This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 25th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 2.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 4 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

Anthony Ryan contest winner!

This luck gal will receive my advance reading copy of Anthony Ryan's The Empire of Ashes. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Heather Carter, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Nicholas Eames' Kings of the Wyld for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:


Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help--the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It's time to get the band back together.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download China Miéville's The City and the City for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

BONUS: This edition contains a The City and The City discussion guide and excerpts from China Miéville's Kraken and Embassytown.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."

"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Abercrombie's excellent Best Served Cold for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, and behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

Quote of the Day

But she was a frightened child, and I was supposed to have the answers. I was supposed to be able to make it all safe, and calm, and all right. I wished that I had the power to end the terror, to stop the destruction. But I didn't. Nothing makes you feel more powerless than failing a child.

- ED MCDONALD, Ravencry (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Madness Season

Mea culpa: Although C. S. Friedman's Cold Fire and Magisters trilogies rank among my all-time favorite speculative fiction reads, other than This Alien Shore I had yet to read In Conquest Born, The Madness Season, or The Wilding. I have owned the first two for well over two decades, so it's not as though I never had the opportunity to read them. Unlike fantasy works, science fiction titles often don't age very well and I was afraid that it would be the case with these novels.

And yet, as a big Friedman fan, I had to remedy that sad state of affairs. Hence, after much debate, I elected to give The Madness Season a shot. And I'm glad I did for, even twenty-eight years after it was originally published, this book was a satisfying read that definitely deserves more attention.

Here's the blurb:

For hundreds of years, Earth has suffered under the yoke of alien conquerors: the dreaded Tyr, a reptilian race in which all individuality is submerged into a single, overarching consciousness. Determined to keep humanity cowed, the Tyr have culled from the captive population the most intelligent, the most curious, the most likely to foment rebellion, and banished them from Earth. As the memory of freedom recedes, humanity sinks into a lethargic subservience. Daetrin, the hero of this tale, is a vampire--not a monster, however, but a man, nearly immortal, who embodies the vanished virtues of a once-sovereign Earth. When his existence is exposed by the Tyr, who are appalled to find a human who witnessed the Conquest, they immediately ship him offworld. Thus begins a journey of self-discovery as Daetrin is forced by adversity to come to grips with the long-suppressed side of his nature and to confront the ancient horror of a bloody heritage.

A shapeshifter/vampire science fiction novel! How could I resist? Themes such as freedom, assimilation, individuality, free will, and more are explored in the aftermath of Earth's conquest at the hands of hive-mind aliens. This work was written by a younger C. S. Friedman, one that had yet to reach the maturity and the control of her craft that allowed her to come up with a genre classic like Black Sun Rising and its sequels. Still, the author writes with an assurance that already showed a lot of promise. There are various concepts and ideas that form the backdrop of The Madness Season, and overall Friedman managed to rise to the occasion and came up with a superior stand-alone story. I particularly enjoyed the alienness of the Tyr and the Marra. I also liked how the author played with the vampire/shapeshifter concept and how Daetrin's true nature might be the only thing that could save mankind.

Daetrin is the main protagonist of this novel. Centuries old, he has buried his secret so deep that his true nature now eludes him. It was quite interesting to discover more about his past lives through the timefugues flashback scenes and how he found a way to live a more or less normal life until the Tyr came. Three hundred years have passed since the conquest and Daetrin is now the only living being on Earth who remembers what life used to be like on the planet. The man is a terribly flawed character, which made it a pleasure to follow him. The second main perspective is that of Kiri the Marra, a decidedly fascinating lifeform that plays an important role throughout The Madness Season. There are a few other points of view, but Daetrin and Kiri take center stage throughout.

There are certainly pacing issues in various portions of the tale. The book suffered from a slow start and it took a while for readers to understand exactly what Daetrin truly was. It also took some time for the drifting Marra losing her memories to really come into her own. Inevitably, both Daetrin and Kiri's plotlines converged, but even then it remained unclear as to how they would work together to ultimately free humanity from the yoke of the Tyr. Such rhythm made for uneven moments that created a bit of confusion from time to time. The Madness Season was never boring, mind you, yet there's no denying that it took longer than expected for the storylines to finally come together. Perhaps it proved to be more difficult for a less experienced C. S. Friedman to streamline those aforementioned concepts and ideas into a more fluid narrative? Given the length of the book, the endgame was probably a bit rushed compared to the earlier portions of the tale. Still, it was a rousing finale that definitely closed the show with aplomb.

