Quote of the Day

When you tell a lie, you have to sound like you believe it.

Goes double for the ones you tell yourself.

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, A Little Hatred (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Mark Lawrence's Red Sister for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

Quote of the Day

"None more blessed, my scripture-teacher once declared, than those who light the way for others."

"Was that the one who fathered a child on one of his other pupils?"

"That's him." Zuri's black brows thoughtfully rose. "So much for spiritual instruction."

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, A Little Hatred (Canada, USA, Europe)

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he's back! This one was a long time in coming and it's pretty good thus far! =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 22nd)

In paperback:

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens is up one position, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up two positions, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Outsider is down seven spots, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An epic battle that will decide the fate of the North unfolds in this novel set in the world of the First Law from NYT bestselling author Joe Abercrombie.

Three men. One Battle. No Heroes.

They say Black Dow's killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbor, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud.

Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they've brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.

Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honor on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he's far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it's his own.

Prince Calder isn't interested in honor, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he'll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn't have to fight for it himself.

Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him?

Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail.

For glory, for victory, for staying alive.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download John Gwynne's A Time of Dread for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A race of warrior angels, the Ben-Elim, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands, but their peace is brutally enforced.

In the south, hotheaded Riv is desperate to join the Ben-Elim's peacekeeping force, until she unearths a deadly secret.

In the west, the giantess Sig investigates demon sightings and discovers signs of an uprising and black magic.

And in the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests. The work of a predator, or something far darker?

It's a time of shifting loyalties and world-changing dangers. Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise...

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 15th)

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Outsider is down one spot, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens is down two positions, ending the week at number 9 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade and its three sequels for only 2.99$ each here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Today only, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Labyrinth of the Spirits for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author returns to the magnificent universe he constructed in his bestselling novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven in this riveting series finale—a heart-pounding thriller and nail-biting work of suspense which introduces a sexy, seductive new heroine whose investigation shines a light on the dark history of Franco’s Spain.

In this unforgettable final volume of Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of novels set in the universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, beautiful and enigmatic Alicia Gris, with the help of the Sempere family, uncovers one of the most shocking conspiracies in all Spanish history.

Nine-year-old Alicia lost her parents during the Spanish Civil War when the Nacionales (the fascists) savagely bombed Barcelona in 1938. Twenty years later, she still carries the emotional and physical scars of that violent and terrifying time. Weary of her work as an investigator for Spain’s secret police in Madrid, a job she has held for more than a decade, the twenty-nine-year old plans to move on. At the insistence of her boss, Leandro Montalvo, she remains to solve one last case: the mysterious disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls.

With her partner, the intimidating policeman Juan Manuel Vargas, Alicia discovers a possible clue—a rare book by the author Victor Mataix hidden in Valls’ office in his Madrid mansion. Valls was the director of the notorious Montjuic Prison in Barcelona during World War II where several writers were imprisoned, including David Martín and Victor Mataix. Traveling to Barcelona on the trail of these writers, Alicia and Vargas meet with several booksellers, including Juan Sempere, who knew her parents.

As Alicia and Vargas come closer to finding Valls, they uncover a tangled web of kidnappings and murders tied to the Franco regime, whose corruption is more widespread and horrifying than anyone imagined. Alicia’s courageous and uncompromising search for the truth puts her life in peril. Only with the help of a circle of devoted friends will she emerge from the dark labyrinths of Barcelona and its history into the light of the future.

In this haunting new novel, Carlos Ruiz Zafón proves yet again that he is a masterful storyteller and pays homage to the world of books, to his ingenious creation of the Cemetery of Forgotten, and to that magical bridge between literature and our lives.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can download Samantha Shannon's The Priory of the Orange Tree for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction--but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Empire of Grass

If you've been hanging out in these parts for a while, then you know that I've always been a big Tad Williams fan. Regardless of the shortcomings that certain readers find so annoying and/or off-putting about the author, I've always managed to overlook them and enjoy Williams' books/series. Seriously, I'm aware of these perceived weaknesses, but Williams has always found a way to scratch my itch, no matter if it's epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, or everything else in between. Having read To Green Angel Tower when it originally came out, I'd been waiting for a very long time to find out what happens next. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn turned out to be a seminal work of fantasy, one of the very best of its era. Like countless readers, I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into The Witchwood Crown.

The Heart of What Was Lost was the perfect companion book for anyone who loved Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, as well as the perfect setup book for The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy. Understandably, expectations were extremely high for this new trilogy. Given how long it took for the author to finally elect to write this sequel, we could expect nothing less.

