Musical Interlude



The most powerful and haunting piece of what could be the very best movie soundtrack ever produced. Hans Zimmer truly knocked it out of the park.

I'd usually go for the musical score, but I find this live performance to be amazing.

Cold Days


After a number of more straightforward and episodic installments, with Dead Beat the Dresden Files shifted into high gear. Followed by Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, and Turn Coat, Jim Butcher elevated his game with basically every new volume. As I mentioned in previous reviews, far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

Changes, the very best installment yet, proved to be the culmination of a panoply of interwoven plotlines introduced in previous novels. It raised the bar higher than ever before and nothing will ever be the same for poor Harry Dresden from here on out. A major turning point for the series and its characters, no doubt about it. For its part, Ghost Story felt like a transition novel meant to bridge what happened before with whatever will come next.

And if the plot of Cold Days is any indication, it appears that the Dresden Files has plenty of drama and fireworks left in store for its readers.

Here's the blurb:

You can't keep a good wizard down - even when he wants to stay that way.

For years, Harry Dresden has been Chicago's only professional wizard, but a bargain made in desperation with the Queen of Air and Darkness has forced him into a new job: professional killer.

Mab, the mother of wicked faeries, has restored the mostly-dead wizard to health, and dispatches him upon his first mission - to bring death to an immortal. Even as he grapples with the impossible task, Dresden learns of a looming danger to Demonreach, the living island hidden upon Lake Michigan, a place whose true purpose and dark potential have the potential to destroy billions and to land Dresden in the deepest trouble he has ever known - even deeper than being dead. How messed up is that?

Beset by his new enemies and hounded by the old, Dresden has only twenty four hours to reconnect with his old allies, prevent a cataclysm and do the impossible - all while the power he bargained to get - but never meant to keep - lays siege to his very soul.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Right off the bat, though I'm all for authors reminding readers of what has gone before, I feel that Butcher went all out in Cold Days. I mean, this is volume 14, right? True, minor or obscure or distant plot points should be re-introduced so as to not confuse fans who have no reread the whole sequence recently. However, there was no need to remind us of who Bob the skull is. We know about Thomas, Murphy, Molly, etc. There's no need to describe Harry's old apartment and his patched-up VW car. I doubt that newbies are jumping into the Dresden Files by reading the 14th installment. And there is so much good stuff taking place that such redundant info-dumps actually slow down the momentum of the novel. This could be construed as nitpicking, I know, but I just feel that such unecessary sections should have been removed during the editing process.

Harry Dresden's life has always been complicated. If ever there was someone who deserved to rest in peace, it was Harry. Unfortunately, he immediately discovered that the afterlife wasn't all it's cracked up to be. And if the afterlife was no walk in the park, coming back to life will come with even more challenges. Assuming the mantle of the Winter Knight could potentially change Harry and turn him into a monster like his predecessor. As if that wasn't enough, he must now find a way to kill an immortal while various factions are trying to kill him. Oh and he has about 24 hours to save the world from a magical threat that could wipe out the entire American Midwest. No pressure.

As a matter of course, Cold Days features the first person narrative of Harry Dresden. His voice as the only POV continues to be witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle in every chapter. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files installments, it's the supporting cast that helps make this one another great read. Harry's death had a profound impact on those who were close to him, and his coming back to life will come as a shock to many of them. Once again, there are some truly touching moments involving them. Like he did in Changes and Ghost Story, Jim Butcher played the emotional impact card rather well on a number of occasions, which really made you feel for Harry and the rest of the gang.

Cold Days quickly turned into another extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that linked that novel with plotlines from basically every other volume that came before. Revelations about the Summer Court, the Winter Court, Merlin, the Demonreach island, the Outsiders, other deities and immortals, and lots of other things make for some compulsive reading. Hints have always been there, yet in Ghost Story it became evident that Harry was a pawn in a game played by higher powers. We see evidence of that again in this 14th volume.

