More inexpensive ebook goodies!

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

Here's the blurb:

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

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

Quote of the Day

Here is a strange thing I've noticed: women are better at keeping secrets, but men are more comfortable with them.

- STEPHEN KING, 11/22/63 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Awesome novel! One of his very best!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 26th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 9 (trade paperback).

The Cruel Stars

I was intrigued when I received my advance reading copy of John Birmingham's The Cruel Stars, especially since the blurb mentioned that it was perfect for fans of James S. A. Corey's The Expanse. I was expecting space opera with depth and vision, even though this was a stand-alone novel.

Alas, it was anything but that. The Cruel Stars is a fun and action-packed scifi romp that doesn't take itself too seriously, no doubt about it. But like any big-budget movie relying on special effects rather than storytelling, the plot is full of holes and in the end the book is rather forgettable.

Here's the blurb:

The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. Fashioning themselves as the one true “Human Republic,” the Sturm cut a bloody swath across the stars, killing billions before finally being defeated and driven into the far reaches of Dark Space. Centuries of peace bred complacency. Everyone believed the Sturm had died out in the Dark. They were wrong.

The enemy has returned and, with a brutal and decisive attack, knocks out almost all of humanity’s defenses. Now on the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope is a few brave souls who survived the initial attack: Commander Lucinda Hardy, thrust into uncertain command of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship. Booker3, a soldier of Earth, sentenced to die for treason, whose time on death row is cut short when the Sturm attack his prison compound. Princess Alessia, a young royal of the Montanblanc Corporation, forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed. Sephina L’trel, the leader of an outlaw band who must call on all of her criminal skills to resist the invasion. And, finally, Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm hundreds of years ago, who hopes to rout his old foes once and for all—or die trying.

These five flawed, reluctant heroes must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds. For if they fail, the future itself is doomed.

The premise of a species purist race returning after centuries of exile to eradicate human beings with genetic or cybernetic enhancements was interesting, but the author's execution left a lot to be desired. All things considered, the worldbuilding is pretty thin and things often don't make a whole lot of sense. Why did the Sturm spend centuries in the far reaches of Dark Space? How can a race for far behind in terms of technology and military might could unleash such a decisive attack against mankind, a strike that not only cripples them but brings humanity on the brink of annihilation? Why select such random targets to begin their invasion? Yada yada yada. As is normally the case those aforementioned big-budget flicks, it's better to try not to ask too many questions and just enjoy the show. Otherwise, things will go downhill fast. . .

All in all, The Cruel Stars is more of a science fiction comedy than a space opera book. True, there are space battles and lots of shit blows up. And yet, there is no depth whatsoever. None. This ain't exactly Space Balls, but it's also a far cry from The Expanse and Battlestar Galactica. If you're into dark humor, this novel will likely make you chuckle in every chapter. In the end, that's what saved this work for me. I just put my brain on pause and buckled up for the ride.

The characterization often suffers from cardboard cutout protagonists. Other than Lucinda Hardy, forced to take command of what could be the only remaining Royal Armadalen Navy warship, and Booker3, a trooper on death row about to be deleted. Young Princess Alessia also has her moments. Most of the others are parodies and caricatures. Having said that, they're still a disparate and lovable bunch of flawed characters. The sooner you realize that this book doesn't take itself seriously, the sooner you can start enjoying it for what it is. That won't prevent you from face-palming yourself a number of times along the way, but The Cruel Stars is just that kind of work.

John Birmingham keeps things moving at a good rhythm. And although things often don't make sense, the story progresses without any pacing issues. The endgame and the finale are clichéd through and through, yet they are exactly what the plot needed to make this work.

The Cruel Stars may lack, depth, vision, and imagination. Still, it turned out to be a fun and often balls-to-the-wall kind of scifi romp. Though it probably won't make any of this year's shortlists for best novels, it could be an entertaining vacation read or a good way to kill time during the morning/evening commute. As long as you know what you're getting into, you won't be disappointed.