All in all, for all of its pacing shortcomings, The Madness Season proved to be a satisfying read. One that has aged particularly well, in my humble opinion. So if you want to get a taste of an up-and-coming Friedman, a Friedman that had yet to make a name for herself with the Coldfire trilogy, this science fiction yarn featuring a vampire in space is exactly what you should read.

A fine mix of science fiction tropes and monster lore, with an interestingly flawed protagonists and some cool aliens and settings, this is The Madness Season in a nutshell. If you're looking for an old-school title to bring on vacation this summer, this could be just what the doctor ordered!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download four of The Infinity Project anthologies edited by Jonathan Strahan for only 0.99$ each. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb for the first one:

The universe shifts and changes: suddenly you understand, you get it, and are filled with wonder. That moment of understanding drives the greatest science-fiction stories and lies at the heart of Engineering Infinity. Whether it’s coming up hard against the speed of light – and, with it, the enormity of the universe – realising that terraforming a distant world is harder and more dangerous than you’d ever thought, or simply realizing that a hitchhiker on a starship consumes fuel and oxygen with tragic results, it’s hard science-fiction where a sense of discovery is most often found and where science-fiction’s true heart lies. This exciting and innovative science-fiction anthology collects together stories by some of the biggest names in the field, including Gwyneth Jones, Stephen Baxter and Charles Stross.

- Engineering Infinity
- Edge of Infinity
- Bridging Infinity
- Infinity Wars

Extract from Naomi Novik's SPINNING SILVER

The folks at recently posted an extract from Naomi Novik's forthcoming Spinning Silver. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted, which was hailed as “a very enjoyable fantasy with the air of a modern classic” by The New York Times Book Review.

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

Follow this link to read the extract.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Dan Simmons' Prayers to Broken Stones: Stories for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From a ghostly Civil War battlefield to a combat theme park in Vietnam, from the omnipotent brain of an autistic boy to a shocking story of psychic vampires, journey into a world of fear and mystery, a chilling twilight zone of the mind.

A woman returns from the dead with disastrous results for the family who loves her. . . .

An old-fashioned barbershop is the site of a medieval ritual of bloody terror. . . .

During a post-apocalyptic Christmas celebration, a messenger from the South brings tidings of great horror. . . .

Includes the following stories:
“The River Styx Runs Upstream”
“Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams”
“Vanni Fucci Is Alive and Well and Living in Hell”
“Vexed to Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle”
“Remembering Siri”
“The Offering”
“E-Ticket to 'Namland”
“Iverson's Pits”
“Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites”
“The Death of the Centaur”
“Two Minutes and Forty-Five Seconds”
“Carrion Comfort”

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 18th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider is down one position, ending the week at number 2.

Jim Butcher's Brief Cases debuts at number 5.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Provisional Speculative Fiction Top 5 of 2018

Time flies and we've reached the halfway point of the year! Doesn't look like 2018 is going to be a banner year for the genre, though. Here are the top 5 speculative fiction works published in 2018 I've read so far! =) Click on each title to read my review. . .

1- Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx.

Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter Nyx is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey—it’s a living.

Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx’s mind, it’s also justified. After all, she’s trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices.

Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future—but only if she can survive.

Apocalypse Nyx is the much-anticipated print edition of Kameron Hurley’s five newest Nyx novellas, as well as the first e-book collection of her gritty, exciting adventures.

2- Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain.

There will be blood.

3- Time Was by Ian McDonald (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

4- Serpent in the Heather by Kay Kenyon (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Now officially working for the Secret Intelligence Service, Kim Tavistock is back to solve another mystery—this time a serial killer with deep Nazi ties—in the sequel to At the Table of Wolves.

