More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kate Eliottt's King's Dragon for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Set in an alternate Europe where bloody conflicts rage, the first book of the Crown of Stars epic fantasy series chronicles a world-shaking conflict for the survival of humanity.

It begins with civil war....

For though King Henry still holds the crown of Wendar, his reign has long been contested by his sister Sabella. There are many eager to flock to her banner, and there are ways to make even the most unwilling lord into a weapon pointed at the heart of Henry’s realm.

Torn by internal strife, Wendar also faces deadly raids from the north by an inhuman race, the Eika. And now terrifying portents are being seen; old ruins restored to life under the light of the full moon and peopled by the long-vanished Lost Ones; dark spirits walking the land in broad daylight.

And suddenly two innocents are about to be thrust into the middle of the conflict.

Liath, who has spent her early years fleeing from unknown enemies, is a young woman with the power to change the course of history if she can only learn to master her fear and seize what is rightfully hers.

While Alain, a young man who may find his future in a vision granted by the Lady of Battles, must first unravel the mystery of who he is—whether the bastard son of a noble father, the half-breed child of an elfin lord, the unwanted get of a whore, or the heir to a proud and ancient lineage. For only when he discovers the truth can he accept the destiny for which he was born.

Liath and Alain, each trapped in a personal struggle for survival, both helplessly being drawn into a far greater battle, a war in which sorcery not swords will determine the final outcome, and the land itself may be irrevocably reshaped by the forces unleashed....

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution

At first I believed that The Freeze-Frame Revolution was an omnibus comprised of all the Sunflower Cycle short fiction pieces, yet I soon realized that it wasn't the case. Nothing to worry about, as this novella was meant to work as a stand-alone and it does work perfectly well at that.

Still, had I known I would have read what came before and will certainly do it sooner rather than later given the quality of Peter Watts' latest work. The rest of the cycle includes The Island, which won the Hugo Award for best novelette in 2010, Hotshot, and Giants, all of which can be read for free on the author's website.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution marks the triumphal return of Peter Watts. Best known for his hard science fiction novels and stories, this new novella could well be the author's most accessible work to date. I've always claimed that Blindsight was the best novel to read for any SFF fans who wanted to give Watts a shot. But now it's obvious that The Freeze-Frame Revolution is the way to go.

Here's the blurb:

She believed in the mission with all her heart.

But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you're only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

I was hooked by the premise from the get-go. The crew of the starship Eriophora spent the last 65 million years building a web of wormholes gates throughout space in order to make interstellar travel for human expansion more accessible. Every few millennia or so, a team is selected and awakened from among its 30,000-plus population by the ship's AI to assist in the logistics of gate construction. But how can one stage a mutiny during such short periods of wakefulness? This is what The Freeze-Frame Revolution is all about. It's hard scifi, no doubt about it, with a vast scope as enormous as the universe itself. And yet, Peter Watts managed to "dumb" everything down in a way that will satisfy any speculative fiction readers out there. Themes such as identity, alienation, the nature of self and consciousness, the persistence of time, and the worth of existence are explored throughout the vignettes which comprise this novella. It may sound heavy, and at times it was just that. But the narrative is imbued with the author's dark wit and humor, which made this book a pleasure to read.

Eriophora and its mission is overseen by Chimp, an artificial intelligence built with a lower synapse count to supposedly maintain it at a relatively human-level mental capacity. Sunday Ahzmundin is the main character and the narrator of this tale, and hers is the only perspective of this novella. As Chimp's favorite, she finds herself awakened more often than any other crewmember. To a certain extent over the millennia, Sunday has come to consider the AI as some sort of friend. Being part of more gate-building missions than most, she has also gotten to know more people from the many tribes that comprise the ship's population. This allowed Sunday to perceive the first seeds of mutiny and watch them grow, as certain crewmembers start to question whether or not the Chimp can be trusted. But how can anyone possibly stage a coup against an AI that can see and hear everything, when the allies have no idea who or how many of their fellow mutineers will be awakened by the Chimp at any given time, and at intervals which can span countless ages?

