More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Nnedi Okorafor's Binti for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive.

Downbelow Station

When bestselling and award-winning SFF author C.J. Cherryh was recently named the 32nd SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master, I knew I had to read and review something she had written. I own a few Cherryh titles, but they're in storage somewhere and I couldn't find them. Perusing various threads on message boards, I discovered that a majority of the author's fans consider Downbelow Station and Cyteen to be her best novels to date. And I would like to thank the nice folks at Daw Books for hooking me up with a copy of the former.

I elected to go for that one because, even though it's part of a series, the book reads like a stand-alone. In addition, Downbelow Station won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1982 and it was named one of the Top 50 science fiction novels of all time by Locus Magazine. My only concern was that it might not have aged well. Originally published in 1981, the book is now 35 years old. And unlike fantasy, older scifi titles often tend to lose a lot of their luster as time goes by.

Not so with Downbelow Station, I'm pleased to report. True, some of the technology is a bit obsolete. But it can stand on its own and give most recent space opera novels a run for their money. All in all, in terms of plot and characterization, it's an excellent read!

Here's the blurb:

Pell's Station, orbiting the alien world simply called Downbelow, had always managed to remain neutral in the ever escalating conflict between The Company, whose fleets from Earth had colonized space, and its increasingly independent and rebellious colony worlds. But Pell's location on the outer edge of Earth's defensive perimeter makes her the focal point in the titanic battle of colony worlds fighting for independence.

A legend among sci-fi readers, C. J. Cherryh‘s Union-Alliance novels, while separate and complete in themselves, are part of a much larger tapestry—a future history spanning 5,000 years of human civilization.

Here is the 20th anniversary edition of Downbelow Station, the book that won Cherryh a Hugo Award for Best novel in 1982. A blockbuster space opera of the rebellion between Earth and its far-flung colonies, it is a classic science fiction masterwork.

For years and years, space was explored by the Earth Company, a private corporation which became extremely wealthy and powerful. What is known as the Beyond began with space stations orbiting the stars nearest Earth. And those early stations were emotionally and politically dependent on the Earth Company. A number of star systems were found to lack planets suitable for colonization, so space stations were built in orbit instead, each of them a stepping-stone for further space exploration. Then, Pell's World was discovered to be habitable and Pell Station was built. This newly discovered planet altered the power balance of the Beyond forever, as Earth was no longer the anchor that kept this incredibly vast empire together. And Pell was just the first living planet. Then came Cyteen and others, and a new society grew in the farther reaches of space. Earth's importance continued to fade and the Earth Company's profits continued to diminish as the economic focus of space turned outward. When Earth began to lose control of its more distant stations and worlds, the Earth Company Fleet was sent to enforce its will in the Beyond. This led to a prolonged war with the breakaway Union, based at Cyteen. Caught between the two factions are the stationers and the merchanters who crew the freighters that maintain interstellar trade between planets and stations. And now, Pell Station suddenly becomes the last stronghold with ties to Earth as the rebel Union and the Earth Company Fleet battle to either gain control of it or destroy it.

The action takes place during the final days of the war, as Earth Company Captain Signy Mallory's warship, Norway, is leading a ragtag group of ships fleeing from Russell's and Mariner Stations toward Pell. Other convoys arrive from other stations destroyed or lost to Union forces, which leads to an enormous refugee crisis as the unending flood of unexpected refugees strains station resources to the breaking point. Although the book was published more than three decades ago, the main plot is decidedly actual, what with the Syrian refugee crisis making the news every other day for the last year or so. Downbelow Station is essentially a study of the psychological, social, financial, and logistic impacts caused by such an influx of unwanted refugees within the extremely limited confines of a space station and an inhospitable planet. This is a dense and intelligent novel, slow-moving at times, but never dull.

The characterization is interesting because it features a cast of protagonists who are at odds with each others. The Konstantins are one of the oldest families of Pell, a force since the creation of the station. Do-gooders to a fault and often naïve (think Justin Trudeau and his ilk), they will find themselves faced with numerous dilemmas as they try to to cope with the refugees and the Earth Fleet. Though you sometimes want to bitch-slap them for seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, Angelo, Damon (and his wife Elene), and Emilio are well-defined and three-dimensional characters. Their nemesis, also from a long-established family and eternal rivals of the Konstantins, is Jon Lukas. Against more or less everything the Konstantins stand for, he will stop at nothing to become Stationmaster. The Fleet's point of view is mostly expressed by Captain Signy Mallory, on her own and through her dealings with fellow Fleet officers, especially the brilliant commander Conrad Mazian. Joshua Talley, former Union man with no memory of who he is, is another interesting protagonist, especially when the truth about his identity is revealed. Vassily Kressich, though not an engaging character himself, as a refugee offers one of the most compelling POVs of the novel because he gives readers a glimpse of the crisis from the other side of the fence. Life in the Q, the Quarantine Zone, is getting worse as more refugees arrive on station and Cherryh did an unbelievable job depicting the desperation and the horrors everyone must face, especially once Pell is placed under martial law. The Hisa, furry creatures native of Pell, are a cute addition at the beginning, but their importance to the resolution of the plot becomes more obvious as the story progresses. Add to that Union agents and military officers, Earth Company representatives, and merchanters, and you have yourself an absorbing and diverse cast of men and women which allows readers to see events unfold through the eyes of a disparate bunch of protagonists.

As mentioned, Downbelow Station is not a fast-paced affair. Although there are a number of space battles, it's not an action-packed book. It's more of a cerebral read, as Pell Station must deal with the refugee influx and the fact that it has now become the prize in a war between the Earth Fleet and the Union. Political, social, commercial, and psychological issues are at the heart of this multilayered tale. And even though the plot can move slowly at times, the story is never dull. It may take some time for certain plotlines to start to make sense, but the reader is never lost.