The final verdict: 7/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Guy Gavriel Kay's excellent Sailing to Sarantium for only 3.99$ here! Don't miss out on this amazing two-volume series!

Here's the blurb:

Sarantium is the golden city: holy to the faithful, exalted by the poets, jewel of the world and heart of an empire. Artisan Caius Crispus receives a summons from the emperor and sets off on a journey toward the Imperial city. But before Crispin can reach Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, he must pass through a land of pagan ritual and mysterious danger.

In Sailing to Sarantium, the first volume of the brilliant Sarantine Mosaic, Guy Gavriel Kay weaves an utterly compelling story of the allure and intrigue of a magnificent city and the people drawn into its spell.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 19th)

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale returns at number 10 (trade paperback).

Meet Me in the Future: Stories

Given how much I enjoyed Kameron Hurley's Apocalypse Nyx last year, you can imagine my enthusiasm when the folks at Tachyon emailed me a digital copy of her upcoming collection of short stories, Meet Me in the Future. It was pure delight to be reunited with Nyx and Rhys, if only for the span of five short fiction pieces. Apocalypse Nyx recaptured everything that made the Bel Dame Apocrypha such a memorable read.

Meet Me in the Future would be a totally different beast. Collected for the first time, here were sixteen disparate short stories that had first appeared in various anthologies and magazines. But with its myriad themes and characters, would the book stand well on its own? Although each novella acted as a stand-alone vignette and was episodic in nature, the five stories that comprised Apocalypse Nyx formed a whole that worked quite well. Indeed, there were enough threads linking them together to create a work that stood well on its own.

Collecting short fiction pieces from a variety of sources can be tricky. After all, nearly all anthologies and collections of short stories are filled with lackluster material that act as filler to supplement the quality tales. Ye of little faith that I am, I should have known that it wouldn't be the case with Kameron Hurley. Although some are definitely better than others, overall the stories contained within the pages of Meet Me in the Future are all good reads in their own right. Even better, though disparate in style and tone, there are enough recurring themes explored throughout the tales that the book stands rather well on its own.

Here's the blurb:

When renegade author Kameron Hurley (The Light Brigade; The Stars Are Legion) takes you to the future, be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, it will be dangerous, frequently brutal, and often devastating. But it’s also savagely funny, deliriously strange, and absolutely brimming with adventure.

In these edgy, unexpected tales, a body-hopping mercenary avenges his pet elephant, and an orphan falls in love with a sentient starship. Fighters ally to power a reality-bending engine, and a swamp-dwelling introvert tries to save the world—from her plague-casting former wife.

So come meet Kameron Hurley in the future. The version she’s created here is weirder—and far more hopeful—than you could ever imagine.

The best aspect of Meet Me in the Future is that it showcases the length and breadth of Kameron Hurley's fertile and unconventional imagination. If you have yet to give the author a shot, this collection of short stories is the perfect opportunity to remedy that sad state of affairs. In the introduction, Hurley explains that she is obsessed with bodies and their problems and disabilities. Which explains why so many of her protagonists are flawed in so many ways. This book also features an enormous amount of diversity, be it in terms of gender non-conformity, sexual orientations, narrative styles, etc.

And even if the worldbuilding can be quite different from one short story to the next, this facet tends to be grimdark and post-apocalyptic more often than not. The author's fascination with biology, bugs, and technology also colors most of these tales in Hurley's own unique style.

Can't say much about each short story without spoiling anything, so I will let you have the pleasure of savoring each of them when you read this collection. I will say this, however. Nev, main character of "Elephants and Corpses" and "The Fishermen and the Pig", deserves a novel-length project, if only to discover more about this body mercenary and his/her world. Some really cool stuff in both of those stories, with potential for countless more!

My favorites include "The Red Secretary", "The Sinners and the Sea", "The Plague Givers", "Tumbledown", and "The War of Heroes". But as I mentioned, every piece offers something different and is worth the read. Even "Enyo-Enyo", which is a veritable mindfuck of a story!

Meet Me in the Future demonstrates yet again just how gifted and unique an author Kameron Hurley truly is. This is definitely one of the speculative fiction titles to read in 2019. Or any other year, for that matter!

