Dead Things

I discovered the Eric Carter series in a Daw Books Facebook post announcing new relases a few weeks back. Not sure how this could happen, but I had never heard of Stephen Blackmoore prior to seeing that post. Even worse, I was kind of shocked to find out that Cult Classic was the 9th volume in a series which debuted in 2013. Read the blurb for the first installment and got in touch with the folks at Daw to see if they could hook me up with a copy. They were happy to oblige and I'm glad I gave this book a shot.

As always with urban fantasy series featuring a male lead, I was afraid that it could be a Dresden clone. Yet though there are similarities between Butcher's Dresden Files and this one, such as a powerful mostly self-taught young magic-user with ex-girlfriend issues, with few friends and plenty of enemies, and with untapped power levels that he is unaware of, who has come to the attention of higher beings who may seek to recruit or kill him, Eric Carter is no Harry Dresden. Even though Dead Things may read like the episodic early Dresden Files installments, the novel is more of a paranormal and gritty noir murder mystery work than anything else. Expect more blood and gore and a somewhat engaging protagonist, but not as endearing as Harry Dresden turned out to be. I have a feeling that this is intentional and that Eric Carter will grow on the audience as the story unfolds through the sequels.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen Blackmoore's dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He's turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he'd never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister's been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it's the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who's taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter's going to find out who did it, and he's going to make them pay.

As long as they don't kill him first.

What I probably hate the most about urban fantasy works is that the market demands that they be short and relatively fast-paced reads. As a result, the opening chapter of any series in this subgenre is always parsimonious on the worldbuilding front. That aspect is built upon with each subsequent novel, sometimes reaching amazing and unanticipated heights. It's too early to tell whether or not this aspect of the Eric Carter series will echo with the sort of depth that has come to characterize urban fantasy series by authors such as Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, or if worldbuilding elements will always remain in the background, with the author providing just enough information for the reader to understand what's going on and little else. Blackmoore does a good job explaining how necromancy works and how Carter can use his powers. The same goes for his surprisingly powerful magical toys, which give him a few aces up his sleeve. However, very little is said about how the magical world at large actually works. The same goes for the theology behind said world. Sure, there are gods, goddesses, monsters, etc, but exactly where they fit in the greater scheme of things remains to be seen. Making the death goddess Santa Muerte, patron saint of the Narcos, part of the story gave it a new flavor and will likely have important repercussions down the line. In the end, though the worldbuilding needs a lot of fleshing out, the ideas and concepts introduced by Stephen Blackmoore are intriguing enough to make me want to discover more. As with any other first volume in urban fantasy series, that's all that matters.

As a do-gooder at heart but with a knack to see most of what he touches turn to shit, Eric Carter is an easy protagonist to root for. True, he's a foul-mouthed smartass who gets beaten to a pulp way too many times in the span of such a short book, but there is something about him that makes you care for the poor sod. Imagine if Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad was a badass necromancer. Again, Dead Things doesn't allow for any character development and he's mostly an idiot because he's trying to protect those he loves without realizing that he's alienating them in the process. But as is usually the case for any urban fantasy main character, there seems to be much more to him than meets the eye. Time will tell if that's the case or not. Carter has been running from his past for a long time and now it's catching up to him. The supporting cast is made up of an interesting bunch and like everything else they would benefit from some fleshing out as well. Still, Vivian, Alex, Tabitha, and the immortal bartender Darius all add layers to this story.

Blackmoore captures the LA noir setting extremely well and he keeps the tale moving at a good clip. Pace is never an issue from cover to cover, and it's quite entertaining to follow Carter's first person narrative as every stupid decision he makes forces him to find new ways to get out of the mess he made again and again. Such a structure might get old fast if the main protagonist doesn't wise up at some point. And yet, for the duration of the revenge plot that is Dead Things, it made for a fun ride.

If you are looking for a gritty urban fantasy novel featuring a deeply flawed male lead, Dead Things is for you. There is definitely potential for bigger and better things to come. It remains to be seen whether or not Stephen Blackmoore can up his game and elevate this series to another level.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download RJ Barker's Age of Assassins 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:

A young apprentice to an assassin becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that could destroy a kingdom in a brilliant epic fantasy debut by David Gemmell Award-nominated author RJ Barker.

To catch an assassin, use an assassin...

Girton Club-foot has no family, a crippled leg, and is apprenticed to the best assassin in the land. He's learning the art of taking lives, but his latest mission tasks him with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life.

Someone is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder.

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies, Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.

You can also download K. J. Parker's Devices and Desires for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance -- one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others. . .

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker's embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion -- his devices and desires.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun 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:

Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

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

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Stephen King's Holly maintains its position at number 3.

Cassandra Clare's Sword Catcher debuts at number 4.

