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

In hardcover:

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s Navigators of Dune debuts at number 19.

Alan Moore’s Jerusalem debuts at number 20. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Octavia E. Butler's Bloodchild and Other Stories for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Six extraordinary stories from the author of Kindred, a master of modern science fiction—including a Hugo and Nebula award–winning novella.

Octavia E. Butler’s classic “Bloodchild,” winner of both the Nebula and Hugo awards, anchors this collection of incomparable stories and essays. “Bloodchild” is set on a distant planet where human children spend their lives preparing to become hosts for the offspring of the alien Tlic. Sometimes the procedure is harmless, but often it is not. Also included is the Hugo Award–winning “Speech Sounds,” about a near future in which humans must adapt after an apocalyptic event robs them of their ability to speak. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” another esteemed title in this collection, is a Nebula Award finalist.

In these pages, Butler shows us life on Earth and amongst the stars, telling her tales with characteristic imagination and clarity.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.

Chains of the Heretic

Jeff Salyards' debut, Scourge of the Betrayer, did show some potential. But its relatively short length, uneven pace, and lack of worldbuilding precluded that novel from being a truly satisfying read. All in all, it felt as though it was only part of a book, with a somewhat arbitrary ending that did nothing to close the show with any kind of aplomb. Simply put, not a full novel, in and of itself. In the sequel, Veil of the Deserters, the author did not make the same errors twice and the second volume turned out to be a better read, even though there were pacing issues throughout and the first person narrative of the main character once again left a lot to be desired. Still, it resounded with a lot more depth and actually made you eager to find out how it would all come to an end.

Now that Salyards had upped his game and Veil of the Deserters showed a lot of promise, I was curious to see if the final installment, Chains of the Heretic, would live up to that potential. And unfortunately, it appears it just wasn't meant to be. Indeed, though I was really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy, the final volume left me underwhelmed. . .

Here's the blurb:

Men are more easily broken than myths.

Emperor Cynead has usurped command of the Memoridons—Tower-controlled memory witches—and consolidated his reign over the Syldoonian Empire. After escaping the capital city of Sunwrack, Captain Braylar Killcoin and his Jackal company evade pursuit across Urglovia, tasked with reaching deposed emperor Thumaar and helping him recapture the throne. Braylar’s sister, Soffjian, rejoins the Jackals and reveals that Commander Darzaak promised her freedom if she agreed to aid them in breaking Cynead’s grip on the other Memoridons and ousting him.

Imperial forces attempt to intercept Braylar’s company before they can reach Thumaar. The Jackals fight through Cynead’s battalions but find themselves trapped along the Godveil. Outmaneuvered and outnumbered, Braylar gambles on some obscure passages that Arki has translated and uses his cursed flail, Bloodsounder, to part the Godveil, leading the Jackals to the other side. There, they encounter the ruins of human civilization, but they also learn that the Deserters who abandoned humanity a millennium ago and created the Veil in their wake are still very much alive. But are they gods? Demons? Monsters?

What Braylar, Soffjian, Arki, and the Jackals discover beyond the Godveil will shake an empire, reshape a map, and irrevocably alter the course of history.

As mentioned in my reviews of both Scourge of the Betrayer and Veil of the Deserters, the comparison with Glen Cook works only so far as the structure of the tale is concerned. Both the Black Company and the Bloodsounder books are military fantasy novels narrated by the person chronicling the deeds of their respective military outfits. That's as far as it goes, I'm afraid. In style, tone, and especially substance, these two series, regardless of a few similarities, are quite different.

There was virtually no worldbuilding to speak of throughout the first volume. A few interesting concepts were unveiled but not explored, so it was good to see the author finally expand on the Deserters, the Godveil, the Memoridons, and the Syldoon themselves in the second installment. And yet, as captivating as those revelations turned out to be, I wish Salyards would have relied less on info-dump conversations to share that information with his readers. Trouble is, poor Arkamondos can be so dense and innocent at times that other characters have no choice but to spoon-feed him all this info in order to relay it to the reader. For that reason, and I've said this numerous times, I wish this tale was seen through the eyes of multiple POV protagonists, for Arkamondos' limited perspective more often than not fails to convey the full scope of what is taking place. Still, if there is one facet of Chains of the Heretic in which Salyards truly improved, it has to be worldbuilding. Finally, we discover the truth behind the mysterious power of the Memoridons, as well as the link between weapons such as Bloodsounder and the Godveil.

Kudos to the author for making sure that his main protagonist remained true to himself and his convictions for the duration of the series. Jeff Salyards could have taken the path of least resistance and decide to turn things around, but that would have been too much of a stretch. Love him or hate him, Arkamondos is a genuine and three-dimensional character. And therein lies the problem. As an innocent and a nerdy do-gooder, the young archivist doesn't have much going for him. The events of the previous installments have shaken him badly, and he's no longer the outsider he was when he first joined the Syldoon. Yet he remains a cowardly scribe, even if desperation occasionally forces him to show some courage. Because of this, Salyards' main problem remains the same and many a reader may have a hard time identifying with someone like Arkamondos. Understandably, I get that it's all part of the premise to have such an innocent protagonist chronicle and narrate what is essentially a dark and violent tale of military fantasy. But these books are grimdark titles and they are aimed at that particular audience. Given what aficionados of this subgenre are habitually into, having the first person narrative of a clumsy coward as the only POV in this series can be problematic. Especially given the fact that these books feature a number of intriguing men and women such as Captain Braylor Killcoin, Hewspear, Mulldoos, Vendurro, and Soffjian. Had there been any POV sections focusing on any of them, there is no doubt in my mind that the Bloodsounder's Arc trilogy would have been a much better and multilayered read.