If, like me, you'd like to discover why C. J. Cherryh was named the SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master of science fiction, Downbelow Station definitely is the book for you! And since many fans consider Cyteen to be even better, I now have to get my hands on that novel!

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

Quote of the Day

The need for vengeance feels like a hunger, but there is no sating it. Instead it consumes the man that feeds it. Vengeance is taking from the world. The only cure is to give.

- MARK LAWRENCE, Road Brothers (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Paul Cornell's Witches of Lychford for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Traveler, Cleric, Witch.

The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth -- that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she's going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies...

Extract from Jean Johnson’s DAWN OF THE FLAME SEA

Here's an extract from the soon-to-be-released Dawn of the Flame Sea by Jean Johnson, compliments of the folks at InterMix. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe. You can pre-order the ebook for 2.99$ or less by following those links.

Here's the blurb:

The first in a new fantasy series from the national bestselling author of the Sons of Destiny novels.

They call themselves the Fae Rii, or Fair Traders. Elfin-like beings capable of wielding sophisticated forms of magic, they travel between universes exploring new worlds and establishing settlements for their people to live peacefully among the locals.

The humans of the White Sands tribe, refugees fleeing from powerful enemies, see the Fae as potential invaders stealing their newfound natural resources. Jintaya, the leader of the Fae travelers, manages to forge an alliance, promising to trade skills and knowledge—magical and otherwise—to build a lasting community.

But the Circle Fire Tribe has no desire to share those rich valleys and ravines with the people they’ve hunted to near extinction—or the supposed deities they worship…


Year 0, Month 0, Day 0

The season of low summer

Energy shimmered into view, at first forming a single rippling, wavering line, then splitting and curving into an arch. It was pointed at the top somewhat like the pupil of a cat’s eye, though if the bottom was pointed as well, its point was lost under the uneven stone floor. It wasn’t the only source of light. Within moments, scudding balls of opalescent energy, like overgrown dust bunnies, soared in through the cavern walls. The energy balls struck the edge of the arch, brightening and strengthening it with each impact. Two, five, fifteen, then a trickle of a few more stragglers soared in to join the arch. Second later, it stabilized.

A dark-clad body dashed through that shimmering portal into the otherwise dark cavern. The man spun, skidding a little as his boot soles slipped on the gritty, uneven surface. One of the marks tattooed on his tanned face shimmered briefly with an odd, faint, brownish glow. He turned in a circle, sword in one hand, crystal-tipped shaft in the other, ready to stab or smash anything that threatened the glimmering archway.

Nothing attacked. The opalescent lights played over the mottled, spotted granite of the cavern walls and gleamed off the black hair of the only figure in the chamber. The sueded silk and black leather of his clothes absorbed most the light rather than reflected it, leaving him looking like nothing more than a head and a pair of weapon-wielding hands attached to a humanoid shadow.

Ban?” a feminine voice asked. It was projected through the crystalline hoop piercing the middle shell of his ear.

Something about the chamber, with its uneven folds and ragged exit, made him twist and peer all around for several extra seconds. The only sounds he could hear were his own heartbeat and breathing, the soft scrape of his boot soles on the gritty stone floor, and a faint hiss from the Veil. Scents were simple and plain: warm sandstone, dust, his own body, and a hint of moisture in the mostly still air.

Unable to spot what it was, he waited . . . waited . . . then shook his head slightly and spoke. “It appears to be clear. You may come through now.”

The rippling, opalescent Veil brightened, scintillating in streaks of light that pulled back to reveal a heavily wooded meadow. A cluster of men and women in that clearing moved toward the doorway in the Veil between worlds. Unlike Ban, all of them were golden haired and golden eyed, more lithe and lean than muscular, with ears that swept up to modest points rather than bearing the smooth curve of his own lobes.

One of the three men stepped through and lifted a crystal in his hand. Energy flared outward, bathing the chamber in an opalescent mist before sucking itself back inside. He frowned a little, tilted the faceted oval and studied the shifting colors captured within, then shrugged. “It seems to be safe to use Fae magic, though I’ll need to study this realm in depth. There are some oddities . . .”

When are there not?” The voice came from the tallest and most stately of the four women remaining on the other side. Her words echoed eerily, coming through both the Veilway and their communication earrings. “Can you be specific, Éfan?

“The portal stabilized much faster than anticipated, my lady,” Éfan stated, still pacing slowly about the cavern. “A positive sign, but still something to be cautious about. The local aether appears depleted of magic for the moment, but it does seem to be rebuilding in strength—it seeping out of the air, the stones, everything. And while I can sense a thin trickle of magical energies coming from Ban, joining the aether . . . I cannot sense any such emanations from any of us. Just the energies of our levitations.”

It is not enough to turn us back,” Jintaya decided. “We will continue establishing the pantean.”

Two of the four women on the other side stepped through; along with the men, they formed a four-person chain while the dark-haired Ban stood watch by the exit tunnel and the blond male with the crystal egg continued to frown softly at the device. It was not a chain of muscles and limbs, however; instead, each of the four merely lifted their hands, and the various boxes, bags, chests, and crates started floating across the archway. Goods moved from one universe to the other silently, almost effortlessly, though of course using magic instead of muscle would still cost each of them in some way.

The cavern selected for this transfer was fairly large, if uneven. The Veil had been pierced at one end, the exit tunnel at the other, with a dip and three terraces between the two. Bags and boxes, chests and bundles were floated through and settled to either side, sorted by color-coded ribbons and tags to differentiate between personal belongings and shared materials. This cave was at the bottom of a long chain of caverns and tunnels—around a dozen—leading up to the surface. It would make an excellent, defensible home base.