Convoluted and entertaining, Cold Days elevates the Dresden Files to yet another level and opens the door for so much more. Looking forward to Skin Game!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is down four positions, ending the week at number 9. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down two positions, ending the week at number 10. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brent Weeks' The Burning White debuts at number 11.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House is down five spots, finishing the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is up four positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is down one spot, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get your hands on Suyi Davies Okungbowa's fantasy debut, David Mogo, Godhunter, for only 3.77$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Nigerian God-Punk - a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the excellent The Briar King by Greg Keyes for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 28th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute maintains its position at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments maintains its position at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House is down five spots, finishing the week at number 9.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep returns at number 12 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is down four positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



Blast from the past!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get your hands on the digital edition of David Walton's The Genius Plague for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

THE CONTAGION IS IN YOUR MIND.

In this science fiction thriller, brothers are pitted against each other as a pandemic threatens to destabilize world governments by exerting a subtle mind control over survivors.

Neil Johns has just started his dream job as a code breaker in the NSA when his brother, Paul, a mycologist, goes missing on a trip to collect samples in the Amazon jungle. Paul returns with a gap in his memory and a fungal infection that almost kills him. But once he recuperates, he has enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. Meanwhile, something is happening in South America; others, like Paul, have also fallen ill and recovered with abilities they didn’t have before.

But that’s not the only pattern–the survivors, from entire remote Brazilian tribes to American tourists, all seem to be working toward a common, and deadly, goal. Neil soon uncovers a secret and unexplained alliance between governments that have traditionally been enemies. Meanwhile Paul becomes increasingly secretive and erratic.

Paul sees the fungus as the next stage of human evolution, while Neil is convinced that it is driving its human hosts to destruction. Brother must oppose brother on an increasingly fraught international stage, with the stakes: the free will of every human on earth. Can humanity use this force for good, or are we becoming the pawns of an utterly alien intelligence?

A Memory Called Empire


Something about Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire piqued my curiosity and I purchased the digital edition when it was on sale earlier this year. Given some of the rave reviews, I was expecting a richly detailed work in terms of culture, plot, and characterization.

Alas, this novel failed to deliver on basically all fronts. And even though things took a turn for the better toward the end, overall this turned out to be an underwhelming space opera work.

Here's the blurb:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

A fascinating space opera debut novel, Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire is an interstellar mystery adventure.

Everyone has heard of the "Show, don't tell" rule. It's a technique used to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description. It feels as though Arkady Martine and her editor forgot all about this rule, or simply elected to throw it out the window. Indeed, it appears that about 90% of the plot unfolds through conversations between the characters. Info-dumps and lengthy explanations make up a good chunk of the dialogue in this novel, which sinks A Memory Called Empire early on and prevents the book from ever truly gaining any sort of momentum. Through these conversations, the author tells us all about what seems to be a rich alien culture, with complex political intrigue, and a looming war that could change everything. Unfortunately, Martine fails to "show" readers these concepts and plot twists time and time again. This, more than anything, will likely make or break this novel for readers. Space opera aficionados who relish great worldbuilding, lots of action, and three-dimensional characters will probably have a hard time getting into A Memory Called Empire. I know I did.

The forever expanding Teixcalaanli Empire considers itself to be pinnacle of intellect, the arts, and culture. I was expecting this alien civilization to really come alive through the pages of this book. And it does, to a certain extent. But the worldbuilding is mostly revealed through the dialogue and not the plot itself. I definitely could have done without all the poetry, that goes without saying. The imago technology was interesting, especially once you realize that this it at the heart of the political intrigue. But as was the case with a lot of other cool concepts and ideas, I felt that Martine neglected to elaborate on them.