Here's to hoping that Hurley has more quality stories in the pipeline, for I'd take another such collection every few years. Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Nick Mamatas' The People's Republic of Everything for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Welcome to the People's Republic of Everything—of course, you've been here for a long time already. Make yourself at home alongside a hitman who always tells the truth, no matter how reality has to twist itself to suit; electric matchstick girls who have teamed up with Friedrich Engels; a telepathic boy and his father's homemade nuclear bomb; a very bad date that births an unforgettable meme; and a dog who simply won't stop howling on social media.

The People's Republic of Everything features a decade's worth of crimes, fantasies, original fiction, and the author's preferred text of the acclaimed short novel Under My Roof.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

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

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

Win a copy of John Birmingham's THE CRUEL STARS

I'm giving away my review copy of John Birmingham's The Cruel Stars to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. Fashioning themselves as the one true “Human Republic,” the Sturm cut a bloody swath across the stars, killing billions before finally being defeated and driven into the far reaches of Dark Space. Centuries of peace bred complacency. Everyone believed the Sturm had died out in the Dark. They were wrong.

The enemy has returned and, with a brutal and decisive attack, knocks out almost all of humanity’s defenses. Now on the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope is a few brave souls who survived the initial attack: Commander Lucinda Hardy, thrust into uncertain command of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship. Booker3, a soldier of Earth, sentenced to die for treason, whose time on death row is cut short when the Sturm attack his prison compound. Princess Alessia, a young royal of the Montanblanc Corporation, forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed. Sephina L’trel, the leader of an outlaw band who must call on all of her criminal skills to resist the invasion. And, finally, Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm hundreds of years ago, who hopes to rout his old foes once and for all—or die trying.

These five flawed, reluctant heroes must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds. For if they fail, the future itself is doomed.

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

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

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

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Victoria Schwab's City of Ghosts for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A New York Times bestseller!

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn't like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they're about to get much stranger.

When Cass's parents start hosting a TV show about the world's most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her "gift," she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil -- and herself.

And she'll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

#1 NYT bestselling author Victoria Schwab delivers a thrillingly spooky and action-packed tale of hauntings, history, mystery, and the bond between friends (even if that friend is a ghost . . .).

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, "Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem," has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.

There are many award winners and many that have been selected for various Year's Best anthologies among the thirty-one stories, which include: "Petting Zoo," "The Tree Is My Hat," "The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories," "The Hero as Werewolf," "Seven American Nights," "The Fifth Head of Cerberus," "The Detective of Dreams," and "A Cabin on the Coast." Gene Wolfe has produced possibly the finest and most significant body of short fiction in the SF and fantasy field in the last fifty years, and is certainly among the greatest living writers to emerge from the genres. This is the first retrospective collection of his entire career.

It is for the ages.

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 12th)

In hardcover:

Pierce Brown's Dark Age debuts at number 5.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Outsider returns at number 11 (trade paperback).

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens is down two positions, ending the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

Legion versus Phalanx

Fantasy novelist Myke Cole made a name for himself with the Shadow Ops and the Gemini Cell trilogies. All six books were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads, each packing a healthy dose of ass-kicking. Both series were military fantasy with heart and soul, and I was quite sad to hear that no more installments were forthcoming in the near future.

Given the author's military background, I was looking forward to reading his first military history book. Especially given the fact that Cole's first foray into this new literary field was targeting the uninitiated. Three tours in Iraq undoubtedly gave him a different perspective regarding military history. And yet, as Cole explains in his preface, his objective was for newbies who know close to nothing about ancient history and warfare to enjoy and learn a thing or two while reading Legion versus Phalanx.

Well, I'm pleased to report that it's mission accomplished for Myke Cole!

Here's the blurb:

From the time of Ancient Sumeria, the heavy infantry phalanx dominated the battlefield. Armed with spears or pikes, standing shoulder to shoulder with shields interlocking, the men of the phalanx presented an impenetrable wall of wood and metal to the enemy. Until, that is, the Roman legion emerged to challenge them as masters of infantry battle.

