More inexpensive ebook goodies!


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

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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


You can also download John Scalzi's Old Man's War for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.

So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What's known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine-and what he will become is far stranger.

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


Finally, you can download the excellent The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021), edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, for around 6.99$ by following these Amazon Associates links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) is a reprint anthology and the first ever Year’s Best African speculative fiction anthology, edited by Oghenchovwe Donald Ekpeki. It contains speculative fiction stories by some of the most exciting voices, old and new, from Africa and the diaspora, published in the 2020 year. It features twenty-nine stories, by twenty-five writers.

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

In hardcover:

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

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers maintains its position at number 2.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is up two positions, ending the week at number 13.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue maintains its position at number 14.

Mini Reviews

Hey guys,

My mom finally passed away a couple of weeks ago. As sad as it is for our family, the time had come and it's better this way.

Understandably, I haven't had time to read a whole lot and must resort to mini reviews once more.


- Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Canada, USA, Europe)

DNF at 80%.

I so really wanted to like this novel. I felt that its predecessor, David Mogo, Godhunter, featured lots of cool ideas and concepts, and I was looking forward to Suyi Davies Okungbowa's new series with Orbit.

But Son of the Storm is a slog. The characterization, especially, leaves a lot to be desired. Too YA, too black and white, with no shades of gray to speak of.

I persevered, hoping to at least finish the book. But in the end, I simply couldn't do it. =(




- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (Canada, USA, Europe) 8.5/10

As a matter of course, I read this novel back in the day. I picked up a copy at a hostel's book exchange a few years back, planning to reread it and see if this classic had aged well.

I brought it with me on a hiking trip last month and went through it in no time. God knows that a lot of science fiction doesn't age well at all. But Card's debut is still as good today as it was back in the 80s. Probably because it's a story about kids and how they develop and not about science and technology. The only thing that is at time obsolete is the language, what with the fart-face and other fart-something insults.

Say what you will about Card, Ender's Game remains a terrific novel!


- The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021), edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Canada, USA, Europe) 8.5/10

This is a follow-up to last year's Dominion, the first anthology of speculative fiction and poetry by Africans and the African Diaspora. You may recall that I absolutely loved that anthology, so I was really looking forward to discovering what the 2021 collection would look like.

Now that I went through it, I can tell you that The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021) is as good as its predecessor. If anything, it might even be a little better!

Once again this year, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald compiled short fiction tales that cover the length and breadth of everything that falls under the speculative fiction umbrella. As was the case with Dominion, such a convergence of genres and subgenres makes for captivating reading. Though most of the pieces are not culturally familiar in style, tone, or context to Western SFF readers, they all have something that can appeal to a broader audience. I was a bit surprised that this anthology contained a couple of pieces that were found in its predecessor. Though they're good, I'm not sure why they were included instead of original short stories.

If you only read one SFF anthology this year, make it this one! =)




- Isolate by L. E. Modesitt, jr. (Canada, USA, Europe) 6/10

When I was invited to read Modesitt's first installment in a brand new gaslamp political fantasy series, I knew I couldn't say no!

Here's the blurb:

Industrialization. Social unrest. Underground movements. Government corruption and surveillance.

Something is about to give.

Steffan Dekkard is an isolate, one of the small percentage of people who are immune to the projections of empaths. As an isolate, he has been trained as a security specialist and he and his security partner Avraal Ysella, a highly trained empath are employed by Axel Obreduur, a senior Craft Minister and the de facto political strategist of his party.

When a respected Landor Councilor dies of “heart failure” at a social event, because of his political friendship with Obreduur, Dekkard and Ysella find that not only is their employer a target, but so are they, in a covert and deadly struggle for control of the government and economy.

Steffan is about to understand that everything he believed is an illusion.


The blurb totally hooked me and I was intrigued by the Victorian setting.

Problem is, I don't think there was enough material to warrant a full novel here. Isolate features a political tale and a love story, both of which struggling to get out. Unfortunately, the bulk of the book focuses on the excruciating minutia of Steffan's day-to-day life, from what he has for breakfast every morning, to his reading petitions and answering letters, to what he does before going to bed at night. God knows that Modesitt isn't known for his fast pace, but Isolate makes the Recluce volumes feel like balls-to-the-wall affairs. And there's only so much every day minor detail one can take. Of the 608 pages, there can't be more than 200 pages that have to do with the story itself.

