More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Kristen Britain's Green Rider, first volume in the NYT bestselling Green Rider series, for only 2.99$ here. You can download it for the same price in Canada here.

Here's the blurb:

On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G'ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by a galloping horse bursting from the woods, its rider impaled by two black-shafted arrows.

As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of King Zachary. Before he dies, he makes Karigan swear to deliver the "life and death" message he’s carrying and to complete his mission "for love of her country." The man gives her his green coat, with the symbolic brooch of his office, bestowing upon Karigan the title of Green Rider and changing her life forever. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.

Green Rider is the first installment of the acclaimed Green Rider series.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Michael J. Sullivan's Age of Myth for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Michael J. Sullivan’s trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership and comparisons to fantasy masters Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, and J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Now Sullivan’s stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series—and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Once again, you can download C. S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising, the first volume in the Coldfire trilogy, one of the best dark fantasy series ever written, for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Blending science fiction and fantasy, the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy tells a dark tale of an alien world where nightmares are made manifest.

Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength.

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

First in the bestselling Dragon Prince series, explore a lush epic fantasy world replete with winged beasts, power games of magical treachery, and a realm of princedoms hovering on the brink of war • “Marvelous!”—Anne McCaffrey.

When Rohan became the new prince of the Desert, ruler of the kingdom granted to his family for as long as the Long Sands spewed fire, he took the crown with two goals in mind. First and foremost, he sought to bring permanent peace to his world of divided princedoms. And, in a land where dragon-slaying was a proof of manhood, Rohan was the sole champion of the dragons, fighting desperately to preserve the last remaining lords of the sky and with them a secret which might be the salvation of his people...

Sioned, the Sunrunner witch who was fated by Fire to be Rohan’s bride, had mastered the magic of sunlight and moonglow, catching hints of a yet to be formed pattern which could irrevocably affect the destinies of Sunrunners and ordinary mortals alike. Yet caught in the machinations of the Lady of Goddess Keep, and of Prince Rohan and his sworn enemy, the treacherously cunning High Prince, could Sioned alter this crucial pattern to protect her lord from the menace of a war that threatened to set the land ablaze?

Stronghold, the first volume in the second trilogy, is also 2.99$ here.

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood is down two positions, ending the week at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Katherine Arden's The Winter of the Witch debuts at number 10.

David Weber's Through Fiery Trials debuts at number 12.

In paperback:

Naomi Alderman's The Power debuts at number 10 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download C. J. Cherryh's Hugo award-winning Downbelow Station for only 1.99$ here. The best 2$ investment you'll make all year!

Here's the blurb:

Pell's Station, orbiting the alien world simply called Downbelow, had always managed to remain neutral in the ever escalating conflict between The Company, whose fleets from Earth had colonized space, and its increasingly independent and rebellious colony worlds. But Pell's location on the outer edge of Earth's defensive perimeter makes her the focal point in the titanic battle of colony worlds fighting for independence.

A legend among sci-fi readers, C. J. Cherryh‘s Union-Alliance novels, while separate and complete in themselves, are part of a much larger tapestry—a future history spanning 5,000 years of human civilization.

Here is the 20th anniversary edition of Downbelow Station, the book that won Cherryh a Hugo Award for Best novel in 1982. A blockbuster space opera of the rebellion between Earth and its far-flung colonies, it is a classic science fiction masterwork.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Kim Stanley Robinson's Green Earth for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The landmark trilogy of cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of climate change—updated and abridged into a single novel.

More than a decade ago, bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson began a groundbreaking series of near-future eco-thrillers—Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, and Sixty Days and Counting—that grew increasingly urgent and vital as global warming continued unchecked. Now, condensed into one volume and updated with the latest research, this sweeping trilogy gains new life as Green Earth, a chillingly realistic novel that plunges readers into great floods, a modern Ice Age, and the political fight for all our lives.

The Arctic ice pack averaged thirty feet thick in midwinter when it was first measured in the 1950s. By the end of the century it was down to fifteen. One August the ice broke. The next year the breakup started in July. The third year it began in May. That was last year.