Needless to say, The Witchwood Crown had big shoes to fill. And just a few chapters into the book, I realized that something was wrong. It was a veritable chore to go through. The slog of slogs, no doubt about it. And although it did get a little better toward the end, in my humble opinion The Witchwood Crown was by far Williams' weakest work to date. Which did not bode well for subsequent installments.

Early reviews opined that Empire of Grass was better than its predecessor. Keeping my fingers crossed that it was the case, I jumped into it with renewed enthusiasm. Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived and it soon dawned upon me that the novel suffered from the same shortcomings that sunk The Witchwood Crown. Ultimately, it's more of the same for the most part, with very little improvement to speak of. There is no way to sugarcoat the fact that Empire of Grass was another disappointing read.

Here's the blurb:

Set in Williams' New York Times bestselling fantasy world, the second book of The Last King of Osten Ard returns to the trials of King Simon and Queen Miriamele as threats to their kingdom loom...

The kingdoms of Osten Ard have been at peace for decades, but now, the threat of a new war grows to nightmarish proportions.

Simon and Miriamele, royal husband and wife, face danger from every side. Their allies in Hernystir have made a pact with the dreadful Queen of the Norns to allow her armies to cross into mortal lands. The ancient, powerful nation of Nabban is on the verge of bloody civil war, and the fierce nomads of the Thrithings grasslands have begun to mobilize, united by superstitious fervor and their age-old hatred of the city-dwellers. But as the countries and peoples of the High Ward bicker among themselves, battle, bloodshed, and dark magics threaten to pull civilizations to pieces. And over it all looms the mystery of the Witchwood Crown, the deadly puzzle that Simon, Miriamele, and their allies must solve if they wish to survive.

But as the kingdoms of Osten Ard are torn apart by fear and greed, a few individuals will fight for their own lives and destinies—not yet aware that the survival of everything depends on them.

As is the author's wont, the superior worldbuilding really shines. In that regard at least, Empire of Grass shows a Tad Williams writing at the top of his game. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn was vast in scope and vision and this new series builds on storylines that already echoed with depth. Several new dimensions are added to what has always been a multilayered work of fiction, and on this front the first two volumes of The Last King of Osten Ard delivered. As I keep saying, the Sithi and the Norns are not your typical elf-like race, and for some reason Williams is the only fantasy author who can bring out the darker nature of the fairy folk in such a fashion. To finally get the chance to discover more about the inner workings of the Norn society was undoubtedly the most fascinating aspect of The Heart of What Was Lost. Three decades down the line, the plans that were put in motion in the heart of Nakkiga are now bearing fruit and we learn even more about them. Queen Utuk'ku has awakened and the world is about to find out that the Hikeda'ya are not the vanquished foe so many people believed them to be. Those hoping to find out more about the Sithi will be pleased to learn that we actually discover more about them in this sequel. Tantalizing hints insinuate that the Garden was another planet and that the Norns, the Sithi and the Tinukeda'ya are the descendants of an alien race that reached Osten Ard via space ships or other means of transportation. It will be interesting to see if this is truly the case or not in the final installment.

Geographically speaking, like its predecessor Empire of Grass takes place in various locales all over Osten Ard. Nabban and the Thrithing lands are the stage for what became major storylines. The same can be said of the Aldheorte forest. As you can see, this second volume is another far-reaching novel that covers a lot of ground. And once again, this is something that doesn't necessarily always work in the book's favor. Indeed, the tale is hitting many of the locales and events from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, often for little or no reason plot-wise, or for reasons that feel a little contrived.

As was the case with the first volume, one of the most important shortcomings of Empire of Grass is the decidedly weak political intrigue. As I mentioned before, Tad Williams excels in many different aspects when it comes to writing novels, but politicking is definitely not one of them. This was true then, and sadly it remains true now. Instead of playing to his strengths in The Witchwood Crown and this new sequel, likely to have more appeal to fans of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and other politically-involved fantasy series, Williams put political intrigue at the heart of a number of major plot threads. Which, due to the clumsiness in execution of such intrigues, put the Hernystir, the Nabban, and the Thrithing plotlines on very shaky ground. Add to that the fact that Simon and Miri continue to make for particularly inept and occasionally dumb rulers who have surrounded themselves with not necessarily the brightest of people at court, and you have an incompetent government so totally unprepared to deal with any sort of crisis that it is second only to the Donald Trump administration in that regard. Ultimately, since a large part of Empire of Grass hinges precisely on political intrigue, it can be quite a setback at times. As I've said before, not everyone can be a politicking master like Martin, Katherine Kurtz, or Jacqueline Carey. Tad Williams took quite a risk when he chose to go down that path. In my last review, I opined that time would tell if he could pull it off. But based on The Witchwood Crown, it would be an uphill battle and the odds were stacked against him. It's now evident that Williams has built a fragile house of cards with political intrigue as its foundation. Which means that the whole thing can come crashing down at any time.