Weighing in at only 192 pages, The Freeze-Frame Revolution doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. I went through it in only two sittings during my roadtrip around Gaspésie. It doesn't happen often when I review books, but I wish this work had been longer. Yes, it was that good! Thankfully, there are three more Sunflower Cycle short fiction pieces that I can sink my teeth into on the author's website.

In my humble opinion, this novella showcases a Peter Watts writing at the top of his game, recounting a story that should please hard science fiction aficionados and SFF newbies alike. This is the author's most accessible work thus far, making it the perfect jumping point for any readers who have yet to give Watts a go.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is quite a treat! Definitely one of the speculative fiction titles to read in 2018.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Today only, on the other side of the pond, you can get your hands on the digital editions of eight Brandon Sanderson novels for only £0.99 each. Just follow this link.

Discounted titles include:

The Way of Kings
Words of Radiance
The Final Empire
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages
The Bands of Mourning
Shadows of Self

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 23rd)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 4.

Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver debuts at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan -- poet, diplomat, soldier -- until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated -- and feared -- military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.

In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve -- for a time -- the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate -- and increasingly torn by her feelings -- is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.

Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake -- or destroy -- a world.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Brian Lee Durfee's The Forgetting Moon for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

Jacqueline Carey contest winner!

This lucky gal will get her hands on a copy of Jacqueline Carey's Starless! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Danielle Tucker, from Austin, Texas, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Dangerous Women, an anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors' bestselling continuities-including a new "Outlander" story by Diana Gabaldon, a tale of Harry Dresden's world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women--heroines and villains alike--by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn, S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.

Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, "Here you'll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you'll find you have a real fight on your hands. Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more."

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 Neal Stephenson's classic, Snow Crash, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

One of Time’s 100 best English-language novels • A mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous—you’ll recognize it immediately.

Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Paul Kearney's The Way to Babylon for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Michael Riven—a successful author and former soldier—has fallen off a mountain. Broken in both body and mind, racked with guilt and loss by the death of his wife Jenny, he withdraws into himself in the rural hospital where he painfully recovers. His readers are desperate to know what will happen next in the fantasy world of his stories, but neither writing, nor living, are of interest to him anymore. But there are others seeking the scribe out. Men of Minginish have begun a quest to rescue their blighted homeland, and have come between worlds. Riven will be asked to travel to a land both familiar and terrifying, which he once thought his own creation. The author must take up the companions of his stories—grim Bicker, fierce Ratagan and sly Murtach—and find a way to mend what was sundered.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 16th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider is down one position, ending the week at number 4.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down two spots, finishing the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a copy of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne's KILL THE FARM BOY

I'm giving away my copy of Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne’s Kill the Farm Boy, courtesy of the folks at DelRey. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Terry Pratchett novels and The Princess Bride, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasma reinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes.

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

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

Robert Jackson Bennett contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my advance reading copy of Robert Jackson Bennett's Foundryside! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Craig Fairchild, from Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity.

For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download R. F. Kuang's The Poppy War, which many consider the fantasy debut of 2018, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A "Best of May" Science Fiction and Fantasy pick by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible, The Verge, SyFy Wire, and Kirkus.

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Richard Morgan's excellent Altered Carbon for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW AN EXCITING NEW SERIES FROM NETFLIX • The shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning in this “tour de force of genre-bending, a brilliantly realized exercise in science fiction.”—The New York Times Book Review.

In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”) making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.

Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats “existence” as something that can be bought and sold.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Ravencry (600th review)

Despite its flaws, I felt that Ed McDonald's Blackwing was a promising debut. The kind of novel Joe Abercrombie and Glen Cook would come up with if they ever teamed up to collaborate on something. And the exciting endgame and rousing finale made it impossible for me not to immediately jump into the sequel, Ravencry.

And though this second installment showed marked improvement regarding certain aspects, it did suffer from some of the same shortcomings that plagued its predecessor. Still, McDonald tells a compelling story and I'm curious to see where he'll take his readers next. Having said that, I'm persuaded that the third volume will either make or break this series. The author will need to elevate his game if he is to take his place among the best grimdark writers out there.