The last of the crates and barrels came through, and now furniture floated past. Everything they would need to set up an initial observation outpost would be sent through for their use. That included stores of food to last them long enough to either find edible things to cultivate and domesticate here on this world, or realize nothing was edible by their kind, in which case other plans would be made. The upper caverns would be claimed and occupied as rough living, working, and storage quarters, and eventually they would reshape the very rock of this place into something much more civilized. But that would take time.

With the Veil portal opened and stabilized, the light pouring from its magics was now equally steady. However, a hint of light off to the left of the archway flickered faintly, erratically. Narrowing his eyes, Ban watched it out of the corner of his eyes—and sprinted for the spot, sword stabbing into the narrow rift even as he reached it. A frantic yell from the other side of the crack stopped his thrust, but only so he could pull the blade out and peer inside. Flames flickered and wobbled, casting weird shadows, but it did allow him to see a man running away from the crack, up a twisting tunnel raggedly illuminated by the burning torch in his hand.

“Ban! What is it?” Éfan called out. Parren and Fali looked up briefly from their levitation efforts but had to keep working.

“A spy!” Unsure if that passage connected to the others, he wedged his hand into the narrow crack and flexed the muscles under one of the many tattoos painting his tanned hide. Between one breath and the next, he shrunk down, scrambled through, and re-enlarged himself as soon as he could. Ban flexed another tattoo to keep track of the twists and turns of the mazelike caves so he could find his way back, and gave chase.

The wand in Ban’s hand was brighter than the torch in the native’s, making his passage hard to see whenever the other man rounded a bend. The smell and sight of the torch’s soot lingering in the air; it and the thumping of native feet on the cavern stone kept the black-clad warrior on the fleeing man’s track. A spy who saw the Veilway was not allowed to speak of it to anyone else. That meant catch, or kill.

Jintaya will want him caught so that we can attempt to erase his memories, Ban thought, long legs catching up on the fleeing native slowly at best, thanks to the smaller man’s evident agility. Now how did he get in so close, on a path we could not see . . . ? Ah.

These caverns were indeed connected to the others, though the connecting point was so low, he had to drop onto his belly to slither through the low gap the other man used more readily in a rapid, scuttling crawl. Ban’s glowing wand remained steady, but the native’s crude pitch torch nearly guttered out from being scraped along the floor. It didn’t stop his flight, though. By the time Ban got through, the native was halfway across the sunlit cave. It was not a direct exit, but the next passage was broad and led out to a cave that was half-crevasse.

Finally free to run unimpeded by twists and turns in the granite face, Ban let his longer legs close the distance between him and his fleet-footed quarry. In the bright sunlight angling down from overhead, he could see the young man was about as heavily tanned as he was, with matted dark hair, some sort of primitive leather kilt wrapped around his hips, and very worn leather sandals strapped to his feet. One of those straps broke as he darted out of the crack they were following. He tripped, stumbled, then started yelling and waving his free arm, torch still held aloft. Sour sweat trailed in his wake, the scent of fear and an unwashed body, along with hints of pungent greenery and a drier kind of air than the caverns held.

Abruptly wary, Ban skidded to a stop at the edge of that opening. Beyond it lay the green-speckled, wind-and-water-carved ravine that the scrying spells of the others had scouted and checked. There should have been—and indeed were—a number of wild-growing bushes, trees, grasses, even a few flowers, and a half-dried, somewhat muddy pond suggesting that this area did flood from time to time, despite the palpable heat radiating off the rocky walls of the canyon.

There should not have been a good two hundred and more men, women, and children, ranging from babes in arms to graybeards. Most of whom looked thin, dusty, haggard from hard travel on little food and whom had apparently pulled sledges of primitive belongings, of leather goods and grass-woven baskets. Though the wind was shifting the air only a little bit, he could smell how desperately everyone needed a bath. There was water nearby for bathing, and he could see dampness on clothes and skin where some had slaked their thirst, but they must have only just arrived within less than an hour.

Just over one hour ago, when Jintaya herself had checked through the initial hair-thin opening of the Veil, the cave system and its immediate surroundings had been native free. Natives who now grabbed for their spears, their slings and primitive bows, and who pushed their children back out of harm’s way as they faced the black-clad stranger chasing one of their own out of the caves.

Ban, what is happening?” he heard Jintaya demand, even as the man he had chased, a middle-aged fellow with a good amount of stamina, started pointing his way and babbling in the local tongue.

“Jintaya . . . we have a problem,” he murmured, carefully lowering his sword so that it was not quite so threatening. The subtle blue tattoo marked around his eye, his ear, and all the way down to his throat twitched and itched a little, struggling to comprehend and translate their language.

Tell me you did not kill the spy, Ban,” she stated reprovingly.

“No, but I should have,” he replied quietly, counting numbers, gauging weapon skills, and debating just how much of a fight he might have on his hands. The pale blue tattoo marking him from right eye to ear to throat and linked permanently to his personal, alien magics, finished making sense of their language. Syllables, vowels, and consonants became sounds imbued with meaning. Words such as magic and great power and anima beings, whatever anima was, made him flinch. “He’s now telling about . . . two hundred twenty people what he has seen. Male and female, young and old. A tribe of some sort. They look like they have traveled far to get here and have only just arrived.”

Shae? Tash keleth!” she swore. He blinked a little, not used to hearing the great lady curse like that, but otherwise kept himself calm and ready . . . until he heard several more running up behind him. Twisting sideways so he could face both groups, he held out his curved blade in warning, the pale gold metal reflecting the light like a slice of the sun.