As was the case with both Scourge of the Betrayer and Veil of the Deserters, the pace of this third volume can be an issue at times. Chains of the Heretic features a very strong beginning. So much so that at first I believed that this could be one of the fantasy books to read this year. How it all comes crashing down, I'll never know. What started as an annoying complication and what ultimately killed the book for me is the constant bickering between all the characters. In previous volumes, this was never much of a problem and it served as the comic relief to lighten up the mood of a decidedly dark story. But for some unfathomable reason, in Chains of the Heretic Salyards turned it up a few notches and it is to the detriment of the plot. Basically every single page of the novel features unending arguing and bitching between basically every single character, and this gets old really quickly. It got to a point where I had no choice but to skim through most scenes, as you always have to go through another round of insults thrown every which way before you can get to the heart of that particular sequence. There is such a vast word count focusing on all that bickering that you could probably shave off about 20 per cent of the book without losing anything important. And terms such as horsecunt as insults. Seriously? In addition, like its predecessor, à la R. A. Salvatore this one features a lot of action-packed choreographed battle scenes. Once more, many of these felt unnecessary and I thought that they often got in the way of the storytelling. Oh and Arkamondos' awkward sex scene. It was as painful to read as it was useless in the greater scheme of things.

Still, for all of that, I believe that Chains of the Heretic could have been saved had the Deserters' storyline lived up to the expectations generated by the first two volumes. Too little was revealed about who and what they are and why the Godveil was created. The endgame came with a few surprises, which was good. And I liked how the ending was also a brand new beginning. But alas, it was too little, too late. Although the book showed some improvements toward the end, Jeff Salyards had sadly lost me around the halfway point.

This is a major disappointment, as I felt that this series showed a lot of promise. In the end, characterization and some questionable execution prevented this series from achieving its full potential.

The final verdict: 6/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Stephen King's Lisey's Story for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The “haunting…tender, intimate book that makes an epic interior journey” (The New York Times), Lisey’s Story is a literary masterpiece—an extraordinarily moving and haunting portrait of a marriage and its aftermath.

Lisey lost her husband Scott two years ago, after a twenty-five year marriage of profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey knew there was a place Scott went—a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face Scott’s demons, to go to that terrifying place known as Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download M. John Harrison's Viriconium for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Available to American readers for the first time, this landmark collection gathers four groundbreaking fantasy classics from the acclaimed author of Light. Set in the imagined city of Viriconium, here are the masterworks that revolutionized a genre and enthralled a generation of readers: The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings, In Viriconium, and Viriconium Nights. Back in print after a long absence, these singular tales of a timeless realm and its enigmatic inhabitants are now reborn and compiled to captivate a whole new generation.

Blake Charlton contest winner!

This winner will receive a copy of Blake Charlton's Spellbreaker, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Steve Howard, from Stamford, Connecticut, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Glen Cook's first Dread Empire omnibus, A Cruel Wind, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Before there was Black Company, there was the Dread Empire, an omnibus collection the first three Dread Empire novels: A Shadow of All Night's Falling, October's Baby and All Darkness Met.

And here's the blurb of the first volume, A Shadow of All Night's Falling:

Across the mountains called Dragon's Teeth, beyond the chill reach of the Werewind and the fires of the world's beginning, above the walls of the castle Fangdred, stands Windtower. From this lonely keep the Star Rider calls forth the war that even wizards dread, fought for a woman's hundred-lifetime love. A woman called Nepanthe, princess to the Stormkings...

This Gulf of Time and Stars

Mea culpa: I've never read anything by Julie E. Czerneda before picking up This Gulf of Time and Stars. Considering the amount of Daw titles I've bought over the years, I have no excuse. None whatsoever. Especially since the author is Canadian. Better late than never, or so they say.

I was intrigued by the premise of this first installment in the Reunification trilogy when I read the blurb. All the more so when I was informed that one did not need to have read the previous two series in the Clan Chronicles to enjoy this new one. That's not entirely true, but we'll get to that in a few moments. In the end, although I would have benefited from exposure to Czerneda's The Trade Pact and Stratification trilogies, following a difficult start This Gulf of Time and Stars delivered on enough fronts to make me want to read what comes next.

Here's the blurb:

This Gulf of Time and Stars begins the hard sci-fi Reunification series, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.

Sira di Sarc, the leader of an alien race hiding in plain sight among humans, must find a way to take her Clan home, in this trilogy within the award-winning Clan Chronicles series.

To save their world, the most powerful of the Om’ray left their homes. They left behind all memory of their past. Calling themselves the Clan, they settled among Humanity, hiding in plain sight, using their ability to slip past normal space to travel where they wished, using their ability to control minds to ensure their place and security.

They are no longer hidden.

For the Clan face a crisis. Their reproduction is tied to individual power, and their latest generation of females, Choosers, are too strong to safely mate. Their attempt to force others to help failed until Sira di Sarc, their leader and the most powerful of their kind, successfully Joined with a human, Jason Morgan, starship captain and telepath. With Morgan, Sira forged the first peace between her kind and the Trade Pact.

But it is a peace about to shatter. Those the Clan have controlled all these years will rise against them. Her people dying around her, war about to consume the Trade Pact, Sira will be left with only one choice. She must find the way back. And take the Clan home.

Julie E. Czerneda is renowned for her complex worldbuilding and for creating original alien species. It's not necessarily the case with This Gulf of Time and Stars, but we have to keep in mind that the author lay the groundwork for this new trilogy in two past series and most of the worldbuilding has already been established. Having said that, the Assemblers were quite cool. In my opinion, after a lackluster beginning, the story picks up as soon as it shifts to Cersi, the Clan's homeworld. Since the Clan members were stripped of their memories when they left Cersi and made Passage to the Trade Pact universe, the planet is as alien to them as it is to readers. The Balance between the Om'ray, name by which the Clan used to be known, the Oud, and the Tikitik is at the heart of this tale and shapes all three species' existence on the planet. But the truth behind this Balance is a revelation that will change this world forever. I also liked the references to the mysterious Hoveny Concentrix, the greatest alien civilization the universe has ever known, and how they might be tied to Cersi and its inhabitants.

