Willful Child: Wrath of Betty

I was extremely curious about Willful Child when it was announced that Steven Erikson would be publishing a Star Trek spoof. God knows I've never been a Star Trek fan myself, but I was looking forward to reading Erikson's homage/parody. Considering how fun and humorous the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas have always been, such a spoof promised to be hilarious. And Willful Child was just that!

So when I received a galley of the sequel, you can be sure that it went to the top of the pile! This being the second volume and reviewers should now know better, one can only hope that we won't be seeing negative and luke-warm reviews from readers expecting a blistering and fascinating foray into science fiction by the author. How could anyone have had such expectations after reading the cover blurb for the first installment, I'll never know. This book/series was always meant to be a parody. Anyone expecting something dense and thought-provoking, or the Bridgeburners in space, was smoking some pretty potent stuff. To those who thoroughly enjoyed Willful Child, I can tell you that this sequel is just as fun and entertaining as its predecessor.

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.

Steven Erikson has accustomed us to multilayered worldbuilding that resounds with depth, but once again this aspect takes a backseat in this new Star Trek spoof. As was the case in Willful Child, we get just enough to keep the story moving forward. This is a parody/comedy and nothing gets in the way of the rhythm so that the jokes and weird/funny situations keep on coming. And believe you me: They keep on coming! It appears that Erikson was gunning for at least a laugh/chuckle on every single page and it's pretty much what we get. Once more, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty isn't a work that takes itself too seriously and it's a joyride from start to finish!

Following the hilarious misadventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback continues to be a riot. Sexist, incompetent, rude, too full of himself, and downright dumb at times, it's nonetheless impossible not to root for the poor guy. In every way, the man remains an over-the-top parody of the memorable Captain Kirk. Old-fashioned sexism, racism, and xenophobia often characterize his character, making him a throwback male protagonist from the 60S or the 70s. The Affiliation and Fleet Command have had it with Sawback due to the events chronicled in the first book, and they send the charismatic Captain Hans Olo of the AFS Century Warbler and A.C.P. Security Field Agent Rand Humblenot to shadow the Willful Child and make sure that they can be there to take action whenever Captain Sawback screws up again. And to speed up the man's demise if the opportunity were to present itself. The rest of the supporting cast is comprised of incompetent crew members and a number of buxom female officers hand-picked by the captain for their looks and nothing else, as well as the recalcitrant chicken AI Tammy, and a few odd aliens along the way. Between Sawback and his incredibly inept crew, an AI from the future who wishes to see its captain fail miserably, Affiliation officers bent on orchestring Sawback's military and personal downfall, and friendly and not-so-friendly alien species populating known and unknown parts of interstellar space, how could things possibly go well for the Willful Child and its crew? Follow them on another unexpected and fun-filled journey across time, space and dimensions!

By removing much of the depth and the details that have come to define Erikson's fantasy works, like its predecessor Willful Child: Wrath of Betty is another fast-paced novel. There is never a dull moment within its pages. Too quickly do we reach the end of the book and here's to hoping that there will be yet another sequel down the line. Although I much prefer Steven Erikson's Malazan installments, occasional fun romps like these last two wacky science fiction parodies are like a breath of fresh air that show a totally different side of the author. Time will tell just how many of these fun and entertaining scifi comedies Erikson can get away with. But as things stand, I'm persuaded that fans will clamor for yet more adventures featuring the inimitable Captain Hadrian Sawback and his crew as the voyage of the Willful Child continues.

If you are looking for a light and hilarious science fiction spoof, then Willful Child: Wrath of Betty will definitely scratch that itch! This Star Trek parody/homage, with a number of Star Wars references thrown in for good measure, continues to work incredibly well. I, for one, am looking forward to whatever comes next!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

The Language of Dying

When the folks at Jo Fletcher books approached me to inquire if I'd be interested in reviewing Sarah Pinborough's The Language of Dying, there was something about the novella's blurb that intrigued me and I accepted to give it a shot. I wasn't aware that this was the reissue of a work dating from 2009, nor did I expect such an emotionally charged read. It's great to see such a beautifully written novella being re-released so it can be appreciated by new readers.

Chances are that this work will resonate deeply with people unfortunate enough to have had to go through the dying days of a loved one. I've lost four family members to various types of cancer and The Language of Dying brought me back to those dismal episodes of my life. The author perfectly captured the sadness and helplessness underlying such ordeals, and it was impossible for me not to relate to what the narrator was going through.

Here's the blurb:

In this emotionally gripping, genre-defying novella from Sarah Pinborough, a woman sits at her father's bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters--she is the middle child of five--have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. Each is traumatized in his or her own way, and the bonds that unite them to each other are fragile--as fragile perhaps as the old man's health.

With her siblings all gone, back to their self-obsessed lives, she is now alone with the faltering wreck of her father's cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it--the dark and nameless, the impossible, presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house--comes calling.

As the clock ticks away in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her, a reunion she both dreads and aches for...

The tale is told from the first person perspective of the middle child of five siblings. The woman watches her father waste away, day after day after day. We get a few flashback scenes showing her father's degrading health and how everything gradually deteriorated and he ended up on his deathbed. Pinborough was able to convey how, regardless of the heartbreaking melancholy of such moments, at times when your thoughts are brought back down memory lane humor finds a way to resurface and make you laugh as you recall the good and happy times you shared with that loved one.

The narrator is still going through the aftermath of a failed marriage, and now she must deal with being reunited with her siblings as they return to pay their final respects to their dying father. Problem is, they form a very dysfunctional family, one that might be torn asunder by the death of their parent. The author managed to weave each sibling's backstory into the narrative and demonstrate just how stressful this reunion will be and the sort of toll the imminent death of their father will have on each of them.

There is a slight magical realism aspect to this novella, but in my opinion it was unnecessary and doesn't bring much to the tale. In a way, it's almost detrimental to the story. This could have been a contemporary fiction work that packs a powerful emotional punch, and the absence of the "magical" element would have taken nothing away from The Language of Dying. But this is a very minor complaint, one that won't prevent anyone from enjoying this amazing novella. As a matter of fact, the narrator and her family's plight and grief draw you in so profoundly that you all but forget about the magical realism label.