It’s a muggy summer in Washington, D.C., as Senate environmental staffer Charlie Quibler and his scientist wife, Anna, work to call attention to the growing crisis of global warming. But as they fight to align the extraordinary march of modern technology with the awesome forces of nature, fate puts an unusual twist on their efforts—one that will pit science against politics in the heart of the coming storm.

The Devil Aspect

Everything about the premise of this novel spoke to me and it went to the top of the pile as soon as the ARC showed up in my mailbox. With all the rave reviews out there, I knew I had to bring this book with me on my latest Southeast Asian adventure.

And though Craig Russell is a bestselling and award-winning Scottish author whose works have been translated into twenty-five languages, somehow The Devil Aspect is his American debut. Talk about being late to the party, especially given how good this one turned out to be. Here's to hoping that it will do well commercially on this side of the pond, for I'd love to sample more of Russell's writing in the future.

Here's the blurb:

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum.

In 1935, Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.

Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

The Devil Aspect is a Gothic horror novel as well as a meticulously researched piece of historical fiction set in Czechoslovakia right before the beginning of World War II. Nazism is on the rise on the other side of the border, threatening to sweep across Europe if Hitler is successful in his folly. Russell came up with a disturbing atmospheric novel steeped into Eastern European folklore, the political history of a relatively young country with an unsteady foundation, and the troubles brewing in Germany. I've never read anything else by the author, so I'm not sure if this is usually his wont. But the man has an uncanny eye for detail and he can set the mood like few of his peers can. The book is dark and oppressive throughout, but a decidedly compelling read nonetheless.

The Devil Aspect features two main perspectives, that of Viktor Kosárek, the young psychiatrist, and that of Lukas Smolak, the police investigator. The two storylines remain separate for a while, but they begin to overlap when Smolak seeks out the asylum's expertise to help him on his case. And the more his investigation progresses and the more it appears that Leather Apron and his murders might be linked to the Devil's Six housed in Hrad Orlu, the novel becomes virtually impossible to put down!

There are a few pacing issues along the way, but nothing major. It takes longer for Viktor's POV to fully come together, for his storyline is often more about the Devil's Six than his own. Indeed, we follow him as he uses his groundbreaking treatments to search for the Devil Aspect in each of them. So we discover a lot about the six most dangerous murderers in the country, which is quite fascinating, yet we learn little about Viktor himself. There is a second plotline involving him which follows his budding relationship with Judita, a woman also working at the asylum, and which also follows his attempts to track down his wayward friend Filip. Viktor fears that Filip might be involved in the Leather Apron atrocities and he wants to save his friend before it's too late. On the other hand, Lukas Smolak's perspective moves at a very good clip throughout the book, thanks to the never-ending number of new victims butchered by the serial killer.

Craig Russell keeps you guessing and the list of possible suspects keeps adding up. The setting is absolutely perfect, with the ethnic tensions plaguing this culturally diverse country tainting every murder as well. Prague and its surroundings also come alive in spectacular fashion, something akin to what Carlos Ruiz Zafon did with Barcelona in The Shadow of the Wind.

The endgame and the finale, when they come, will shock and amaze you. The epilogue felt a bit unnecessary, but it does close the show with a certain flair. The Devil Aspect is definitely one of the books to read this year!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, Hugo award winner, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:


A season of endings has begun.

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

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

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

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

You can also download Michelle West's The Broken Crown for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The first novel of the acclaimed Sun Sword series introduces readers to a war-torn world of noble houses divided and demon lords unleashed...

Tor Leonne—the heart of the Dominion of Annagar, where the games of state are about to become a matter of life and death—and where those who seek to seize the crown will be forced to league with a treacherously cunning ally....

Tor Leonne, ancestral seat of power, where Serra Diora Maria di’Marano—the most sought-after beauty in the land, a woman betrayed by all she holds dear—may strike the first blow to change the future of the Dominion and Empire alike....

Averalaan Aramarelas—that most ancient of civilized cities, the home of the Essalieyan Imperial court, has long been a center of magics both dark and bright. And though the Empire won its last war with the Dominion, and survived a devastating, magic-fueled battle with a far deadlier foe, both those victories were not without their cost....