As a big Modesitt fan, you should know that rhythm is seldom an issue with me. I'm used to the pace of his novels and I can live with the slow-moving sections of his books. But it felt as though Isolate was the introduction to a multilayered tale that was then padded with a vast amount of extraneous and repetitive material to make it a novel. When, in truth, it should have been the first portion of book and not a novel-length project, in and of itself.

Unless you already are a Modesitt fan, I doubt that you'll want to wade through Isolate. Which is too bad, because there's a lot of good stuff in there. It's just buried deeply underneath a ton of superfluous details that bring little or nothing to the story. . .

You can read an extract here.

The Wheel of Time: Winespring Inn scene



You recall that I wasn't impressed by the trailer. Well, after seeing one of the opening scenes, I'm even more underwhelmed. . . =(

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers is down one position, ending the week at number 2.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down two spots, finishing the week at number 14.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary returns at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download Stephen King's It for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There isa price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers maintains its position at number 1.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down four spots, finishing the week at number 11.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers maintains its position at number 1.

V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 7.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary returns at number 14.

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Terry Brooks' CHILD OF LIGHT


Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Del Rey, I have two advance reading copies of Terry Brooks' forthcoming Child of Light. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

At nineteen, Auris Afton Grieg has led an . . . unusual life. Since the age of fifteen, she has been trapped in a sinister prison. Why? She does not know. She has no memories of her past beyond the vaguest of impressions. All she knows is that she is about to age out of the children’s prison, and rumors say that the adult version is far, far worse. So she and some friends stage a desperate escape into the surrounding wastelands. And it is here that Auris’s journey of discovery begins, for she is rescued by an unusual stranger who claims to be Fae—a member of a magical race that Auris had thought to be no more than legend. Odder still, he seems to think that she is one as well, although the two look nothing alike. But strangest of all, when he brings her to his wondrous homeland, she begins to suspect that he is right. Yet how could a woman who looks entirely human be a magical being herself?

Told with a fresh, energetic voice, this fantasy puzzle box is perfect for fans of Terry Brooks and new readers alike, as one young woman slowly unlocks truths about herself and her world—and, in doing so, begins to heal both.


The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "CHILD." 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 download Susanna Clarke's Piranesi for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.


R. A. Salvatore contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Harper Voyager, this lucky winner will receive a copy of R. A. Salvatore's Starlight Enclave. For more info about this title, check out these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Bill Philpot, from Cottage Grove, Oregon, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Dune Sketchbook Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer



If you need some background music to brighten your day. . . =)

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Billy Summers debuts at number 1.

The Wheel of Time: Official Trailer



After waiting for so long, I have to admit that I'm underwhelmed by this lackluster trailer. Definitely getting Shannara Chronicles vibes here. . . =(

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

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is up six positions, ending the week at number 9.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds returns at number 15 (trade paperback).

Extract from Joe Abercrombie's THE WISDOM OF CROWDS


Joe Abercrombie just put an extract from his upcoming The Wisdom of Crowds (Canada, USA, Europe) on his website.

Here's the blurb:

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now the Breakers have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age. Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke runs out of allies . . . while Black Calder plots his vengeance.

The banks fall, the sun of the Union is torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are drawn together . . .


Follow this link to read the extract.

Mini Reviews

Hi guys.

As we knew it would, my mother's condition has begun to deteriorate after remaining rather stable for more than 2 months. It appears that the end is near, but you never know. She was supposed to pass away in mid-June at the latest, and yet she's still here. With things going downhill fast, it sure looks like it won't be long now. =(

I wish I had more time to write lengthy reviews. Sadly, I have no choice but to resort to mini reviews once again. . .


The God Is Not Willing by Steven Erikson (Canada, USA, Europe) 8/10

I relished the opportunity to read a new Malazan offering by Steven Erikson. As you know, I elected to stop reading material by Ian Cameron Esslemont, so it's been a while since Erikson released a new Malazan title. And since this was the first installment in the series that comes after the main sequence, I couldn't have been more excited!

