More inexpensive ebook goodies!

If you missed it last time, you can once again download Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

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

In hardcover:
Leigh Bardugo's Hell Bent debuts at number 1. For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

Stephen King's Fairy Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

R. F. Kuang's Babel is down three spots, finishing the week at number 13.

US cover art and blurb reveal for C. S. Friedman's NIGHTBORN

C. S. Friedman just unveiled the US cover art and blurb for the upcoming Coldfire prequel Nightborn. The book will also include a revised edition of the novella Dominion. Very excited about this one!

You can pre-order it by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

A prequel to the lauded Coldfire trilogy, Friedman's latest novel mixes the best of dark fantasy and chilling sci-fi.

A ship full of colonists arrive on a seemingly hospitable planet, only to discover that it harbors a terrifying secret. Soon the settlers find themselves caught up in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, bringing a person’s greatest fears and darkest nightmares to life.

As Colony Commander Leon Case and Chief Medic Lise Perez struggle to find a way to control the fae before more people die, other settlers have ideas of their own…and they may prove more of a threat to colony than the fae itself.

Nightborn: Coldfire Rising is a tale that blends sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, suspenseful and emotionally intense, as a handful of humans struggle to survive on an alien world that seems determined to kill them. In the end they will have to draw upon both scientific knowledge and mystical traditions to save themselves.

Whether you're just discovering the Coldfire universe through this prequel or returning to it as a classic favorite, Nightborn: Coldfire Rising is the perfect entry point to this unique, genre-blending space fantasy epic.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on Robert R. McCammon's The Wolf's Hour for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale. It's considered one of the best werewolf novels ever written!

Here's the blurb:

Master spy, Nazi hunter—and werewolf on the prowl—in occupied Paris: A classic of dark fantasy from a Bram Stoker Award—winning author.

Allied Intelligence has been warned: A Nazi strategy designed to thwart the D-Day invasion is underway. A Russian émigré turned operative for the British Secret Service, Michael Gallatin has been brought out of retirement as a personal courier. His mission: Parachute into Nazi-occupied France, search out the informant under close watch by the Gestapo, and recover the vital information necessary to subvert the mysterious Nazi plan called Iron Fist.

Fearlessly devoted to the challenge, Gallatin is the one agent uniquely qualified to meet it—he’s a werewolf.

Now, as shifting as the shadows on the dangerous streets of Paris, a master spy is on the scent of unimaginable evil. But with the Normandy landings only hours away, it’s going to be a race against time. For Gallatin, caught in the dark heart of the Third Reich’s twisted death machine, there is only one way to succeed. He must unleash his own internal demons and redefine the meaning of the horror of war.

From the award-winning author of Swan Song and Boy’s Life, this is a “powerful novel [that] fuses WWII espionage thriller and dark fantasy. Richly detailed, intricately plotted, fast-paced historical suspense is enhanced by McCammon’s unique take on the werewolf myth” (Publishers Weekly).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Naomi Novik's The Golden Enclaves for 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's a blurb:

The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out. Not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way. But it’s all we dream about: the hideously slim chance we’ll survive to make it out the gates and improbably find ourselves with a life ahead of us, a life outside the Scholomance halls.

And now the impossible dream has come true. I’m out, we’re all out—and I didn’t even have to turn into a monstrous dark witch to make it happen. So much for my great-grandmother’s prophecy of doom and destruction. I didn’t kill enclavers, I saved them. Me and Orion and our allies. Our graduation plan worked to perfection: We saved everyone and made the world safe for all wizards and brought peace and harmony to all the enclaves everywhere.

Ha, only joking! Actually, it’s gone all wrong. Someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in my stead, and probably everyone we saved is about to get killed in the brewing enclave war. And the first thing I’ve got to do now, having miraculously gotten out of the Scholomance, is turn straight around and find a way back in.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Tamsyn Muir's Nona the Ninth for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's a blurb:

Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona's not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger's body, and she's afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Justin Cronin's international bestseller, The Passage, for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's a blurb:

'It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.'