But now the realm is on the brink of a far greater confrontation, faced with an unholy alliance that could spell the end of freedom for all mortalkind.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Kameron Hurley's excellent Apocalypse Nyx for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

If you find yourself in need of a primer, so to speak, something that works as a great introduction to one of the most badass heroines in SFF history and to one of the best science fiction series of the new millennium thus far, then Apocalypse Nyx is just what the doctor ordered. And if you're already a fan, download this book ASAP!

Here's the blurb:

Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx.

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

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

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

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Timothy Zahn's Thrawn: Alliances for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader team up against a threat to the Empire in this thrilling novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown . . . and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance—neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged—by a test of their allegiance to the Empire . . . and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Mira Grant's Into the Drowning Deep for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant, author of the renowned Newsflesh series, returns with a novel that takes us to a new world of ancient mysteries and mythological dangers come to life.

The ocean is home to many myths,

But some are deadly...

Seven years ago the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a mockumentary bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a tragedy.

Now a new crew has been assembled. But this time they're not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life's work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Quote of the Day

I believe religions, myths and superstitions all derive from shared archetypes. That we all have that part of ourselves that we seek to deny, yet which is where all our dreams and nightmares come from, where our instincts and all human creativity live. And in there are all the shared archetypes and aspects that take form in our cultures, in the stories we tell ourselves. Like the stories about the Devil. The Devil isn't a being, he's just one of these universal ingredients. The Devil lives hidden in us all.

- CRAIG RUSSELL, The Devil Aspect (Canada, USA, Europe)

This novel is coming out in March and it's a good one! Don't miss out on this book!

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood is down two positions, ending the week at number 4. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Elevation is down seven positions, ending the week at number 14. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The Plotters

I was immediately intrigued when a publicist emailed me to inquire about the possibility to review Un-Su Kim's American debut. Indeed, it's been a very long time since a novel's premise piqued my curiosity to such a degree. The Plotters felt like the perfect book to bring along on my latest Southeast Asian adventure.

And I now understand why the author has won Korea's most prestigious literary prize, for this quirky thriller was a delightful read!

Here's the blurb:

From the novelist dubbed “the Korean Henning Mankell” (The Guardian) comes a fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance. Perfect for fans of Han Kang and Patrick deWitt.

Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind–a plotter–working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city’s most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want?

Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters “The Library,” Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women–a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian–Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot.

Crackling with action and filled with unforgettable characters, The Plotters is a deeply entertaining thriller that soars with the soul, wit, and lyricism of real literary craft.

Set in and around an alternate Seoul, Kim's narrative truly gives life to the city and its surroundings. His lyrical prose (or perhaps it's the top-quality translation) creates an imagery that leaps off the page. The author's wit and sarcasm imbue this novel with a dark humor that is totally apropos of the story he's recounting. To a vast extent, this thriller is also a blistering socio-political commentary on the corruption of institutions in Korea and the rest of the world.

One thing's for sure: It's well nigh impossible to put a label on Un-Su Kim's The Plotters. Some claim it's Kill Bill meets Murakami. Others say it's Tarantino meets David Lynch. It's all that, and it's not. It's all that and more. Hard to say.

The characterization was by far my favorite aspect of this book. Not since Carlos Ruiz Zafon have I encountered a writer who can come up with genuine, three-dimensional protagonists seemingly on the fly. I don't know how Kim does it, but in a few short sentences he can introduce you to a character who possesses so much depth and personality. The Plotters is filled with memorable men and women that stand out. And though Reseng takes center stage, the novel would never have been the same without the unforgettable supporting cast.

This is a thriller, so the pace is fluid throughout and you'll reach the end of this book is no time. The Plotters is a dark, quirky, action-packed, thought-provoking, and entertaining work of fiction. Hopefully the first of many Un-Su Kim's novels to be translated into English, for I'm persuaded I won't be the only reader wishing to delve into the author's backlist and whatever he publishes next.

The final verdict: 8/10

Follow this link to read an extract. I'm sure you won't be able to stop there!