Beautiful, thoughtful, sorrowful, The Language of Dying pulls on the heartstrings and makes quite an impression. Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's Dreamsongs, Volume 1, an excellent collection of short fiction, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.

Don't know for how long, but right now you can also download Andy Weir's The Martian for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

You can also download Pierce Brown's Red Rising for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for only 3.99$ 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).

Win a copy of K. V. Johansen's GODS OF NABBAN

I have two copies of K. V. Johansen's Gods of Nabban for you to win, compliments of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The fugitive slave Ghu has ended the assassin Ahjvar's century-long possession by a murderous and hungry ghost, but at great cost. Heir of the dying gods of Nabban, he is drawn back to the empire he fled as a boy, journeying east on the caravan road with Ahjvar at his side.

Haunted by memory of those he has slain, Ahjvar is ill in mind and body, a danger to those about him and to the man who loves him most of all. Tortured by violent nightmares, he believes himself mad. Only his determination not to leave Ghu to face his fate alone keeps Ahjvar from asking to be freed at last from his unnatural life.

Innocent and madman, god and assassin--two men to seize an empire from the tyrannical descendants of the devil Yeh-Lin. But in war-torn Nabban, enemies of gods and humans stir in the shadows. Yeh-Lin herself meddles with the heir of her enemies and his soul-shattered companion, as the fate of the empire rests on their shoulders.

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

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

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

Good luck to all the participants!

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

In hardcover:

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is up one spot, finishing the week at number 14.

Stephen King’s End of Watch is down two positions, ending the week at number 18.

In paperback:

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is up one spot, finishing the week at number 9.

Quote of the Day

"Sir, our arrival in this city coincides with something called a comicon.

"Great, what's that?"

"A social event where aficionados gather to celebrate mass media entertainment."

"Why would they do that?"

"Well, sir, as far as I can tell, the venue provides an opportunity for the producers of that mass entertainment to co-opt genuine appreciation for their products with the sole aim of maximizing their profits."

"I see. In other words, organized exploitation of innocent and enthusiastic people."

"Yes sir."

- STEVEN ERIKSON, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Glen Cook's Passage at Arms for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The ongoing war between Humanity and the Ulat is a battle of attrition that humanity is unfortunately losing. However, humans have the advantage of trans-hyperdrive technology, which allows their climber fleet, under very narrow and strenuous conditions, to pass through space almost undetectable. Passage at Arms tells the intimate, detailed and harrowing story of a climber crew and its captain during a critical juncture of the war. Cook combines speculative technology with a canny and realistic portrait of men at war and the stresses they face in combat. Passage at Arms is one of the classic novels of military science fiction.

Quote of the Day

"Tammy, is the Terran civilization growing increasingly moribund, cynical, depressed, corrupt, and incompetent?"


"And is our 'educational system' a dumbed-down travesty of retroactive self-serving propaganda, outright denial, and deliberate misinformation all intended to serve our collective self-delusions of progress and moral righteousness?"

"Of course."

- STEVEN ERIKSON, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, Canada, USA, Europe.

About a hundred pages into this one, and so far it's as much fun as the first one!

The Kite Runner

I've been meaning to read The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini's perennial worldwide bestseller, for well over a decade. Given the rave reviews and the millions of copies sold in a multitude of languages, how could it be otherwise? But the more I waited, the more the novel's popularity grew. And as with every such literary phenomenon, expectations have a tendency to grow to such an extent that it is often impossible for the book to actually live up to them. Sadly, such was the case with this one.

I reckon I feel the same way those poor readers felt after reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code or Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo years after the novels topped the bestseller charts around the globe. You acknowledge that it was a good read, but you fail to grasp how it could have become so immensely popular. Lofty expectations have a way to let you down in the end, which is what happened with this work. I did enjoy The Kite Runner, no doubt about it. I brought it with me to Charlevoix and it was a nice vacation read. And therein lies the problem. It just turned out to be a good book, not the great read I envisioned.

Here's the blurb:

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

Khaled Hosseini's depiction of Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan in the 70s was simply amazing. Unless you have an interest for the history of that part of the world, most people from my generation immediately think of war-torn images when they consider that country. Yet the author brings us back to another time and place, to a time when Afghanistan was a more liberal and open society. Before the revolution, before the Soviet invasion, before the civil war, before they were forced to live under the yoke of the religious dogma enforced by the Talibans, Afghanistan was a much different place. And although I was well aware of this and have been for a long time, Hosseini's narrative brings the country and its inhabitants to life in such a fashion that it makes you feel as though it's a totally different country and culture. And for the most part, it is. The first portion of the novel, the one focusing on the tale before the Soviets moved into the country, is nothing short of magical. I was enthralled from the very beginning and couldn't put the book down.

The second part is no less powerful. Once more, Khaled Hosseini's depiction of Kabul following the Soviet invasion creates a vivid imagery that leaps off the page. Amir and his father's harrowing escape to Pakistan is gut-wrenching, and their being forced to adapt to their new life as refugees in America shows what such men and women must go through and how difficult that process can be. Up until that point, The Kite Runner was a poignant and memorable work, one of the best novels I had ever read. Trouble is, everything falters in the last part of the novel. The depiction of Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan under the brutal reign of the Talibans remains as evocative as that of the previous two eras, but the author's desire for Amir to achieve redemption by somehow undoing his past wrongs engender a number of contrived coincidences that unfortunately killed the story for me. Indeed, by trying to come full circle, so to speak, I felt that Khaled Hosseini prevented this book from hitting you with the enormous emotional punch he had planned for the end. Which, in my opinion, is quite sad considering just how perfect everything was until Amir returns to Afghanistan.

The characterization was terrific. Understandably, the relationship between Amir and Hassan, two kids from different castes who became best friends, is at the heart of the story that is The Kite Runner. Having said that, Amir's father, Baba, influenced this tale in multiple ways, and the novel would never have been the same without him. The same thing can be said of Ali, Hassan's father, as well as Rahim Khan, Baba's business partner and a man who's had a big influence on Amir as he was growing up. Soraya, the young Afghan woman Amir marries in the USA, and Sohrab, Hassan's son, also have important roles to play before the end comes. Khaled Hosseini has a knack for creating authentic characters, be they main or secondary protagonists. Although the novel failed to "wow" me as much as I would have wanted, this unforgettable cast will remain in my memories for a long time.