Here's the blurb:

For Ryhalt Galharrow, working for Crowfoot as a Blackwing captain is about as bad as it gets - especially when his orders are garbled, or incoherent, or impossible to carry out.

The Deep Kings are hurling fire from the sky, a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady had begun to manifest in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power while the city burns around them.

Galharrow may not be able to do much about the cult - or about strange orders from the Nameless - but when Crowfoot's arcane vault is breached and an object of terrible power is stolen, he's propelled into a race against time to recover it. Only to do that, he needs answers, and finding them means travelling into nightmare: to the very heart of the Misery.

RAVENCRY is the second book in the Raven's Mark series, continuing the story that began with the award winning epic fantasy BLACKWING.

The worldbuilding was once more my favorite facet of this work. As I mentioned in my review of Blackwing, I love the concept behind the Misery, a dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland where reality itself unraveled when a magical weapon detonated. And this time around, McDonald took Galharrow to the very heart of it. All the way to the Endless Devoid, the epicenter of the Misery. The place where the Heart of the Void created a fault line in existence. That portion of the plot was awesome. And the Misery's taint changed Galharrow in a profound way. More than we saw in this novel, methinks. The Bright Order, the High Witnesses, and their ultimate creation, the Grandspire, would have benefited from more depth, however. Especially given their importance in the main arc of the plot.

In my review of the first volume, I bemoaned the fact that Ed McDonald came up with lots of interesting concepts and ideas, yet sadly he played his cards very close to his chest and did not elaborate a whole lot on them. Well, I'm glad to report that the author wasn't as parsimonious regarding information in this sequel. He still doesn't reveal much, yet we do learn more about Crowfoot and the other Nameless, the Deep Kings and their objective, the Darlings, and more. We finally discovered some things about the world at large, and the conflict that opposes the Nameless and the Deep Kings. Still, nothing that explained why what is occurring at what appears to be the ass end of the world was of capital importance. Once again, the bulk of the action takes place in and around the Misery and the city of Valengrad.

Ravencry features the first person narrative of Captain Galharrow. A battle-hardened veteran whose past nearly unmade him, his perspective once again made for a captivating read. One the one hand, he remains a kick-ass, no-nonsense kind of officer, so not always the most likeable of fellows. But on the other, he is also a broken man who continues to drink himself into a stupor so he won't dream about his past and fall from grace. And, perhaps more importantly, so he won't dream about Ezabeth Tanza. The pain of losing her remains too acute for him to think that there is any truth to the myth of the Bright Lady. It took a while to get used to his idiosyncrasies in Blackwing, but now it's impossible for me not to root for the poor guy. McDonald made an effort to humanize Galharrow in this sequel, and his relationships with Valiya and Amaira, a woman and an orphan girl now working for Blackwing, were particularly touching at times. Bringing himself to care for other people is not easy for the main protagonist, for it makes him vulnerable. Galharrow showed some character growth in Ravencry, which definitely raised the bar a few notches. Other than Valiya and Amaira, the supporting cast consisted of a number of familiar faces, chief among them Tnota and Nenn. Maldon, the former Spinner now trapped in the body of a child, was great. And it was obvious that Saravor the Fixer would return, but I did not expect him to play such a big role in this second volume. It is now evident that Ed McDonald has a knack for creating engaging protagonists. Which bodes well for things to come, no question about it.

As was the case with its predecessor, the pace of Ravencry can be uneven. At times, the rhythm can be quite sluggish, and then it's balls-to-the-wall action. These pacing issues don't take much away from the overall reading experience, but they can be off-putting. Say one thing about Ed McDonald, say he knows how to close the show with style! Once again, the endgame was thrilling and led to a rousing finale which packed a surprisingly powerful emotional punch.

McDonald now has two quality grimdark yarns under his belt. Yet he needs to up his game and bring the Raven Mark's series to another level. There have been glimpses of a bigger, more ambitious story arc. But we now need more than just tantalizing hints. The author needs to step to the plate and deliver. As I said before, the talent and the potential are definitely there. It's up to McDonald to bring it on.

Will he be the next Joe Abercrombie? Or will he just be next? Time will tell. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 9th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider maintains its position at number 3.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Quote of the Day

Can you give us a 1-sentence synopsis of A Little Hatred?