Mahit Dzmare, new ambassador for Lsel Station, is the main protagonist. Like readers, she is mostly ignorant of what's going on and learns everything by small increments as the story progresses. I'm not sure if it has to do with faulty execution, or if Mahit simply isn't interesting enough to carry this tale on her shoulders, yet it was often a chore to follow her. Plot point are discussed, sometimes ad nauseam, by Mahit and two early companions, Three Seagrass and Twelve Azalea. The supporting cast is also a bit lackluster, with the exception of Nineteen Adze. Some of them grow on you, but it takes forever for the author to flesh them out. As such, I felt that the characterization was definitely subpar compared to that of quality space opera offerings by writers such as Corey, Reynolds, Hamilton, and McDonald.

The pace is absolutely atrocious. There is no way to sugarcoat this. We learn so little throughout the first 75% of the novel that I often found myself bored out of my mind. The fact that most of the plot is revealed through those aforementioned conversations doesn't help matters in the least. It takes a very long time for things to finally start to make sense. Thankfully, once you do understand what's going on and what the stakes are, A Memory Called Empire becomes a much better read. Sadly, it's a case of too little, too late. A part of me would like to read the sequel and find out what happens next. However, I'm not sure I can go through another such work.

Arkady Martine's writing is excellent and when she wants she can create an arresting imagery. Once she unveils the plot and the political intrigue which are at the heart of A Memory Called Empire, it's obvious that there is more to this novel/series than meets the eye. If the author can understand that she needs to show more than just tell readers, chances are she could elevate this series to another level. Time will tell if the next installment can do that. . .

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download The Book of Magic, an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois, for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

A new anthology celebrating the witches and sorcerers of epic fantasy—featuring stories by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Megan Lindholm, and many others!

Hot on the heels of Gardner Dozois’s acclaimed anthology The Book of Swords comes this companion volume devoted to magic. How could it be otherwise? For every Frodo, there is a Gandalf . . . and a Saruman. For every Dorothy, a Glinda . . . and a Wicked Witch of the West. What would Harry Potter be without Albus Dumbledore . . . and Severus Snape? Figures of wisdom and power, possessing arcane, often forbidden knowledge, wizards and sorcerers are shaped—or misshaped—by the potent magic they seek to wield. Yet though their abilities may be godlike, these men and women remain human—some might say all too human. Such is their curse. And their glory.

In these pages, seventeen of today’s top fantasy writers—including award-winners Elizabeth Bear, John Crowley, Kate Elliott, K. J. Parker, Tim Powers, and Liz Williams—cast wondrous spells that thrillingly evoke the mysterious, awesome, and at times downright terrifying worlds where magic reigns supreme: worlds as far away as forever, and as near as next door.

FEATURING SIXTEEN ALL-NEW STORIES:

“The Return of the Pig” by K. J. Parker
“Community Service” by Megan Lindholm
“Flint and Mirror” by John Crowley
“The Friends of Masquelayne the Incomparable” by Matthew Hughes
“The Biography of a Bouncing Boy Terror: Chapter Two: Jumping Jack in Love” by Ysabeau S. Wilce
“Song of Fire” by Rachel Pollack
“Loft the Sorcerer” by Eleanor Arnason
“The Governor” by Tim Powers
“Sungrazer” by Liz Williams
“The Staff in the Stone” by Garth Nix
“No Work of Mine” by Elizabeth Bear
“Widow Maker” by Lavie Tidhar
“The Wolf and the Manticore” by Greg Van Eekhout
“The Devil’s Whatever” by Andy Duncan
“Bloom” by Kate Elliott
“The Fall and Rise of the House of the Wizard Malkuril” by Scott Lynch

Plus George R. R. Martin’s classic story “A Night at the Tarn House” and an introduction by Gardner Dozois.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download David Hair's Mage's Blood, opening chapter in The Moontide Quartet, for 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada. All three subsequent installments are also on sale.

Here's the blurb:

For years the Leviathan Bridge was a boon for prosperity and culture. But when the Rondian Emperor turned his avaricious eyes toward it, peace became war. In successive crusades the Imperial legions and their mighty battle-mages plundered the East unopposed.