Covering the period in which the legion and phalanx clashed (280-168 BC), Myke Cole delves into their tactics, arms and equipment, organization and deployment. Drawing on original primary sources to examine six battles in which the legion fought the phalanx - Heraclea (280 BC), Asculum (279 BC), Beneventum (275 BC), Cynoscephalae (197 BC), Magnesia (190 BC), and Pydna (168 BC) - he shows how and why the Roman legion, with its flexible organization, versatile tactics and iron discipline, came to eclipse the hitherto untouchable Hellenistic phalanx and dominate the ancient battlefield.

Legion versus Phalanx is a decidedly accessible introduction to ancient warfare. I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect from this book. But Cole's detailed knowledge and enthusiasm for the historical period, the cultures involved, and their military strategies and tactics allowed the author to come up with a work that is as engaging as it is educational.

I'm not sure how this book stacks up against other military history works, but for a neophyte like me Legion versus Phalanx was interesting as well as entertaining. Mind you, I was aware that I would learn a lot about the Hellenistic phalanx and the Roman legion. But I didn't know I'd learn so much. I particularly enjoyed how Cole went beyond just the warfare elements. Indeed, in this study of the evolution that led to the supremacy of the Roman legion, the author explores the politics of the times, the social minutiae of every day life in those societies, the terrain upon which those decisive battles were fought, the character of the military leaders facing one another, the weather that affected each battle, as well as how superstition and religious beliefs influenced the outcome of these conflicts.

Osprey is renowned for their quality illustrated works and Legion versus Phalanx is no exception. The book features maps, beautiful illustrations and photographs, as well as diagrams describing the evolution of each of the battle. The first part elaborates on the two opposing military systems and how they came to be and how the evolved over the years. The second part focuses on each of the six major battles mentioned in the blurb and their historical impact on ancient warfare. Cole's use of modern imagery to help shine some light on more difficult to grasp military concepts goes a long way and never is the reader lost as the author analyzes each of these important battles.

Myke Cole states that he's a soldier, but he absolutely abhors war. That the thirst for understanding, to truly know the warrior experience of the past, has more to do with love of humanity than of war itself. He is also driven by a desire to connect with his legacy. He says that every profession has its roots, and warriors are no different. That this is his story as much as anyone's, and that he'll tell it to the best of his ability. This perspective colors every aspect of this book and is probably why it turned out to be a more compelling read than I ever thought it could be. The world needs more people like Myke Cole.

Not sure if the author has more military history works in the pipeline. But given the quality of Legion versus Phalanx, I'll be happy to read anything else he writes in that field.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of 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.

You can also 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.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kate Elliott's Cold Magic for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

Chuck Wendig contest winner!

This lucky winner will get his hands on my review copy of Chuck Wendig's Wanderers! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Joseph Tarver, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 5th)

In paperback:

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens maintains its position at number 12 (trade paperback).

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

A Little Hatred

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say it's been a while since he last wrote an adult fantasy novel.

It's been seven years since Red Country was released and in publishing that's a mighty long time. Of course, in the meantime there has been a YA trilogy and a collection of short fiction. These were compelling enough reads in their own right, yet not as satisfying as the works that preceded them. The Shattered Sea series proved to be brutal, engaging, and entertaining, but these books showcased a more self-restrained Joe Abercrombie, one that pulled some of his punches and didn't go all out the way he did in his grimdark titles. And the stories featured in Sharp Ends just made you want to beg for the author's next novel-length project.

That was back in 2016. Then came the author's decision to write the next trilogy in its entirety before releasing the first installment. Like most of you, I was eagerly awaiting Abercrombie's monthly progress reports. Hoping that progress was indeed being made and that the new novels were truly on their way. Then came the news that A Little Hatred was done and would be published in the fall of 2019. Then came the UK cover art, the blurb, the American cover art, and a confirmed release date. Then came the authors' blurbs and they were raving about this new book.