Truth be told, claiming that this is a hard sci-fi series is a serious misnomer. Actually, This Gulf of Time and Stars turned out to be more of a character-driven space opera and fantasy blend. If anything, this could one of the most accessible science fiction novels I've read in a very long time. So please forget about this "hard sci-fi" label, as nothing could be further from the truth. This series can be enjoyed by any speculative fiction fans. As mentioned, those who have read Czerneda's The Trade Pact and Stratification series will probably get more out of the experience and find it easier to get into This Gulf of Time and Stars. Yet that doesn't mean that newbies, like me, cannot get into the book. It just means that it takes a while for things to finally make sense and you just need to bid your time and trust that the author knows what she's doing. There is a two-page "Previously, in the Clan Chronicles" section that provides a brief lowdown regarding the first two trilogies. I feel that the novel, and the series as a whole, would have benefited from something more substantial, especially if there was any true desire to bring in new readers. Hence, with very little background information, the reader is thrust into the story and things can be quite confusing at the beginning. It doesn't help that the first 60 pages or so have to do with a baby shower. At that point, things are more boring than confusing (for new readers at least), but stick with it. When the proverbial shit hits the fan, things will look up and the book becomes captivating. And though very little is done at the start to fill you in, Czerneda does provide information that allows us to fill in the blanks and make sense of the plotlines later on. I'm persuaded that I've missed out on some nuances here and there. Yet all in all, by the time I reached the end book, I had everything I needed to fully enjoy it.

The bulk of This Gulf of Time and Stars is told from the perspectives of two main protagonists: Sira di Sarc, leader of the Clan, and Jason Morgan, her human Chosen. Both are well-drawn and engaging characters and their different viewpoints make for an interesting narrative. However, Czerneda lays it a bit thick when it comes to the romantic side and what they mean to each other, and that can be annoying. She thinks he's tough, he's badass, and she loves him. And he thinks she's tough, she's badass, and he loves her. I get it. You don't have to remind me every chapter or so. There are occasional sections offering other points of view, but those are few and far between. And even though Sira and Morgan will always take center stage, I feel that more POVs from the rest of the cast would have added layers to the characterization. The cast is comprised of quite a few compelling men and women and aliens, chief among them  Barac and Destin, who deserved a bit of limelight and I feel that more attention should have been devoted to them. In addition, it sometimes felt odd that Sira and Morgan are almost always smarter than everyone else and they're always the ones working out the puzzles and saving everyone's bacon.

The pace of the novel is decidedly crooked. The beginning is dull for the most part and new readers have to wait till about the halfway point before they have enough information to make sense of the storylines. Once the action shifts to Cersi, however, then the rhythm picks up and the story progresses at a good clip. The endgame and the final revelations elevate This Gulf of Time and Stars to another level and make you want to discover what happens next. Hence, you can expect a review of the sequel, The Gate to Futures Past, in the coming weeks.

Overall, This Gulf of Time and Stars probably wasn't the best jumping point for someone who had yet to read anything by Julie E. Czerneda. Still, I'm glad I stuck with it, for once the story truly takes off it makes for a satisfying reading experience. The ending packs a good punch and I'm looking forward to the second volume. Time will tell if the next two installments will live up to the potential generated by this one, but I'd recommend This Gulf of Time and Stars to anyone looking for an accessible science fiction novel featuring a strong female lead.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Myke Cole's excellent Shadow Ops: Control Point for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down--and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download Drew Karpyshyn’s Children of Fire for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Drew Karpyshyn has made his mark with imaginative, action-packed work on several acclaimed videogames, including Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, as well as in a succession of New York Times bestselling tie-in novels. Now Karpyshyn introduces a brilliantly innovative epic fantasy of perilous quests, tormented heroes, and darkest sorcery—a thrilling adventure that vaults him into the company of such authors as Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett.

Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Drew Karpyshyn’s The Scorched Earth.

Today only, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“The single most resonant and carefully imagined book of Dick’s career.” – New York Times

It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.

This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

Winner of the Hugo Award.

The same goes for M. R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts, which you can download for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download James Islington's The Shadow of What Was Lost, first volume in the Licanius trilogy, for only 4.99$ here. It's supposed to be a must for fans of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

Here's the blurb:

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them - the Gifted - are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion's Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.

As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian's wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is...

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.

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

In hardcover:

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is down two spots, finishing the week at number 18.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One returns at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Clive Barker's The Damnation Game for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Marty Strauss, a gambling addict recently released from prison, is hired to be the personal bodyguard of Joseph Whitehead, one of the wealthiest men in the world. The job proves more complicated and dangerous than he thought, however, as Marty soon gets caught up in a series of supernatural events involving Whitehead, his daughter (who is a heroin addict), and a devilish man named Mamoulian, with whom Whitehead made a Faustian bargain many years earlier, during World War II.

As time passes, Mamoulian haunts Whitehead using his supernatural powers (such as the ability to raise the dead), urging him to complete his pact with him. Eventually Whitehead decides to escape his fate after a few encounters with Mamoulian and having his wife, former bodyguard, and now his daughter Carys taken away from him. With hope still left to save Carys, Marty Strauss, although reluctant to get involved in the old man Whiteheads deserved punishment, decides to get involved and attempt to save the innocent gifted addict from being another victim to the damnation game.

Emma Newman contest winner!

To help promote the release of Emma Newman's A Little Knowledge (Canada, USA, Europe), this lucky winner will receive a set of the first three volumes, courtesy of the folks at Diversion Books. The prize pack includes:

- Between Two Thorns
- Any Other Name
- All Is Fair

The winner is:

- Jesse Gurr, from College Place, Washington, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Win a copy of Connie Willis' CROSSTALK

I have a copy of Connie Willis' Crosstalk up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Del Rey. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk—a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.

In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal—to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely—in a way far beyond what she signed up for.

It is almost more than she can handle—especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize that love—and communication—are far more complicated than she ever imagined.

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

Reading more female SFF authors: Fan mail

You may recall that my original "Reading more female SFF authors" created a bit of a stir last February. Thousands of hits, lots of Twitter crap, lots of comments here and elsewhere; all in all, your regular minor SFF internet shitstorm.

As promised, I've been doing my part to read and review more speculative fiction titles written by women. Haven't been keeping track, to be honest, but I figured I was on target for reaching my objective. And today I received this email from a reader:

Hi Pat,

I know you took a lot of flak for your post about reading more female genre writers this year and I was concerned that all the petty trolls would piss you off enough that you would decide to forgo that plan. So I was quite happy to see you follow through with it! Kate Elliott, Jacqueline Carey, C.J. Cherryh (You have to read Cyteen!), Nnedi Okorafor (Will you be reading Binti now that it won a Hugo?), Kelly Link (not her best...), Naomi Novik, Charlaine Harris, and Sarah Pinborough. And I saw on Goodreads that you are now reading Julie E. Czerneda's This Gulf of Time and Stars and N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (You should have gone for The Fifth Season, by far her best book yet!). This adds up to 10 books by female sff writers and means that you have already reached your goal before the end of September! If you read just one more book per month, you could end the year with 13 books! Maybe that's nowhere near enough for the sff feminists and the pc police, but it makes this girl pretty happy!:)

You also went for a good variety of subgenres and styles. Epic fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, magical realism, science fiction, etc, which is always nice. And you gave some of these books high marks indeed, so I'm hoping that many of your readers decided to check them out.