Now the Moontide has come again, the Bridge is rising from beneath the waves, and the Third Crusade is poised for release. The board is set and the pieces are moving. But three lowly pawns, barely regarded, threaten the game: A failed mage, a jaded mercenary and a lowly market-girl are about to be catapulted into the maelstrom. Their choices and their courage are about to change the world.

Come to Urte, where the moon covers half the sky and the tides render the seas impassable. Where windships ply the skies and magi with god-gifted powers rule the earth. Where East and West are divided by colour, creed, language and the sea, but drawn to each other irrevocably in a dance of life and death. The Moontide is coming, to sweep away all in its path.

Mea culpa


Mea culpa: I have yet to read a single book in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

I know, I know! I've reviewed over 650 novels since I created my blog in 2005. I always said that I would wait until the author had completed her saga before starting it.

And now, years later, I'm finally giving it a shot. Better late than never, or so they say, right?

I probably won't be reviewing these books, for there is little point in doing so. But I'm looking forward to actually discovering what the enormous buzz was all about. :D

I've seen the first 4 movies back in the day, but I remember very little in terms of details. So it's almost as if I'm going into this fresh.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Stephen R. Donaldson's The Real Story: The Gap Into Conflict, opening chapter in what could be the best grimdark space opera ever written, for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Author of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson retums with this exciting and long-awaited new series that takes us into a stunningly imagined future to tell a timeless story of adventure and the implacable conflict of good and evil within each of us.

Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate and a murderer; even the most disreputable asteroid pilots of Delta Sector stayed locked out of his way. Those who didn't ended up in the lockup--or dead. But when Thermopyle arrived at Mallory's Bar & Sleep with a gorgeous woman by his side the regulars had to take notice. Her name was Morn Hyland, and she had been a police officer--until she met up with Thermopyle.

But one person in Mallorys Bar wasn't intimidated. Nick Succorso had his own reputation as a bold pirate and he had a sleek frigate fitted for deep space. Everyone knew that Thermopyle and Succorso were on a collision course. What nobody expected was how quickly it would be over--or how devastating victory would be. It was common enough example of rivalry and revenge--or so everyone thought. The REAL story was something entirely different.

In The Real Story, Stephen R. Donaldson takes us to a remarkably detailed world of faster-than-light travel, politics, betrayal, and a shadowy presence just outside our view to tell the fiercest, most profound story he has ever written.


You can also get your hands on the digital edition of William Gibson's The Peripheral for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of Neuromancer and Agency presents a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that takes a terrifying look into the future...

Flynne Fisher lives down a country road, in a rural America where jobs are scarce, unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she’s trying to avoid. Her brother Burton lives on money from the Veterans Administration, for neurological damage suffered in the Marines’ elite Haptic Recon unit. Flynne earns what she can by assembling product at the local 3D printshop. She made more as a combat scout in an online game, playing for a rich man, but she’s had to let the shooter games go.

Wilf Netherton lives in London, seventy-some years later, on the far side of decades of slow-motion apocalypse. Things are pretty good now, for the haves, and there aren’t many have-nots left. Wilf, a high-powered publicist and celebrity-minder, fancies himself a romantic misfit, in a society where reaching into the past is just another hobby.

Burton’s been moonlighting online, secretly working security in some game prototype, a virtual world that looks vaguely like London, but a lot weirder. He’s got Flynne taking over shifts, promised her the game’s not a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.

Flynne and Wilf are about to meet one another. Her world will be altered utterly, irrevocably, and Wilf’s, for all its decadence and power, will learn that some of these third-world types from the past can be badass.

Quote of the Day

My brother the vampire, whose kiss was a slow death sentence, had a stable and loving relationship with a girl who was crazy about him. By contrast, I could barely talk to a woman, at least about anything pertaining to a relationship. Given that my only long-term girlfriends had faked their own death, died, and broken free of enslaving enchantments to end the relationship, the empirical evidence seemed to indicate that he knew something I didn't.