Five more men and two women, for a total of seven humans, appeared behind him. They carried torches and were wrapped in rough leather garments held on with crudely woven cords, stumbling to a stop in the ravine behind him. They eyed his weapon and unfamiliar, neatly tailored garments with wide, wary eyes. The crevasse was narrow enough; Ban could easily keep them blocked off from the rest of their tribe. He could hold off both groups, too, so long as he stayed in the narrow opening, unless the larger mass of natives decided to start slinging spears and shooting arrows at him all at once. That might make this trickier, if Jintaya doesn’t want me to kill.

“I need guidance, my lady,” he murmured, verbally prodding the woman on the other end of the crystal earrings linking the expedition members together. “Do I kill them, or not?”

She sighed heavily. “The damage is done. Do not harm them. Return to the pantean.”

Seven versus one, fully blocking his path, with an order not to harm any of them? Sighing roughly, he shifted his weight, rolled an ankle to activate another tattoo, and leaped at the wall on his right. Foot clinging for a brief, magic-assisted moment, Ban whirled and leaped higher, bounding back and forth across the gap of the narrow chasm. Each step angled him back, up, and over the heads of the gaping men and women, until he was free to drop to the ground and sprint back the way he had come without fear of being in range of an attack.

Avery Cates: The Iron Island

As I mentioned in my reviews of the previous short fiction pieces, in the original series Jeff Somers introduced us to Avery Cates, a not very likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Down on his luck most of the time and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the opening chapter of the very first volume. And it certainly continues to be the case in these short stories and novellas!

The Final Evolution appeared to bring the overall story arc to an end and no further misadventures seemed to be forthcoming for our favorite gunner. But now, everyone seems to be looking for Cates. Some to recruit him for God knows what, some to capture him.

The Iron Island and its prequel, The Pale, are novella-length installments chronicling the events which began in "The Shattered Gears" and "The Walled City." Jeff Somers had no idea that this tale would grow in the telling when he initially set out to write the first short story. Which is why he elected to self-publish them. As things stand, the author plans to group those two short stories and the four novellas (there are two more on the way) into a single novel when they have all been released. This book would act as the first volume in what Somers plans to be a new trilogy. Whether or not there is enough interest from Orbit (the imprint which published the original series) or other publishers will determine if this new series will be published the old-fashioned way, or if it will continue to be self-published. Time will tell, of course, but it appears that Somers has enough material for another compelling story featuring an endearing group of disparate misfits.

Here's the blurb:

The fourth episode of the exciting new Avery Cates adventure finds Avery en route to the mysterious Iron Island, where he will finally learn why he's on everybody's To Do List, and forge some surprising new alliances.

The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding continues to give the series its distinctive flavor. As was the case with its predecessor, though it boasts a bigger wordcount than the two short stories, being a piece of short fiction means that this aspect remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the tale itself. Now that the entire world order has collapsed, powerful individuals are manoeuvering to carve up small kingdoms and city-states for themselves. With most technology no longer working, psionics are gradually coming into power around the world. And one of the most powerful psionics alive appears to be searching for Cates. The setting is much different in this one, what with the bulk of the action taking place on a military platform in the Atlantic.

And since everything Cates touches has a tendency to turn to shit, the gunner always finds ways to find himself up to his neck into trouble. With former Stormers from the System trying to recruit him and what might be the strongest psionic left in the world attempting to capture him, it's evident that fate is not through with Avery Cates yet. And now that he's been captured and taken to the middle of the ocean, his options are incredibly limited.

As is Somers' wont, the first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for a fun reading experience. As I always say, Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor fool. He's in over his head yet again, but that's nothing new for Cates.

With the revelation that the SFF built a failsafe installation designed as a fallback base in case the war went badly, as a final repository of armament, equipment, ammunition, and data, it's obvious what the Stormers are after. Its location is classified, but it's a place where the remnant of the SFF could remake the world anew. And the last existing field reports all name Avery Cates as the final possessor of the details: The location, the access codes, the authorization sequence. At first, the gunner has no idea what they are talking about. And then he realizes why everyone is looking for him and why he needs to escape from the platform.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, or so the saying goes. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

As was the case with the other short stories and novella, you can download The Iron Island for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the book trailer:

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Academic Exercises, the first collection of short fiction from K. J. Parker, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Academic Exercises is the first collection of shorter work by master novelist K.J Parker, and it is a stunner. Weighing in at over 500 pages, this generous volume gathers together thirteen highly distinctive stories, essays, and novellas, including the recent World Fantasy Award-winner, “Let Maps to Others”. The result is a significant publishing event, a book that belongs on the shelf of every serious reader of imaginative fiction.

The collection opens with the World Fantasy Award-winning “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong,” a story of music and murder set against a complex mentor/pupil relationship, and closes with the superb novella “Blue and Gold,” which features what may be the most beguiling opening lines in recent memory. In between, Parker has assembled a treasure house of narrative pleasures. In “A Rich, Full Week,” an itinerant “wizard” undergoes a transformative encounter with a member of the “restless dead.” “Purple and Black,” the longest story in the book, is an epistolary tale about a man who inherits the most hazardous position imaginable: Emperor. “Amor Vincit Omnia” recounts a confrontation with a mass murderer who may have mastered an impossible form of magic.

Rounding out the volume—and enriching it enormously—are three fascinating and illuminating essays that bear direct relevance to Parker’s unique brand of fiction: “On Sieges,” “Cutting Edge Technology,” and “Rich Men’s Skins.”

Taken singly, each of these thirteen pieces is a lovingly crafted gem. Together, they constitute a major and enduring achievement. Rich, varied, and constantly absorbing, Academic Exercises is, without a doubt, the fantasy collection of the year.