The author has accustomed readers to sprawling fantasy works featuring complex storylines that span multiple ages and volumes, as well as huge casts of characters. In that regard, The God Is Not Willing is a much smaller, more focused tale, following a handful of protagonists over a couple of plotlines. As such, this could be Erikson's most accessible novel to date.

Can it be read by someone who has not read The Malazan Book of the Fallen series? Not really. Set ten years after the events chronicled in The Crippled God, the story would likely make little sense for a newbie. One of the highlights of the book is to demonstrate how much the Malazan Empire has changed. A reader not familiar with the saga wouldn't perceive any of those nuances.

Back in northern Genabackis, readers witness the repercussions of Karsa's legacy of destruction from the beginning of House of Chains. With climate changes melting the ice fields of the north, Teblor warriors and various other wild inhabitants from the far reaches of the continent have no choice but to flee disaster and run south, hoping to wreak havoc and destroy those who have made slaves of the their brethren in the past. The only thing standing in their way are a few Malazan marines.

The cast of characters is as disparate as it is engaging. Quite a few are too badass and all-powerful for my taste, and I'm not talking about God-touched characters or Ascendants here. Just seemingly ordinary marines. This novel contains the same thoughtful philosophical musings from past Malazan installments, but it's probably the one with the most humor we've seen thus far. In that regard, it's on par with the Willful Child series. It sometimes felt like Erikson was trying a bit too hard to be funny, especially with the scenes featuring the Heavyweights. But there's no denying that The God Is Not Willing will have you laughing out loud in almost every chapter.

As always, there's more than meets the eye with just about ever single character. Which bodes well for whatever comes next. As is usually Erikson's wont, this book also finishes with a mighty convergence that paves the way for the rest of the trilogy.

One thing I found interesting was the level of compassion found between the covers of this book. A lot more than I ever expected. Looks like Emperor Mallick Rel is turning into Justin Trudeau or something.

In a nutshell, this one is a must for all Malazan fans!


A Desert Torn Asunder by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Canada, USA, Europe) 5.5/10

I was looking forward to the sixth volume in Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Shattered Sands sequence because to a vast extent, it felt like the better part of the tale had reached its end in the previous installment, When Jackal Storm the Walls. And in many ways, it did. Not that this book acts as something akin to an epilogue, but it is a bit discordant compared to its predecessors.

Many storylines were detailed and meticulously plotted in the previous volumes. Sadly, a lot seems contrived in A Desert Thorn Asunder, from how the location of the elder god's resting place is located to how he will be raised and controlled. Moreover, this turns into a somewhat heavy-handed do-gooder tale that makes little sense when you consider that the desert tribes have hated Sharakhai for centuries.

Sadly, Beaulieu played it safe the whole way through and there's never a moment when you feel like the good guys could actually lose. Moreover, à la Robert Jordan, basically everyone survives what is an apocalyptic battle. What also kills it is the lame Game of Thrones-esque ending, with everyone sitting down and deciding how the city and the desert will henceforth be governed. Ultimately, A Desert Torn Asunder is a weak book with an even weaker ending. A somewhat unworthy end to what was a very good SFF series.

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

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is down two positions, ending the week at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Helene Wecker's The Hidden Palace for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

In this enthralling historical epic, set in New York City and the Middle East in the years leading to World War I— the long-awaited follow-up to the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Golem and the Jinni—Helene Wecker revisits her beloved characters Chava and Ahmad as they confront unexpected new challenges in a rapidly changing human world.

Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, who can hear the thoughts and longings of those around her and feels compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a restless creature of fire, once free to roam the desert but now imprisoned in the shape of a man. Fearing they’ll be exposed as monsters, these magical beings hide their true selves and try to pass as human—just two more immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Brought together under calamitous circumstances, their lives are now entwined—but they’re not yet certain of what they mean to each other.

Both Chava and Ahmad have changed the lives of the people around them. Park Avenue heiress Sophia Winston, whose brief encounter with Ahmad left her with a strange illness that makes her shiver with cold, travels to the Middle East to seek a cure. There she meets Dima, a tempestuous female jinni who’s been banished from her tribe. Back in New York, in a tenement on the Lower East Side, a little girl named Kreindel helps her rabbi father build a golem they name Yossele—not knowing that she’s about to be sent to an orphanage uptown, where the hulking Yossele will become her only friend and protector.