- JIM BUTCHER, Cold Days.

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet: Dauntless for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The first novel in the New York Times bestselling Lost Fleet series!

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century—and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who's emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief....

Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance Fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend....

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

In hardcover:

Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House debuts at number 4.

Stephen King's The Institute is down three positions, ending the week at number 5. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down two spots, finishing the week at number 8. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is down five positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Bradley P. Beaulieu's With Blood Upon the Sands for only 5.99$ via this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

With Blood Upon the Sand is the second book in the Song of Shattered Sands epic fantasy trilogy.

Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim—that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will—but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable.

Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Çeda’s friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades.

When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her…

The Immortal Conquistador


I know that I have yet to read the last two Kitty Norville installments. But when Carrie Vaughn announced that The Immortal Conquistador would reveal Rick the vampire's origin story, I knew I wanted to sink my teeth into this one ASAP! Portions of this work first appeared as short fiction pieces in SFF magazines, with new ones added on to cobble up a book that stands rather well on its own.

Needless to say, this one is for readers familiar with the original book sequence. Rick is an important character and I relished the opportunity to discover the backstory of this mysterious vampire. The Immortal Conquistador is the perfect companion book for fans of Vaughn's signature series.

Here's the blurb:

Discover the thrilling, deadly chronicles of the noble immortal who becomes Rick, ally to bestselling author Carrie Vaughn’s fan-favorite, Kitty Norville.

Ricardo de Avila would have followed Coronado to the ends of the earth. Instead, Ricardo found the end of his mortal life, and a new identity—as the Vampire Conquistador.

For over five hundred years, Ricardo keeps unwillingly upsetting the established order. He has protected his found family from marauding demons, teamed up with a legendary gunslinger, appointed himself the Master of Denver, and called upon a church buried under the Vatican. He has tended bar and fended off werewolves.

As the Master vampire of Denver, Rick is a major player in the Kitty Norville books. Although we know that Rick has traveled with Coronado’s expedition as a young man, thus making him more than five centuries old, little else is known about him. Rick has dropped a few hints in various Kitty installments, but he has mostly kept his past to himself. Much to Kitty's disappointment, it goes without saying! Yet here is our chance to discover how he was turned into a vampire and what ultimately led him to Denver.

The Immortal Conquistador starts off with Rick flying to Rome. During this visit to the Vatican he will meet with the Abbot of the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows. These scenes occur following the events of Kitty Rocks the House, when Father Columban traveled to Denver to try to recruit him into the order. It turns out that the enigmatic Rick is an anomaly in the vampire world and the abbot would like to hear his tale. Hence, those sequences act as interludes meant to bridge the various pieces of Rick's backstory so they can form a more or less self-contained whole.

"Conquistador de la Noche" is Rick’s origin story and recounts Ricardo de Avila's early years in New Spain. It focuses on how he was turned into a vampire and the repercussions this had on his life. "El Hidalgo de la Noche" picks up years later and recounts Rick's first encounter with other vampires since being turned into one himself. His visit to Mexico City will make him realize that he's an unusual vampire and will set him on a path that will change his life forever. "Dead Men in Central City" picks up in 1848. It begins by recounting Rick's meeting with Doc Holliday, the infamous gunslinger and gambler. But it soon grows into something much bigger and it tells the tale of what forced Rick to move on to Denver.

As Carrie Vaughn explains in her author's notes, she inadvertently made Rick a witness to the entire history of European colonization and settlement of the American West. And this is what makes the inscrutable vampire such a fascinating character. My only complaint would be that Rick's backstory stops there, with just a hint that he ended up in Virginia City in 1860, running The Bucket of Blood Saloon. There is obviously a lot more to Ricardo de Avila's tale and I would have loved at least another piece taking place closer to the events of the Kitty books. Alas, it was not to be. Still, The Immortal Conquistador was a captivating read that finally shed some light on one of the most interesting and secretive characters from the Kitty universe.