Summer, 1936. In England, an assassin is loose. Someone is killing young people who possess Talents. As terror overtakes Britain, Kim Tavistock, now officially employed by England’s Secret Intelligence Service, is sent on her first mission: to the remote Sulcliffe Castle in Wales, to use her cover as a journalist to infiltrate a spiritualist cult that may have ties to the murders. Meanwhile, Kim’s father, trained spy Julian Tavistock runs his own parallel investigation—and discovers the terrifying Nazi plot behind the serial killings.

Cut off from civilization, Sulcliffe Castle is perched on a forbidding headland above a circle of standing stones only visible at low tide. There, Kim shadows a ruthless baroness and her enigmatic son, plying her skills of deception and hearing the truths people most wish to hide. But as her cover disguise unravels, Kim learns that the serial killer is closing in on a person she has grown to love. Now, Kim must race against the clock not just to prevent the final ritual killing—but to turn the tide of the looming war.

5- Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Reddit horror sensation Dathan Auerbach delivers a devilishly dark novel about a young boy who goes missing, and the brother who won't stop looking for him.

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.

They say you've got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there's any chance of putting yours back together. That's your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben's life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben's father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there's something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There's something wrong with the air itself. He knows he's in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.

That he should have stopped looking.

Win a copy of Jacqueline Carey's STARLESS

I just received a finished copy of Jacqueline Carey's Starless and I'm giving it away to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Jacqueline Carey is back with an amazing adventure not seen since her New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series. Lush and sensual, Starless introduces us to an epic world where exiled gods live among us, and a hero whose journey will resonate long after the last page is turned.

Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "STARLESS." 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 Kate Elliott's Cold Magic for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The Wild Hunt is stirring - and the dragons are finally waking from their long sleep...

Cat Barahal was the only survivor of the flood that took her parents. Raised by her extended family, she and her cousin, Bee, are unaware of the dangers that threaten them both. Though they are in beginning of the Industrial Age, magic - and the power of the Cold Mages - still hold sway.

Now, betrayed by her family and forced to marry a powerful Cold Mage, Cat will be drawn into a labyrinth of politics. There she will learn the full ruthlessness of the rule of the Cold Mages. What do the Cold Mages want from her? And who will help Cat in her struggle against them?

Musical Interlude

God knows that John Williams created numerous masterpieces during the course of his career, but the Imperial March just might be his best! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download George R. R. Martin's Dying of the Light for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In this unforgettable space opera, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin presents a chilling vision of eternal night—a volatile world where cultures clash, codes of honor do not exist, and the hunter and the hunted are often interchangeable.

A whisperjewel has summoned Dirk t’Larien to Worlorn, and a love he thinks he lost. But Worlorn isn’t the world Dirk imagined, and Gwen Delvano is no longer the woman he once knew. She is bound to another man, and to a dying planet that is trapped in twilight. Gwen needs Dirk’s protection, and he will do anything to keep her safe, even if it means challenging the barbaric man who has claimed her. But an impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounds them all, and it’s becoming impossible for Dirk to distinguish between his allies and his enemies. In this dangerous triangle, one is hurtling toward escape, another toward revenge, and the last toward a brutal, untimely demise.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

Song of Blood and Stone

I'm always a little bit wary of SFF titles that get published by imprints which don't normally, or rarely, release fantasy or science fiction works. More often than not, it means that the novel shows mainstream appeal, but might not please more demanding genre fans. Hence, L. Penelope's Song of Blood and Stone sat on my pile of books to read for a long time. What ultimately encouraged me to give it a shot was the fact that the press release claimed that it featured superior worldbuilding akin to that of Brandon Sanderson. Well, that was a crock of shit and no question about it.

Although adult themes are explored throughout the narrative, Song of Blood and Stone was little more than a generic YA fantasy offering featuring a doomed star-crossed love story. Everything was black and white, and I have a feeling that the corny romance will appeal more to teenagers and young adults. For people expecting depth and shades of gray, you may have a hard time getting into this one.