Alix E. Harrow's Starling House is down four spots, finishing the week at number 12.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood maintains its position at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

There are a lot of Black Friday deals on Amazon, but here are 3 that are great buys! =)

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts' Daughter of the Empire, first installment in the excellent Empire trilogy, 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:

An epic tale of adventure and intrigue, Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.

Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan. Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni. While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir. Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival. But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy. Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all—in his own impregnable stronghold.

You can also download Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane 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:

A major new work from "a writer to make readers rejoice" (Minneapolis Star Tribune)— a moving story of memory, magic, and survival.

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

If you can't afford a physical copy of the gorgeous Assassin's Apprentice: The Illustrated Edition by Robin Hobb, you can now get your hands on the digital edition 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:

A gorgeously illustrated anniversary edition of the book that launched the epic Farseer Trilogy, praised by George R. R. Martin as “fantasy as it ought to be written” and Lin-Manuel Miranda as “an incredible series,” featuring a new foreword by Robin Hobb and ten illustrations.

Twenty-five years ago, Robin Hobb’s first novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Thus began a beloved saga spanning multiple series, full of adventure, magic, and sinister plots. To celebrate a quarter-century of wonder, this special edition of Assassin’s Apprentice presents a modern classic as it’s never been seen before, with ten beautiful illustrations by Magali Villeneuve.

Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill—and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.

As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

System Collapse

You probably recall that I enjoyed the first four Murderbot Diaries novellas, but I felt that too much of the plot always involved Murderbot saving a bunch of clueless and often stupid people. As fun and entertaining as these novellas turned out to be, it was all becoming a little redundant. In the future, I was hoping that Wells would elevate her game and bring this series to another level.

Which she did in Network Effect, the first novel-length project featuring Murderbot. At first, it felt a little like more of the same. But when the author kicked the story into high gear, the book became a thrilling ride that made you want to beg for more.

Then came Fugitive Telemetry, which takes place before Network Effect. This was a little disappointing because the new novella couldn't move the story forward. Moreover, Martha Wells went for more or less the same recipe and this is getting a old. It still was as fun to read as the original novellas, but the novel proved that the author could push the envelope further and add layers to this tale and its characters. In that regard, I felt that Fugitive Telemetry was a backward step, relying on the same ingredients that made the past installments a commercial success instead of trying to move toward bigger and better things.

As the direct sequel of Network Effect, I was hoping that this new Murderbot story would raise the bar higher than ever. Alas, it's becoming clear that the Murderbot Diaries are a cash cow for Tordotcom and that they have no intention of making this series reach new heights. Unless it's by small and relatively expensive increments, that is. Indeed, System Collapse reads like the second part of Network Effect, and it's evident that these two books should have been a single novel. Like its predecessors, System Collapse is an engaging read. But the magic has worn off. It feels like Wells is microwaving leftovers and rehashing the exact same plotlines over and over again.

Here's the blurb:

Everyone's favorite lethal SecUnit is back in the next installment in Martha Wells's New York Times bestselling Murderbot Diaries series.

Am I making it worse? I think I'm making it worse.

Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.

But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!

Yeah, this plan is... not going to work.

For the most part, System Collapse deals with the aftermath of the events covered in Network Effect. As such, the worldbuilding aspect is once more kept to a bare minimum. There's very little in terms of revelations or new concepts/ideas and this newest work maintains the episodic format of the Murderbot Diaries. As always, there seems to be more than meets the eye. As mentioned in my previous reviews, as limited in scope and vision as all these novels/novellas/short stories appear to be, numerous signs hint that there is a depth to the storylines that will be explored in the future. Network Effect was definitely a step in the right direction. Still, just how ambitious and multilayered the Murderbot Diaries will turn out to be remains to be seen. Problem is, Martha Wells and Tordotcom appear to be in no hurry whatsoever. As I've said before, I'm well aware that this is more about Murderbot's perspective and its interactions with humans and non-humans. But at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, the overall story arc will have to gain definition and substance. Unfortunately, System Collapse did nothing to push the series in that direction. If anything, it's another step backward.

First-person narratives are always tricky, but Martha Wells created an extremely endearing main character. Murderbot's POV definitely gives these works their unique flavor and makes this antisocial SecUnit one of the most interesting protagonists in science fiction today. Murderbot's perspective, full of sarcasm and social awkwardness, is as fun to read as it's always been. The return of ART, whatever form it takes, is also a pleasure. The supporting cast in this one seemed to be a little better than before, though I still have a hard time differentiating one character from the next. So much focus is put on Murderbot's point of view that the human characters, with a few exceptions, sort of feel interchangeable and it's difficult to keep track of them all.