Game of Thrones meets Les Miserables with less singing and more hangings.

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, during a new Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Gotta love Joe! :P

Win a copy of Dathan Auerbach's BAD MAN

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Doubleday, I have a copy of Dathan Auerbach's Bad Man up for grabs. For more info about this title: 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.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "BAD." 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 Dan Simmons' Hugo award-winning classic, Hyperion, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope--and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Marion Zimmer Bradley's classic, The Mists of Avalon, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In Marion Zimmer Bradley's masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot's court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king's rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds' and old and new religions' claims its most famous victim.

Another milestone: 600th review!

I'm in the middle of a roadtrip around the stunning Gaspésie peninsula (ranked one of the most beautiful coastal roadtrips by the likes of Lonely Planet and National Geographic) and I was aware that I'd reach this milestone at some point this summer. Just counted them for good measure, and I realized that the next one I post will be my 600th review!

Can't quite believe it, to tell you the truth. Then again, if you'd told me back in 2005 that I'd still be active in 2018, I would have said you're crazy! Thirteen years of reviewing speculative fiction works! Who would have thought!?! Not me, that's for damn sure!

As I mentioned in a similar post a few years back, it's been a long journey and somewhat of a bumpy ride at times. And yet, it's been fun for the most part. In the last decade or so, I've met some of my favorite authors in person and got to interact with plenty of others, many of them on a semi-regular basis. It's obvious that the Hotlist grew into something that I could never quite envision when I created this humble little blog of mine. And I can't believe that thousands of SFF fans keep on returning to read the drivel that I post, week in and week out.

Once again, let me take this opportunity to thank you all for making this the enjoyable experience it has been since January 2005. God knows it wouldn't be this much fun without an audience. Thank you to all the authors, editors, publicists, marketing directors, agents, and everyone else involved in publishing for helping make the Hotlist what it has become. Thank you to my fellow SFF bloggers, whether they like me or not. Thank you to the online SFF community for being there at the beginning and for sticking around afterward. Basically, many thanks to everyone who has been there along the way. Because without you all, there would be no Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. The world wouldn't be a poorer place without it, at least according to the haters I've garnered over the years, but what the heck!?! :P

I have no idea how long I'll keep doing this, but it's safe to say that I probably don't have another 600 reviews ahead of me. Looking back, it's hard to believe that I got this far. Still, it will be interesting to see how much gas I have left in the tank. . .

I owe you all a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. All I can do is keep writing honest reviews and help steer you toward good novels and, hopefully, away from the bad ones.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you! =)

All the best,



Blackwing showed up in my mailbox a few weeks back in an unexpected package from the folks at Ace, and which also included the just-released sequel, Ravencry. It may not speak well of me, but up until that point I had never heard of Ed McDonald. The blurb immediately intrigued me, so I elected to give the book a shot.

And I'm sure glad I did, for Blackwing definitely has an Abercrombie vibe to it. Not as far as the plot is concerned, but in style and tone. If Joe Abercrombie and Glen Cook ever teamed up to collaborate on something, I have a feeling that the result would be something akin to this novel.

Here's the blurb:

Set on a postapocalyptic frontier, Blackwing is a gritty fantasy debut about a man’s desperate battle to survive his own dark destiny…

Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.

Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.

Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.

Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve…

The worldbuilding was by far my favorite aspect of this work. I loved the concept behind the Misery, a dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland where reality itself unraveled when a magical weapon detonated. Ed McDonald came up with lots of interesting concepts and ideas, but unfortunately he played his cards very close to his chest and did not elaborate a whole lot on them. Hence, we learn very little about Crowfoot and the other Nameless, the Deep Kings, the Darlings, and other mutated creatures from the Misery. I wish we could have learned more about all of them, for it would have helped flesh out the world a little more. We discover next to nothing about the world at large, and the bulk of the action occurs in and around the Misery and the city of Valengrad. On a more positive note, McDonald created a magic system based on light/electricity that would make Brandon Sanderson proud. This, at least, was explained at length, so readers understand just how magic works. I'm not sure why the author was so parsimonious with more in-depth information. Every revelation and answer raised yet more questions, so it would have been great if McDonald had been a little more forthcoming in that regard. I mean, you reach the end of Blackwing without really knowing what is truly going on beyond the immediate conflict the protagonists have been thrust into.