The Kite Runner is a multigenerational tale which explores the complexities inherent to the relationships between parents and their children. Friendship, betrayal, guilt, and redemption are other themes that are explored throughout the novel. One would think that this would make for a very hard story to get into, yet the author was able to weave all of those themes into the storylines and still make the book compulsively readable. Other than the redemption aspect, that is, which is clearly overdone and sadly killed the book for me.

Hosseini's narrative grabs hold and captures the imagination, taking you away to an Afghanistan that was and then to the country devastated by war that we know today. Never at any point is the pace an issue. This is a novel that you get through rather quickly. The more Amir's tale unfold, the more you need to discover what happens next.

Though the last part did not do it for me, I can understand how The Kite Runner struck a chord with so many readers around the world. But after such a realistic and striking start, to pursue Amir's redemption using such unrealistic coincidences cheapened the overall reading experience for me. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

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...

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

In hardcover:

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dragonmark debuts at number 12.

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is down one spot, finishing the week at number 15.

Stephen King’s End of Watch is down six positions, ending the week at number 16.

In paperback:

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is up four spots, finishing the week at number 10.

Win a copy of Blake Charlton's SPELLBREAKER

I have one copy of Blake Charlton's Spellbreaker for you to win, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations.

While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who. That’s a pretty big problem for a woman who has a shark god for a lover, a hostile empress for an aunt, a rogue misspelling wizard for a father, and a mother who--especially when arguing with her daughter--can be a real dragon.

Leandra’s quest to unravel the mystery of the murder-she-will-commit becomes more urgent when her chronic disease flares up and the Ixonian Archipelago is plagued by natural disasters, demon worshiping cults, and fierce political infighting. Everywhere she turns, Leandra finds herself amid intrigue and conflict. It seems her bad habit for getting into dangerous situations is turning into a full blown addiction.

As chaos spreads across Ixos, Leandra and her troubled family must race to uncover the shocking truth about a prophesied demonic invasion, human language, and their own identities--if they don't kill each other first.

Spellbreaker is the long awaited sequel to Blake Charlton's Spellbound, which was listed by Kirkus Reviews among the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2011. This final installment of the Spellwright Trilogy stands alone as a complete story; however, fans of the series will find in it answers to the questions raised by the previous books about Leandra’s parents, Nicodemus Weal and Francesca DeVega.

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

Quote of the Day

His asshole was now a broken squeeze-box that could no longer make music but only gasp.

- STEPHEN KING, The Dark Tower (Canada, USA, Europe)

Almost done with this epic tale!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download C. S. Friedman's Dreamwalker for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

All her life Jessica Drake has dreamed of other worlds, some of them similar to her own, others disturbingly alien. She never shares the details with anyone, save her younger brother Tommy, a compulsive gamer who incorporates some aspects of Jessica’s dreams into his games. But now someone is asking about those dreams...and about her. A strange woman has been watching her house. A visitor to her school attempts to take possession of her dream-inspired artwork.


As she begins to search for answers it becomes clear that whoever is watching her does not want her to learn the truth. One night her house catches on fire, and when the smoke clears she discovers that her brother has been kidnapped. She must figure out what is going on, and quickly, if she and her family are to be safe.

Following clues left behind on Tommy's computer, determined to find her brother and bring him home safely, Jessica and two of her friends are about to embark on a journey that will test their spirits and their courage to the breaking point, as they must leave their own world behind and confront the source of Earth's darkest legends – as well as the terrifying truth of their own secret heritage.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Sherwood Smith's Inda for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Acclaimed Inda series within Sherwood Smith's epic fantasy Sartorias-deles universe • Military fantasy woven with courtly politics, vast worldbuilding, and diverse characters.

Indevan-Dal is the second son of the Prince and Princess of Choraed Elgaer, destined to become his elder brother Tanrid's Shield Arm-his military champion. Like all second sons, he is to be privately trained at home by Tanrid, the brother whose lands he will one day protect.

When the King's Voice comes to summon Inda to the Military Academy, he might well feel foreboding, or even fear-war is imminent-yet youthful Inda feels only excitement. But there are things that Tanrid hadn't prepared him for, and Inda will soon learn that the greatest threats to his safety will not come from foreign enemies, but from supposed allies within his own country.

Extract from K. V. Johansen's GODS OF NABBAN

Here's an extract from K. V. Johansen's soon-to-be-released Gods of Nabban, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The fugitive slave Ghu has ended the assassin Ahjvar's century-long possession by a murderous and hungry ghost, but at great cost. Heir of the dying gods of Nabban, he is drawn back to the empire he fled as a boy, journeying east on the caravan road with Ahjvar at his side.

Haunted by memory of those he has slain, Ahjvar is ill in mind and body, a danger to those about him and to the man who loves him most of all. Tortured by violent nightmares, he believes himself mad. Only his determination not to leave Ghu to face his fate alone keeps Ahjvar from asking to be freed at last from his unnatural life.

Innocent and madman, god and assassin--two men to seize an empire from the tyrannical descendants of the devil Yeh-Lin. But in war-torn Nabban, enemies of gods and humans stir in the shadows. Yeh-Lin herself meddles with the heir of her enemies and his soul-shattered companion, as the fate of the empire rests on their shoulders.


Something stalked him through his dreams. She was hungry, reaching . . . Hyllau, reaching for him. The Lady of Marakand, but her face was burnt black, charred and flaking away like Hyllau’s and she closed her mouth over his, pressing down on him, tongue forcing . . . He caught her by the throat, to choke and throttle, to end this one slavery, at least—

There was more strength than one might think in Ghu’s compact frame. He jerked Ahjvar’s arms open, away from his neck, and pinned him to the ground like a wrestler. Ahjvar woke as his head thumped the earth and the ground hit him hard in the back.

Bunched muscles turned to water, as if he had run to the point of exhaustion. Ghu’s fingers bit into his wrists, forcing Ahjvar’s arms down as he leaned over him, a knee heavy on his chest. The blind dark of a cloudy night wrapped them; their fire was nearly smothered in its ashes.


He couldn’t answer yet. Breath wheezed and sobbed in his throat.