I just wanted to thank you for putting your money where your mouth is and going through with your plan of offering increased coverage of sff books written by female authors. The silent majority of people coming to your blog couldn't care less about what supposed feminist trolls think of you and your reviews. We keep returning because we know what to expect and we like that. But as a woman who loves a great many sff female writers, it's nice to see more of them reviewed on your site.

Keep up the good work,


Ah well, this made my day! =)

Extract from Matthew B.J. Delaney's BLACK RAIN

Here's an extract from Matthew B.J. Delaney's Black Rain, courtesy of the folks at 47 North. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In a darkly warped near future, lucrative disease cures are brokered on Wall Street’s Genetic Stock Exchange. And the hottest consumer products are artificially synthesized humans that serve as everything from domestic slaves to combatants in savage gladiatorial games. For Jack Saxton, the young heir to genetic design powerhouse Genico Inc., these Synthates are just a fact of life…until the murder of a high-profile genetic scientist leads a pair of seasoned NYPD detectives to Genico’s door.

As a small band of Synthate rebels steps up its attack on the status quo, Jack encounters a pleasure-parlor girl who opens his eyes to their cause. When he dares to sympathize with the rebels, Jack is hunted down and arrested for the murder. Sentenced to die in the brutal games on Bloomberg Island, Jack will be forced to fight—for his life, for the future of all Synthates, and for a chance to uncover the mind-bending secret buried in his past.


The security men had advised against it. Or at least Greeley had. But Greeley advised against most things. Like taking walks, sitting by open windows, and eating in restaurants. He’d be against meltwater, Synthate shopping, and visiting pleasure parlors, if he thought anyone would pay attention. The secret to getting along with Greeley was to listen to his advice, nod, then do whatever it was you planned on doing. Only do it when he wasn’t looking.

Greeley wasn’t looking now, so Martin Reynolds slid his hand around Betsy’s waist.

“Don’t!” Her hand met his. “You’ll crush my wings.”

“I’m sorry, my angel.”

Her wings were little lacy ones, extending out from the back of her tightly fitted white dress. Reynolds slid his arm down the side of his wife’s thigh instead. The big clock on the wall chimed eleven, barely audible over the sound of the band.

What Greeley had advised against was Seeks. A silly game, really, Reynolds thought. An adult version of hide-and-seek. One that rich people played at the lavish parties Bruce Livingston had been throwing inside his Fifth Avenue mansion for years.

Reynolds had known Livingston since undergrad. Livingston had gone on to become a senator, while Reynolds had become a molecular geneticist specializing in DNA recombinant nanotechnology for Genico Industries, a job description that made most people fake calls on their syncs just to avoid small talk with him.

Livingston addressed the crowd. “In a few moments we’ll start the Seeks. At the stroke of eleven thirty, half of you will be given twenty minutes to hide anywhere on these premises. The other half will then be given the opportunity to find those hidden. Last couple not found wins a six-month-long domestic Synthate lease. Now, each couple received a card in an envelope at the door, so please open it now.”

Betsy opened her purse and produced the white envelope. Slipping her finger under the flap, she tore it open. A red letter H was printed on the card inside.

“Looks like we’ll be hiding.”

Reynolds was used to Livingston’s idea of entertaining. Once the ballroom had been the scene of a female bodybuilding contest. Another time, a hundred little people had reenacted the Battle of Hastings. The columns claimed that not a single invitation had ever been refused. Nor was any member of the media ever allowed to attend.

Tonight, the forty people standing around created that fantastic, almost surreal environment produced by only the most opulent costume balls. An African warrior stood by the bar talking with Al Capone and a NASA astronaut while Hermes danced the waltz with Mother Teresa around and around the floor.

It was absurd, really, which was why Reynolds wore only his old green hospital scrubs, untouched since he’d been a resident.

The clock neared 11:30.

Livingston was traditionally referred to as old mao. And more than that, he was old, political mao, which, before the Chinese currency crisis, would have been old money. Which was the best kind. He had access to more touch bucks in one finger than entire honeycomb blocks of the conurb.

“We’ll head for the library,” Betsy whispered. “I know a place we can hide. It’s where Livingston takes those young female interns he enjoys mentoring.”

“Who told you that?” Reynolds asked.

“The senator’s wife.”

Reynolds looked around the room again. He had the uncomfortable feeling he was being watched. And he was right. In the corner stood a man in a long black robe. His face was covered by a leather plague mask with a long, protruding nose and two perfectly round black eyes.

The masked figure turned toward Reynolds. Reynolds looked quickly away.

The clock sounded the half hour. A cheer rose from the partygoers and the band struck up a brisk rag. Greeley headed out the door toward the front lawn. Henry VIII and Cleopatra and the others headed for the hallways and hiding places beyond the ballroom.

“Good luck, everyone!” Livingston called out. “Let the Seeking begin!”

Betsy took her husband’s hand and led him toward the rear of the ballroom. She checked her watch. “Twenty minutes to get ourselves in place. Let’s hurry.”

They left the ballroom and quickly made their way down a long hall. Reynolds glimpsed strange sights as they passed rooms. Wyatt Earp and a Catholic schoolgirl trying to squeeze inside a closet. A clanking knight and a French maid pushing themselves underneath a bed. Husband and wife reached the foot of a wide staircase and immediately headed up. Betsy seemed to know exactly where she was going. After a bit more walking, they came to an abrupt stop.

They stood before a beautiful library. A marble fireplace was cut into the wall on their left, the stone glowing from the light cast by two red-shaded lamps. An Oriental rug, its background the same faded rust color as the bindings of the books (actual paper, what a novelty!) covered the floor. Windows looked down on the Central Park contaminant dome. And reflecting the room’s interior was an enormous mirror on the back wall framed in heavy gilded wood.