Spanning the tumultuous years from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of World War I, The Hidden Palace follows these lives and others as they collide and interleave. Can Chava and Ahmad find their places in the human world while remaining true to each other? Or will their opposing natures and desires eventually tear them apart—especially once they encounter, thrillingly, other beings like themselves?



You can also download Haruki Murakami's First Person Singular: Stories for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A riveting new collection of short stories from the beloved, internationally acclaimed Haruki Murakami.

The eight masterful stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator, a lonely man. Some of them (like "With the Beatles," "Cream" and "On a Stone Pillow") are nostalgic looks back at youth. Others are set in adulthood--"Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova," "Carnaval," "Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey" and the title story, "First Person Singular." Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Haruki himself is present, as in "The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection." Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides. The stories touch beautifully on love and loss, childhood and death . . . all with a signature Murakami twist.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Suyi Davies Okungbowa's Son of the Storm for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

From city streets where secrets are bartered for gold to forests teeming with fabled beasts, a sweeping epic of forgotten magic and violent conquests unfolds in this richly drawn fantasy inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.

IN THIS WORLD, THERE IS NO DESTINY BUT THE ONE YOU MAKE.

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—except he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.


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

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is down one position, ending the week at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Jim Butcher's Peace Talks for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, joins the White Council's security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago—and all he holds dear?


You can also download Martha Wells' Network Effect for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you're a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you're Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.



I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot's human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

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

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 25th)

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is up one position, ending the week at number 12.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue maintains its position at number 14.

Win a copy of R. A. Salvatore's STARLIGHT ENCLAVE


Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Harper Voyager, I have a copy of R. A. Salvatore's Starlight Enclave up for grabs. For more info about this title, check out these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore comes a new trilogy and adventure of Drizzt and fantasy’s beloved characters from Dungeons & Dragons’ Forgotten Realms.

After the settling dust of the demon uprising and two years of peace, rumblings from the Menzoberranzan drow have Jarlaxle nervous. Worried his allies may be pulled into a Civil War between the great Houses, he is eager to ensure Zaknafein is armed with weapons befitting his skill, including one in particular: Khazid’hea. A powerful artifact, the sword known as “Cutter” has started wars, corrupted its users, and spilled the blood of many, many people. Nonetheless—or maybe because of that—the rogue Jarlaxle and a small group of friends will go on an expedition looking for the weapon’s last wielder, Doum’wielle, in the freezing north, for she may be the key to unlocking the sword’s potential…and perhaps the key to preventing the bloodshed looming over the Underdark.

And as they explore the top of the world, Drizzt is on a journey of his own—both spiritual and physical. He wants to introduce his daughter Brie to Grandmaster Kane and the practices that have been so central to his beliefs. But, having only recently come back from true transcendence, the drow ranger is no longer sure what his beliefs mean anymore. He is on a path to determining the future, not just for his family, but perhaps the entire northlands of the Realms themselves.

Two different roads. On one, Jarlaxle and Zaknefein are on a quest to find pieces that could offer salvation to Menzoberranzan. On the other, Drizzt seeks answers that could offer salvation to not just his soul, but all souls.

And no matter the outcome of either journey, the Realms will never be the same again.


The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "STARLIGHT." 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 Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

The three next installments, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, and The Shadow Rising are also on sale.

Here's the blurb:

The Wheel of Time ® is a PBS Great American Read Selection! Now in development for TV!

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time® by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 18th)

In hardcover:
 
Cavan Scott's Star Wars: The Rising Storm debuts at number 9.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is down five positions, ending the week at number 13.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down three positions, ending the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds is down one spot, finishing the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!



Today only, you can download Guy Gavriel Kay's incredible Under Heaven for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This is probably Kay's best work to date, so don't miss out on this bargain!

Here's the blurb:

UNDER HEAVEN will be published in April 2010, and takes place in a world inspired by the glory and power of Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century, a world in which history and the fantastic meld into something both memorable and emotionally compelling. In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire's last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle.

To honour his father's memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. At night he can hear the ghosts moan and stir, terrifying voices of anger and lament. Sometimes he realizes that a given voice has ceased its crying, and he knows that is one he has laid to rest.

The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour.