Here's the blurb:

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive--an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack's mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and its people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda's Earthsong to do it. They escape their vicious captors and together embark on a perilous journey to save the land and to uncover the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Penelope's Song of Blood and Stone is billed as an epic fantasy tale, but it is anything but. The worldbuilding of Brandon Sanderson? Are you kidding me!?! Alongside Erikson, Martin, and Bakker, I'd say that Sanderson is one of the very best worldbuilders writing today. Not so with Penelope, I'm afraid. The countries of Elsira and Lagrimar don't resound with any sort of depth. White people as pale as Scandinavians and Dutch on one side of a mountain range and black people on the other. Genetically speaking, I'm not sure this is even possible. Truth be told, had this book not been written by an African American woman, I have a feeling that this would have been considered more than a little half-assed. The magical system, with its Earthsong and Earthsinger, appeared quite interesting. Alas, though certain sequences are flashback scenes elaborating on how a schism divided Earthsingers from the rest of the population, we don't learn as much as I would have liked about how magic actually works and where it comes from. At least, the author eschewed the conventional European medieval fantasy setting. Instead, L. Penelope's universe features a level of technology similar to that of the 20th century, with cars, trucks, planes, firearms, etc.

Jasminda is well-drawn protagonist and her POV, especially early on, made for a good read. The same can be said of Jack, at least until his true identity was revealed. Problem is, from then on the doomed star-crossed love story imbued every single plotline with a corny romance that pretty much killed the story for me. Perhaps I'm too old and cynical to believe in such perfect fairytale kind of romance? Also, I could have done without the chapter-long sex scene. And since their perspectives are the only points of view of the novel, other than that of the flashbacks, there are no other POVs to help Song of Blood and Stone reach another level. In any event, the supporting cast didn't feature any truly compelling men and women that could have helped in that regard.

The politicking aspect of this book, especially, left a lot to be desired. A refugee crisis is a complicated event, not a simple black and white matter. But the way it was portrayed, with Jack the sole honorable person in the country, willing to beggar the realm to welcome the refugees of Lagrimar, it made little sense. No wonder the entire government turned against the endeavor. I was expecting shades of gray associated with the moral dilemma that such a human crisis represents, something along the lines of C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. And although serious adult themes such as sexism, racism, abuse, rape, etc, are explored throughout the storylines, the black and white approach made this one read more like a YA novel.

The pace was fluid enough, which made for an easy read. L. Penelope's prose can be evocative, creating a beautiful imagery from time to time. However, she lays it a bit thick with the romance, which gets old real fast. All in all, Song of Blood and Stone was never truly boring. It's just that it was a generic fantasy offering with star-crossed lovers taking center stage, with a plot that was nothing special. Hence, though it made for a quick read, it left me totally indifferent to the characters and their plight. Summer vacations are approaching. So if you are looking for a light fantasy read to bring to the beach, this book might do the trick.

The impossible love story between a white man and a black woman might appeal to "the future that liberals want" memes crowd, yet one has to wonder if this manuscript would have been picked up had it featured Caucasian lovers. The ending of the book left the door open for many things to come in the upcoming sequel, but I wonder if I'll be giving it a shot. Time will tell. . .

Well-written with some good ideas and concept, but in the end a more or less forgettable novel which relied too much on romance. That's Song of Blood and Stone in a nutshell.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

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

Follow this link to read an extract.

Quote of the Day

Funny thing about officers; the fewer men they command, the more sense they tend to have.

- ED MCDONALD, Blackwing (Canada, USA, Europe)

This book did not quite live up to the potential it showed early on, but it was nevertheless a good read. Will definitely give the second volume a shot.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Elizabeth Bear's first New Amsterdam omnibus for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

New Amsterdam

Abigail Irene Garrett drinks too much. She makes scandalous liaisons with inappropriate men, and if in her youth she was a famous beauty, now she is both formidable and notorious! She is a forensic sorceress, and a dedicated officer of a Crown that does not deserve her loyalty. Sebastien de Ulloa is the oldest creature she has ever known. He has forgotten his birth-name, his birth-place, and even the year in which he was born, if he ever knew it. But he still remembers the woman who made him immortal. In a world where the sun never sets on the British Empire, where Holland finally ceded New Amsterdam to the English only during the Napoleonic wars, and where the expansion of the American colonies was halted by the war magic of the Iroquois, they are exiles in the new world - and its only hope for justice!

Garrett Investigates

The following five stories comprise some of the matter surrounding the life of Lady Abigail Irene Garrett, Th.D., sometime Crown Investigator. They are previously uncollected. One is new; the others were only previously available as bonus chapbooks with the limited editions of various novellas.