Quote of the Day

Stomach rolling, I contemplated vomiting in the bag cinched over my head and the impact on my reputation that would cause.

- JEFF SOMERS, Avery Cates: The Iron Island

Win an autographed copy of Myke Cole's JAVELIN RAIN

Thanks to the generosity of the author, I have an autographed copy of Myke Cole's Javelin Rain up for grabs. Even better, Cole will personalize it for the winner! For more info about this title: 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…

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

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author's ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his "preferred text"—and including his special Neverwhere tale "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back"

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman's darkly hypnotic first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of a major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now Gaiman's preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these works and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he discovers a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed.

Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in the Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. The Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Door, a noblewoman whose family has been murdered, is on a quest to find the agent that slaughtered her family and thwart the destruction of this underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life, he must join the journey to save Door's world—and find a way to survive.

A hallucinatory fantasia of mystery, mythology, and terror that "draws equally from George Lucas, Monty Python, Doctor Who, and John Milton" (USA Today), Neverwhere is an "Alice in Wonderland with a punk edge" (Poppy Z. Brite), "that is both the stuff of dreams and nightmares" (San Diego Union-Tribune).

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

In hardcover:

Patricia Briggs’ Fire Touched debuts at number 2.

Anne Bishop’s Marked in Flesh debuts at number 15.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is up one position, ending the week at number 7.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down one spot, finishing the week at number 11 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Richard Kadrey's Butcher Bird for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Spyder Lee is a happy man who lives in San Francisco and owns a tattoo shop. One night an angry demon tries to bite his head off before he's saved by a stranger. The demon infected Spyder with something awful - the truth. He can suddenly see the world as it really is: full of angels and demons and monsters and monster-hunters. A world full of black magic and mysteries. These are the Dominions, parallel worlds full of wonder, beauty and horror. The Black Clerks, infinitely old and infinitely powerful beings whose job it is to keep the Dominions in balance, seem to have new interests and a whole new agenda. Dropped into the middle of a conflict between the Black Clerks and other forces he doesn't fully understand, Spyder finds himself looking for a magic book with the blind swordswoman who saved him. Their journey will take them from deserts to lush palaces, to underground caverns, to the heart of Hell itself.

Win a copy of Joe Hart's THE LAST GIRL

I have a copy of Joe Hart's The Last Girl for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Thomas and Mercer. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women.

Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population.

Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests…a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.

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

You can still download the digital edition of Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Sleight of hand…in another land.

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into this debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

Ian Cameron Esslemont contest winner!

Our winner will receive a copy of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Dancer's Lament, compliments of the folks at Transworld. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Michael Eybye, from Hinnerup, Denmark (Primateus on

Many thanks to all the participants!

Win a full set of C. J. Cherryh's The Foreigner saga

To help promote the release of C. J. Cherryh's Visitor (Canada, USA, Europe), the 17th installment in The Foreigner series, I have a full set of the saga up for grabs, courtesy of the cool folks at Daw Books! Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you! That's seventeen books for you to win! The prize pack includes:

- Foreigner (1994)
- Invader (1995)
- Inheritor (1996)
- Precursor (1999)
- Defender (2001)
- Explorer (2003)
- Destroyer (2005)
- Pretender (2006)
- Deliverer (2007)
- Conspirator (2009)
- Deceiver (2010)
- Betrayer (2011)
- Intruder (2012)
- Protector (2013)
- Peacemaker (2014)
- Tracker (2015)
- Visitor (2016)

Here's the blurb for the new novel:

It’s been a year of upheaval, since Bren Cameron’s return from space–a year since he and the aiji-dowager, one of his most powerful atevi allies, returned home from their two-year interstellar mission to find the government overthrown and their world in chaos. Now, at last, things on the atevi world seem to be on the right track, and Bren hopes that life may soon become much more tranquil.

But something is coming, quietly, stealthily–just the first ominous twinkle of a new star in the heavens…

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

You can now download John Birmingham's Emergence: Dave vs. the Monsters for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“Monsters,” said Vince Martinelli. “There are monsters on the rig, Dave.”

Dave Hooper has a hangover from hell, a horrible ex-wife, and the fangs of the IRS deep in his side. The last thing he needs is an explosion at work. A real explosion. On his off-shore oil rig.

But this is no accident, and despite the news reports, Dave knows that terrorists aren’t to blame. He knows because he killed one of the things responsible.

When he wakes up in a hospital bed guarded by Navy SEALs, he realizes this is more than just a bad acid trip. Yeah, Dave’s had a few. This trip is way weirder.

Killing a seven-foot-tall, tattooed demon has transformed the overweight, balding safety manager into something else entirely. A foul-mouthed, beer-loving monster slayer, and humanity’s least worthy Champion.

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

In hardcover:

Pierce Brown's Morning Star returns at number 19.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is down one position, ending the week at number 8.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up two spots, finishing the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the excellent The Briar King by Greg Keyes for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Two thousand years ago, the Born Queen defeated the Skasloi lords, freeing humans from the bitter yoke of slavery. But now monstrous creatures roam the land—and destinies become inextricably entangled in a drama of power and seduction. The king’s woodsman, a rebellious girl, a young priest, a roguish adventurer, and a young man made suddenly into a knight—all face malevolent forces that shake the foundations of the kingdom, even as the Briar King, legendary harbinger of death, awakens from his slumber. At the heart of this many-layered tale is Anne Dare, youngest daughter of the royal family . . . upon whom the fate of her world may depend.

You can also download the sequel, The Charnel Prince, for only 4.99$ here.