One more, the novel's biggest flaw is the characterization, which is habitually one of the aspects in which Williams truly shines. As was the case with The Witchwood Crown, this second volume is a veritable mess of points of view. I remain convinced that this book would have benefited from a lesser number of perspectives. I lost track of exactly how many POVs there were in the first installment and Empire of Grass features even more of them. While some storylines are engaging, at times some perspectives are downright boring, which bogs down the narrative with pointless scenes that go nowhere. Why Tad Williams elected to introduce readers to so many disparate characters and give them their own POV, I'll never know. But it continues to kill momentum as you skip from an interesting sequence to an unnecessary conversation or info-dump that brings little or nothing to the tale. Plotlines featuring Tiamak, Binabik, Qina, Eolair, Cuff, Vorzheva, Jesa, and Princess Lillia in particular often make you want to throw the novel across the room. This poor characterization precludes any kind of tight focus on any of the storylines, and in the long run it once again hurts this sequel in a myriad of ways.

Like The Witchwood Crown, Williams' latest also suffers from a manifestly poor cast. Simon and Miriamele continue to be only shadows of who they once were in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Middle age has enfeebled and made them fearful. Especially Miriamele, who was such a strong female lead in the first series. She's a little better in Empire of Grass, yet the Nabban storyline shows just how far she has fallen. How such a couple with a deficient court held on to power for so long defies comprehension. How they could remain so unaware of what goes on in and around their kingdom when the writing is on the wall, so to speak, remains shocking. Prince Morgan, heir to the High Throne, continues to be a great disappointment. Yes, I know the author is setting him up as a complete dumbass so that we can experience his transformation and root for him when he finally has his coming-of-age moment. Problem is, it appears that he will not bloom any time soon. Until the second portion of Empire of Grass, when his situation changes and things finally get interesting (though Morgan himself remains an idiot), I came to dread any chapter featuring him. POV protagonists include all the familiar faces from The Witchwood Crown, as well as a number of new ones. Again, that's just too many POVs. And even the most engrossing and thrilling plotlines from the first installment, such as those of Viyeki, Nezeru, or Jarnulf, fail to captivate in similar fashion this time around.

One would have thought that with most of the groundwork already laid out, Empire of Grass would have been a more fluid read. Alas, the pace is atrocious for the better part of the novel. It is a tedious read, every step of the way. Another slog of slogs. The mess of perspectives doesn't help, true. Nor does the info-dumps or all the extraneous stuff that bogs down the narrative in many a chapter. Did we really need the full back stories of both Tzoja and Vorzheva? The pointless bantering scenes featuring Binabik, his wife, his daughter, and Little Snenneq? The 3-year-old princess' point of view? Jessa worrying about everything in every scene she appears in? Simon, acting like a beffudled old man who can't even tie his own shoes and a monarch completely clueless of what goes on at his court? Yada yada yada. A good 150 pages could probably have been excised without the plot losing anything important. All Tad Williams novels are overwritten to some extent, but these last two have been quite problematic in that regard. Everything moves at a snail's pace, with good and exciting sequences few and far between. There are some compelling scenes and storylines, no doubt about it. And yet, it's a chore to get through to them because very little actually happens in most chapters and all the good stuff is buried so deeply under superfluous scenes that it robs them of most of the desired impact. As I said, I've always been a big fan, but I've never had such a hard time reading anything by Tad Williams.

The Witchwood Crown turned out to be little more than a vast introduction to an even bigger and more complex tale. As such, it introduced a panoply of characters, concepts, and plot threads, but it offered very little in terms of resolution. Given the way Empire of Grass was going, I expected something gripping and exciting to close the show. It looked as though Williams had a grand finale in store for his readers and the rhythm picks up in the final portion of the book. Alas, it was not to be. Once more, I reached the last page and could only shake my head in disappointment. There is no showdown. No big payoff. No resolution of any sort. Every single plotline ends in a cliffhanger. I'm so sad that this turned out to be another underwhelming novel.

Disappointing. . .