Ghu released his grip, cautiously, and Ahjvar rolled away, arm over his face, shaking, teeth clenched on the plea. He could not ask to be set free; he had promised, so he would not, not yet. But he had to swallow the words, choking on them. Let me go. Let me die now. I can’t do this.

Ghu put an arm over him, pulled close and held him tightly, till his shuddering eased to mere shivering against a cold that was not the autumn air.

“Hush.” The command was hardly more than a stir of air against him. “Listen. I was going to wake you before long anyway. They’ve caught up. We’re watched.”

There was nothing to hear but his own harsh gasping, still too fast, too shallow, too loud.

“Shh, shh. It’s all right, Ahj.” A hand on his chest, breath in his hair. Encircled, safe. The Lady was dead. Hyllau’s very soul was destroyed. He caught at Ghu’s hand, gripped it, but didn’t push him away. Lay still that moment longer, being safe and trying to settle his breathing, to be awake and sane and of some use.

He remembered. They had been stalked through the hills all that day, since early in the morning. Six riders on horseback, never closing in, never letting themselves, they thought, be seen. Ghu had kept the dogs, white and grey Jui and dun Jiot, in close, though they had been alert and bristling, wanting to investigate. Most likely the six were after the camels and, if they had seen it, Ahjvar’s sword and the rings in his ears; they couldn’t think Ahjvar and Ghu had any other wealth, just two more masterless wanderers come east from the defeat of Marakand’s mercenaries at the Orsamoss. They might be ragged and growing gaunt with short commons, but to such men they would still be worth robbing. There was the gold and sea-ivory of the sword’s hilt and the camels were still in good condition, better fed than their masters. Ghu cared for them well and had stolen only the best to start with, not but what the Praitannec kings had owed him more than the price of two camels for their victory.

When no attack came by dusk, Ahjvar and Ghu had made their camp with a careful eye to the ground. Trying to outrace the dogged pursuit, when they had no safe fastness to run to, seemed futile, as did making any great effort to lose them in the hills. Besides . . . they had been fairly certain who the six were. If the brigands lost Ahjvar and Ghu, they would only go looking for other prey, less able to deal with them.

At Ghu’s insistence, Ahjvar had slept the first half of the night; he had insisted in turn that Ghu wake him, let him take the second watch.

Ghu had done so, and Old Great Gods forgive him, Ahjvar had slept. He did not even remember lying down.

He might as well be an invalid for all the use he was. His body healed. Wounds did, far more quickly than another man’s might. He had only clean scars to mark his road from Sand Cove to Marakand and the Lady’s well, to the battle at the Orsamoss and the burning tower at Dinaz Catairna. His mind, heart, soul, whatever, was another matter. A cripple. Even waking, there were long gaps in his days, as though his mind slept, or curled away small somewhere, leaving the body to manage the camel and the business of not falling. He would wake to awareness, though his eyes had never closed, and the light would be changed, the sun travelled several hours on its way, the land about them new.

Ghu should have known better than to trust him.

In some moods, he was strongly tempted to threaten to knock Ghu around the ears for treating him as a struggling child, letting him run, there to pick him up when he found he couldn’t. Even for a grumble that would not be meant or taken seriously, he wasn’t going to complain of the nursemaiding, though; it was Ghu who risked hurt, lying near to seize him back when the nightmares turned too foul. They might be only memories, festering unhealed wounds of the mind that he deserved to carry, not madness, no possessing ghost lurking in them, but even so . . . fast as Ghu was, the fading bruise on his cheek was Ahjvar’s doing, two nights old. It was the murdered shepherd who had woken the dreams again, when he’d been a week without them. He turned over, face-to-face, muttered on a sigh, “Sorry.” No atonement, and none for sleeping when he should have watched.

Bar himself from dreaming? He had attempted it, briefly, a few weeks back. The nightmares had leaked foul and vicious into his waking mind, or his half-waking; the periods where he lost time and place and self turned to horrors, and that . . . that was worse. To be mad in the daylight world . . . He had burnt the woven knot of herbs he had made against the nights, but the spell had been already failing, too weak to hold against the strength of the dreaming.

His sins; the dreams were his just punishment and atonement to bear for them, maybe, whether on the Old Great Gods’ road, or Ghu’s. He could not set them aside.

“Watched? Where are they?”

Neither dog was by them. He rose on an elbow to look. There. Pale, slinking wolf shape: Jui, just barely visible in the thinning night. The dog came up, keeping low, lay at Ghu’s feet, watching the deeper dark ness along the willow-lined bend of the coulee, just where a pool of water still lasted. That was where Ahjvar would have been. The rest of the slowly rising land was open of any cover but the night, grazed earlier in the summer, though no herds were near now.

“Four in the trees. Two up on the high ground, lying flat. They’ve been there a while.” Ghu sounded apologetic. “You needed to sleep.”

That someone had been keeping watch after all made him feel no less shamed for his failure.

“You get downstream, keep out of it.” Old habit, to make sure the boy was safe out of any killing when he went about his work in the Five Cities. But Ghu was not that boy.

“And leave you alone? No, Ahj.” After a moment, Ghu added, “We knew they were going to come on us sometime, once they started fol lowing. It may as well be now. These are the same who murdered the shepherd.”

Ahjvar had been a king’s champion once, and a king’s wizard, too, a long lifetime ago. The king’s wizards might divine truth from lie, when charges were brought for royal judgement, but those thus condemned might still appeal for the justice of the sword, a trial by combat within the circle of nine witnesses, which was generally only to have a more honourable death than the slow hanging that was the fate of wilful mur derers and certain other most heinous criminals, the king’s champion being the best sword of the tribe. He did wonder if Ghu had gone so far as to make the two of them bait, if he had on his own decreed a trial by deed, to give the justice the little chieftains of this land might fear to exact from the lordless mercenaries when they travelled in gangs. He could not be certain any more what Ghu might and might not do, but the man would do it quiet and clear-eyed and whole. His simpleton groom—hah. He would trust Ghu’s instinct for guilt or innocence over any wizard’s divination, including his own, and Ghu’s judgement, too, and set his sword to serve what Ghu appointed.