It is during a routine supply visit led by a Taguran officer who has reluctantly come to befriend him that Tai learns that others, much more powerful, have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly.

You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself back to court and his own emperor, alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses, and bringing news of the rest, he starts east towards the glittering, dangerous capital of Kitai, and the Ta-Ming Palace - and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 11th)

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary maintains its position at number 8.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up two positions, ending the week at number 11.

In paperback:

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

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic debuts at number 15.

Mini Reviews

Hey there,

Though we know it's only a question of time, my mother's condition has remained stable for nearly two months. The doctors gave her two or three months to live, which means that the best case scenario had her dying the second week of June. But she's still alive and we visit her every chance we get. Sadly, I'm not reading a whole lot these days and have no choice but to resort to posting these mini reviews once again.

Thank you for your understanding. =)


- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Canada, USA, Europe): 7.5/10

This is a fun romp of a book featuring lesbian necromancers in outer space. It's a murder mystery fantasy/scifi gonzo that is quite entertaining. But like most summer blockbuster movies, it's high on fun stuff and hilarious quotes and low on substance. I'm not sure how Gideon the Ninth garnered so many rave reviews. It's unlike anything you've ever read before and an enjoyable read, but all in all it's not a work that stays with you afterward.

Should you read it? Hell yeah! Just go into it with the right expectations.


- Scorpion by Christian Cantrell (Canada, USA, Europe): 8/10

I brought this techno thriller/murder mystery on vacation and made short work of it! Can't really say much without spoiling the entire story, but let me tell you that this is the perfect speculative fiction vacation read! It's a page-turner, so it won't last long. Better bring more reading material with you. =)

Here's the blurb:

Quinn Mitchell is a nine-to-five spy—an intelligence analyst for the CIA during the day, and a suburban wife and mother on evenings and weekends. After her young daughter is killed in a tragic accident, sending her life into a tailspin, Quinn hopes to find a new start in her latest assignment: investigating a series of bizarre international assassinations whose victims have been found with numeric codes tattooed, burned, or carved into their flesh. As Quinn follows the killer’s trail across the globe, always one body behind, she begins uncovering disturbing connections between the murders—and herself.

Every lead she tracks down in pursuit of the assassin brings Quinn one step closer to the Epoch Index, a mysterious encrypted message discovered in the archives of the Large Hadron Collider. Its origins are unknown and decrypting it is beyond even the CIA. Yet nothing else can possibly link together a slew of unsolvable murders, an enigmatic and sophisticated serial killer who always seems to be three steps ahead, a quirky young physics prodigy whose knowledge extends well beyond her years, and, underlying everything, the inescapable tragedy of Quinn’s own past. Discovering the meaning of the Epoch Index leads Quinn to a shocking twist that shatters everything she thought she knew about the past, the future, and the delicate balance of right and wrong that she must now fight to preserve.


You can read and extract from the book here.


- The Shining by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe): 9/10

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I also read this one during my hiking trip and it was an absolute delight to revisit this classic. For a novel written nearly 45 years ago, it has aged particularly well. Definitely worth a read, or a reread.


- Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe): 8.5/10

The Shining got me so excited that I decided to jump into its sequel immediately. It took a while for this one to get going. Not that reading about Dan Torrance's drunk past and difficult present life was boring, but the story only truly kicks in when Abra makes an appearance. From then on, the novel takes off and Doctor Sleep becomes a veritable page-turner. Well worth the read, especially back-to-back with its predecessor.

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

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary maintains its position at number 8.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up one position, ending the week at number 13.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds is down two spots, finishing the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 27th)

In hardcover:
 
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary maintains its position at number 8.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down one position, ending the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds debuts at number 10 (trade paperback).

The King Must Fall by Adrian Collins



With Grimdark Magazine’s latest anthology Kickstarter The King Must Fall motoring past the AU$40,000 mark this week, I caught up with Adrian Collins to talk about the project.

- The King Must Fall has done fantastic thus far on Kickstarter; what was the first 24 hours like for you watching the positive reception from the reading community?

After how little I slept for the month-long funding window for our last Kickstarter project, Evil is a Matter of Perspective, I told myself I’d be way more chill and well-rested this time. There’s an old military saying somewhere about no plan surviving first contact, and that pretty much applies here. That first 24hrs was utterly mental.