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear - of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he's done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey - spanning miles and decades - towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

You can download Stephen King's The Stand for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Andy Weir's The Martian for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Two magicians shall appear in England.

The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me...

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s The Magic of Recluce for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

And here's the blurb for The Magic of Recluce:

With The Magic of Recluce, L.E. Modesitt made his impressive hardcover debut, breaking out in wide scope and grand scale with a novel in the great tradition of the war between good and evil in a wonderful fantasy world. Modesitt had been producing fast-paced, slickly-written novels of SF adventure, often compared to the work of Keith Laumer and Gordon R. Dickson. Then, in his biggest and best book yet, he broadened his canvas and turned to fantasy and magic, stepping immediately into the front rank of contemporary fantasy writers.

The Magic of Recluce is a carefully-plotted fantasy novel of character about the growth and education of a young magician. In it, Modesitt confronts real moral issues with gripping force, builds atmosphere slowly and convincingly and gives his central character, Lerris, real intellectual challenges. This is the kind of highly-rationalized fantasy that Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson write when they write fantasy, colorful and detailed.

He is given the standard two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. He chooses dangergeld.

Though magic is rarely discussed openly in Recluce, it becomes clear, when Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, that he has a natural talent for it during his weapons lessons. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. He must learn to use his powers in an orderly way or fall prey to Chaos.

Lerris may resent order, but he has no difficulty choosing good over evil. As he begins his lonely journey, he falls into the company of a gray magician, once of Recluce, who tutors him in the use of magic and shows him some of the devastation caused by the Chaos Wizards in the great wars between Chaos and Order of past times.

Lerris pursues a quest for knowledge and power that leads him across strange lands, through the ghostly ruins of the old capitol of Chaos, down the white roads of the Chaos Wizards to a final battle with the archenemy of Order, discovering in the end true control of magic, true love, and the beginning of true wisdom. An epic adventure, The Magic of Recluce0, is a triumph of fantasy.

The Magic of Recluce is the first book of the saga of Recluce.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Fairy Tale is down three positions, ending the week at number 6. For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

R. F. Kuang's Babel is down eight spots, finishing the week at number 10.

The Broken Crown

Well, I'm quite late to this party. More than two decades late, I'm afraid. Michelle West's The Broken Crown was originally published in 1997 and it took me this long to finally give it a shot. Better late than never, I know. Yet I really feel like an idiot, especially given how much I enjoyed this novel.

You'll probably recall that I was actually looking for this one when I was going through the boxes of books I have in storage, but instead got my hands on my Kate Elliott works and elected to give King's Dragon and then Prince of Dogs a go. Alas, I couldn't find any of my Michelle West titles and I was forced to order another copy of The Broken Crown. I received it before the Holidays and decided to bring it with me on my latest South American adventure in Colombia. I started to read it in Cartagena and finished it in Medellin, and it was an amazing read!

Can't believe I waited this long to finally read it. And again, I have no excuse. The only good thing is that I don't have to wait months/years between installments and I can now read the sequels as soon as I wish. So in that regard at least, my stupidity paid off.

Here's the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

If you peruse reviews and West-related posts on the internet, you'll see that no one truly agrees on what makes the best starting point for the Essalieyan saga. The Sacred Hunt duology, comprised of Hunter's Oath and Hunter's Death, occurs first in the timeline but is considered weaker than the rest because the books were published first when the author wasn't as experienced. The Sun Sword series, of which The Broken Crown is the first volume, comes next. It was followed by the House War sequence, whose first three installments take place prior to the events of the Sun Sword series and the last five volumes taking place after. If you ask what's the best way to jump into the saga, many will argue that The Broken Crown is the perfect entry point, while others will encourage you to read the first three House War books first. So yes, it can be a little complicated to choose exactly where to begin. In the end, since West wrote the House War to further flesh out characters and events from the Sun Sword and then to elaborate on the aftermath of that series, I felt that going with the publication order might be the best way to go. And to all ends and purposes, it worked out fine for me. There are references to the Sacred Hunt, but it's not necessary to have read the duology to follow and understand what's going on. Although I'm persuaded that there are some nuances, especially with everything that has to do with the seer Evayne's storyline, that were lost on me. In many ways, though they share nothing in common in style and tone, starting to read Michelle West's The Broken Crown felt akin to reading Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. You get that you're thrust into something that's already underway and that the author will not spoon-feed you all the information that you'd like to know immediately. But as was the case with the first Malazan installment, if you just buckle up and let the tale unfold at its own pace, you'll be rewarded with a great read. Because it does take quite a while for the whole story to come together.