Blackwing features the first person narrative of Captain Galharrow. A battle-hardened veteran whose past nearly unmade him, his point of view made for a captivating read. One the one hand, he is a kick-ass, no-nonsense kind of officer, so not always the most likeable of fellows. But on the other, he is also a broken man who drinks himself into a stupor so he won't dream about his past and fall from grace. Hence, he can be a total ass at times and a very insightful man at others. Somehow, the author managed to make it work. It took a while to get used to his idiosyncrasies, but when you do it's impossible not to root for the guy. First person narratives are tricky things, though. And unless Galharrow's perspective appeals to the reader, then it's pretty much game over, I'm afraid. The supporting cast is comprised of a small number of engaging characters, chief among them Tnota, Nenn, Ezabeth Tanza, and Saravor the Fixer. It's too early to tell, but it appears that Ed McDonald has a knack for creating compelling protagonists. Which bodes well for things to come.

The pace can be uneven in certain portions of the book. Sometimes, especially at the beginning when one is unfamiliar with the universe and the characters, the rhythm can be a bit sluggish. At other times, it was balls-to-the-wall action sequences and the reader has no choice but to buckle up and enjoy the ride. When all is said and done, these pacing issues don't take much away from the overall reading experience. The endgame was particularly exciting, and led to a rousing finale that made it impossible for me not to read the second volume ASAP.

Blackwing is a promising debut, to be sure. But one that did not quite live up to the potential it showed early on. It will be interesting to see if Ed McDonald can elevate his game and bring The Raven's Mark series to another level. The talent and the potential are definitely there.

Still, fans of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, and Scott Lynch will undoubtedly find a lot of things to like about this debut. Time will tell if Ed McDonald can make a name for himself and join them among the top grimdark writers out there.

If you are in the mood for a quality grimdark read with an Abercrombie vibe to it, look no further. Blackwing will surely scratch that itch.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Just saw that you can now get your hands on the digital edition of Sylvain Neuvel's excellent Sleeping Giants for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Quote of the Day

Just finished Peter Watts' The Freeze-Frame Revolution (Canada, USA, Europe) and it's pretty damn good. This has got to be the very best About the Author I have ever seen! :P Here's how it goes:

Peter Watts ( is a former marine biologist who clings to some shred of scientific rigor by appending technical bibliographies onto his novels. His debut novel, Starfish, was a New York Times Notable Book, while his fourth, Blindsight— a rumination on the utility of consciousness which has become a required text in undergraduate courses ranging from philosophy to neuroscience—was a finalist for numerous North American genre awards, winning exactly none of them. (It did, however, win a shitload of awards overseas, which suggests that his translators may be better writers than he is.) His shorter work has also picked up trophies in a variety of jurisdictions, notably a Shirley Jackson Award (possibly due to fan sympathy over nearly dying of flesh-eating disease in 2011) and a Hugo Award (possibly due to fan outrage over an altercation with US border guards in 2009). The latter incident resulted in Watts being barred from entering the US—not getting on the ground fast enough after being punched in the face by border guards is a “felony” under Michigan statutes—but he can’t honestly say he misses the place all that much. Especially now.

Watts’s work is available in twenty languages—he seems to be especially popular in countries with a history of Soviet occupation—and has been cited as inspirational to several popular video games. He and his cat, Banana (since deceased), have both appeared in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. A few years ago he briefly returned to science with a postdoc in molecular genetics, but he really sucked at it

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An idealistic young prince convinces an aging warrior and a struggling witch to help him kill the dragon that is terrorizing his kingdom.

As a vicious dragon stalks the Southlands, Crown Prince Gareth ventures to the forbidding North in search of the only man who can kill it. He is Lord Aversin, the Dragonsbane, whose dragon-slaying days have won him renown across the land. But when Gareth finds Lord Aversin, he discovers the mighty hero is squat and bespectacled, the ruler of a mud-village who admits that he killed the dragon not with a lance, but with ignoble poison. Still, he’ll have to do.