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download George R. R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.

Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name (hidden from all he and Dunk encounter) is Aegon Targaryen. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two… as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

Featuring more than 160 all-new illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn’t dead—yet.

Quote of the Day

She must have known that returning to the red-light district meant she wouldn't last long. But she went back anyway. In the end, none of us can leave the place we know best, no matter how dirty and disgusting it is. Having no money and no other means of survival is part of the reason, but it's never the whole reason. We go back to our own filthy origins because it's a filth we know. Putting up with that filth is easier than facing the fear of being tossed into the wider world, and the loneliness that is as deep and wide as that fear.

UN-SU KIM, The Plotters (Canada, USA, Europe)

This quirky thriller has been fun read! Check it out!

The City of Brass

A lot has been said about S.A. Chakraborty's The City of Brass, especially within YA circles. The publisher is marketing this book and its sequel as adult fantasy, yet for better or worse everything is pretty much YA. Much of the noise has to do with the fact that a female Muslim author is writing an Islamic fantasy story set in a Middle Eastern universe and featuring a supposedly strong female lead character. Or so it is said.

Like many readers, I had high hopes for this one. Especially given the push it was receiving from Harper Voyager. But in the end, The City of Brass suffered from too many shortcomings to be a truly enjoyable read. Indeed, it never quite delivered the goods and turned out to be just an extremely long introduction. I'm intrigued enough to want to give the sequel, Kingdom of Copper, a shot. Yet on its own, this first installment was a little disappointing.

Here's the blurb:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . .

The worldbuilding is probably my favorite facet of this novel. Some readers have raved about how dense and complex it is. Let's be honest, though. Compared to Steven Erikson, R. Scott Bakker, or even Bradley P. Beaulieu's worlds, this Middle Eastern setting doesn't echo with the sort of depth those other writers managed to achieve in their respective series. Nevertheless, Chakraborty gave life to her environment and the imagery is often arresting. She has an eye for detail and it shows in her depiction of the various locales visited throughout the book.

My main gripe with The City of Brass is that the Islamic aspect of the tale felt totally unnecessary. Elements of the faith are used as mere window dressing and play very little role in the actual plot. As was the case with Saladin Ahmed's debut, I know that it's unfair to expect Muslim authors to imbue their creations with aspects of their faith in a way that non-Muslim writers simply cannot fathom. And yet, perusing other online reviews, there are a lot of Muslim readers who felt the same way. Understandably, they are wondering what's the point of finally having an Islamic fantasy series published and not feel represented? When all is said and done, S.A. Chakraborty's Middle Eastern setting is no different than any other created by Western SFF authors of other religious backgrounds. Personally, I was expecting more. Something more profound, something that would have taught me things about Islam, something that would have imbued this tale with a special something not found in other fantasy works out there. Alas, it was not to be and it did kill this book for me. To a certain extent at least.

The characterization can also be particularly weak. Although one must keep in mind that I was expecting an adult fantasy novel, not a YA book. So your mileage may vary in that regard. Still, I found Nahri to be quite dumb on several occasions. Extremely stubborn, she is often an accident waiting to happen. Which makes it difficult to root for her. Every time you believe there has been some character growth on her part, something happens to make her revert to an impulsive dumbass adolescent girl. Alizayd, the supposed religious nutjob with a good heart, is a dead end for the better part of the story. A tool from the beginning, he slowly grows into a more interesting protagonist. Time will tell if he can truly come into his own in the sequel. Dara is by far the most intriguing character of the novel and discovering more about his fascinating back story was quite a treat. The juvenile love triangle was poorly executed, however, and gave the whole thing a decidedly corny feeling. No one comprising the supporting cast in Daevabad proved to be memorable, which is why, overall, the characterization was nothing to write home about.

Sadly, The City of Brass is riddled with pacing issues. This lack of rhythm is mostly due to the fact that the novel is little more than an overlong introduction set to present the characters and the setting. What little of the plot there is gradually comes together at a snail's pace, and it takes a mighty long time for things to start making a bit of sense. Thankfully, Chakraborty suddenly shifts gears near the end and delivers an exciting ending. Trouble is, it's a case of too little, too late, and it couldn't save this book.