You can also download the second New Amsterdam omnibus for only 3.99$ here.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 11th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 1.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download M. R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge, prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada. And it's £0.99 in the UK.

Here's the blurb:

From the author of USA Today bestseller The Girl With All the Gifts, a terrifying new novel set in the same post-apocalyptic world.

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Timothy Zahn's Star Wars: Thrawn for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

Quote of the Day

Real power shows itself through the disregard one has for those that defy it.

- ED MCDONALD, Blackwing (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin!

An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language.

It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu—a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.

You can also download Alastair Reynolds' scifi classic, Revelation Space, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The highly-acclaimed first novel in the Revelation Space universe.

When human colonists settled the Amarantin homeworld, few of them bothered to question the disappearance of its native population almost a million years before. But in the year 2551, one man, Dan Sylveste, is convinced that solving the riddle of the Amarantin is vital to human survival. As he nears the truth, he learns that someone wants him dead. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason. And if that reason is made public, the universe—and reality itself—could be forever altered. This sprawling operatic novel ranges across vast gulfs of time and space to arrive at a terrifying conclusion.

Alastair Reynolds, who holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy, has written a vivid and action-packed story that will linger in the minds of its readers.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse: Dune for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Frank Herbert's Final Novel in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time.

The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. The remnants of the Old Empire have been consumed by the violent matriarchal cult known as the Honored Matres. Only one faction remains a viable threat to their total conquest—the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune’s power.

Under the leadership of Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, the Bene Gesserit have colonized a green world on the planet Chapterhouse, and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile. And once they’ve mastered breeding sandworms, the Sisterhood will control the production of the greatest commodity in the known galaxy—the spice Melange. But their true weapon remains a man who has lived countless lifetimes—a man who served under the God Emperor Paul Muad’Dib...

Cover art and extract from Terry Brooks' STREET FREAKS

The folks at have recently unveiled the cover art for Terry Brooks' upcoming Street Freaks. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

"Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks." his father directs Ashton Collins before the vid feed goes suddenly silent. The Red Zone is the dangerous heart of mega-city Los Angeles; it is a world Ash is forbidden from and one he knows little about. But if he can find Street Freaks, the strangest of aid awaits―human and barely human alike. As Ash is hunted, he must unravel the mystery left behind by his father and discover his role in this new world.

Brooks has long been the grandmaster of fantasy. Now he turns his hand to science fiction filled with what his readers love best: complex characters, extraordinary settings, exciting action, and a page-turning story. Through it, Brooks reimagines his bestselling career yet again.

Follow this link to read an extract from the book.

Quote of the Day

I hollered at my boys, and they almost looked like they were paying attention. How I'd managed to pick up such worthless gutter rats I couldn't recall. Out of brandy, twenty miles into the Misery and a troop of vermin at my heels. Somewhere in my life, things had gone very, very wrong.

- ED MCDONALD, Blackwing (Canada, USA, Europe)

Enjoying this book thus far. Has an Abercrombie vibe to it.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ann Leckie's Provenance for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:



Ann Leckie returns to the world of her record-breaking Imperial Radch trilogy, which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards, with an enthralling novel of power, privilege, and birthright.

A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.

Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray's future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 4th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider debuts at number 1.

Dean Koontz' The Crooked Staircase is down four spots, finishing the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down six positions, ending the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 1, anthology for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

To keep up-to-date with the most buzzworthy and cutting-edge science fiction requires sifting through countless magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, original anthologies, single-author collections, and more—a task accomplishable by only the most determined and voracious readers. For everyone else, Night Shade Books is proud to introduce the inaugural volume of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, a new yearly anthology compiled by Hugo and World Fantasy award-winning editor Neil Clarke, collecting the finest that the genre has to offer, from the biggest names in the field to the most exciting new writers. The best science fiction scrutinizes our culture and politics, examines the limits of the human condition, and zooms across galaxies at faster-than-light speeds, moving from the very near future to the far-flung worlds of tomorrow in the space of a single sentence. Clarke, publisher and editor in chief of the acclaimed and award-winning magazine Clarkesworld, has selected the short science fiction (and only science fiction) best representing the previous year's writing, showcasing the talent, variety, and awesome "sensawunda" that the genre has to offer. Neil Clarke is the award-winning publisher and editor in chief of Clarkesworld magazine, winner of three Hugo Awards for Best Semiprozine, and the editor of the 2014 cyborg-themed original anthology Upgraded. Clarke lives in Stirling, New Jersey.