This book is sure to please all the Kitty Norville fans out there!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Peter F. Hamilton's SALVATION LOST


I'm giving away my advance reading copy of Peter F. Hamilton's upcoming Salvation Lost. For more info, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

All the best in humanity rises to meet a powerful alien threat in the sequel to Salvation—part of an all-new trilogy from “the owner of the most powerful imagination in science fiction” (Ken Follett).

The comparative utopia of twenty-third-century Earth is about to go dreadfully awry when a seemingly benign alien race is abruptly revealed to be one of the worst threats humanity has ever faced. Driven by an intense religious extremism, the Olyix are determined to bring everyone to their version of God as they see it. But they may have met their match in humanity, who are not about to go gently into that good night or spend the rest of their days cowering in hiding. As human ingenuity and determination rise to the challenge, collective humanity has only one goal—to wipe this apparently undefeatable enemy from the face of creation. Even if it means playing a ridiculously long game indeed.

But in a chaotic universe, it is hard to plan for every eventuality, and it is always darkest before the dawn.

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

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

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

Good luck to all the participants!

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute maintains its position at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down three spots, finishing the week at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It is down two positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download the omnibus comprised of all three volumes of Katherine Kurtz's The Legends of Camber of Culdi for only 2.99$ here. It's the perfect starting point for anyone interested in discovering the Deryni saga!

Here's the blurb:

Three fantasy novels of intrigue, betrayal, and magic in medieval Gwynedd by the New York Times–bestselling author of the Deryni series—bonus story also included.

Camber of Culdi: Long before Camber was revered as a saint, he was a Deryni noble, one of the most respected of the magical race whose arcane skills set them apart from ordinary humans in the kingdom of Gwynedd. Now, the land suffers under the tyranny of King Imre, whose savage oppression of the human population weighs heavily on Camber’s heart—a heart that is about to be shattered by a tragic loss that will lead him to confront the usurpers whose dark magic haunts the realm.

Saint Camber: The yoke of tyranny has finally been lifted in Gwynedd, but Camber’s job remains unfinished. The dangerous remnants of a conquered enemy still mass at the borders, and the new ruler is desperately unhappy wearing the crown. With the stability of a fragile kingdom at stake, its greatest champion must make the ultimate sacrifice: Camber of Culdi must cease to exist.

Camber the Heretic: The king’s heir is a mere boy of twelve, and the malevolent regents who will rule until young Alroy comes of age are determined to eliminate all Deryni. Suddenly, the future of Gwynedd hangs in the balance, and Camber—once adored as a saint, but now reviled as a heretic—must find a way to protect his people before everything and everyone he loves is destroyed in the all-consuming flames of intolerance and hate.

Filled with mysticism and magic, these sagas reminds us that “Kurtz’s love of history lets her do things with her characters and their world that no non-historian could hope to do” (Chicago Sun-Times).

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 7th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is up one position, ending the week at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down one spot, finishing the week at number 3. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback).

The Library at Mount Char


Better late than never, or so they say.

I wish I'd read Scott Hawkins' The Library at Mount Char when it originally came out in 2016, but I never received an ARC of the book. Picked it up a few months ago during an ebook sale and was looking forward to finally discovering what the buzz was all about. Love it or hate it, this is a novel that leaves no reader indifferent and I wanted to find out for myself what I'd think about it.

First and foremost, you need to understand that The Library at Mount Char is a unique work of fiction that defies all labels. You have never read something quite like it and that's a fact. To say that the book is weird would be a gross understatement. Yet I really enjoyed it, even though I'm not quite sure how to articulate how I feel.

Here's the blurb:

Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts.

After all, she was a normal American herself once.

That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.