Betsy walked over to the mirror. First she inspected the trim, then she cupped her hands against the glass and tried to peer through it.

“What are you doing?” Reynolds asked. “It’s not fluxglass?”

“Give me a minute.”

When the competitive spirit seized Betsy, small talk was of little interest. A black remote sat on a nearby chair. On a whim, Reynolds pressed the power button. The wall clicked and the mirror slid outward. Betsy took hold of the frame and the whole piece swung into the room like a giant door.

Beyond the mirror was a small room with a bed, lamp, and a wooden bureau. A bottle of wine sat on the bureau, which made Reynolds think Betsy might have had this planned from the beginning. She was a very resourceful woman at times.

He slid out his father’s old Glock handgun from the pancake holster attached to his belt. He placed the gun on the bureau.

She raised her eyebrows. “Still afraid?”


She kissed him hard. Her hands wrapped around his back. He was still afraid. But the gun was more magic amulet than useful tool. He doubted he could actually pull the trigger. But he liked the feel of the metal against his skin. The weight of it on his belt. He hoped just having the weapon was enough to keep away whatever was out there.

Whatever they might send for him when the time came.

A single window looked down on the dark expanse of the rear garden. There Greeley burned a smoke stick as two shapes moved quickly past him, a billowing white ghost accompanied by a witch, her face painted green.

The library clock chimed midnight.

“Well, let the games begin,” his wife whispered.

The mirror door was still open, showing the view into the rest of the library and the hallway at the far end.

“Shouldn’t we be closing that?” Reynolds had the remote in his hands.

“By all means.”

She took hold of the mirror and slowly swung it shut. There was a click as the frame locked into place, sealing them inside the small room. The glass was one-way reflective, allowing them to look out into the library and see anyone approaching. Without the remote, no one could get into the room short of breaking the glass.

Through the one-way panel, Reynolds watched the empty library. Next to him, Betsy’s wings glittered and sparkled as she moved about the room. The clock chimed a final time, after which the sound slowed into a long dying tone before finally rolling out altogether. Then silence. Now, somewhere below, the Seekers would be coming for them.

Reynolds experienced an instant of stomach butterflies, like the giddy excitement of kids at play. The feeling was similar to another, more adult sensation he’d experienced many times in the presence of women, except that dose of excitement usually happened a good foot or so below his stomach. Betsy must have intuited this, because she was looking at him, her hip cocked slightly forward.

Reynolds’s heart skipped with surprise. Someone was staring at them.

Betsy frowned. “What is it?”

“Someone’s out there.”

It was the man in the plague mask. He stood in the doorway of the library, eyeholes directed at their hiding place. Reynolds reminded himself that the fellow couldn’t see them through the mirror. Betsy appeared to have come to the same conclusion.

She moved closer to Reynolds. The bells on her wings jingled. “Just ignore him.”

He allowed his gaze to flick back at the mirror. The man was still there, head cocked to the side. Listening.

“Shh, shh,” Reynolds whispered, grabbing hold of his wife, keeping her costume still.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, looking vaguely annoyed.

“I think he’s listening.”

She pulled herself away, straightening her dress. “Who is he?”

“I saw him downstairs.”

“The mirror is closed, right?”

“Yes . . .”

“So who cares? Let him listen. He can’t get in here, anyway.”

His wife had always been the adventurous one. Reynolds went to the window and looked out again. The garden stretched before him, glowing in the moonlight. Greeley had vanished. Then from the darkness came a sharp, piercing cry.

Betsy grabbed his arm tight. “What was that?”

He knew what they’d heard had been a scream.

But had the sound been real? Livingston might be up to some kind of trick. Turn out the lights, then try to scare everyone. Exactly his idea of a joke. On the other hand, the scream had struck him as authentic. So either Livingston had brought in a very motivated and talented actor for the part, or . . . or what?

Or, Reynolds thought, it was genuine. In which case . . .

From the other side of the mirror, out in the library, came a dull thump. He turned quickly from the window and looked through the mirror. The plague doctor had vanished, but Reynolds had seen something move. Gone in an instant behind the doorframe, beyond their line of sight. But in that moment, Reynolds had registered two feet, limp, dragging as someone out of sight pulled along the body of their owner. Something that caught the light had congealed on the floor, there at the rug’s edge. Reynolds pressed his face against the glass and strained to see.

Was that blood?

“What is it?” Betsy asked. “What do you see?”

“I don’t know,” Reynolds replied. Then he surprised himself by saying, “But stay here. I’m going to go look.”

Did I really just say that? Martin Reynolds by no means considered himself brave. He’d flushed a rabid raccoon out from underneath their porch with a 7-iron once last summer, but this was a far cry from that. Any other time, he would have stayed safely hidden with his wife behind the mirror. But something about the feel of his wife against him had gotten Reynolds’s testosterone going and he suddenly felt that most dangerous of all male emotions, the need to prove something.

The Glock sat silent on the bureau, its black metal bursting with the possibility of violence. He thought of sliding it back into his holster, but he was a coward at heart. And cowards did stupid things when it came to guns. He didn’t want to shoot someone accidently, some poor domestic Synthate or, even worse, one of the other guests. Better to run than fight. That was his way.

Reynolds pressed the remote and the mirror swung slowly open, an effect akin to breaking a seal. Suddenly he could hear all the lower-register noises that had been inaudible inside the sealed room. The tick of the clock in the library. The hum of the lamp. And in the far distance, he heard a door slam.

“Stay here. Keep quiet,” Reynolds said. “I’ll be back.”

Unarmed, he stepped out into the library. The room was empty. Behind him, the mirror swung back into place. Now nothing but his own reflection showed in the glass. Betsy was suddenly invisible. Pausing, he listened. Nothing. He peeked around the door. The hall was empty in both directions.

Turning his attention to the floor, he saw a dark streak along the carpet. He bent and touched the stain. His fingers came away red. Blood. No doubt. He remembered the man in the mask. And the feet being dragged. He should call the police.