Gareth and Aversin set off in company with Jenny Waynest, a witch with great ambitions but disappointingly puny powers—a ragtag crew destined to become legendary, or die in the attempt.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Barbara Hambly, including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

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

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

Don't know for how long, but right now you can also download Andy Weir's The Martian for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 2nd)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Outsider is down one position, ending the week at number 3.

Terry Brooks' The Skaar Invasion debuts at number 12.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Time Was

Right off the bat, I must warn you that the cover blurb is misleading. So much so that it created a negative backlash on Goodreads and other online venues, which in turn engendered quite a few poor reviews for this novella. Unlike the most vocal detractors, I will not claim that the blurb is a blatant lie. That would be untrue. But it is indeed misleading if you are expecting the plot to be a romance between two gay soldiers. Tom and Ben's tale lies at the heart of this story, but it's not necessarily the primary focus of Time Was.

Due to this backlash, it appears that a lot of readers are now passing on this novella. Which is a shame, really. Don't get me wrong. I understand that certain people wanted it to be a love story featuring two gay time travelers. But this is a new work by Ian McDonald and the author has yet to disappoint me. And I'm glad to report that Time Was is another memorable read that doesn't deserve the mud thrown its way.

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.

Time Was is a tale of war and quantum physics, but truth be told that's a story within the story. The main arc of the narrative has more to do with old books and the secrets they can conceal. It all begins when a book collector/vendor finds a letter in an old, seemingly worthless, book found in a dumpster. Little by little, this man becomes intrigued by these two soldiers exchanging letters, Ben Seligman and Tom Chappell. Even more so when photographic evidence shows them appearing during various armed conflicts such as WWII, the Vietnam War, and the Balkan Wars as Yougoslavia unraveled, without aging much from one picture to the other. Soon, this collector becomes obsessed with them and seeks to learn the truth behind what appears to be two time travelers. And all the clues he finds are always hidden in a copy of the same book by an unknown author, a book titled Time Was.

The main perspective is the first person narrative of the book collector/vendor who first stumbled upon Tom's letter within the pages of an unexpected dumpster find. That man is not the most likeable of narrators, which probably helped spark the backlash from fans expecting a romance between two gay guys. Not only is that man heterosexual, but he's not endearing in the least. But he keeps digging and the truth gradually unfolds. The second point of view is that of Tom Chappell and consists of flashback scenes. These sequences allow readers to find out more about his relationship with Ben and what they were both doing during World War II. It is also through his perspective that we learn that the British forces are working on a secret project whose aim is to find a way to conceal them from German troops using quantum physics. And the closer the narrator gets to the truth, the more we learn about what the British sought to accomplish at Shingle Street and what the repercussions turned out to be.

The novella format precludes any pacing issues. Weighing in at only 143 pages, I went through Time Was in no time. I was hooked from the very beginning and couldn't let go. The more the narrator discovers about Ben and Tom, the more I needed to know what would happen next. And even if Time Was isn't as satisfying as some of Ian McDonald's novel-length works, this short fiction piece still packs a powerful punch.

I often complain that certain SFF novels were longer than they should have been, but a part of me wanted this book to be bigger. In the end, however, that would have been detrimental to the story because Time Was is as long as it needs to be.

They say that good things come in small packages and this novella is a perfect example. Forget about those angry readers talking shit about this book and give Time Was a shot. You won't be disappointed! And since you can get the digital edition for as low as 3.99$ on Amazon and other online sellers, there's no reason not to get your hands on it!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

It’s five years after the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and drove the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights.

But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build.

Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

God is dead. Meet the kids.

When Fat Charlie's dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie "Fat Charlie." Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can't shake that name, one of the many embarrassing "gifts" his father bestowed -- before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie's life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie's doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who's going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun ... just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie's dad wasn't just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

Returning to the territory he so brilliantly explored in his masterful New York Times bestseller, American Gods, the incomparable Neil Gaiman offers up a work of dazzling ingenuity, a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny -- a true wonder of a novel that confirms Stephen King's glowing assessment of the author as "a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him."