But Carolyn has accounted for this.

And Carolyn has a plan.

The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.

The cover blurb does a good job describing the premise of this novel. And yet, as mentioned, the plot of The Library at Mount Char defies all descriptions. It's a weird tale, no doubt about it. One filled with graphic violence and gore. One so odd at times that you wonder what the book is supposed to be about. But it's also a thought-provoking work filled with dark humor. I wish I could be clearer and give you a better idea of what it's all about. Alas, I can't and you'll have to find out for yourself.

The narrative unfolds through the eyes of three main protagonists. Carolyn, one of the Librarians, is decidedly odd. But there is more than meets the eye where she's concerned, as we soon find out. Steve, who practices Buddhism for assholes, is just a regular guy known for making spectacularly bad decisions. Yet there is more to this average Joe, something that somehow links him to Carolyn and the Library. Erwin Charles Leffington left a stellar career in the Army to become a special agent for Homeland Security. He is investigating a murder case in which Steve is involved when the proverbial shit hits the fan. The Library at Mount Char can be a disturbing book and the cast is often repulsive to begin with. But as the story progresses and you get to know them and their backstories, they definitely start to grow on you.

Although the novel is never boring, the first few chapters can be a bit off-putting. It takes a while for things to start making sense and for nearly half of the book you basically have no idea what's going on. The only advice I can offer is to just buckle up and enjoy the ride. Trust me, it will all make sense in good time. You just have to trust that Scott Hawkins knows what he's doing. It may feel as though the author is making everything up as he goes along, but this is a beautifully crafted and multilayered plot.

There are portions of The Library at Mount Char which are slow-moving, especially early on. But the novel doesn't suffer from any true pacing issues. And once the storylines start to come together, the book takes off and moves at a good clip toward a surprising finale that closes the show with style.

Dark, disconcerting, and humorous in equal measures, The Library at Mount Char is an engaging read that will leave no one indifferent. I'll be lining up for whatever Scott Hawkins writes next!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download T. H. White's The Once and Future King for only 1.99$ here. It's 0.99$ in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

T. H. White’s masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as Excalibur and Camelot, and a poignant story of adventure, romance and magic that has enchanted readers for generations.

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.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Robin Hobb's Fool's Errand for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But now, into his isolated life, visitors begin to arrive: Fitz’s mentor from his assassin days; a hedge-witch who foresees the return of a long-lost love; and the Fool, the former White Prophet, who beckons Fitz to fulfill his destiny.

Then comes the summons he cannot ignore. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished. Fitz, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony, thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment . . . or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him—or how his loyalties will be tested to the breaking point.


You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Anne Charnock's Dreams Before the Start of Time for 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.

In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, the Mistborn series is a heist story of political intrigue and magical, martial-arts action.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 30th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is up one position, ending the week at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments is down one spot, finishing the week at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Joe Abercrombie's A Little Hatred debuts at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback).

Fire and Blood


Sure, this is not the George R. R. Martin work that everyone is waiting for. That goes without saying. Still, having loved The World of Ice and Fire back in 2014, I was curious to see how Fire and Blood would expand on all the revelations that made its predecessor such a memorable read. I've always been a sucker for backstories and I had a feeling that this new book would deliver on all fronts. And it did!

The World of Ice and Fire contained a section titled "The Reign of the Dragons" which focused on the Conquest, while another, this one titled "The Targaryen Kings", elaborated on every single Targaryen monarch in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. That and the following section, "The Fall of the Dragons", painted a somewhat clearer picture which allowed fans of A Song of Ice and Fire to understand exactly how events escalated and how they led to the fall of the Mad King and Robert Baratheon's rebellion. Taken together, they comprised about one hundred pages of Targaryen history. To give you an idea of just how richly detailed Fire and Blood truly is, keep in mind that Martin spent over 700 pages exploring the first 135 years of House Targaryen, from the Conquest to the beginning of the reign of Aegon III.