But Livingston was a strange man. The entire evening might be just an elaborate bit of theater. If Livingston knew where the Reynoldses were hiding, he could have staged a series of scenes on the other side of the mirror, intending to frighten his old college buddy. Such actions seemed implausible and made no sense, but Reynolds wouldn’t put it past him.

The bloodstains streaked down the hall before turning right and disappearing around a corner. If Livingston was playing a trick, he was certainly going to a lot of effort. And if Livingston was trying to frighten his guest, it was starting to work. Reynolds’s heart thumped rather painfully in his chest while a slow chill crept the length of his neck. Suddenly he was aware of how alone he felt in the big old house. But he pushed forward, not wanting to give Livingston the satisfaction of winning whatever little game he was playing.

“I’ll track you down, old friend,” Reynolds said to himself as he began following the wet stains. “We’ll see how this turns out.”

Blood streaks wound back and forth along the carpet like the marks of a snake over sand. At the end of the hall, he turned and tracked them to the end of a second corridor. There was no sign of other Seekers.

The streaks proceeded on and on. The blood pooled on marble floors and beaded on parquet. Livingston was ruining parts of his house with this little joke.

Then the streaks disappeared.

The marks led to large, closed double doors, vanishing beneath them. End of the line. A single beam of light shone through the keyhole below the brass knob. Quietly, Reynolds crept up to the door and placed his ear against it. From inside he heard footsteps. Livingston, I’ve got you now. Slowly he lowered himself into a crouch, then put his eye against the keyhole and peered inside.

It wasn’t Livingston.

The room was a study. Bookshelves lined a back wall, against which a shadow suddenly fell. A man stood, his arm upraised. Reynolds followed the source of the light. A lamp on an end table. The plague doctor was there, blocking the light from the lamp. He held a long, curving sickle. Greeley was there, too. The security man lay half propped up on the wall, the red stains ending at him, blood pooled all around his body. The sickle was lacquered in dripping blood. The costumed figure looked down at Greeley’s body, tapping the sickle against his leg until blood seeped into the fabric of his robe.

Reynolds fell forward slightly, in shock. His forehead hit the doorknob and the metal rattled. The plague doctor spun toward the sound. Listening and still tapping the sickle against his leg, he moved toward the door.

Reynolds pulled back from the keyhole. He had a strange urge to stand in place. Wait for the double doors to open and see what came out. Or at least bend down before the keyhole again, his rational side telling him to make sure he’d really seen what he’d seen and that the whole thing wasn’t just some fantastical delusion wrought by the circumstances. No. There was a better solution.

Turn and run.

He headed back down the way he’d come. Behind him he heard the telltale sound of doors opening, then footsteps behind across the marble floor. He ignored what he heard. Ignored the hideous evidence of somebody chasing him. Keep moving. Now the final stretch was in front of him. He moved quickly, his pursuer climbing the stairs after him.

As Reynolds entered the library, he slipped open his sync. The mirror beckoned at the far end and he sprinted for it. He pulled hard on the gilded frame. Nothing happened. He pulled again in a panic. His sync slipped from his hand and skipped across the floor. The mirror was still tight shut. The footsteps in the hall were loud now, the terrifying figure getting closer and closer. Dear God. The pounding of Reynolds’s heart seemed to him as loud as the approaching footfalls.

All at once the mirror slid open and his wife’s hand pulled him into the secret room. The mirror shut behind him and locked. There in the darkness, trying to control his breath, his heart continued to ripple painfully. He turned and looked out through the glass, back into the library.


“Jesus, what happened?” Betsy hissed. “What’s wrong?”

Reynolds shook his head. “Quiet. He’s coming.”

He kept his eye on the library’s doorway. Watching. Watching.

Then a figure appeared. The terribly long nose, the black eyes of the plague doctor. He stopped for a moment in the doorway, then turned and kept walking, disappearing from view. What was happening in Reynolds’s chest felt like a heart attack. But then the pain dropped so hard into his stomach he felt he was going to be sick.

“Who was that?” Betsy asked, her eyes wide and scared.

“Call the police.” Reynolds’s voice wavered and Betsy froze. “I dropped my sync. Call the police now!”

She looked around, thoroughly frightened by the tone of his voice. Obediently she dialed the numbers. “Where’s yours?”

Reynolds looked out and saw his sync on the library floor. He stared hard at it, attempting to somehow will it back into his possession. Betsy handed her sync to Reynolds. The operator’s voice picked up after the second ring, curt and impersonal.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

Forced to speak, Reynolds breathed deeply and tried to gather his words. “We need help, there’s someone here, there’s a man, trying to kill us. I’m at 578 Fifth Avenue, the townhouse, fifth floor.”

“You need the police?”

“Yes . . . please . . . right away . . .”

“Stay on the line, sir,” the operator responded.

Betsy pressed hard against Reynolds, her mouth very small and tight as she stared at something through the glass and into the room beyond.

“What is it?” Reynolds asked.

“He knows.”

Reynolds knew they had come for him. They had found out about his work. He had done his best to keep it secret, but he had always known this moment would come. He had just hoped it wouldn’t be when he was with Betsy. Reynolds reached into his waistband. They had left him no choice.

The 911 operator came back on the line. “Are you there, sir?”

“Yes.” Reynolds whispered. “There’s been a murder. He’s here now. I’m looking at him.”

“Where are you and your wife hiding?”

Reynolds opened his mouth to respond, then a warning flashed in his mind. Something was not right. “What did you say?”

“Where in the house are you and your wife hiding?”

My wife. I never told the operator I was with my wife. His mind moved sluggishly. The voice on the sync. Someone who had seen him at the party with his wife. Someone who knew who he was. Someone who couldn’t be a 911 operator.

“Why do you want to know where we’re hiding?” Reynolds asked.



Reynolds felt suddenly calm.

There would be no more waiting. No more secrets.

He lifted the old Glock 9mm handgun from the bureau. The weapon felt strange in his hands. Betsy stared at him, her eyes wide. “What are you doing with that?”

“They found me out.”

“Who found you out?”

“Who do you think?” Reynolds tried to remember how to flick off the safety on the weapon.

“Oh God. Where is it?”

“Hidden,” Reynolds said. “Safe for now.”