Watching the backer and financial counter skyrocket to 70% within the first 24hrs was unbelievable. The lettered editions were gone in a few hours. The numbered editions not too many hours after that. It was also the time period when I realised I needed to somehow find a local supplier in the UK to bring the postage cost right down (which I managed to do a few days later).

The community has been epic, driving this sort of success. Their trust, pledges, and their shout outs have gotten us into a position where we’ve just added Luke Scull to our lineup and we are less than a grand away from adding Alex Marshall as well. A special shout out goes out to the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers group on Facebook—as with almost everything we do, they’ve been right behind this.

- The Kickstarter is a true passion project for you. Can you tell me about your theme, "The King Must Fall," and how the idea came about?

The idea actually came from Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of The Song of the Shattered Sands series. He reached out to me one day with the tagline as the idea, I loved it and ran with it. I’ve always loved reading about the toppling of power (or the attempt at it), and I think quite often this simple scenario sits as a key part of so much in fantasy, especially grimdark fantasy, to one degree or another. In my mind there are few things so fearful to a medieval-styled populace as the unknown of a new potential leader who holds so much sway over their lives.

- What would you give as advice to someone who was going to run their own fantasy Kickstarter from your experiences with The King Must Fall and previous works?

This is a very long discussion, and I’d highly recommend checking out both the article I wrote for Booknest, Five Things I Learned from Failing at Kickstarter, and the interview I just completed with the Wizards, Warriors, and Words: A Fantasy Writing Advice Podcast.

In short, though:

Make sure you have a crystal-clear product message. If the random bloke you sit next to at the bus stop can’t look at it and within 60 seconds know EXACTLY what you’re selling, you’ve not done it right.

If you aren’t a financial controller, get one to do your financials—spreadsheeting set and variable costs is no easy feat, get someone smarter than you to do it. You do not want to run out of money mid-production.

Create a detailed marketing plan to handle the “trough of despair”, the period of slow growth between the first 48hrs and last 48hrs of your funding window. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

As a follow up to the last point, do not panic in the trough of despair. It’s an almost mathematical certainty that it’ll happen to everyone—that’s just the way these things work—but every marketing company on planet earth (it feels like) is going to try and sell you some miracle solution to this. In my experience, most of them are selling absolute crap and run for the hills as soon as you ask some of the most simple qualification questions.

Find somebody else that’s done it really well and learn from them. Ask questions. Mimic their structure and messaging. Learn from and improve upon what’s come before you.

And have fun. What’s the point of the whole thing if you’re not enjoying yourself?

- Who are some authors that you would love to work with in the future?

ALL OF THEM.

But, to name a few, P. Djelli Clark, Sarah Gailey, Garth Nix, Glen Cook, N.K Jemisin, Matthew Woodring Stover, Robin Hobb, Nnedi Okorafar, Scott Lynch, Nicholas Eames, C.S. Friedman, R.F. Kuang, Andrzej Sapkowski, Seanan McGuire, Graham McNeill, Dan Abnett, Adrian Selby, Brian McLellan …. Ahhhhhhh it’s a pretty long list.

And for a deadest hailmary pass, George R.R. Martin (maybe for an intro).

- Grimdark Magazine issues and anthologies release some of the best short stories in the Grimdark genre, but what are the three things that you and your team look for in a short piece of fiction when deciding what to feature?

While I’ve seen entire essays and huge tirades written on the topic, I’ve always kept this really simple. When I read a grimdark story, I always look for:

1) A grim story: a sense of foreboding and fear, something that weighs on you, shocks you, leaves you with your jaw on the floor or a sick feeling in your stomach.
2) A dark world: be it fantasy or fiction, I want to feel like this story is happening in an oppressive situation, or somewhere things are pretty rapidly going to hell.
3) A morally grey protagonist: this, THIS, I cannot stress enough. Grimdark is about character. It’s about the anti-hero. It’s about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and the right thing for the wrong reasons. It’s about perspective and seeing the world from somebody’s you normally wouldn’t on an ethical level (versus on a not-having-magic-powers or being-the-best-swordsperson-who-ever-lived level).