Two days past, they’d come upon a shepherd slain with her dog, her hut burnt and her ghost confused and lost on the hillside, what was left of her flock still keeping close, sensing her there. Six, she had told them. Foreigners, four men and two women, and they’d killed her the previous day for the bit of barley meal and cheese in her summer hut and a couple of sheep they could have driven off unchallenged. She had had more sense than to face them; she’d been hiding in the thorn thicket, she and her dog in silence, but they searched and found her and dragged her out . . .

Ahjvar and Ghu had buried the shepherd and the dog together, setting them free to take the road to the Old Great Gods, getting well away before her kin could come seeking her, to make mistakes about which wild and lawless wanderers might have done such a thing. The two of them could have been the warlord Ketsim’s followers, Praitannecman and colony-Nabbani together, Ahjvar dressed in battlefield gleanings and Ghu, barefoot, having worn through the soles of his boots, in a too-tight caravaneer’s coat scorched and shredded to rags.

The road ran over a thousand miles through the hills beyond the eastern boundaries of the Praitannec kingdoms before it climbed to the dry uplands that became the eastern deserts, near enough now that sometimes the sun rose in the yellow haze of some distant, dust-bearing wind. These hills they travelled, though, were not so unlike Praitan, but wilder, emptier. There was dry scrub forest, the trees low and tangled, where reclusive demons, spirits of the land, watched warily as they passed: a blue-eyed stag, an owl, a white wolf without a pack. When they ventured into the shade of such woodlands, the camels paced crunching along paths drifted with past years’ curled leaves, brown and leathery, smelling of resin. When there was a demon, it would trail them, unspeaking, attracted to Ghu, uncertain about Ahjvar.

For the most part, Ahjvar and Ghu had kept to the open lands, the rolling hills where lower scrub and autumn-yellowing grasses were grazed by wild goats and antelope and the sheep, asses, and camels of the semi-nomadic hillfolk. They were Praitannec kin, pale of hair and eye, skin an oak-tanned brown; Ahjvar could have passed for native here, but for his tongue. They spoke the same language, or near enough, but with a guttural desert-harsh intonation, not the singing lilt of the seven kingdoms farther west. They had no kings, only chieftains ruling tribes of a few families, which drifted seasonally up and down their hills between high summer camps and the stone and sod huts of their winter villages, nearly abandoned in this season, in the sheltered valleys. The goddesses of the shallow, stony rivers, like the gods of the hills, were quiet folk. If either had priest or priestess it would be only some gentle holy person living apart, half a shaman, or a wise elder who had settled to be companion of their god in their old age. Such gods did not always denounce Ahjvar as cursed or an abomination in their land, and sometimes the holy ones would offer them a meal and shelter for the night, drawn, like the demons, to Ghu. Sometimes they asked for the tale of the western upheavals and an accounting of why their lands, usually disturbed only by bands of young folk who took to caravan-raiding or an outbreak of reiving between neighbouring chains of hills, were so beset now with wandering bands of lordless foreign folk, desperate and rapacious brig ands. Ghu would tell them of Marakand’s war on Praitan and the victory of the kings of Praitan. Ahjvar left the talking to him.

Some of the mercenaries and Catairnan traitors, Praitannec war riors who had betrayed their queen, might be looking for honest work, hoping to find hire on the road or in Porthduryan, the town at the desert edge. Not many. The three cities on the coast south of Praitan would have been the better destination for such. Any who had come so far east as this were brigands now, even if they had not started out so.

And what was there to tell the folk of the land that Ghu and Ahjvar were any different? Only the god-touched holy ones saw otherwise. The brigands certainly did not.

Not long to wait now; enough light to see the shadow-shape of the dun dog Jiot, settling by the hobbled camels, who were likewise wakeful but chewing their cuds, unperturbed.

Ahjvar reached over Ghu, feeling for his sword. He wouldn’t sleep with it within reach, nor a knife. He didn’t trust himself. His hand found the hilt, ivory and gilded bronze, the pommel a snarling leopard’s head. Northron work, very old. Lost heirloom of an ill-fated house. He slid it clear of the scabbard, laid it by his hip while he groped again and pulled his boots on, lay on his back. Ghu rolled over, chin on his arm, his forage-knife under his hand, that broad-bladed, angled tool that could cut a man’s throat as easily as an armful of fodder. Ahjvar still heard nothing, but he was not sure Ghu did either, or if in some way he might perceive what the dogs did.

The trees along the coulee had solidified out of the thinning night. He could see them now, leaves hanging still, heavy against the windless dark blue. Mist crept off the pool, fingers of white snaking about the lower trunks. A shout. The trees birthed running shapes, a single figure pulling ahead. Ghu rose to one knee, ignoring them, watching up the hill. Ahjvar leapt the embers of the fire and went the other way. The woman in the lead was Northron tall, with an axe. Without a shield, he didn’t much want to deal with that axe face-to-face. He dodged at the last, struck low as she tried to follow him, cutting across the backs of her knees, and continued around to drive the circling weight of his long Northron sword up and into the following man’s belly, steel grating between the bronze plaques stitched to the man’s jerkin, bearing him down. A second woman came at his unguarded side. He abandoned his sword and the dead weight on it, hooked her feet out from under her, seized the hilt and shoved the dying man clear of his blade with his foot, and had the sword free again as the woman flung herself up and closed in on him, grim-faced. He might have asked her why it took six of them to kill one unarmed girl. He might have offered quarter and told her to run, if for no other reason than to show himself he did not have to kill her but by his own choice, yet there was Ghu, with no better weapon than a peasant’s knife. So that was his choice. They were convicted and dead anyway. His father would have hanged them.

She was a Grasslander with a horseman’s sabre and the small buckler they used, and so was the last man of the four who rushed at him from the side, blade sweeping, braids flying. He had to turn between the two of them. Could have used a shield, yes, or a stick, or just about anything, really, to block that. It was a harried few moments, till he took the woman’s head half off. The blade had dulled its edge, scraping armour and bone, and he paid in blood for that delay in jerking his sword free, felt the man’s sabre skim and bite his warding arm, but it saved his face, and the man’s savage grin gaped as he ran him through. No armour. He pushed him down and cut his throat, a mercy he likely did not notice, and killed the crippled axe-woman on the ground as she tried to drag herself away, before looking around for Ghu.