The worldbuilding is incredible. West has an eye for details and the imagery she creates leaps off the page at every turn. Whether it's the Dominion, influenced by both Arabic (but not Islamic) and Japanese cultures, or the Essalieyan Empire, loosely based more on Western cultures and traditions, there is a depth to her universe that is seldom achieved in the fantasy genre. Yes, West can be repetitive and sometimes certain readers might feel like it's overdone a bit, but the author has created a world that lives and breathes. And though there are some action scenes, political intrigue lies at the heart of this novel. This is adult fantasy in its truest form, so don't expect any bells and whistles à la Brandon Sanderson. Slowly but surely, Michelle West weaves a tapestry that is as complex as it is multilayered. And in a deeply patriarchal society like the Dominion, where women have so few rights, it was a joy to see female characters with agency finding ways to directly and indirectly affect the world around them.

Structurally, The Broken Crown has issues that readers could find off-putting. There is a long prologue featuring characters that you'll never see again that sets the stage for what comes next and that only begins to make sense much later in the novel. Surely this could have been done in less than 76 pages. Perusing online reviews of people who never finished the book, most of them never got past this prologue. And though the bulk of the tale occurs in the Dominion, at one point one of the storylines forces the author to shift her focus to the Essalieyan Empire and thus introduce us to a slew of new men and women that will eventually return later in the series, but whom you won't get to see again in this book. Though I personally had no problem with that approach, it's obvious that many a reader found it jarring. Considering that the Dramatis Personae is akin to that of some of the later installments in Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, that makes a lot of characters to keep track of. Especially given that this is just the first volume in the series. Hence, like Gardens of the Moon, if for different reasons, The Broken Crown is not the easiest speculative fiction work to get into.

The characterization is particularly well-done. Both the Dominion and Essalieyan Empire feature three-dimensional men and women, and the supporting cast is made up of plenty of interesting secondary characters. While it's true that it takes time for the author to flesh them out, I felt that West did an excellent job building on those relationships as the story progressed. Readers looking for strong (and remember that strength comes in many guises) female leads will find a lot to like about Serra Teresa, Serra Diora, the Kalakar, Princess Mirialyn, Kiriel, and a few others. Truth to tell, I can't recall the last time I read a novel in which so many female characters played such an important role in the plot.

Michelle West's beautiful prose is reminiscent of that of Guy Gavriel Kay, or Jacqueline Carey. Having said that, there's no denying that the author is quite verbose and that countless portions of this novel were overwritten. I understand that it's a question of style, but regardless of how beautifully written it turned out to be, bloat remains bloat. Which in turn doesn't help with the rhythm, so it's no surprise that The Broken Crown suffers from pacing issues. Indeed, this novel is a slow-paced work from start to finish. And when I say slow, I mean that West makes L. E. Modesitt, jr. look like R. A. Salvatore. According to the same aforementioned reviews, it appears that lots of readers lost interest at some point for that very reason. But those who decided to stick with it were rewarded with a remarkable and captivating read. So I encourage you to stick with it.

And though the plot moves slowly, as the various threads come together to form the endgame, West caps it all off with the sort of ending that makes it impossible not to want to read the next volume. Hence,  although it will not appeal to readers looking for fast-paced and action-packed adventures, those who relish big, sprawling fantasy epics featuring well-drawn protagonists should enjoy The Broken Crown.