Considering that this is roughly about half of the history of the Targaryen kings, it's no wonder that the vast amount of material Martin originally wrote for the sourcebook never made it into The World of Ice and Fire. Indeed, I never expected this quantity of minute details pertaining to each monarch and what marked each of their reign.

Here's the blurb:

With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally bestselling author George R. R. Martin, this is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros.

Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen—the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria—took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice and Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate game of thrones, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.

Fire and Blood is a history of the Targaryen Kings in Westeros written by Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel of Oldtown. As such it reads like a history book, akin to Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Hence, readers expecting a novel in style and tone may be disappointed. Some of the material has already appeared as short fiction pieces in a number of anthologies that Martin edited, so fans might already be familiar with certain historical details found in The Princess and the Queen, The Rogue Prince, and Sons of the Dragon. But there is a lot more.

Another potential disappointment might stem from the fact that the historical period which influenced A Song of Ice and Fire the most is not covered in this work. Since Fire and Blood focuses on the Targaryen history from the Conquest to the end of the regency and the start of Aegon III's reign, nearly a century and half worth of details will be covered in the yet-to-be-written sequel to this book. I'm sure I'm not the only one who bemoaned the fact that we didn't get to discover more about the reign of Aegon the Unworthy, the Blackfyre Rebellions, the Summerhall tragedy, the reign of the Mad King, and everything else that led to Robert Baratheon's rebellion. In addition, I would have loved to learn more about the misadventures of Dunk and Egg before the boy ascended the Iron Throne.

Having said that, the detailed account of the civil war that decimated the Targaryen line which came to be known as the Dance of Dragons and its grave repercussions was by far the highlight of Fire and Blood. Martin spent two hundred pages exploring what led to the Dance of Dragons and all the ramifications engendered by the conflict. This war, with its dragons and loyalists on either side, was as complex and deeply realized as any storyline from A Song of Ice and Fire. Split into several parts, "The Dying of the Dragons" sections were amazing reads.

Even though this work is a detailed study of about half the history of the Targaryen line in Westeros, it is as crazy and convoluted as any of the plotlines that made the series such an unforgettable fantasy saga. Any readers wishing to discover more about the history behind A Song of Ice and Fire will find a lot to love about Fire and Blood. However, if all you want is to get your hands on The Winds of Winter and have little interest in a distant backstory that resounds with depth, then you should probably steer clear of this book.

As I mentioned, this is not the novel we are all eagerly anticipating. And yet, if you are looking for something that can scratch that ASOIAF hitch while we wait for The Winds of Winter, then Fire and Blood just might be what the doctor ordered!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

John Birmingham contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my review copy of John Birmingham's The Cruel Stars! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- James Nelson, from Chicago, Illinois, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Jeff VanderMeer's Borne for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.

“He was born, but I had borne him.”

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

Win a copy of Philip Pullman's THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH


I'm giving away my review copy of Philip Pullman's The Secret Commonwealth to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Lyra Silvertongue’s adventures in the North are long over–the windows between the many worlds have been sealed, and her beloved Will is lost to her. She does still have the alethiometer: the truth-telling device given to her by the master of Jordan College, which guided her journey.

Lyra doesn’t know the full story of the alethiometer, though. Or the role that young Malcolm Polstead played in bringing both the instrument and baby Lyra to Jordan. She’s now a twenty-year-old undergraduate at St. Sophia’s College. To her, Malcolm is Dr. Polstead, an overly solicitous professor she would prefer to avoid.

But intrigue is swirling around Lyra once more. Her daemon Pantalaimon is witness to a brutal murder, and the dying man entrusts them with secrets that carry echoes from their past. They learn of a city haunted by daemons, of a desert said to hold the secret of Dust.

Powerful forces are about to throw Lyra and Malcolm together once again. And the dangers they face will challenge everything they thought they knew about the world, and about themselves.

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