In the library, the masked figure stopped and stared down at Reynolds’s sync. Slowly he bent down, picked it up, and inspected the screen. He pressed the device with his thumb, then seemed to wait. Reynolds suddenly knew what the man was waiting for, but he was too slow to react. In his hand, Betsy’s sync came alive and a shrill ring filled the small space. The man’s head slowly swiveled toward the sound as Reynolds’s sync fell from his fingers.

He approached the mirror and stared at it. Up close, Reynolds could see flecks of blood on the leather mask. Only feet from them, the man ran the point of the sickle over the glass. His wife pressed herself against Reynolds again. The little bells on her wings tinkled. The blade on the mirror screeched. Reynolds’s adrenaline surged as his focus narrowed to a single smudge on the unblemished glass. A fingerprint. His own that he had left behind.

The man in the mask saw the mark at the same time. The movement of the blade stopped. Slowly, he lifted the sickle, then the blade hissed down. The glass shattered and the man stepped through the broken frame, gripping the blade in his hand.

Reynolds closed his eyes, his finger tightening on the trigger, and fired.

Signed posters of the new Fionavar covers

You can now buy autographed posters of the new covers for Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar trilogy. Each poster is signed by both Martin Springett and the author.

Follow this link to find out more.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, recent Hugo award winner, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

The Dark Tower

Going through Stephen King's Song of Susannah in a few short days meant that I simply couldn't not jump into the final installment immediately. With such a cliffhanger ending to cap off the sixth volume, it was impossible not to pick up the seventh to find out how the author would bring this grand saga to an end.

Over three decades in the making, it has been a remarkable journey, both for King and his readers. Although he did not quite manage to make it the biggest fantasy series ever written, The Dark Tower now stands tall as one of the greatest sagas the genre has ever seen, second only, in my humble opinion, to Steven Erikson's epic The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Of course, George R. R. Martin may force us to rearrange that order when A Song of Ice and Fire is finished. But as things stand, Erikson and King have written what I consider to be the most impressive fantasy sagas, both in scope and vision, in the history of the genre. Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is a very distant third, its grand potential left unfulfilled due to the author's tragic death.

But that's for the series as a whole. On its own as the final book, The Dark Tower is a decidedly uneven novel. At times brilliant and at times suffering from poor execution and disappointing plot twists, it feels as though King and his editor tried to cram too much material into this one. In retrospect, it probably would have been better to have an additional installment instead of trying to tie up every loose end in this seventh volume. So in a nutshell, The Dark Tower is a mix of awesomeness and dismaying weakness. Overall, the positive outweighs the negative, true. But it would be remiss of me to overlook these flaws.

Here's the blurb:

Creating "true narrative magic" (The Washington Post) at every revelatory turn, Stephen King surpasses all expectation in the stunning final volume of his seven-part epic masterwork. Entwining stories and worlds from a vast and complex canvas, here is the conclusion readers have long awaited—breathtakingly imaginative, boldly visionary, and wholly entertaining.

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet have journeyed together and apart, scattered far and wide across multilayered worlds of wheres and whens. The destinies of Roland, Susannah, Jake, Father Callahan, Oy, and Eddie are bound in the Dark Tower itself, which now pulls them ever closer to their own endings and beginnings...and into a maelstrom of emotion, violence, and discovery.

Worldbuilding did not play much of a role in the first three volumes, with King playing his cards way too close to his chest. More often than not, it felt as though the author was making everything up as he went along and that there were no definite plans as to where the story was going. Wizard and Glass was a major improvement in that regard, and then Wolves of the Calla put this story back on track and it was now quite obvious that King knew exactly what he was doing. Although there were no definite hints as to what the endgame would be like, Wolves of the Calla and Songs of Susannah moved the tale forward like never before. Revelations about the Dark Tower, the Crimson King, the rose, the various whens and wheres, etc, added several more layers to plotlines that were undeniably convoluted to begin with. The sixth installment raised the bar quite high and set the stage for what would likely be a memorable finale. Still, though it provided some answers, Song of Susannah also raised its fair share of new questions. Only time would tell if The Dark Tower would contain all the answers that readers have been hoping for for such a long time. And sadly, it wasn't meant to be. . .

Once again, it's probably due to the fact that so many storylines required resolution, but this final volume offers very little in terms of answers. And while King elaborates much on the Breakers of the Devar-Toi and what they are doing to destroy the Beams, we learn next to nothing about Mordred, his prophecy, and the Crimson King. Oddly enough, the first three parts of the novel resound with depth and are an incredible page-turning experience. I feel that this portion of the tale could have been a novel in its own right. Had there been another book to end the series, it would have provided Stephen King with more room to manoeuvre, so to speak, instead of having no choice but to hurry and rush through the ending as the final quest for the Dark Tower begins. As it were, with only about 400 pages to work with, though the ending itself knocks it out of the park, the last journey toward the Dark Tower is lackluster at best. My biggest disappointments have to do with Walter/Randall Flagg's demise, the entire Mordred plotline, and the confrontation with the Crimson King. The buildup regarding these storylines stretched across several installments/whens/wheres and boy did the culmination for each tank miserably. These showdowns were supposed to be perilous obstacles that the ka-tet would have to overcome before reaching the Dark Tower. And yet, these eagerly awaited confrontations are rushed through as if they didn't deserve more attention. To say that these were anticlimactic would be a gross understatement. With seven volumes spanning over thirty years, I know I'm not the only reader who feels short-changed by how King closed the show on these plotlines. Especially given the fact that they were meant to be of such capital importance. To see the author gloss over them in such a way, as if they were extraneous material undeserving of more consideration, certainly didn't sit well with me. This, after such a brilliant 680 pages or so, was a veritable letdown. . .

It may not have been the case earlier in the series, but since Wolves of the Calla, Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake became a true ka-tet and the narrative has been pretty much evenly split between their four perspectives. What I loved the most about Song of Susannah is that they were forced to split up, as they were thrown into different wheres and whens by the magic door in the Doorway Cave. And The Dark Tower begins exactly where the sixth volume ended. To see two of the ka-tet die during the journey hits you hard and makes for very emotional scenes. Another death, near the end, packs a powerful punch and is a truly poignant moment. A number of secondary characters such as Father Callahan, John Cullum, Ted Brautigan, an unexpected familiar face being reunited with Roland, and newcomer Patrick Danville all have important roles to play if the Gunslinger is to reach the Dark Tower. As far as characterization is concerned, these last four volumes have been nothing short of awesome. The death of such major protagonists takes its toll on the reader, however, as well it should. There is a somewhat depressing pall hanging over the narrative for the last third of the book, as if to demonstrate that there is always a heavy price to pay if one is to reach the end of such a quest.