Needless to say, S.A. Chakraborty's The City of Brass failed to wow me the way I expected it to. And yet, the author closed the show with aplomb. And with the revelations about Nahri and Dara, as well as the unexpected resolution of Alizayd's plotline, inexplicably something makes me want to discover what happens next. Time will tell if Chakraborty was able to elevate her game, or if the Daevabad trilogy is nothing more than Middle Eastern-flavored YA fare.

The final verdict: 7/10

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

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood maintains its position at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Elevation maintains its position at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Nora Roberts' Of Blood and Bone returns at number 14.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Furies of Calderon, first volume in the Codex Alera series, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In this extraordinary fantasy epic, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Dresden Files leads readers into a world where the fate of the realm rests on the shoulders of a boy with no power to call his own...

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies—elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood, and metal. But in the remote Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy—the Marat horde—return to the Valley, Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness will be a power greater than any fury, one that could turn the tides of war...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

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

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

To where the monsters lived.

You can also download M. R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

The Stone Sky

You may recall that prior to reading The Fifth Season a little over a year ago, though N. K. Jemisin had won the Hugo Award for best novel two years in a row, thus far I had only read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from her. That novel was a solid debut, no doubt about it. Still, like most speculative fiction debuts, it featured a number of flaws. Most notably a first-person narrative, which can be quite tricky, a corny love story, and some decidedly clichéd villains. And yet, overall, Jemisin's fantasy debut turned out to be an imaginative and enjoyable read. And even if the characterization was subpar, the author scored points for exploring themes such as slavery, sexism, racism, and the abuse of power. She wove these deeper issues throughout the various plotlines, sometimes subtly in the background and sometimes in more flagrant fashion. Regardless of how it was done, this was what ultimately gave soul to the novel.

And because everyone opined that this was her best work to date, I finally elected to read The Fifth Season. Needless to say, the book delivered on all fronts and I understood why it was nominated for all those genre literary prizes. Building on its predecessor's storylines, Jemisin elevated her game even more in The Obelisk Gate, making it an even better novel. The Broken Earth trilogy was shaping up to be one of the most original SFF series of the new millennium and I was looking forward to discovering how it would all come together in The Stone Sky.

Well, this isn't exactly breaking news, but I'm happy to report that N. K. Jemisin knocked it out of the park. And The Stone Sky isn't merely a homerun, it's a grand slam!

Here's the blurb:

Humanity will finally be saved or destroyed in the shattering conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed NYT bestselling trilogy that won the Hugo Award three years in a row.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

This is the way the world ends… for the last time.

As was the case with The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, this third installment is another blend of fantasy and science fiction. More fantasy than scifi, mind you, but there is science involved in the premise. The worldbuilding is amazing and by far my favorite aspect of this novel/series. The Earth has changed dramatically and has become an extremely geologically unstable world. Seismic activities cause enormous volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that wipe out vast chunks of the planet's population periodically. These catastrophes generating extended winters are known as Fifth Seasons and they can last for years and decades. The Stillness is the only continent known to exist. Orogenes have the ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events. Trained at the Fulcrum and closely supervised by the Guardian order, they are despised and feared due to the potentially devastating powers they wield. In addition to the Fulcrum, there is also a network of nodes manned by orogenes positioned throughout the Stillness to help reduce or quell seismic events. Such an unstable and unforgiving environment makes for a truly original setting, something that we haven't seen before, and I loved everything about it. The Fifth Season began with a new breaking of the world, one that might signal the true end of existence, for this new Fifth Season could last for centuries and even millennia. At the end of the first installment, we were told that there might yet be a way to save civilization from being wiped out. One that involves something known as the moon and the floating obelisks. Things took a turn for the worse in The Obelisk Gate, with the discovery of a faction supporting Father Earth and working toward the annihilation of mankind. Both factions come into play in The Stone Sky, as Essun attempts to bring the moon back into orbit around the Earth and save the world in the process.