And finally, a galley of A Little Hatred showed up in my mailbox! Other than my tax return, there is nothing more pleasing I've received in the mail this year! Went through the novel in no time. So was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding yes! And then some!

Here's the blurb:

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…

Should you reread the previous novels to fully enjoy this new series? Not necessarily. I did not and I thoroughly liked A Little Hatred. My memory was a bit hazy regarding certain details, but other than that it was smooth sailing throughout. However, a reread of the first trilogy, as well as Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country will definitely make you pick up on various details and catch some nuances that I probably did not get immediately. So it's up to you. There can never be too much Joe Abercrombie in your life, after all.

A Little Hatred takes place nearly three decades following the end of the First Law trilogy and about fourteen years after the events recounted in Red Country. Evolution and industrialisation have changed the landscape of Midderland, especially in Adua. Neighborhoods and villages have disappeared to give way to great factories. And because you can't stop progress, peasants, skilled artisans, and farmers have lost their lands, their shops, and their homes, and must move into urban areas to look for work in dismal manufactories in order to survive in this new world. Amid the turmoil caused by this industrialisation, three disastrous military campaigns in Styria have beggared the Union and left it with a shortage of experienced troops. Which means that when Uffrith is put to the torch and its people butchered by Stour Nightfall's army, Adua cannot afford to send reinforcements, even if that means that the whole of Angland could be lost. Add to that a refugee crisis caused by the collapse of the Gurkish Empire, with masses of migrants leaving the continent to escape the chaos, as well as workers living in abject poverty demanding reasonable wages and better working conditions resorting to violence and vandalism to get their voices heard, and you realize that Arch Lector Sand dan Glokta and the rest of the Closed Council rather have their hands full in such a political backdrop. All the while, there are Bayaz and Yoru Sulfur pulling strings from behind the scenes. Both claim to want peace and stability, but with these two one never knows. . .

As everything goes down the crapper, we witness events through the eyes of seven disparate protagonists. Joe Abercrombie always had a knack for creating compelling characters and A Little Hatred is no exception. Yet again, the author came up with a great bunch of flawed men and women. Savine dan Glokta is a hardcore socialite bitch and a ruthless investor. She is feared as much as she is admired, yet regardless of her business acumen and her take-no-prisoner attitude she's not smart enough to see that given her name and her father's position and reputation the game has always been rigged in her favor. But when the proverbial shit hits the fan and she realizes how much of a spoiled and powerless brat she truly is, the helplessness will make her experience blood-curdling despair for the first time in her life. And that will change her forever. Since the acorn never falls far from the tree, it's no wonder that King Jezal’s son takes after his father. Hard to believe, I know, but Prince Orso turns out to be an even worse wastrel. I mean, the heir to the throne makes Mark Lawrence's Prince Jalan look like Aragorn. And when circumstances conspire against him and he is forced to try to do the right thing for once in his life, he'll discover things seldom go according to plan. Blessed or cursed with the Long Eye, the ability to see the future, Rikke, the Dogman's daughter, is on the run, desperate to evade the army that destroyed her city and those she loved. After living for so long in the shadow of his parents, Leo dan Brock is a talented but reckless warrior. And when Union troops fail to show up to help turn the tide of the battle, his mother has no choice but to let him fight against Stour Nightfall's forces if the Protectorate is to continue to exist. Victarine dan Teufel survived the harsh life of the camps and mines in the North. She now wants to become part of the Breakers and strike a blow for the common man by destroying factories and creating social unrest. Gunnar Broad returns home from the military campaigns in Styria a broken man. After fighting a losing war on a foreign shore, he finds out that his country doesn't really want him back. Things have changed and not for the better. Forced to move in the city with his family where they hope to find work, it will dawn upon him that he may have left the war but the war remains in him. Finally, there is Jonas Clover. Getting his ass handed to him in the Circle and somehow surviving to tell the tale has given the man a new appreciation for life. Once reckoned a famous warrior in the North, these days he wants nothing more than to take it easy and watch the world go by. Alas, even though he's been avoiding fighting as much as humanly possible, when he is chosen to become one of Stour Nightfall's advisors, his life is turned upside down. And though he's now considered a good-for-nothing lazy ass, if pushed enough he can still be the merciless hard as nails man he used to be. The supporting cast is comprised of a panoply of familiar faces such as Bremer dan Gorst, King Jezal, Superior Pike, Queen Terez, Tunny and Yolk, Ardee, Black Calder, the Dogman, Isern-i-Phail, Caul Shivers, Finree dan Brock, Bayaz, Yoru Sulfur, and many more. Add to that interesting newcomers like Zuri, Savine's "secretary," Stour Nightfall, May Broad, among many others, and you have yourself a characterization that is head and shoulders above most of what you can find in the fantasy genre these days. These flawed protagonists are everything you want them to be, which bodes well for this new generation in the First Law universe.