Win a set of the first two volumes in Alan Smale's Clash of Eagles trilogy

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Del Rey, to help promote the release of Alan Smale's Eagle in Exile (Canada, USA, Europe) I'm giving away a set of the first two volumes to one lucky winner! The prize pack includes:

- Clash of Eagles
- Eagle in Exile

Here's the blurb for the second installment:

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.

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

Extract from Elizabeth Bonesteel's THE COLD BETWEEN

Here's an extract from Elizabeth Bonesteel's The Cold Between, compliments of the folks at Harper Voyager. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.


T minus 25 years - CCSS Phoenix

"Sixty seconds to detonation. Please evacuate the area."

Kate ran toward the Phoenix's infirmary, grumbling with frustration. When she'd told Captain Kelso they could evacuate quickly she had expected more than five minutes' notice, and now there was no way they'd transfer everything in time. They had moved their patients and started shifting the most essential drugs, but she had fewer than half her everyday remedies, and almost no tools at all. At this rate, she would be practicing frontier medicine on the nine week trip back to Earth. If anyone had a heart attack or a compound fracture in that time, Andy Kelso was going to be dealing with some injuries of his own.

She passed one of her clinicians running in the other direction, his arms full of vacuum-sealed pouches. "Last of the antigen packs," he told her.

"I'll get the scope," she called over her shoulder. "Stay in the res wing."

"Aye aye, Chief!" She heard his pace pick up.

"Fifty seconds to detonation. Please evacuate the area."

She turned and entered the infirmary, frowning at the number of people still rummaging through the shelves. "Didn't I tell you people to get the hell out of here?"

Amy was shoveling topical healers into a bag. "Big bang," she said tersely. "People will be bleeding."

"Not if it goes as planned," Kate reminded her, opening a cabinet and pulling out a portable medical scanner. Her scalpel kit followed, and she took an instant to strap it around her arm.

"What part of this mission has gone as planned?"

Kate was not the only one who laughed at that. Tension release, she knew; they'd all be less manic once this was over, and they had the long ride home to reflect. She would have time to digest what had happened, and figure out how to tell Tom the story without scaring the hell out of him. She didn't want to end up using all her precious shore leave dealing with his feelings of protectiveness, but she supposed it served her right for marrying a man who hated the Corps.

"Forty seconds to detonation. Please evacuate the area."

"Okay, that's it," she declared, clapping her hands. "Everybody out. Now. That's an order. Move your ass or I write you up."

The others tightened their arms around their loads of supplies, and turned to leave. Amy glanced back at her. "You coming?"

"You think I'm planning on dying here while you assholes run off?"

Amy waited while Kate grabbed the microscope. The two women ran up the hallway together, heading for the bulkhead separating the residential wing from the ship's main engine room and weapons locker.

"Thirty seconds to detonation. Please - "

"'- evacuate the area,'" Kate and Amy finished simultaneously. They exchanged a smile and passed through the open bulkhead, following the long hallway through the residential area and into the main cafeteria. There they found the medical staff seated around one long table, strapped into the sturdy chairs. Raban, her head nurse, had saved her a seat.

She would tell Greg all of it, Kate decided, no matter what she censored for Tom. Her son loved all of this just as she did, danger be damned, and he pestered her for every detail whenever she was home. She had felt from the day he was born that the Corps was his destiny, but now--twelve years later, watching him tread the line between stringy little boy and thoughtful young man-- she knew she was right, in ways she had never imagined. He would be part of all this soon, and he would be the one bringing home fantastic stories for her.

She stowed her rescued equipment under the table and sat next to Raban, flashing him a grateful smile. He often reminded her of her son, although he was twice the boy's age: effortlessly handsome, with dark, thick hair and serious gray eyes. When Greg had been a baby his eyes had been blue; but time had drained them of color, and left behind a stormy shade streaked through with black. Exotic eyes. Tom's eyes. Greg had her fine features - and her mercurial temper - but he had his father's eyes.

"You okay?" Raban asked.

He was perceptive like Greg, too. She gave him a tight smile. "I feel like I've just abandoned my childhood home."

"You could have said no," he reminded her. "It had to be unanimous, remember?"

"It's worth it," she said. He kept looking at her, and she made herself smile more easily. "Besides, it never hurts having a man like Andy Kelso owe you a favor, does it?"

"He already owes you," Raban pointed out; but he smiled back, letting her off the hook.

"Twenty seconds to detonation. Please evacuate the area."

Raban clutched the edge of the table, frowning as he looked around the room at people spinning in their chairs, running around and changing places in the last seconds available. "We work with idiots, did you know that?"

Kate watched the people she served with, the people who knew her better than her own family. "We work with people who know when to have fun," she corrected. On impulse, she put her hand over his, and gripped it hard.

"Ten seconds to detonation."

In the distance, she heard the heavy bulkhead creaking as it lurched closed. She wondered if it would hold; as far as she knew they had never used it before.


There was a comforting thunk as the bulkhead locked into place, and she took a breath.


She realized, belatedly, that along with her infirmary, the gymnasium was on the wrong side of the bulkhead as well. It was going to be a very long trip back.


So many missions she had been part of, in her years with the Corps. So many causes, so many battles.


So many missed opportunities. So many mistakes.


But not this time. This time...they had been soon enough.


This time, they were right.


She thought of Meg, her daughter, her beautiful young woman, and what she looked like with the sun silvering her wild dark curls. She thought of Greg, still mostly a boy, and the twinkle in his eyes when he was trying not to laugh.


She thought of Tom, her husband, her soulmate, who watched her leave time after time and still waited for her, patient and constant and full of love. Sometimes she missed him more than life. This time, when she got home, maybe she'd stay a little longer.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Andy Remic's A Song for No Man's Land for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

He signed up to fight with visions of honour and glory, of fighting for king and country, of making his family proud at long last.