The final verdict: 6/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kevin Hearne's Hounded, the first volume in the Iron Druid Chronicles, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The first novel in the Iron Druid Chronicles—introducing a cool, new, funny urban fantasy hero.

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 8th)

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Outsider is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens is down two positions, ending the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 13 (trade paperback).

Win a copy of Chuck Wendig's WANDERERS

I'm giving away my review copy of Chuck Wendig's Wanderers to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

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

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

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

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

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 get your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's The Ice Dragon for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The Ice Dragon is an enchanting tale of courage and sacrifice for young readers and adults by the wildly popular author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin. Lavish illustrations by acclaimed artist Luis Royo enrich this captivating and heartwarming story of a young girl and her dragon.

In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara's home. And only a winter child—and the ice dragon who loved her—could save her world from utter destruction.

This new edition of The Ice Dragon is sure to become a collector's item for fans of HBO's megahit Game of Thrones.

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

You can also download Gene Wolfe's The Knight for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm that contains seven levels of reality. Very quickly transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Able and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, a sword he will get from a dragon, the one very special blade that will help him fulfill his life ambition to become a knight and a true hero.

Inside, however, Able remains a boy, and he must grow in every sense to survive the dangers and delights that lie ahead in encounters with giants, elves, wizards, and dragons. His adventure will conclude next year in the second volume of The Wizard Knight, The Wizard.

Gene Wolfe is one of the most widely praised masters of SF and fantasy. He is the winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Nebula Award, twice, the World Fantasy Award, twice, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the British Fantasy Award, and France's Prix Apollo. His popular successes include the four-volume classic The Book of the New Sun.

With this new series, Wolfe not only surpasses all the most popular genre writers of the last three decades, he takes on the legends of the past century, in a work that will be favorably compared with the best of J. R. R. Tolkien, E. R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, and T. H. White. This is a book---and a series---for the ages, from perhaps the greatest living writer in (or outside) the fantasy genre.

Finally, you can download Margaret Weis' Mistress of Dragons for 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

As Anne McCaffrey is to science fiction, Margaret Weis is to fantasy . . . for she is the genre's Mistress of Dragons.

Mistress of Dragons is the first volume in an epic fantasy trilogy entitled The Dragonvald. Here is a world where men and dragons coexist amid political intrigue and dark magic, where the uneasy balance of power between the two is on the verge of becoming undone, threatening to unleash waves of destruction that will pit humans against humans as well as dragons against men for the domination of the world. Humanity's very survival is at risk . . . .

The power to hold the chaos at bay, the terrible secret that maintains the balance, rests in the hands of a new and inexperienced Mistress of Dragons.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 1st)

In hardcover:

Neal Stephenson's Fall; or, Dodge in Hell maintains its position at number 14.

In paperback:

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens is up six positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Outsider is down two spots, finishing the week at number 6 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: One Volume for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

This new edition includes the fiftieth-anniversary fully corrected text setting and, for the first time, an extensive new index.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Helene Wecker's excellent The Golem and the Jinni for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

You can also download Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...
Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

It's up to a few...
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved...
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.

Winner of the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut Fantasy.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of R. A. Salvatore's Timeless for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

At long last, New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore returns with one of fantasy's most beloved and enduring icons, the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, in an all-new trilogy full of swordplay, danger, and imaginative thrills.

Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, the City of Drow, nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house.

The greater nobles watched him, and one matron, in particular, decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival great houses to secure her prize, but that prize was caught for her by another, who came to quite enjoy the weapon master.

This was the beginning of the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle, and the coupling of Matron Malice and the weapon master who would sire Drizzt Do’Urden.

R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle—an introduction to the darkness that offers a fresh view of the opportunities to be found in the shadows and an intriguing prelude to the intriguing escapes that lie ahead in the modern-day Forgotten Realms. Here, a father and his son are reunited and embark on adventures that parallel the trials of centuries long past as the friends of old are joined by Drizzt, Hero of the North, trained by Grandmaster Kane in the ways of the monk.

But the scourge of the dangerous Lolth’s ambitions remain, and demons have been foisted on the unwitting of the surface. The resulting chaos and war will prove to be the greatest challenge for all three.


I have to admit that I was intrigued when Chuck Wendig's Wanderers showed up in my mailbox a few days before my going on a hiking trip in New Hampshire. Having read Stephen King's The Stand just weeks before, I was curious to see if this modern day apocalyptic novel could truly be as good.