If this Kickstarter hits the AU$62,000 level, we’ll open up a full-paid slot for authors to submit to an open window, and I hope they read this post before doing so!

- I know that you are an individual who has worn many hats. You have been a reviewer, site creator, editor, and Kickstarter. What is something that you have learned from each position that you would have never guessed going into it?

I’ve done a bit of everything at GdM, but I think the key learning I’ve had is about how you treat people both in your volunteer teams and the marketplace. Just don’t be a bag of sweaty dicks. It’s literally that simple. Try to do right by your team and your community and they’ll look after you. Deliver on your commitments. Help people when they are in a tough spot if you can. Do right by them, and they’ll back you and look after you. The publishing and reading community is one of the best communities out there and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

- What blogs/ reviewers are your go to sites for Grimdark book reviews?

Apart from this one you mean!!!???

I’d say Tor.com is the gold standard for any sort of reviews or commentary, Booknest.eu, Beforewegoblog.com, Black Gate, The Fantasy Hive, Fantasy Book Critic, SFF World, Novel Notions, and The Fantasy Inn are the key ones I’d look at. I’d never say they are niche grimdark reviewers like we are, but they do review a lot of the stuff I like to read.

Thanks for dropping by, Adrian.

No worries. I love a good chin wag!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link..

Here's the blurb:

Now optioned as a TV series for HBO, with executive producer George R. R. Martin!

An award-winning literary author enters the world of magical realism with her World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a remarkable woman in post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means "Who fears death?" in an ancient language.

It doesn't take long for Onye to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her conception. She is Ewu—a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by her community. But Onye is not the average Ewu. Even as a child, she manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Desperate to elude her would-be murderer and to understand her own nature, she embarks on a journey in which she grapples with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately learns why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death.

C. S. Friedman contest winner!

Thanks to the generosity of the author, this lucky winner will get his hands on copies of C. S. Friedman's latest, This Virtual Night (Canada, USA, Europe), as well as its predecessor, This Alien Shore.

The winner is:

Richard Slobod, from Tuxedo, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 20th)

In hardcover:
 
V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue maintains its position at number 13.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 13th)

In hardcover:
 
V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down two positions, ending the week at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Susanna Clarke's Piranesi for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller's Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 6th)

In hardcover:
 
V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up one position, ending the week at number 11.

The Desert Prince


I'm quite behind on Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle series and I have no excuses to account for that sad state of affairs. So when I was asked if I'd like an early read of his forthcoming The Desert Prince, I knew I couldn't say no. Especially given the fact that the novel is supposedly a good starting point for new readers to jump in.

In retrospect, Brett's latest work shares a lot of similarities with his debut, The Warded Man. As such, it is an introduction to what appears to be a much bigger and multilayered story arc. Time will tell if this new trilogy will manage to live up to the potential generated by the Demon Cycle. This is not readily apparent based on this first installment, but little did people know that the author's first series would reach such heights.

Here's the blurb:

Fifteen years have passed since the end of the war with demons, creatures of darkness who have hunted the night and plagued humanity since time out of mind. The heroes of mankind’s hour of need have become legend, and those who remain struggle to escape their shadows.

Olive Paper and Darin Bales have grown up in this new peaceful world. Demons have been all but destroyed, but dangers still lurk for the children of heroes.

Olive, Princess of Hollow, has her entire life planned out by her mother, Duchess Leesha Paper: a steady march on a checklist to prepare her for succession. The more her mother writes the script, the more Olive rails against playing the parts she is assigned.

Darin faces challenges of a different kind. Though free to choose his own path, the weight of legacy hangs heavy around his shoulders. It isn’t easy being the son of the man people say saved the world. Everyone expects greatness from Darin, but the only thing he’s ever been great at is hiding.

But when Olive and Darin step across the wards one night, they learn the demons are not all gone, and those that remain hunger for revenge. Events are set in motion that only prophecy can foresee as Olive and Darin seek to find their own places in the world in time to save it again.


So is this the perfect opportunity for new readers to jump in? Well, yes and no. A lot of efforts were made to make sure readers unfamiliar with the original series would understand what's going on. Other than missing out on certain nuances, The Desert Prince stands very well on its own. It does spoil the Demon Cycle rather thoroughly, however. For someone like me, who had yet to read the whole thing, it made me realize how much I have missed. And how I can't really go back and enjoy these books as much as I should have. Hence, it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to begin with Brett's newest offering, or go back and start with his international bestselling sequence beforehand.