The rhythm is kind of crooked, with the first 700 pages or so being impossible to put down, but with the last portion feeling quite rushed at times and often lackluster in its execution. Regardless of those shortcomings, I always knew that the ending would either make or break this novel. And though not everyone liked it, in my opinion it was absolutely brilliant and perfectly brought the saga to a close, what with Ka being a wheel and all that it entails. Truth be told, it was quite a gamble to end the series on such a note and a bold move on King's part. I was a bit perplexed that the author warned readers against reading what follows the epilogue. As if anyone would forgo the pleasure/pain of discovering how Roland's quest would end! Yes, it is a thoroughly bittersweet ending, but it was exactly what this grand saga needed. Stephen King reiterates that the journey is almost always more important than the destination, and it's no surprise that he elected to close the show in such a way.

And what a journey it was! One of the most amazing I have ever experienced! I'm a bit sad that the last portion of the tale did not live up to the potential shown by the novel's earlier parts, as I felt that The Dark Tower was heading for a perfect score. The ending was this final volume's saving grace, at least for me. But I can understand why so many readers felt cheated and didn't like the endgame and the finale as much as some other people did.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Almost makes you want to read the whole thing all over again!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 5th)

In hardcover:

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is up two spots, finishing the week at number 16.

In paperback:

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is down five positions, ending the week at number 14.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Rising, the very first Deryni novel, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the mysterious forces of magic and the superior power of the Church combine to challenge the rule of young Kelson. Now the fate of the Deryni -- a quasi-mortal race of sorcerers -- and, indeed, the fate of all the Eleven Kingdoms, rests on Kelson's ability to quash the rebellion by any means necessary . . . including the proscribed use of magic!

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Peter F. Hamilton's A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS

I'm giving away my Advance Reading Copy of Peter F. Hamilton's soon-to-be-released A Night Without Stars to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Bestselling author Peter F. Hamilton returns to his acclaimed Commonwealth series in this thrilling follow-up to The Abyss Beyond Dreams. Featuring Hamilton’s trademark blend of intricate plotting, riveting suspense, high-concept science, and vivid characters, A Night Without Stars brings the story to a fully satisfying finish.

After centuries trapped inside the Void, the planet Bienvenido—along with its inhabitants, both human and Faller—has been expelled into normal space. But the survivors are millions of light-years from the Commonwealth, which knows nothing of their existence. As the two races plunge into mortal conflict for sole possession of the planet, the humans seem destined to lose—despite the assistance of the mysterious Warrior Angel, who possesses forbidden Commonwealth technology.

With the Fallers’ numbers growing, and their ability to mimic humans allowing them to infiltrate all levels of society, it’s only a matter of time before they surge to victory. Then, on a routine space flight, Major Ry Evine inadvertently frees a captive vessel that crash-lands on Bienvenido carrying the last, best hope for human survival: a baby. But a far from ordinary one.

The child not only ages at a remarkable rate but demonstrates knowledge and abilities far beyond those of Bienvenido’s humans. Hunted by Fallers and humans alike, she is a crucial link to humanity’s lost past—and a glorious future already almost out of reach.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "NIGHT." 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 K.J. Bishop's The Etched City for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Gwynn and Raule are rebels on the run, with little in common except being on the losing side of a hard-fought war. Gwynn is a gunslinger from the north, a loner, a survivor . . . a killer. Raule is a wandering surgeon, a healer who still believes in just--and lost--causes. Bound by a desire to escape the ghosts of the past, together they flee to the teeming city of Ashamoil, where Raule plies her trade among the desperate and destitute, and Gwynn becomes bodyguard and assassin for the household of a corrupt magnate. There, in the saving and taking of lives, they find themselves immersed in a world where art infects life, dream and waking fuse, and splendid and frightening miracles begin to bloom . . .

Win a copy of Brandon Sanderson's THE DARK TALENT

I have a copy of Brandon Sanderson's The Dark Talent, the fifth volume in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Tor Books. For info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Dark Talent is the fifth action-packed fantasy adventure in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. This never-before-published, fast-paced, and funny novel is now available in a deluxe hardcover edition, illustrated by Hayley Lazo.

Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend, Bastille, is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary--known as The Library of Congress to Hushlanders--the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "TALENT." 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 Heritage and Exile, the first Darkover omnibus by Marion Zimmer Bradley, for only 7.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Heritage of Hastur:

Nominated for a Hugo Award, and described as “Bradley’s best [Darkover] novel” by Lous, THE HERITAGE OF HASTUR is a brilliant epic of the pivotal events in the love-hate relationship between the Terran worlds and the semi-alien off-spring of the forgotten colonists who peopled Darkover. This is the complex and compelling tale of the early life of Regis Hastur, Darkover’s greatest monarch. But HERITAGE also spins the terrifying and heartbreaking story of those who sought to control the deadly Sharra Matrix and tells how Lew Alton met and lost his greatest love, Marjorie Scott. This is the unforgettable showdown between these Darkovan lords who would bargain away their world for the glories of Terran science and those who would preserve the special matrix powers that are at once the prize and burden of Darkover.

Sharra’s Exile:

The most dangerous magical implement on all of Darkover was the infamous, legendary Sharra Matrix. Embodying the image of a chained woman wreathed in flames, it was the last remaining weapon of the Ages of Chaos—an era of uncontrolled laran warfare which had almost destroyed all life on Darkover. The Sharra Matrix had been exiled offworld to one of the far-flung planets of the Terran Empire, in the protective custody of one who had suffered gravely from its use: Comyn Lord Lew Alton.

But when Lew was called back to Darkover to contend for his rights, he had no choice but to bring this dangerous matrix back with him, and once the Sharra Matrix was black, her flaming image spread far and wide, setting motion events which would change the lands, the seven Domains, and the entire future forever.