Looking forward to the next one!

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download David Louis Edelman's Infoquake for only 6.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

The entire trilogy was excellent and I'm not sure why so few people still talk about it and whatever happened to the author. Definitely something you should read if you haven't had the chance yet!

Here's the blurb:

Natch is a master of bio/logics, the programming of the human body. He's clawed and scraped his way to the top of the bio/logics market using little more than his wits. Now his sudden notoriety has brought him to the attention of Margaret Surina, the owner of a mysterious new technology called MultiReal. Only by enlisting Natch's devious mind can Margaret keep MultiReal out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless armies. To fend off the intricate net of enemies closing in around him, Natch and his apprentices must accomplish the impossible. They must understand this strange new technology, run through the product development cycle, and prepare MultiReal for release to the public—all in three days. Meanwhile, hanging over everything is the spectre of the infoquake, a lethal burst of energy that's disrupting the bio/logic networks and threatening to send the world crashing back into the Dark Ages.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Paul Kearney's excellent A Different Kingdom for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods—once thought safe and well-explored—there are wolves; and other, stranger things. He keeps them from his family, even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend, until the day he finds himself in the Other Place. There are wild people, and terrible monsters, and a girl called Cat.

When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away—or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place. He will become a man, and a warrior, and confront the Devil himself: the terrible Dark Horseman...

And the two sequels, The Way to Babylon and Riding the Unicorn, are also on sale! =)

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

In hardcover:

R. F. Kuang's Babel is up nine spots, finishing the week at number 2.

Stephen King's Fairy Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 3. For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Witch King

Following the great success of the Murderbot Diaries, I was excited when I heard that Martha Wells would return to the fantasy genre with a new novel. It's been over two decades since I last read a fantasy title from the author, so I was curious to see what her new work would be all about. I immediately said yes when I was offered an ARC. Then I brought the book with me on my trip to Colombia and couldn't wait to start reading it.

Though I really wanted to like it, there's no way to sugarcoat this. Witch King turned out to be a disappointment. So much so that it felt as though this might be a cash-grab on Tordotcom's part.

Here's the blurb:

From the breakout SFF superstar author of Murderbot comes a remarkable story of power and friendship, of trust and betrayal, and of the families we choose.

"I didn't know you were a... demon."
"You idiot. I'm the demon."

Kai's having a long day in Martha Wells' WITCH KING....

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

The novel's structure can be problematic at times. The story follows two timelines, the past and the present. This duality works well at the beginning. Yet it tends to get confusing, especially in the middle portion of the book when the plot feels so similar that both timelines sort of blur together from time to time. Understandably, the flashback scenes are meant to flesh out events and protagonists taking center stage in the present. Trouble is, for the most part those sequences totally fail to do so. Given that the bulk of the story is told from Kai's perspective, the flashbacks do provide some insight into the demon's character and the way its powers work. Which is great. On the other hand, no other protagonist goes through even a modicum of character growth in the six decades that span the two timelines. Even worse, basically no light is shed on any of the questions raised both in the past and the present. Wells came up with some cool and interesting concepts and ideas in Witch King, but she refuses to elaborate on the majority of them. By the time I reached the last page, to all ends and purposes I knew almost as little about The Hierarchs and their coming, the Immortal Blessed, the expositors and their amalgams, the Rising World, or the world at large, etc, as I did when I started the book. The author provides bits and pieces, little hints here and there, but nothing you can truly sink your teeth into. Which means that you read on, never quite understanding what's going on and why the protagonists act the way they do.