But on a battlefield during the Great War, Robert Jones is shot, and wonders how it all went so very wrong, and how things could possibly get any worse.

He'll soon find out. When the attacking enemy starts to shapeshift into a nightmarish demonic force, Jones finds himself fighting an impossible war against an enemy that shouldn't exist.

Andy Remic's A Song for No Man's Land is the first in an ongoing series.

And you can get the second volume, Return of Souls, for the same price here.

Kushiel's Avatar

As I mentioned in my reviews of both Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen, I feel decidedly dumb to have waited for over a decade to finally give this series a shot. Even more so now that I've read the final installment. Kushiel's Avatar was everything it needed to be to bring this trilogy to a satisfying end. And then some!

This shouldn't come as a surprise, as the first volume turned out to be the very best fantasy debut I have ever read, and the second installment was nearly as good as its predecessor. And yet, regardless of their quality, Kushiel's Avatar blows them out of the water. Simply put, it's one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read. Jacqueline Carey truly hit it out of the park. A grand slam, if ever there was one.

About two years ago, I contacted Carey to ask if I could jump into this multi-volume tale by starting with the second trilogy. Like most avid readers, I own hundreds and hundreds of books. My locker is full of boxes of novels and I also have boxes and boxes full of them in storage elsewhere. But try as I might, I couldn't find Carey's first series. Hence, once more I have to thank the author for cobbling together a set of the first three installments so I could review them. I can't thank her enough for doing this, as this is one of the most awesome speculative fiction series of all time!

Here's the blurb:

The land of Terre d' Ange is a place of unsurpassed 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 woman born with a scarlet mote in her left eye and sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman, and he was 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's path has taken a strange and sometimes dangerous course. She has lain with princes and pirate kings, battled a wicked temptress who is still determined to win the crown at any cost, and saved two nations with her courageous actions and sacrifices. Through it all she has had the devoted swordsman Joscelin at her side, who knew from the beginning what she was. Her very nature is a torturous thing for them both, and it is a bane on their lives--but he is sworn to her and by accepting who she is, Joscelin has never violated the central precept of the angel Cassiel: to protect and serve.

But Phèdre's plans will put his pledge to the test, for she has never forgotten her childhood friend Hyacinthe. She has spent ten long years searching for the key to free him from his eternal indenture to the Master of Straights, a bargain with the gods that he struck so that a nation could be saved; in doing so, he took Phèdre's place as a sacrifice. She cannot forget, and she cannot forgive--herself or the gods. She is determined to seize one last hope to redeem her friend, even if it means her death.

Their search will bring Phèdre and Joscelin on a dangerous path that will carry them across the world, to fabled courts and splendid vistas, to distant lands where madness reigns and souls are currency, and down a fabled river to a land forgotten by most of the world.

And to a power so mighty that none dare speak its name.

Kushiel's Avatar is the concluding volume in Jacqueline Carey's evocative novels about the enigmatic Phèdrenó Delaunay; the third in a triptych of beautifully constructed historical fantasies that combine passion and danger, great battles of the sword and soul, deep eroticism, and mystical enigmas.

Once again, the worldbuilding was absolutely astonishing. The backdrop for this series isn't the usual European medieval environment. It is more akin to the Renaissance era and it is set in an alternate version of Western Europe. Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen were sprawling novels, more far-reaching than most fantasy books out there. Given the blurb, it appeared that the author would take us on fabulous journeys that would enable us to discover more about her universe, and I wasn't disappointed. Beyond the alternate France, other countries such Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Azerbaijan are explored and play a big role as Phèdre's tale progresses. And that's just in the first portion of Kushiel's Avatar! Indeed, the book is comprised of two major storylines, and the quest to free Hyacinthe represents the second part of the novel. Just when you thought that it couldn't get more exotic, Jacqueline Carey takes readers on an expedition throughout Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Unganda, and Kenya. Richly detailed and imagined in terms of cultures, religions, and politics, Kushiel's Avatar is another textured and sophisticated novel that hits all the right buttons. And as was the case with the first two Kushiel installments, the web of murder and political intrigue that Carey wove through this one is as impressive and unanticipated as the politicking of such masters as George R. R. Martin and Katherine Kurtz.

As I've said before, Jacqueline Carey writes with an elegance that reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay. As a plot kind of guy, I seldom praise a writer's prose. Still, Carey's prose is something special and it could well 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. A number of incredibly dark and downright disturbing scenes featuring Phèdre and the Mahrkagir of Drujan come to mind here and I doubt that most SFF writers would have been able to pull them off the way Carey managed to do so. Her gripping prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty that never fails to enthrall. Even better, à la Robin Hobb, Carey also possesses a subtle human touch which imbues some scenes with even more emotional impact. Speaking of Hobb, I always maintained that no one made their characters suffer as much as she did. Well, it appears that Carey is determined to give Hobb a run for her money in that regard!

In my reviews of both Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen, I mentioned that a woman who embraces her sexuality can be quite intimidating to men. Even more so, I opined, to male SFF geeks. I felt that Phèdre's disconcerting (according to many, even in today's Western society) sexuality, what with it tinged with sadomasochism, indubitably had something to do with the fact that the first Kushiel series was not held with such high esteem as some of the boys' club favorites like Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and Joe Abercrombie. In truth, as a younger man I'm quite sure I wouldn't have gotten into Carey's books. I also believe that Phèdre's sexuality and the way sex is portrayed and used throughout these books certainly 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. And the world is a much poorer place for that oversight. 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. Yet not just because of the sex and other R-rated elements. Indeed, it would be too easy to simply focus on the sexuality which permeates every aspect of these novels. True, sexuality lies at the heart of these books. But there is so much more than that. These stories are filled with a myriad of nuances and nothing is ever black or white. Kushiel's Avatar, like its predecessors, is another remarkable and intricately plotted tale featuring an unforgettable cast of men and women that will leave no reader indifferent.