As the author mentioned in his progress reports, each new installment will be split into three parts. And though each volume tells its own story, like The Blade Itself, A Little Hatred remains a vast introduction meant to establish the political backdrop, the events, and the characters. As such, it doesn't stand as well on its own as Abercrombie's stand-alone novels. Understandably, these needed to be self-contained stories, while A Little Hatred is the first book in a new trilogy. Having said that, there is nevertheless a lot to love about it and it sets the stage for plenty of fireworks to come in its two forthcoming sequels, The Trouble With Peace, and The Beautiful Machine. Once more, the wit, cynicism, and dark humor that characterize Abercrombie's backlist are all present, and he probably cranks it up another notch. I guess Joe is getting older. Maybe even wiser? Jury's still out on that one. . .

For the most part, the author keeps the plot moving at a very good clip. There are no pacing issues or dull moments between the covers. After so long a wait, like me fans will doubtless go through A Little Hatred in no time. The body count may not be as impressive as that of Abercrombie's last First Law offerings, but there is enough blood and gore to satisfy grimdark aficionados. Those hoping for a happy ending will have to look elsewhere, it goes without saying.

So how does A Little Hatred stack up against its predecessors? Second only to Best Served Cold in terms of quality and originality, in this house at least. And as good as Red Country, The Heroes, and Last Argument of Kings. As mentioned, it leaves the door open for countless possibilities and the ending throws a monkey wrench into everything. Chaos, as they say, will ensue. Lots of it, if the plot of this book is any indication. Should be awesome!

Darker, smarter, more ambitious, and even more cynical. That's A Little Hatred in a nutshell. Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he's back. Kicking some serious ass!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

The Mage-Fire War

Back in 2017, I believed that The Mongrel Mage marked the beginning of a brand new story arc, the first book in what would likely be another two-volume Recluce sequence. Yet it turned out that Beltur had a much bigger story to tell. L. E. Modesitt, jr. tried to write this story arc in his habitual two-book format, but the manuscripts soon reached a size that made it impossible for Tor Books to release them as a pair of novels.

The decision was made to split Beltur's tale into three separate installments. This probably explains why The Mongrel Mage did not stand as well on its own as I expected. My fear was that the sequel, Outcasts of Order, would suffer from the middle book syndrome. Given the fact that there was never meant to be a second volume, it did feel a bit incongruous compared to its predecessors.

Which is why I was looking forward to reading The Mage-Fire War. And though I enjoyed the novel, there's no denying that the plot is padded with a lot of filler material to increase the pagecount. Beltur's tale and the creation of Fairhaven are worthy addition to the Recluce canon, no doubt about it. And yet, I feel that it would have worked better as the habitual two-installment Recluce project.

Here's the blurb:

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., continues his bestselling Saga of Recluce with The Mage-Fire War, the third book in a story arc which began with The Mongrel Mage and Outcasts of Order.

Once again, prejudices against the use of chaos magic force Beltur and his companions to flee their refuge in Axalt. The rulers of nearby Montgren have offered them sanctuary and the opportunity to become the Councilors of the run-down and disintegrating town of Haven.

Montegren lacks any mages—white or black—making this seem like the perfect opportunity to start again.

However, Beltur and the others must reinstitute law and order, rebuild parts of the town, deal with brigands—and thwart an invading army.