And although she eschews revealing any important information, à la Robert Jordan Martha Wells goes out of her way to describe every stich of every single garment worn by anyone appearing on page and does the same with facial features. Sign of the times, Witch King features a nonbinary main protagonist, badass lesbians, and a cast made up of mostly Middle Eastern-like men and women. The bad guys are white. Interestingly enough, the top of the world is to the south, not the north. Throughout the entire novel, Wells will dwell on stuff that, at face value at least, seems to have little or no importance in the greater scheme of things. But on the coming of the Hierarchs from the south and their quest to conquer the world, on the war itself, on the actors that fought and then helped create the Rising World Coalition, on the aftermath of the war and the peaceful years that followed, she provides little or no information whatsoever. To a certain extent, it feels as though Witch King isn't a complete work. Almost like the ARC I was sent only contains the first half of the novel.

Due to the fact that she played her cards so close to her chest regarding the worldbuilding and given what appears to be a particularly weak political intrigue, the only thing that could save this book was the characterization. And in that regard at least, Wells came up with another disparate bunch of fun characters. Having said that, other than Kai, all the others are two-dimensional characters that lack substance. It's all good to have witty dialogue, but it only goes so far when none of the protagonists have any depth. Even with Kai and Ziede, who are the closest protagonists of the tale, other than perhaps Ziede and Tahren, none of the two timelines show us how they became this close. Instead of describing skirts and fabrics, I would have preferred for Wells to further flesh out characters and relationships, so we could understand who they are and what drives them. The author came up with an interesting group of men and women, both in the past and in the present, yet we know next to nothing about their motivations. There's obviously more to them than meets the eye. Ramad immediately comes to mind and so does Tahren. Unfortunately, Wells elected not to elaborate on most of them.

As mentioned, it feels as though Witch King is incomplete. In many ways, it's like reading the introduction of a story. The structure of the novel precludes any kind of endgame or resolution. It's not that it ends in a cliffhanger. The books simply ends the way a normal chapter ends. You reach the final page, shaking your head and wondering what just happened. To a certain extent, it sometimes feels like this is not the final draft, that something big is missing. As if Tordotcom decided to publish an unfinished manuscript, hoping to capitalize on Martha Wells' commercial success and milk her popularity for all it's worth. Otherwise, I'm at a loss to explain how things could have turned out this way.

Indeed, Witch King could be the least self-contained fantasy work I've ever read. I'm disappointed, but I have to keep in mind that I received a free review copy. Hard to believe that anyone who pays 28.99$ for the hardcover or 14.99$ for the digital edition will not feel cheated somehow. I know that's how I feel at the moment.

And the most dismaying thing about Witch King is that it has all the ingredients for a good story waiting to be told. More revelations could have demonstrated that the worldbuilding is indeed complex and fascinating. Fleshing out the characters would have added layers to the storylines. As it is, it's impossible to tell just how good or bad this series will ultimately be. Will I read the sequel? Given that I'm still intrigued and this is Martha Wells, probably. Had this been written by a debut author, not a chance. Time will tell. . .

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Stephen King and Owen King's Sleeping Beauties for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

In this spectacular New York Times bestselling father/son collaboration that “barrels along like a freight train” (Publishers Weekly), Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep: they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent. And while they sleep they go to another place, a better place, where harmony prevails and conflict is rare. One woman, the mysterious “Eve Black,” is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Eve a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain?

Abandoned, left to their increasingly primal urges, the men divide into warring factions, some wanted to kill Eve, some to save her. Others exploit the chaos to wreak their own vengeance on new enemies. All turn to violence in a suddenly all-male world. Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a woman’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously dramatic father-son collaboration that feels particularly urgent and relevant today.

Quote of the Day

The enemy of an enemy was almost as good as a friend.

- MICHELLE WEST, The Broken Crown

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

Finished this novel and it was great! Review to come soon. =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download the first omnibus edition of Paul Kearney's The Monarchies of God, Hawkwood and the Kings, for only 5.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale. The second omnibus, Century of the Soldier, comprised of the last three volumes of the series, is also on sale.

Here's the blurb:

This omnibus ebook contains the first two novels in the Monarchies of God series - 'Hawkwood's Voyage' and 'The Heretic Kings'.


For Richard Hawkwood and his crew, a desperate venture to carry refugees to the uncharted land across the Great Western Ocean offers the only chance of escape from the Inceptines' pyres.