With everything coming to a head with Essun's confrontation with her daughter Nassun, factions that have been clashing for millennia will face one another for the last time. With such a premise, one would expect an action-packed showdown of a novel. And yet, in that regard The Stone Sky turned out to be more of an anticlimactic work. Not that it's boring, far from that. It's just that most of the plot moves forward through conversations between various characters, or else the tale mostly progresses through flashback scenes that are essentially Hoa's back story. Personally, this was the most fascinating part of the book, for it provided the answers to basically all the questions raised by the first two volumes. To discover how a highly advanced human civilization lost the moon and created the first breaking of the world was astonishing.

Jemisin wove past and present with panache, even if the lengthy flashback sequences occasionally broke the rhythm of the novel. I don't think there is anything else the author could have done, because readers needed to get the entire back story for Essun and Nassun's storylines to make sense at the end. But it did create some pacing issues in certain portions of the book. Having said that, The Stone Sky remains a page-turner that you'll get through in no time. N. K. Jemisin elevated her game yet again and the revelations keep you begging for more.

The only gripe I had with the first volume was that Jemisin played her cards way too close to her chest. She introduced various captivating concepts and ideas, but provided virtually no answers to any of the questions these raised in readers' minds. Thankfully, The Obelisk Gate offered a number of tantalizing answers that raised the stakes even more. Secrets about the obelisks, the Fulcrum, the stone eaters, the Guardians, orogenes, the moon, and a lot more were unveiled. All of which added new dimensions to an already multilayered tale. The Stone Sky weaves all those threads together to create an impressive tapestry that should leave no one indifferent.

Understandably, Essun returns as a POV character. The second perspective is that of Nassun, her daughter. There is a good balance between their perspectives and one doesn't take predecence over the other as their storylines inexorably move them toward a final confrontation. As mentioned, a considerable chunk of this novel focuses on Hoa's back story, something that sometimes hurt the pace of the book. But since that's where all the great secrets are revealed, there was no helping that. And when mother and daughter finally meet to determine the fate of mankind, Jemisin closes the show in great fashion with an ending that packs a powerful emotional punch.

The Stone Sky deserves the highest possible recommendation. Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy is definitely one of the finest speculative fiction series out there. If you have yet to give it a shot, please do so ASAP. Yes, it's that damn good!

The final verdict: 10/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the first three installments of the Fractured Europe series by Dave Hutchinson for only 0.99$ each. There is a price match in Canada.

- Europe in Autumn
- Europe at Midnight
- Europe in Winter

Here's the blurb for the first volume:


Rudi is a cook in a Krakow restaurant, but when his boss asks Rudi to help a cousin escape from the country he’s trapped in, a new career – part spy, part people-smuggler – begins. Following multiple economic crises and a devastating flu pandemic, Europe has fractured into countless tiny nations, duchies, polities and republics. Recruited by the shadowy organisation Les Coureurs des Bois, Rudi is schooled in espionage, but when a training mission to The Line, a sovereign nation consisting of a trans-Europe railway line, goes wrong, he is arrested and beaten, and Coureur Central must attempt a rescue. With so many nations to work in, and identities to assume, Rudi is kept busy travelling across Europe. But when he is sent to smuggle someone out of Berlin and finds a severed head inside a locker instead, a conspiracy begins to wind itself around him. With kidnapping, double-crosses and a map that constantly re-draws itself, Europe in Autumn is a science fiction thriller like no other.

You can also download Terry Pratchett's Going Postal for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Suddenly, condemned arch-swindler Moist von Lipwig found himself with a noose around his neck and dropping through a trapdoor into ... a government job?

By all rights, Moist should be meeting his maker rather than being offered a position as Postmaster by Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork. Getting the moribund Postal Service up and running again, however, may prove an impossible task, what with literally mountains of decades-old undelivered mail clogging every nook and cranny of the broken-down post office. Worse still, Moist could swear the mail is talking to him. Worst of all, it means taking on the gargantuan, greedy Grand Trunk clacks communication monopoly and its bloodthirsty piratical headman. But if the bold and undoable are what's called for, Moist's the man for the job -- to move the mail, continue breathing, get the girl, and specially deliver that invaluable commodity that every being, human or otherwise, requires: hope.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 31st)

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood maintains its position at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's Elevation is up three spots, finishing the week at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's The Outsider returns at number 13.