I didn't think it was possible, but that's not what made me reticent to bring the book on my roadtrip. You may recall that Marvel fired the author from Star Wars gigs for being too outspoken on social media. And even though the cover blurb enticed me, I was concerned that Wendig would use this work as a political soapbox and I had no interest in that. It's one thing to read vulgar and inflammatory tweets, but it is quite another to go through nearly 800 pages' worth of political vitriol.

Hence, I did something I very seldom do before making a decision and I perused online reviews of the novel. Sadly, as expected, it seemed that Chuck Wendig was going at it pretty bad with the socio-political commentary. And yet, most agreed that the story was also quite compelling. So against my better judgement, I decided to bring the book with me.

Was it a mistake? Well, yes and no. Wanderers is at times a captivating read. Nowhere near as good as The Stand, mind you. Wendig is not talented enough an author to achieve such a milestone, I'm afraid. But the tale and its back story are engrossing, even if the execution leaves something to be desired at times. No, what prevented this book from being great was the author's political bias. Wendig simply couldn't refrain himself and he imbued every single plotline with his passionate hatred for Republicans, Right-leaning voters, devout Christians, capitalists, white supremacists, yada yada yada. Imagine Terry Goodkind's narratives beating you on the head with a stick so his political views can sink in and Chuck Wendig is a hundred times worse. I kid you not. There is no middle ground in this novel. Pretty much everything is black or white, with no shades of gray.

If you can put aside your personal political views when they clash with Wendig's, it is still possible to enjoy Wanderers for the most part. Although there are cringe-worthy moments in basically every single chapter, if you can look beyond the author's socio-political spiel and his extremely negative portrayal of most Americans living south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there is still plenty of good stuff in there. Arguably, most right-leaning, or even center-leaning, people will likely have a hard time doing that. If you're one of those, perhaps it would be better to steer clear of this book. On the other hand, if you are the kind of reader who shares "The future that liberals want" memes on Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis, you'll eat everything up with a spoon and will probably come out experiencing various intellectual orgasms. Chuck Wendig is preaching to the choir here and goes all out in this anti-Trump, anti-Republicans, anti-Right, anti-etc book. Wanderers will likely be a very divisive novel, with the bulk of readers either loving it and raving about it, or hating it with a passion. And given the world we live in these days, this was probably to be expected.

Here's the blurb:

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

If there is one thing that Wendig does particularly well, it's explaining the science behind the pandemic and how they're trying to deal with it. Most authors would rely on massive info-dumps, but Wendig somehow managed to incorporate all the information in a rather fluid fashion that never bogs down the narrative. This is quite important because Wanderers is a huge work of fiction and there is a lot of scientific stuff involved. Kudos to Wendig for being able to convey all those details in a nearly seamless manner and in a way that is easily understood by neophytes. I never thought I'd learn so much about disease outbreaks and how they grow and how the CDC and the WHO are called upon to deal with them.

In my opinion, the characterization is the aspect that leaves the most to be desired. While Stephen King's magnum opus featured a stellar cast, the same cannot be said of Wanderers. While some protagonists are well-drawn and genuine, others are little more than caricatures. Shana, the teenage girl who is the closest thing to a main character, is probably the most discordant protagonist of the bunch. Although she looks and acts like your regular 17-year-old girl, she doesn't sound like one. Chuck Wendig is known to include a panoply of pop culture references in his novels and Wanderers is no different. Problem is, though Shana is a millennial, she talks like she's a child from the 80s or 90s. Hence, her inner monologues can be quite jarring and not in synch with the sort of 2019 teenager she is meant to be. Moreover, with all that teenage angst and dumbass adolescent stupidity, she often felt woefully inadequate to carry this story on her shoulders. A better balance between the POVs would have worked wonders for the characterization. Benji, the disgraced scientist who sabotaged his career at the CDC, is by far the most interesting character of the cast. It's mostly through him that we discover what's going on and what they can try to do about it. He is also the most deeply realized protagonist in the book. Being selected by a powerful AI to follow the flock and try to save mankind from extinction is a tall order, but he'll do whatever he can or die trying. Pete Corley, the rock star, is mostly the tale's comic relief. Though he is trying to deal with homosexuality, something he has kept hidden from his fans, his wife, and his kids for years, for the most part his exuberance and I-don't-give-a-shit-about-anything attitude is often a breath of fresh air in a story that can be decidedly dark and forbidding. Again, no matter how fun and at times necessary his plotline turned out to be, I doubt that a real-life David Lee Roth or Vince Neal would matter a great deal in such a dire situation. And then there's Matthew Bird, pastor of a small church, who gets sucked into something that grows bigger and more sinister than he ever thought possible. It's through this character that the author explores the theme of redemption and it's one of the most engaging storylines of the novel. The supporting cast is comprised of a number of interesting men and women, chief among them Marcy, Cassie, Arav, Sadie and, of course, Black Swan, the mysterious AI. I would have liked to see events unfold through their eyes a lot more, for I believe that their perspectives could occasionally have worked better than those of the main characters and that would have added more depth.