In the East, Lofantyr, Abeleyn and Mark – three of the five Ramusian Kings – have defied the cruel pontiff's purge and must fight to hold their thrones through excommunication, intrigue and civil war.

In the quiet monastery city of Charibon, two humble monks make a discovery that will change the whole world.

Aekir, the Holy City, has fallen and all now seems lost, but even on the eve of destruction the Faithful still war amongst themselves...

'Hawkwood and the Kings' collects 'Hawkwood's Voyage' and 'The Heretic Kings', the first two books in Paul Kearney's spectacular 'The Monarchies of God' cycle.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Fairy Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 2. For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

R. F. Kuang's Babel is up three spots, finishing the week at number 11.

The Outsider

I wasn't planning on reading another Stephen King title just yet, but it's the slow season at work and I needed something I could smuggle on the sales floor to read while no one was looking. I chose The Outsider at random, not even knowing that Holly Gibney, one of my favorite King protagonists of recent years, was part of the story.

I was lucky with this random selection, for this novel is another compelling read. You don't need to have read the Bill Hodges trilogy to fully enjoy this one, but knowing more about Holly's background will give you more insight into her character. Up to you. Having said that, The Outsider works as a great standalone read.

Here's the blurb:

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

King sets up the mood from the very first page and The Outsider starts with the kind of opening scene that grabs hold of you and won't let go. The gruesome crime that's been committed demands a decisive response to reassure the people of Flint City that something is being done to protect their children from a murderous madman. But after arresting the suspect, despite what appears to be incontrovertible evidence, Detective Ralph Anderson and District Attorney Bill Samuels soon realize that they might be wrong. As unthinkable as it sounds. From then on, the book is impossible to put down!

As the man in charge of the investigation, Ralph Anderson's perspective takes center stage in the first part of the novel. Until the Terrence Maitland case goes down the crapper and the detective is put on administrative leave. Though it gets him into trouble, he continues to investigate the case. At this point, new POVs get more "air time," chief among them those of Howie Gold, the Maitland family lawyer, and Alec Pelley, one of the investigators that work for him. It is Pelley who will get in touch with Holly Gibney to ask for her help, and that's how Holly becomes part of the investigation. Asked to look into where the van used to kidnap the victim was originally stolen, Holly will discover that two little girls were murdered in similar fashion months before in a different part of the country. From that point on, they realize that they're not facing an ordinary killer. We also get the perspective of Detective Jack Hoskins, who holds a grudge against Anderson, and whose involvement could spell disaster for those trying to clear Maitland's name.

The first portion of the book, starting with Maitland's arrest until the end of his investigation, reads like a murder mystery/police procedural. There are no paranormal elements at the beginning, which was also the case with Mr. Mercedes. This part is the most tightly written of The Outsider. It's only after Holly gets involved that they realize that they might be facing a supernatural murderer. Though still good, there are parts where the plot meanders a little until it all comes together later on.

The endgame is particularly engaging and here's to hoping that we haven't seen the last of Holly. It's no secret that Stephen King has problems with ending his works on a high note. Not so with The Outsider, however. The author sticks the landing and brings this novel to a satisfying close.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Robert McCammon's Swan Song for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

McCammon’s epic bestselling novel about a girl psychic struggling to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

Something flashes in nine-year-old Swan’s brain, telling her that trouble is coming. Maybe it’s her mother, fed up with her current boyfriend and ready to abandon their dismal trailer park and seek a new home. But something far worse is on the horizon. Death falls from the sky—nuclear bombs which annihilate American civilization. Though Swan survives the blast, this young psychic’s war is just beginning.

As the survivors try to make new lives in the wasteland, an evil army forms, intent on murdering all those tainted with the diseases brought by fallout. When Swan finds a mysterious amulet that could hold the key to humankind’s salvation, she draws the attention of a man more dangerous than any nuclear bomb. To rescue mankind, this little girl will have to grow up fast.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.