Long-time fans will relish the opportunity to return to Brett's universe and get reacquainted with characters from the first series and be introduced to their offspring and new faces. I was surprised how similar in style and tone The Desert Prince was compared to The Warded Man. Both are character-driven novels, first and foremost. Which means that the worldbuilding essentially remains in the background throughout most of the tale. In that regard, fans who have read the Demon Cycle might get a bit more out of the story than newbies. As I mentioned, this book is an introduction meant to set the stage for what comes next and readers get few answers to the many questions that come to mind as one reads on. For the most part, I felt that Brett lays the groundwork for a lot of things to come. But like the protagonists, until the end we are left in the dark regarding most of what goes on. The story is never dull, mind you. It just makes you want to read the sequel ASAP.

In style and tone, The Desert Prince is YA through and through. So much so that I contacted Brett to see if this was a YA series. Way back when in 2008, during our first interview, the author addressed the "dreaded" YA moniker in regards to his work. He understood how his writing style, along with the fact that the early parts of The Warded Man dealt with the protagonists’ childhoods, could make the book appear to be meant for a younger audience. But his target readers were always adults. The author felt that he dealt frankly with a lot of harsh adult themes and topics, and tried to engage the reader directly with them. He showcased characters in their childhoods to let the reader share the pivotal moments of their lives that shape their characters and adult motivations, not as an attempt to market to young readers. Brett told me that it was the same with his latest work. He and his publishers are treating it as adult fiction and it will be interesting to see what the upcoming installments will bring in terms of character growth and maturity. God knows the Demon Cycle was no YA series by any stretch of the imagination. Having said that, The Desert Prince doesn't really show any signs that its sequels will veer toward adult fiction. Indeed, it's chock-full of teenage angst, black-and-white views, and often dumb decisions. You may or may not find that off-putting. Your mileage will vary in that regard and will likely influence how much you like/dislike this book.

First-person narratives are always tricky. It can be even trickier to capture the imagination of adult readers and suck them into your tale when your main protagonists are all teenagers. We witness events through the perspectives of two characters: Olive Paper and Darin Bales. Both are well-drawn and three-dimensional, and I felt that there was a good balance between the two POVs. I understand that there was no way to dodge the bullet and we had to go through the feeling of the "ugh-I'm-so-misunderstood-what-is-life?" part of adolescence with both protagonists. But I must admit that it grated on my nerves from time to time. I would have liked to have a third point of view, an adult perspective, to help dilute all that teenage angst. Thankfully, the supporting cast comprised of old and new characters helps with that. I just wish one of them could have had his or her own POV. Micha's especially, who was a personal favorite of mine. 

Kudos to Peter V. Brett for taking one hell of a chance with one of the protagonists. This is something I would have expected from someone like Jacqueline Carey, who is no stranger to such things. Brett did something that will take certain readers far out of their comfort zone and it remains to be seen how this will be received by his fans. When asked about it, Brett explained that sensitivity reads made him feel that he handled it rather well and that as an author it's his job to take readers out of their comfort zone. Time will tell if that's the case or not. I don't want to spoil this and I hope no advance reviews will do so. But I'm curious to see how readers will react and how it will affect the story in the subsequent volumes. Because it's kind of a big deal. . . A very big deal, actually!

The YA tone ensures that the language will not shock virgin ears. Indeed, The Desert Prince would receive the Brandon Sanderson seal of approval. I mean, I swear more and let fly more expletives when I bang my toe on something than what you get in the 600+ pages of this novel. In terms of action, Peter V. Brett can give Sanderson and Salvatore a run for their money and his latest is full of choreographed battle scenes.

The pace can be quite uneven, especially in the early portions of the book. But once it gets rolling, there's no denying that The Desert Prince maintains a good rhythm from here on out. The finale and the ending, in particular, are thrilling. Revelations come late, alas, but they do leave the door open for what should be an interesting set of sequels. Hopefully, as was the case with the Demon Cycle, character growth and maturity will make our protagonists easier to root for.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title, check out these Amazon Associates links: Canada, USA, Europe.