The worldbuilding is always one of the most fascinating facets of these new Recluce novels. Like several other historical figures, it's evident that Beltur will leave his own indelible mark upon the Recluce timeline. As is usually his wont, Modesitt explores the relationship between Order and Chaos, one of the trademarks of this series. As Beltur trains as a healer and as he trains both Jessyla and young Taelya, we do learn a lot about Chaos, Order, and the manner in which they can both be used for healing and for fighting. Speaking of Taelya, I'm curious to see if she'll get her own story arc in a future Recluce installment. It's obvious that, like Beltur and Jessyla, this girl will have her part to play as Fairhaven grows and welcomes more mages. And given the foreshadowing Modesitt provided in these last three novels, it appears that the future may not be all that bright for the woman she'll become. I also have a feeling that her future storyline may shine some light on how a city founded by Black Mages will some day become a bastion held by the Whites.

Having grown on me over the course of the last two books, Beltur is easier to root for in this final volume. He probably always knew that the price to pay would be higher than they ever envisioned but refused to accept that fact. Be that as it may, in The Mage-Fire War it dawns upon him that they will never be left alone as long as the duke of Hydlen can send troopers and wizards against them. And though it goes against everything he is and believes in, Beltur has no choice but to be utterly ruthless if Fairhaven stands a chance of ever establishing itself. The ending, in particular, was as surprising as it was uncompromising. Once again, the supporting cast is particularly engaging, chief among them Jessyla, as well as Lhadoraak and his wife Tulya and their young daughter.

L. E. Modesitt's works are never fast-paced affairs and The Mongrel Mage was no exception to that rule. The author needed time to establish the various storylines and protagonists. Once done, you then follow the main character as he or she must learn, experiment, and puzzle out ways to escape a number of predicaments before the endgame can take place. In that respect, that novel followed the classic Recluce recipe and long-time fans ended up with another compelling read. Trouble is, as a middle book Outcasts of Order offered nothing in the way of resolution. To a certain extent, the second installment was only meant to give Beltur the opportunity to train more and get more powerful, and to ultimately get the characters to Montgren, where Beltur and company will leave their mark upon the history of Recluce. Not surprisingly, The Mage-Fire War suffers from pacing issues. Essentially, this final volume is meant to feature the series' endgame and the finale, with a number of armed conflicts in between as troops from Hydlen invade Montgren and try to capture Haven. Unfortunately, there was not enough material for a full novel and The Mage-Fire War is padded with lots of extraneous and often superfluous scenes that are totally unnecessary. I mean, did we really need to see Beltur clean the stables this often, or the preparation of so many meals, etc. In the end, though it would have made for two big novels, as I mentioned I feel that Beltur's tale would have worked better as another two-volume sequence.

Still, Beltur's story and the creation of Fairhaven was another satisfying Recluce arc. One that raises as many questions as the answers it provides. As mentioned, the enormous price paid for Beltur's unforgiving response in the hope to end this war and engender long-term peace to allow Haven to grow will undoubtedly have profound repercussions on the young man and those he cares for. And it's obvious that Taelya's own storyline has barely begun, with a lot more in store for her in the coming years. It will be interesting to see if she'll be the main protagonist in Modesitt's next Recluce offering.

Ultimately, regardless of its shortcomings, The Mage-Fire War will please Recluce fans who are eagerly awaiting the resolution of this story arc. Twenty-one books into the saga, with no sign that it might be slowing down any time soon, this bodes well for the future. Here's to hoping that L. E. Modesitt, jr. still has more Recluce surprises in store for his readers.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Mark Lawrence's One Word Kill for only 1.99$ through the following links: Canada, USA.

Here's the blurb:

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons and Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

You can read my review of the book here.

Quote of the Day

Fighting every fight you're offered doesn't make you a big man, it makes you a fool.

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

About one hundred pages to go and so far it's good!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 29th)

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Outsider is up two spots, finishing the week at number 11 (trade paperback).

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens is down four positions, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Alma Katsu's The Hunger for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.