Once again, Murderbot is called upon to save people. Yes, that's pretty much all it does in every story thus far. As long as each new novella/novel/short story builds on the groundwork laid by its predecessor, I would have no problem with that. Problem is, it's not the case and this is beginning to be quite frustrating. As was the case with Fugitive Telemetry, System Collapse doesn't cover a lot of ground and seems to be yet another a example of same old, same old. As my expectations have grown with each new title, and as Network Effect sent them soaring, the last two Murderbot releases can be nothing but disappointments. No matter how charitable one tries to be, it sure looks as though they're trying to milk this series as much as humanly possible. And given the size of these books, even if you can mathematically call System Collapse a novel-length project, charging nearly as much for what is essentially little more than a novella as you'd pay for doorstoppers by Tad Williams, Brandon Sanderson, or Neal Stephenson, it makes for poor value. Especially in this economy.

Given its small size, System Collapse doesn't suffer from pacing issues. I went through it in just a couple of sittings. Though I enjoyed it, there's no denying that something's missing. Network Effect raised the bar higher than it's ever been before and I'm now looking forward to more ambitous and complex storylines. Time will tell if Martha Wells can step up to the plate and follow through with bigger and better Murderbot adventures.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Warriorborn: A Cinder Spires Novella 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 the blurb:

From the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of the Dresden Files comes an all-new, action-packed fantasy adventure set in the Cinder Spires universe.

Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster hasn’t even broken in his lieutenant’s insignia when he’s summoned to meet with the Spirearch of Spire Albion himself for a very special—and very secret—purpose. The Spirearch needs Benedict to retrieve a bag he’s “misplaced” on the Colony Spire known as Dependence, which has strangely cut off all contact with the outside world. It’s a delicate mission at best, a potential bloodbath at worst.

To this end, the Spirearch has supplied Benedict with backup in the form of three Warriorborn. But unlike the courageous lieutenant, this trio has formerly used its special gifts for crime, carnage, and outright bloody murder. And all of them were caught and imprisoned because of Benedict. Now, if they behave—and make it back alive—they’ll go free.

But when the odd squad reaches Dependence, they soon discover something waiting for them: a horrific weapon that could shatter the balance of power among the Spires. And Benedict will have to bring his own Warriorborn skills to bear if he, his team, and Spire Albion are to have any hope of survival . . .

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

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Stephen King's Holly is up one position, ending the week at number 3.

Kerri Maniscalco's Throne of the Fallen debuts at number 5.

Alix E. Harrow's Starling House debuts at number 8.

Thea Guanzon's The Hurricane Wars debuts at number 12.

Brandon Sanderson's Yumi and the Nightmare Painter debuts at number 13.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Sky and Breath is down six spots, finishing the week at number 7.

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood is down twelve positions, ending the week at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Finally, you can download Richard Kadrey's The Wrong Dead Guy 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:

In this fast paced sequel to The Everything Box—the second entry in New York Times bestselling author Richard Kadrey’s comedic supernatural series—chaos ensues when Coop and the team at DOPS steal a not-quite-dead and very lovesick ancient Egyptian mummy wielding some terrifying magic.

Coop, a master thief sort of gone legit, saved the world from an ancient doomsday device—heroism that earned him a gig working for the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome top secret government agency that polices the odd and strange. Now Woolrich, Coop’s boss at the DOPS, has Coop breaking into a traveling antiquities show to steal a sarcophagus containing the mummy of a powerful Egyptian wizard named Harkhuf. With the help of his pals Morty, Giselle, and a professor that’s half-cat, half-robotic octopus, Coop pulls off the heist without a hitch.

It’s not Coop’s fault that when DOPS opened the sarcophagus they didn’t find the mummy they were expecting. Well, it was the right mummy, but it wasn’t exactly dead—and now it’s escaped, using a type of magic the organization hasn’t encountered before. Being a boss, Woolrich blames his underling for the screw up and wants Coop to find the missing Harkhuf and make it right, pronto.

Digging into Harkhuf’s history, Coop thinks the mummy is hunting for an ancient magical manuscript that will help him bring his old lover back to life.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t a warrior sorceress hell-bent on conquering the world with her undead armies.

Coop would very much like to run from the oncoming chaos. It’s one thing to steal a mummy, but another to have to deal with head-hunting bureaucrats, down-on-their luck fortune tellers, undead mailroom clerks, and a rather unimpressed elephant. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to run. If he wants the madness to stop, he’s going to have to suck it up and play hero one more time. But if Coop manages to save the world AGAIN, he’s definitely going to want a lot of answers. And a raise.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House 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:

The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

Shadow Speaker

As a big fan Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix, when I found out that a new edition of the out-of-print Shadow Speaker would be published by Daw Books, I immediately requested a review copy. In my excitement, I forgot that the bulk of the author's early career years were spent writing YA material. And having been written a few years before the aforementioned novels, this one is another YA offering.