As mentioned above, what hurts Wanderers time and time again is that it often reads like an open letter to Donald Trump and Republicans inviting them to go fuck themselves. Of course, the release of the disease is due to the actions of a billionaire right-wing capitalist. Wendig's depiction of most Americans from the Southern states is often demeaning and a broad exaggeration that is a step away from caricature. As if absolutely everyone was a God-fearing, gun-wielding, neckbeard fucktard. And a White Supremacist to boot! True, there are lots of Americans that fit that description. But there are also millions of Americans from those same states that don't. To portray basically everyone living below the Mason-Dixon Line in such a way felt a little insulting, truth be told. Imagine the uproar if instead of White Supremacists/Republicans/devout Christians/capitalists the bad guys had been Muslims. Fundamentalists, yes, but Muslims nonetheless. Such a broad generalization would have spawned condemnation and movements to ban this book. Chuck Wendig would have been called upon to explain himself and there would have been hell to pay. But since the author is preaching to the liberal choir with this story, I doubt that there will be a lot of noise in that regard. It just feels weird that Wendig appears to believe that hicks from the South could be that nation's most nefarious threat. Pretty much all the bad guys are white Christian Southerners supporting a Trump-like candidate from the coming US election. As a matter of course, the good guys are made up of gay and straight people of colors of different ethnic and religious backgrounds for the most part.

There is no way to sugarcoat this. The pace, especially in the middle portion of the novel, can be atrocious. Following a great start, a good chunk of Wanderers simply follows the flock of sleepwalkers across the country and not much takes place. It can be absolutely boring for fifty pages or so and then something happens and gets you interested again. With such an uneven rhythm, the book is occasionally off-putting. I mean, at times it's brilliant and a veritable page-turner. But as hard to put down as those sections can be, there are several portions that are slogs to go through. In the end, it felt as though we spend way too much time in some protagonists' head, especially Shana, which bogs down the narrative and serves little or no purpose. You could probably excise a good hundred pages from this novel without missing anything important and improving the pace by doing do.

Because ultimately, it's the endgame that readers are interested in. The showdown between the forces of "good" and the forces of "evil" to determine if humanity can survive extinction. Unfortunately, Chuck Wendig spent too much time paving the way for a grand finale that never truly comes. The final battle and then the long epilogue offer resolution, yet little in the way of satisfaction. Nor will the out-of-left-field ending please most readers, methinks.

It's a bit sad, because Wanderers had all the ingredients necessary for a great book. Alas, Wendig sabotaged the plot by climbing on his political soap box and spitting vitriol every chance he got. And in the end, though there are some great and emotional moments, though there are some clever ideas and ingenuous concepts, Wanderers is a more or less forgettable novel. Some critics called it a career-defining work, but here's to hoping that Chuck Wendig can do much better than that. Indeed, this just a saveur du jour anti-Trump and his ilk manifesto on par with the worst Terry Goodkind crap. Just at the other end of the political spectrum.

The final verdict: 6/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Josiah Bancroft's Senlin Ascends for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Might want to keep an eye out for this one. . .

Here's the blurb:

While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya.

The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.

Thomas Senlin, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, is drawn to the Tower by scientific curiosity and the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The luxurious Baths of the Tower seem an ideal destination for a honeymoon, but soon after arriving, Senlin loses Marya in the crowd.

Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion for only 0.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion. And only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge -- an act that will mark him as a tool of the miraculous . . . and trap him in a lethal maze of demonic paradox.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Glen Cook's Port of Shadows for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The soldiers of the Black Company don’t ask questions, they get paid. But being “The Lady’s favored” is attracting the wrong kind of attention and has put a target on their backs, and the Company’s historian, Croaker, has the biggest target of all.

The one person who was taken into The Lady’s Tower and returned unchanged has earned the special interest of the court of sorcerers known as The Ten Who Were Taken. Now, he and the company are being asked to seek the aid of their newest member, Mischievous Rain, to break a rebel army. However, Croaker doesn’t trust any ofthe Taken, especially not ones that look so much like The Lady and her sister…