The Dream Gatherer

I own a number of installments of Kristen Britain's bestselling Green Rider series, but I have yet to give the author a shot. This is mostly due to the fact that those books are in storage somewhere with countless other novels I've put away in boxes when I moved a few years back.

Hence, I wasn't planning on reading The Dream Gatherer when the review copy showed up in my mailbox. But I changed my mind when the press release stated that it was the perfect entry point for new readers. If nothing else, I believed that the novella and the other short fiction pieces would act as a primer that would allow me to sample Britain's writing style. Trouble is, this turned out to be a companion book meant for long-time fans and not for newbies. Which is why it proved kind of difficult for me to get into it.

Here's the blurb:

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the New York Times bestselling Green Rider series, this short volume introduces readers to new sides of Sacoridia in two new short stories and a novella.

In The Dream Gatherer, Kristen Britain presents a novella and two short stories set in the universe of her best selling Green Rider series in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Green Rider.

The Dream Gatherer
Dreams can be dangerous. A visit with the eccentric Berry sisters turns dangerous when an arcane device is discovered in their house that can summon dreamers through their dreams, and one of them is a nightmare.

Finding peace during the Long War. Raised in an orphan camp, Green Rider Danalong has known only war and strife, until a shipwreck leaves him stranded on a mysterious island.

Linked, on the Lake of Souls
A story of friendship within a story of friendship. In the sixth volume of the Green Rider series, Firebrand, a wounded Karigan G’ladheon asks her friend Estral to tell her a story to take her mind off her pain. This is that story.

The book includes illustrations and backstory on the creation of Green Rider by the author, and a special introduction by award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, Julie E. Czerneda.

Personally, my favorite part of this work was Kristen Britain's "The Story Behind the Story." I'm always quite interested in discovering how a novel/series was born and I really enjoyed reading about the genesis of this tale. Especially how working at Acadia National Park inspired the author to set her story in a landscape remisniscent of Maine instead of the popular European medieval analog. In addition, I was intrigued by the fact that Terry Goodkind played such an important role in getting her career started. I was aware that he blurbed Green Rider, but I never would have thought that he had been so helpful to Britain. Beyond this introduction, there were no efforts to ease new readers into these stories. Which is why I say that this is a companion book meant for existing fans of the series and not for potential readers who want to get a taste of the tale.

"Wishwind" is meant to be a back story for the Green Rider sequence and features a shipwrecked Danalong. To a certain extent, this short story's style is straight out of the 80s, with its exploration of Good vs Evil and the nature of magic. Felt more or less like some filler material.

"Linked, on the Lake of Souls" is a story within a story, something recounted by one character to ease another's pain in the sixth installment of the series. It's a somewhat humorous tale of friendship and ingenuity as Tiphane and Myrene, a Givean priestess and her sworn Shield, must outwit the magic of an evil wizard and prevent the death of a young boy. Again, maybe I was missing some nuances, but this also felt like filler material.

Understandably, The Dream Gatherer is the pièce de résistance and the novella is the best piece that comprise this book. Once more, I have a feeling that readers already acquainted with the Berry Sisters and Estral, the Golden Guardian now that her father was slain during the Battle of the Lone Forest, will get a lot more out of this one. The same goes regarding the love story between Alton and Estral. The draugmkelder and the dreams it gathers was a nice concept, but newbies probably won't appreciate the protagonists' plight as much as Green Rider fans. The eccentric sisters were fun to follow, but in the end The Dream Gatherer is more of a bonus story meant to please readers eagerly awaiting the seventh volume.

Still unsure whether or not The Dream Gatherer actually worked as a primer for Kristen Britain's Green Rider series. If, like me, you are considering giving this one a shot and use it as some sort of introduction to the storylines and the characters, please refrain from doing so. This book is a present for fans and not something that works for newbies. If you want to sample Britain's writing, go for Green Rider, the first installment in the sequence.