Both dogs were barking now, loud and angry, and Ahjvar, all unwilling, could hear the wailing of the confused and angry ghosts. No other human cries, though, now that the last woman was silent. A camel, finally, decided something was amiss and bellowed.

There. Ghu rose from where he had crouched, wiping the blade of his forage-knife clean on a handful of grass. Someday I may have to learn to kill, he had once said, and, Not this day. It seemed so long ago. A lifetime’s journey. Even before that, they had argued over whether Ghu would learn to use a sword, once it began to seem inevitable that the boy was his, a stray cat that could not be driven off. Ghu had persisted in his refusal, but he surely had not tracked Ahjvar across half Praitan and hauled him from the Lady’s hell in the midst of battle without shedding blood. To mourn that sacrificed innocence seemed ungrateful of the gift.

No. What Ghu had set aside to claim Ahjvar from the curses that held him was not a child’s innocence, but his freedom. A doom chosen before he would otherwise have done so, or one he might still have rejected altogether. He could have abandoned Ahjvar to the mercy and the death the devil Dotemon might have given him, and kept on his westward wanderings. But he had not, and so he was bound to the east, and Ahjvar would not abandon him. Not this day. That was all he could promise, yet. Each day anew—not this day.

Sometime, too, the starveling boy had become a man, slight, but with a muscular grace and power in movement that ought to be turning the girls’ heads in some king’s hall, not . . . Anyway, he should have a better weapon than that damned peasant’s knife.

“We should look for their horses,” Ghu called matter-of-factly. The torn ruin of the coat he had been wearing since Marakand was sprayed with blood. Not, Ahjvar trusted, his own, in that quantity, or he would not be standing. Ghu shrugged the filthy rags from his shoulders as Ahjvar crossed to him, frowned at the hand, still gripping his sword, that Ahj pressed to his left arm.


“No,” Ahjvar said firmly. It was only seeping.

Ghu made some exasperated noise. Ahjvar ignored him and warily took his hand away, but no great spreading of blood followed, so he had spoken truth. Shallow. He wasn’t the only one with a dulled blade.

There were no ghosts hovering over the still humps of the dead Ghu had left. A man with his throat cut, neatly, if you could say that, and precisely. The other had been stabbed, a wide mouth of a wound ripping up through leather, between horn plates. They had carried Grasslander sabres and a spear.

“You shouldn’t be getting in close like that. Great Gods, Ghu—”

“Once I am in that close, there’s not much they can do.” Ghu con sidered the smallest man and hauled off his boots, caravaneer’s leather-soled felt.

“You can’t take on a swordsman with a knife!”

Ghu’s eyes flicked up at him, brows raised, but he didn’t deign to answer. And the boots appeared to fit. He considered the taller of the two, who likewise seemed mostly dressed for the caravan road. Not Ahjvar’s height, but large feet.

“No,” Ahjvar protested.

“We’re heading for the desert, Ahj. And winter is coming.”

Ahjvar’s footwear was a horseman’s heeled leather, no warmth, and ill-fitting anyway. The last remnant of the Red Mask’s gear, uniform of the servants of the Lady of Marakand. He should be glad to be rid of it.

“Robbing the dead. Fine. Take a sword, too, then. You need—”

“Ahj, you think you can make me a good swordsman before we come to Nabban?”

He had no idea what Ghu was capable of. “Maybe. Probably. Competent.” Ghu would not be merely competent, whatever he set his hand to, but not likely they would have the energy, travelling hard, to spare for such things when they made their evening’s camp. Ahjvar doubted he would, anyway. He wanted, right now, nothing but to lie down and lose himself in nothingness. A dream-free nothingness. “Probably not.”

“Then don’t bother.”

“And what if you can’t dance in and cut throats?” He crouched to clean in the grass his sword and the hand sticky with his own blood.

“I hide behind you.” Ghu’s smile down at him was that of the inno cent of Sand Cove. “Put those boots on.”

Ahjvar took an undamaged shield from one of the Grasslanders for good measure, one of Ghu’s. He had stopped caring how he was hurt years ago, but it was Ghu going to pay, now, if he got himself laid out half dead in the midst of a fight. Half dead, or—whatever. He didn’t feel up to peeling one of the better-equipped out of their armour and Ghu didn’t suggest it.

No sign Ghu had flung even the token handful of earth over the brigands he had slain, yet by the time Ahjvar trailed him down towards the coulee, trying not to cringe at feeling the shape of a dead man’s feet, the ghosts were silent and gone from the others too. A word from Ghu might be blessing enough. He supposed even they deserved it. Less blood on their hands than on his, whatever they had done, and yet theirs would be a long road to the Old Great Gods. It was unlikely the shep herd had been their only innocent victim.

He gave in to having his arm bandaged before they broke camp and set out to follow the dogs, who found the horses downstream, though regretfully they turned the beasts loose to be claimed by whoever might find them. Trying to trade them wasn’t going to be worth the risk of being mistaken for part of some brigand gang themselves. They took what spare clothing from the saddlebags seemed a reasonable fit, and what gear would be of use, which was much of it. The greatest prize was a bulky Grasslander-style sheepskin coat, rolled tight and carried against the winter. Too small across the shoulders for Ahjvar, it was a loose fit on Ghu. They would be glad of it before they came to Nabban, he supposed. Even such things as a whetstone, a flint and firesteel, the woman’s axe—all might get them further on their road. A case of needles, which he dissuaded Ghu from trying out on his arm; it was really not all that bad. Blankets, food, a couple of purses of Marakander coin, a sack of barley, which the camels were going to need if they were to do more than meander, grazing as they went . . . Ahjvar left the looting to Ghu and went to sit by the stream, methodically working over his sword’s edge with the stone. It had seen little use, all things considered, in the last ninety years or so. Just as well, no doubt, from its maker’s point of view, or the blade’s steel edge would have been taken back to its pith; his weapons in the Five Cities had generally been less honourable ones, knives and poison and the garrotter’s cord.

His arm throbbed and still bled sullenly, his head ached, and he would have lain down to sleep again if it were not for fear of the night mares or some local chieftain’s handful of spearmen coming upon Ghu at his methodical robbery. Satisfied with the blade’s restoration at last, Ahjvar leant his head on the bole of a willow and found he had shut his eyes anyway.