The Midnight Front

After Ian Tregillis' excellent Milkweed Triptych trilogy and Kay Kenyon's compelling Dark Talents series, which both combine magic and World War II, comes David Mack's Dark Arts sequence. And although the premise was similar to those of the other series, I was nevertheless intrigued by The Midnight Front and decided to give it a shot.

Sadly, though Mack's worldbuilding was well-done, this novel wasn't as captivating as the Tregillis or Kenyon books. There is definitely room for improvement in the upcoming sequel, The Iron Codex, yet there is no denying that the opening chapter of the Dark Arts wasn't as interesting as Bitter Seeds and At the Table of Wolves turned out to be.

Here's the blurb:

On the eve of World War Two, Nazi sorcerers come gunning for Cade but kill his family instead. His one path of vengeance is to become an apprentice of The Midnight Front—the Allies’ top-secret magickal warfare program—and become a sorcerer himself.

Unsure who will kill him first—his allies, his enemies, or the demons he has to use to wield magick—Cade fights his way through occupied Europe and enemy lines. But he learns too late the true price of revenge will be more terrible than just the loss of his soul—and there’s no task harder than doing good with a power born of ultimate evil.

This is an alternate history novel, and David Mack managed to integrate the magical elements of his tale with the important historical details of that period. The author did a great job depicting the atrocities committed during World War II. The Midnight Front covers the six years of the war and takes readers across Europe, from occupied France, to the Auschwitz extermination camp, and to the heart of Nazi Germany. Mack came up with a new magical system in which the practitioners, called karcists, can summon and harness demons from Hell and their powers. The same can be done with angels, but the process is more difficult. These rituals and their repercussions were quite interesting, but too many scenes were only meant to show the protagonists blow stuff up. There were also countless massive info-dumps pertaining to how the magic works and these bogged down the narrative in many a chapter. I understand that Mack needed to convey the information to his readers, but I wish he could have found a way to do it in a more seamless fashion. Such scenes got in the way of the storytelling time and time again, and that definitely took something out of the overall reading experience.

The characterization left a lot to be desired and was the aspect that prevented me from fully enjoying this book. The old trope of the Chosen One was taken up a few notches too far with Cade Martin. And as the central protagonist of The Midnight Front, I just couldn't connect with him. The author made him dense and stubborn to compensate, but that did not quite work. The same could be said of Adair MacRae, the novel's badass alcoholic Gandalf analog. Other than complaining non-stop using old British slang from the 40s and the 50s, the sorcerer's main task was to train Cade before all is lost. His backstory was fascinating, but I felt that his characterization fell rather flat. Stefan and Niko were more likeable, true, but acted in decidedly stupid ways when the fate of mankind was at stake. Anja Kernova was by far the most engaging protagonist of the bunch, yet Mack was unable to make her really shine through. Another problem was the fact that Kein Engel and his acolytes were often depicted as generic bad guys with no substance.

The pace can be very uneven. At times, the rhythm can drag dreadfully. Especially when you get caught up in a chapter featuring one of those huge info-dumps, or an action sequence showcasing Cade and the others duking it out with inferior German karcists. David Mack has a cinematographic eye for detail when it comes to battle scenes and I have a feeling that some readers might enjoy those magical showdowns a lot more than I did. And yet, there is no denying that if you take away all those battles, in the end The Midnight Front has little else to offer. On the other hand, sometimes everything was rushed for no apparent reason.

Still, the endgame and the finale were exciting enough. Mack tied everything up a little too neatly for my liking, but I still might read The Iron Codex when it gets published. The sequel will deal with the Cold War and I'm curious to see if the author can elevate his game and avoid the pitfalls that plagued this novel.

Some cool concepts and ideas that were spoiled by poor execution and lackluster characterization; that's The Midnight Front in a nutshell.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

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

Follow this link to read an extract.