. These tales and the others that comprise the anthology are only bound by how enchanting and enthralling they are.

Here is the line-up:

- Small Kindnesses by Joe Abercrombie (Shev & Javre)
- An Unfortunate Influx of Filipians by Terry Brooks (Landover)
- Mr. Island by Kristen Britain
- Jury Duty by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files)
- Madwalls by Rachel Caine
- The Way Into Oblivion by Harry Connolly
- Uncharming by Delilah Dawson
- All In a Night’s Work by David Anthony Durham
- Son of Crimea by Jason M. Hough (Zero World)
- Dichotomy of Paradigms by Mary Robinette Kowal
- A Good Name by Mark Lawrence (Broken Empire)
- River and Echo by John Marco
- Seven Tongues by Tim Marquitz
- The Siege of Tilpur by Brian McClellan (Powder Mage)
- Fiber by Seanan McGuire
- Stories Are Gods by Peter Orullian (Vault of Heaven)
- Heart’s Desire by Kat Richardson
- The Hall of the Diamond Queen by Anthony Ryan (Raven's Shadow)
- The Dead’s Revenant by Shawn Speakman (Annwn Cycle)
- The Farmboy Prince by Brian Staveley
- The Game by Michael J. Sullivan
- The Ethical Heresy by Sam Sykes
- The Rat by Mazarkis Williams

Unbound is filled with spectacularly wonderful stories, each one as diverse as its creator.

You will be changed upon finishing it.

And that is the point.

Brandon Sanderson contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, this lucky winner will get his hands on a copy of Brandon Sanderson's Arcanum Unbounded! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Denis Robidoux, from Saint-Joseph-Du-Lac,Québec, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Shawn Speakman's SFF anthology Unfettered for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

You define life or it defines you.

In Shawn Speakman’s case, it was both.

Lacking health insurance and diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, Shawn quickly accrued a massive medical debt that he did not have the ability to pay. That’s when New York Times best-selling author Terry Brooks offered to donate a short story that Shawn could sell tohelp alleviate those bills—and suggested he ask the same of his other writer friends.

Unfettered is the result: an anthology built in order to relieve that debt, featuring short stories by some of the best fantasy writers in the genre.

Twenty-three tales comprise this incredible collection, and as the title suggests, the writers were free to contribute whatever they wished.

Here is the table of contents:

- Foreword by Patrick Rothfuss
- Introduction: On Becoming Unfettered
- Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks
- How Old Holly Came To Be by Patrick Rothfuss
- The Old Scale Game by Tad Williams
- Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn
- The Martyr of the Roses by Jacqueline Carey
- Mudboy by Peter V. Brett
- The Sound of Broken Absolutes by Peter Orullian
- The Coach with Big Teeth by R.A. Salvatore
- Keeper of Memory by Todd Lockwood
- Heaven in a Wild Flower by Blake Charlton
- Dogs by Daniel Abraham
- The Chapel Perilous by Kevin Hearne
- Select Mode by Mark Lawrence
- All the Girls Love Michael Stein by David Anthony Durham
- Strange Rain by Jennifer Bosworth
- Nocturne by Robert V.S. Redick
- Unbowed by Eldon Thompson
- In Favour with Their Stars by Naomi Novik
- River of Souls by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
- The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
- The Duel by Lev Grossman
- Walker and the Shade of Allanon by Terry Brooks
- The Unfettered Knight by Shawn Speakman

With the help of stalwart friends and these wonderful short stories, Shawn has taken the gravest of life’s hardships and created something magical. Unfettered is not only a fantastic anthology in its own right, but it’s a testament to the generosity found in the science fiction and fantasy community—proof that humanity can give beyond itself when the need arises.

After all, isn’t that the driving narrative in fantasy literature?

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

In hardcover:

Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis debuts at number 7.

Michael Chabon’s Moonglow is down three positions, ending the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life and Others is up two spots, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down seven positions, ending the week at number 10.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up two spots, finishing the week at number 11 (trade paperback).