Nabban. Ghu was drawn east now as the geese were pulled north in spring. The empire was a land of what, in any other place, would be many gods protecting many folks. There were only two gods in all Nabban now—Mother Nabban of the rivers, Father Nabban of the heights—and they called Ghu home . . . but what followed on that?

“You’ll like this.”

He had slept. The sun was hot, even through the willow leaves, climbing towards noon. Ghu dropped something at his side. A stirrup crossbow cased in oiled leather, and a quiver, six bolts left. Good Gold Harbour work. He recognized the maker by the patterning of ships on the stock.

“We could go back down to the Five Cities,” Ahjvar said.

He had lost track of time, the passing weeks and the phases of the moon; they had wandered far from the road, their course more winding than a slow river of the plains, and some days he had not been fit to travel at all. Days. Weeks, maybe. He couldn’t say. He wasn’t sure where they were, except well east of the kingdoms of Praitan, nearly to Porthduryan, where the eastern desert road began. There was a second land route to Nabban, a way that ran south of the deserts, north of the eastern forests, but it climbed high into mountains before dropping to the free city of Bitha. Not a road for winter. The third route was by sea from the former colony cities, a dangerous voyage, very long; the coast was savage and the sea beset by storms, and yet it would leave behind the assumption that they were more of the warlord Ketsim’s brigands; Ghu, at least, would be in a known world on board ship. He had worked his way west from Nabban by sea. From here, the nearest port of the Five Cities would be Sea Town, far away south somewhere. Noble Cedar Harbour was seven hundred miles down the coast from there. It had been a long time since the Leopard had hunted in either. A lifetime, for other men.

“I could easily earn enough to pay our passage by sea.”

Ghu’s face went still, utterly without expression, black eyes dark as night, as ageless. “No.”

Ahjvar hadn’t felt much but weariness and fear since the battle at Orsamoss, but that woke some spark of anger. Difficult enough, what Ghu set out to do, but he made it worse dragging Ahjvar with him, and the desert . . . “You want to try to cross a desert you know only from caravaneer’s tales, in winter, with what we can steal from bandits hardly better off than we are?”

“You don’t kill for me, Ahjvar. Not like that.”

He looked away. Ghu crouched down by him, took his arm, turned it to look at the deep purple bruises blooming on Ahjvar’s wrist. Brushed a thumb over one, as if to undo it. Or the rope scars beneath, and the mottled burns, livid, not yet fading to silver. “Besides, we still have your bracelets, remember?”

He did not. So many things lost, but the memories he would leave by the wayside he could not shed. But yes, hazily, he remembered. Thick gold rings with leopard’s-head terminals, heirlooms, like the sword, of his house. Useful now and then over the years when he had needed to swagger as a noble of Praitan in some disguise about his work. Not robbed for the temple after all; they had been taken and restored; he had been sent out wearing them, her captain, her—don’t think of her. Bracelets. His. Gold. Wealth to outfit them for several journeys, but dif ficult to sell for anything near their worth. Difficult, in this land, to find anyone who could afford to buy, or who would want such killable wealth under their roof, in a land so brigand-plagued. In the cities, though . . .

“We could buy passage fit for most respectable merchants, once we came to a place to sell that gold, ragged as we are,” said Ghu. “But Ahj . . . you want to be shut up in the close quarters of a ship? For months, if the season’s bad? Dreaming?”

“No.” He kept his eyes on the water. He dreamed of water, flowing into him, burning in the lungs like fire, the deep still water of the Lady’s well. He’d gone into the sea once, long ago, when he had still hoped there might be a way to die and take his curses with him.

“Come away,” Ghu said quietly. “They had still the haunch of a sheep. We might as well have the good of it, once we put enough miles between ourselves and this place to risk a fire. There’s bread to eat till then. And you do need stitches in that cut if it’s to heal clean.”

Ahjvar nodded, trying to summon the will to move.

“It was the coffee I meant you might like, actually. Not the crossbow.”

“Coffee?” He looked around at that.

Ghu laughed, shook a rattling cotton bag. “Nothing to grind it with, but there’s bound to be stones wherever we camp. Now—come.” As if he were one of the dogs.

The dying gods dream of salvation, a gambler’s doomed hope. Do they see him? He thinks not. Their own dreams drown them: they dream of their child, cast to the winds—all their last and fading thought. Their hopes of him leak, and the prophets spill words of storm and a land made new.

It will be so, but not by the heir of the gods.

A gift to the emperor’s daughter, an ambassador from far, far in the west, sent to great Yao of Nabban, famed even in distant Tiypur, with tribute of sea-silk and cameo-work in onyx and agate, and drugs and dyestuffs and poisons. A rough, barbarian thing, the gift, a trinket that drew her eye, hers out of all those who looked on it, displayed in the mother-of-pearl-inlaid chest with the greater jewels destined for the imperial treasury. He had made it so, like a caravan-mercenary’s amulet, to prevent it being desired, and so lost to some imperial wife or favoured lord who would be no use to him. It would draw the one he sought: the lever, the stepping stone, the pebble of his avalanche. He had not been certain who it might be, but there was faint wizardry lingering in all Min-Jan’s descen dants, their foremother’s legacy, and he had been certain the seed he sent would find some fertile ground in which to sink its roots.

A door, to be opened.

And so it has proved.

Bradley P. Beaulieu contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive an Advance Reading Copy of Bradley P. Beaulieu's Of Sand and Malice Made. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Mark Morrison, from San Diego, California, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s End of Watch is down one position, ending the week at number 10.

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter debuts at number 14.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One returns at number 11 (trade paperback)

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep debuts at number 14.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars for only 4.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

In his most ambitious project to date, award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson utilizes years of research and cutting-edge science in the first of three novels that will chronicle the colonization of Mars.

For eons, sandstorms have swept the barren desolate landscape of the red planet. For centuries, Mars has beckoned to mankind to come and conquer its hostile climate. Now, in the year 2026, a group of one hundred colonists is about to fulfill that destiny.

John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers, and Arkady Bogdanov lead a mission whose ultimate goal is the terraforming of Mars. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage and madness; for others it offers and opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. And for the genetic "alchemists, " Mars presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life...and death.

The colonists place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light to the planets surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels, kilometers in depth, will be drilled into the Martian mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves, and friendships will form and fall to pieces--for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.