As a matter of course, this novel 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. In addition, I loved how Phèdre's strenghts occasionally became her weaknesses and vice versa. I have to admit that I will miss her point of view. I particularly loved how, though those were powerfully dark scenes, it was the fact that she was an anguissette which allowed Phèdre to endure the pain, the humiliation, and the self-loathing, and gave her the will to do what needed to be done with the Mahrkagir. I'm aware that the second trilogy will feature Imriel's POV and I'm not sure how I feel about this. And even though I've often wished to see the story unfold through the eyes of more protagonists, chief among them Joscelin Verreuil, there is no denying that it is Phèdre's POV which gives this series its unique flavor. The more poignant moments would never have been as moving or distressing as they were, if not for Phèdre's perspective. Once more, 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 convulated plot. Although ten years have come and gone since the events chronicled within the pages of Kushiel's Chosen, several characters return in this final volume, and there are also quite a few new faces that will help or hinder Phèdre along the way. This decade has allowed Phèdre and Joscelin to grow in maturity and evolve as people. Especially Joscelin, who used to be so duty-bound and stiff-necked, and God knows that Phèdre has not made it easy for him, who has grown more at peace with what his love for Phèdre demands of him. There is a much more humane side of him in Kushiel's Avatar, especially when he's around children. The bond he creates with Imriel was very special and the fishing scene (you know the one I'm talking about) hits you like a punch in the gut. Beyond Phèdre and Joscelin, this one would never have been such an incredible read without the presence of such characters as Melisande Shahrizai, Queen Ysandre, Drustan mab Necthana, Imriel, Quintilius Rousse, Ti-Philippe, Eleazar ben Enokh, the women of the zenana in Drujan, the wise women of Tisaar, and many more. And thankfully, once again, not that there was any doubt in my mind, 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 till the very end. For good or ill, it must be said.

In terms of pace, even though this book is comprised of two distinct storylines, the rhythm flows well. Kushiel's Avatar may be a doorstopper of a book, but it's another page-turner. The author always had a knack for coming up with plot twists that suck you in and won't let go, forcing you to keep going to discover what comes next, promising yourself that you'll read just another chapter before turning in. And when you suddenly come out of a daze, you realize that it's 1:00AM and that you've read over 200 pages. This third volume is another sophisticated and multilayered read full of wonder and sensuality. Written on an epic scale and with an elegance rarely seen in this subgenre, Jacqueline Carey did it again, closing the show with definite style and aplomb. Edgy and sexy, that goes without saying. Yet it's also as complex, satisfying, and rewarding as any of the best speculative fiction works ever written.

Kushiel's Avatar is a memorable conclusion to a phenomenal fantasy series. With such a perfect finale, Jacqueline Carey set the bar incredibly high for what comes next. Time will tell if the second and third trilogies will live up to the lofty expectations generated by these first three books. . .

Impossible to put down.

The final verdict: 10/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragon Wing, first volume in the Death Gate Cycle, the authors' very best series, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Preeminent storytellers Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have redefined epic fantasy. Since the publication of their Dragonlance series, millions of readers have enjoyed their imaginative world-building, rich characterization, and intricate storylines. Now these best-selling authors bring their talents to one of the most innovative fantasy creations ever in Dragon Wing, the first volume in The Death Gate Cycle.

An assassin and the royal child he has been hired to kill form an unlikely and unstable alliance as the plots of human sorcerers, elven pirates, and dwarf revolutionaries threaten to overwhelm the airborne kingdoms of Arianus.

Brandon Sanderson contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Delacorte Press, to help promote the release of Brandon Sanderson's Calamity (Canada, USA, Europe), this lucky winner will receive a full set of the series! The prize pack includes:

- Steelheart
- Firefight
- Calamity

The winner is:

- Adam Martin, from Elkhart, Indiana, USA (legomaniac89 on Reddit)

Many thanks to all the participants!

Quote of the Day

She was a student of history, valued the lessons of it. The worst atrocities began with half-measures, with apologies, compromising with the wrong side, shrinking from what had to be done.

- C. J. CHERRYH, Downbelow Station (Canada, USA, Europe)

About halfway through this one and it's excellent thus far!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Stephen R. Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane, the opening chapter of one of the very best fantasy series of all time, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself.

Yet the Land tempted him. He had been sick; now he seemed better than ever before. Through no fault of his own, he had been outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero--Berek Halfhand--armed with the mystic power of White Gold. That power alone could protect the Lords of the Land from the ancient evil of Despiser, Lord Foul. Only...Covenant had no idea of how the power could be used!

Thus begins one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written...

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy with a normal life, married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. They're even about to have their first child. Yes, Charlie's doing okay—until people start dropping dead around him, and everywhere he goes a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Charlie Asher, it seems, has been recruited for a new position: as Death.

It's a dirty job. But, hey! Somebody's gotta do it.

Finally, you can also download Paul Kearney's A Different Kingdom, for only 3.03$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods—once thought safe and well-explored—there are wolves; and other, stranger things. He keeps them from his family, even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend, until the day he finds himself in the Other Place. There are wild people, and terrible monsters, and a girl called Cat.

When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away—or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place. He will become a man, and a warrior, and confront the Devil himself: the terrible Dark Horseman...

The book's sequels, The Way to Babylon and Riding the Unicorns, can be downloaded for only 3.99$ each!