The final verdict: 6/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Adrian Tchaikovsky's Redemption's Blade for only 0.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Ten years ago, the Kinslayer returned from the darkness. His brutal Yorughan armies issued from the pits of the earth, crushing all resistance, leaving burnt earth and corruption behind. Thrones toppled and cities fell.

And then he died.

Celestaine—one of the heroes that destroyed him—has tasked herself with correcting the worst excesses of the Kinslayer’s brief reign, bringing light back to a broken world. With two Yorughan companions, she faces fanatics, war criminals and the Kinslayer’s former minions, as the fragile alliances of the War break down into feuding and greed.

The Kinslayer may be gone, but he cast a long shadow: one from which she may never truly escape.

The sequel, Salvation's Fire, by Justina Robson is also 0.99$ here.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Sebastien de Castell's Spellslinger for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is fading.

Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything - even his own life - in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.

One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.

The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Dancer's Lament for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Taking Malazan fans back to that troubled continent's turbulent early history. The opening chapter in Ian C. Esslemont's epic new fantasy sequence, the Path to Ascendancy trilogy.

For ages warfare has crippled the continent as minor city states, baronies, and principalities fought in an endless round of hostilities. Only the alliance of the rival Tali and Quon cities could field the resources to mount a hegemony from coast to coast -- and thus become known as Quon Tali.

It is a generation since the collapse of this dynasty and regional powers are once more rousing themselves. Into this arena of renewed border wars come two youths to the powerful central city state that is Li Heng. One is named Dorin, and he comes determined to prove himself the most skilled assassin of his age; he is chasing the other youth -- a Dal Hon mage who has proven himself annoyingly difficult to kill.

Li Heng has been guided and warded for centuries by the powerful sorceress known as the "Protectress", and she allows no rivals. She and her cabal of five mage servants were enough to repel the Quon Tali Iron Legions -- what could two youths hope to accomplish under their stifling rule?

Yet under the new and ambitious King Chulalorn the Third, Itko Kan is on the march from the south. He sends his own assassin servants, the Nightblades, against the city, and there are hints that he also commands inhuman forces out of legend.

While above all, shadows swirl oddly about Li Heng, and monstrous slathering beasts seem to appear from nowhere to run howling through the street. It is a time of chaos and upheaval, and in chaos, as the young Dal Hon mage would say, there is opportunity.

You can now download Neal Stephenson's bestselling Reamde for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Neal Stephenson is continually rocking the literary world with his brazen and brilliant fictional creations—whether he’s reimagining the past (The Baroque Cycle), inventing the future (Snow Crash), or both (Cryptonomicon). With Reamde, this visionary author whose mind-stretching fiction has been enthusiastically compared to the work of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace—not to mention William Gibson and Michael Crichton—once again blazes new ground with a high-stakes thriller that will enthrall his loyal audience, science and science fiction, and espionage fiction fans equally. The breathtaking tale of a wealthy tech entrepreneur caught in the very real crossfire of his own online fantasy war game, Reamde is a new high—and a new world—for the remarkable Neal Stephenson.

From the extraordinary Neal Stephenson comes an epic adventure that spans entire worlds, both real and virtual.

The black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, former draft dodger and successful marijuana smuggler Richard Forthrast amassed a small fortune over the years—and then increased it a thousandfold when he created T'Rain. A massive, multibillion-dollar, multiplayer online role-playing game, T'Rain now has millions of obsessed fans from the U.S. to China. But a small group of ingenious Asian hackers has just unleashed Reamde—a virus that encrypts all of a player's electronic files and holds them for ransom—which has unwittingly triggered a war that's creating chaos not only in the virtual universe but in the real one as well. Its repercussions will be felt all around the globe—setting in motion a devastating series of events involving Russian mobsters, computer geeks, secret agents, and Islamic terrorists—with Forthrast standing at ground zero and his loved ones caught in the crossfire.

Gigi McCaffrey contest winner!

This lucky gal will receive my review copy of Gigi McCaffrey's Dragon's Code! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Anne Colton, from Tampa Bay, Florida, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!