Brilliantly imagined, breathtaking in scope and ingenuity, Red Mars is an epic scientific saga, chronicling the next step in human evolution and creating a world in its entirety. Red Mars shows us a future, with both glory and tarnish, that awes with complexity and inspires with vision.

Learning From a Younger Me: David B. Coe Guest Blog

Way back when I created the Hotlist, in January of 2005 to be exact, the three volumes of David B. Coe's debut trilogy were among the first works of fantasy I ever reviewed. So when the author contacted me to tell me about these new "director's cut" editions, I invited him to write a guest blog to tell us more about why he felt the need to do so. For more info about Children of Amarid, follow this link.

Here's the blurb:

For a millenium, the Children of Amarid have served the people of Tobyn-Ser. Drawing upon the Mage-Craft, which flows from the psychic bond they forge with their avian familiars, the Mages of the Order have fulfilled their oaths by healing the injured and ill, repelling invasions by the land’s enemies, and caring for the people in times of crisis. They are governed by laws handed down by Amarid, the first of their kind, who committed the Mage-Craft to the people’s protection. Only once in a thousand years has a mage defied those laws. Theron, a contemporary of Amarid, sought to use his powers to gain wealth and glory. For that he was punished, though not before he brought down a terrible curse on his fellow mages and all who would come after them.

Recently, dark rumors have spread across Tobyn-Ser. Children of Amarid have been seen destroying crops, vandalizing homes, massacring men, women, and children. Have the mages forsaken their oaths? Has Theron returned from beyond death to take his vengeance? Or does Tobyn-Ser face a new threat, one it is ill-prepared and ill-equipped to face?

With the land in turmoil and faith in the Mage-Craft badly shaken, it falls to Jaryd, a young mage with extraordinary potential, but little knowledge of the power he wields, to find and destroy Tobyn-Ser’s enemies before they destroy all he holds dear.

CHILDREN OF AMARID is the first volume of the LonTobyn Chronicle, David B. Coe’s Crawford Award-winning debut series. This is the Author’s Edit of the original book.


“Learning From a Younger Me” by David B. Coe

I wrote my first “novel” when I was six years old. “Jim, the Talking Fish,” was an oeuvre of compelling complexity, sensitive yet whimsical, exploring themes of, well, fish and what they might talk about if, you know, they could talk.

Okay, it was awful. And I illustrated it myself, which really didn’t help. Did I mention that I wrote it when I was six . . . ?

My parents kept the “book,” such as it was, and I have it still, because its very existence proves what I’ve always known: I was born to write stories. It’s what I do; it’s what I love. I’ve taken a few professional detours along the way, including one that led to a Ph.D. in history. But even then, I thought writing and teaching history would satisfy my need to compose stories.

Eventually, though, I returned to my true love: fiction. My first real novel, Children of Amarid, was published in 1997. In the years since, I’ve published another eighteen novels and more than a dozen short stories.

I’ve begun this post -- this story, if you will -- here, because I believe it explains so much about my current project. I am in the process of editing and rereleasing Children of Amarid and its sequels, The Outlanders and Eagle Sage. These are the books that launched my career, that won me the Crawford Fantasy Award, that established my name commercially, and that even garnered my first reviews on Pat’s Fantasy Hot List. They were in their time, pretty good books.

But like the first books of so many authors, they were also flawed in significant ways. Children of Amarid had been percolating inside me for over ten years before I finally sat down to write it. I brought tremendous passion to the project. In signing that first contract with Tor Books, I realized a dream that I’d nurtured since childhood. And I believe that passion, that exuberance, comes through in the novel.

So, too, does the rawness of my writing ability back then. Even having completed a history dissertation, I still had so much to learn about constructing narrative, capturing and conveying emotion, giving voice to characters. I’ve always been proud of that first trilogy, the LonTobyn Chronicle, but I’ve remained aware of the books’ weaknesses.

Eventually, the series went out of print, as books do, and I regained the rights to them. I knew I wanted to get them back into print, and at first I expected to do so as quickly as possible. But even after so many years, those flaws made me hesitate. My pride in the books was tempered by embarrassment at their excesses.

What excesses? What are all these flaws I keep referring to? Most of them were simply matters of prose. The books -- especially the first volume -- suffered from overwriting. I explained too much to my readers, telling them things that I’d already shown them quite effectively. I hammered at them with fierce grins and knowing nods and rueful shakes of the head. And then there were the adverbs. Hundreds of them. Thousands, even. The plot worked, the characters were likable and believable, the world building and magic system captured the imaginations of my readers. But the writing needed work.

I knew this because I’ve worked hard throughout my career to improve my prose, and I’m a much better writer now than I was at the start of my career. So I decided to re-issue what I call the Author’s Edit of the novels (think Director’s Cut). I’ve left those story elements -- plot, character, setting -- as they were, but I’ve tightened the writing, to the tune of 20,000 words cut from the first novel, and 14,000 from book II; I’m still working on the third volume.

The result, at least with respect to Children of Amarid, the Author’s Edit of which is now available, is a book of which I’m doubly proud. This is still the novel that got me started in publishing. But it also now reads the way I always hoped it would.

And that would be a great place to leave this post. However, there’s one more element of this process that I need to mention. As much as I feel my recent edits have improved upon a book written by a passionate but inexperienced first-time novelist, I also have to acknowledged that while reading through and revising Children of Amarid, I found myself learning from that younger version of me. Sure the writing was raw, and some of the story telling was a little heavy-handed. But the ambition I see in the original novel, and the exuberance I mentioned before, which shines through in the book, have inspired me to reach deeper into the new projects I plan to work on next. I want to challenge myself more, to lose myself in the passion of a new tale. I did that twenty years ago when I wrote my first novel, and I’m eager to see where unbridled creative ambition might take me today.

Put another way, my old writing, warts and all, has inspired me to apply newbie enthusiasm to my current work. It should be fun.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy the Author’s Edits of Children of Amarid, and the other books of the LonTobyn Chronicle. And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll re-issue “Jim, the Talking Fish,” too.


David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first two books, Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes came out in 2015. The third volume, Shadow’s Blade, has recently been released. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach.

David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he is in the process of reissuing, as well was the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.


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