As such, other than the Africanfuturism setting and some Africanjujuism elements, Shadow Speaker is more akin to Binti than to Who Fears Death or The Book of Phoenix. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Yet your mileage will vary based on your expectations. If, like me, you're expecting an adult SFF work, chances are you might be disappointed. Had I known that it was a YA book, I still would have read it. But I would have gone into it with a different set of expectations and might have enjoyed it more in the end.

Here's the blurb:

Deluxe, expanded edition of an out-of-print early novel from Africanfuturist luminary Nnedi Okorafor, with a brand-new introduction from the author.

Niger, West Africa, 2074

It is an era of tainted technology and mysterious mysticism. A great change has happened all over the planet, and the laws of physics aren’t what they used to be.

Within all this, I introduce you to Ejii Ugabe, a child of the worst type of politician. Back when she was nine years old, she was there as her father met his end. Don’t waste your tears on him: this girl’s father would throw anyone under a bus to gain power. He was a cruel, cruel man, but even so, Ejii did not rejoice at his departure from the world. Children are still learning that some people don’t deserve their love.

Now 15 years old and manifesting the abilities given to her by the strange Earth, Ejii decides to go after the killer of her father. Is it for revenge or something else? You will have to find out by reading this book.

I am the Desert Magician, and this is a novel I have conjured for you, so I’m certainly not going to just tell you here.

I haven't read the original version of Shadow Speaker, so it's unclear how much work the author put into this revised edition. It wasn't rewritten from the ground up, that's for sure. Indeed, it's the work of a much less mature Nnedi Okorafor and it shows. She explores many of the themes that will be at the heart of her future novels and short fiction, and the post-apocalyptic African environment is another fixture she will learn to refine and end up calling Africanfuturism. Unfortunately, though you can definitely catch glimpses of the talented writer she will become, Shadow Speaker is a black and white YA tale that doesn't resound with much depth.

The worldbuilding leaves a little to be desired. There are some cool concepts, especially the peace bombs and the Change and its aftermath. Problem is, those ideas are seldom developped adequately. I would have liked to discover more about the war that engendered the Change. The same goes for the various worlds that are now connected together. More information regarding the various metahumans and their powers would also have been appreciated. Many of the concepts Okorafor introduces are fascinating, yet she spends very little time elaborating on them and that impacts the overall reading experience in negative fashion.

As the title implies, Ejii is a shadow speaker. Her eyes are different than regular people and her special abilities allow her to talk to shadows. She's the child of two tribal leaders in her community. Her father is a Muslim fundamentalist and her mother a more compassionate and moderate woman. When her father is killed for abusing his power, the faction that supported him somewhat ostracize Ejii. Like Binti, Ejii is an engaging protagonist and Okorafor did a good job making readers feel her pain/loss at leaving her family and friends behind as she embarks on a quest to avert a war that could mean the end of everything. Still, the characterization is definitely subpar compared to that of Who Fears Death or The Book of Phoenix. Onyesonwu was brazen, confused, and alienated, which meant that it wasn't always easy to follow the first-person narrative of such a bitter, mad, and ambivalent teen girl. Although no less complex and three-dimensional, Phoenix was a much easier protagonist to root for. As an accelerated woman, in many respects she was but a child in an adult's body. But that child was forced to grow up fast and face truths that would change her life. Ejii, for all of her teenage angst, can't hold a candle to either of them. Dikéogu, the second main character, is even worse in that regard. The rest of the supporting cast, with the exception of Jaa, Buji, and Gambo, are more or less forgettable. Again, a little more depth would have gone a long way.

Weighing in at 325 pages, Shadow Speaker is a relatively short novel. Still, the pace can be an issue at times. Though the narrative flows well for the better part of the novel, the rhythm can occasionally be sluggish, especially when Ejii and her traveling companions first depart on their quest. This is nothing new, as most travelogue portions of Okorafor's past works suffer from the same shortcoming.

The endgame failed to elevate this book to another level and the somewhat lackluster ending offered little in the way of resolution. Not sure if the original ending was the same, or if it was altered because there is now a sequel about to be released. I'm currently reading Like Thunder, and it appears to be a better read. Time will tell if Nnedi Okorafor can up her game and bring the Desert Magician's duology up to par with her best works.

The final verdict: 6.75/10

For more info about this title, check out this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on one of science fiction's most beloved classics, William Gibson's Neuromancer, 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 Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus-hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century’s most potent visions of the future.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Hill's Horns 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:

Joe Hill's critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning debut chiller, Heart-Shaped Box, heralded the arrival of new royalty onto the dark fantasy scene. With Horns, he polishes his well-deserved crown. A twisted, terrifying new novel of psychological and supernatural suspense, Horns is a devilishly original triumph for the Ray Bradbury Fellowship recipient whose story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, was also honored with a Bram Stoker Award—and whose emotionally powerful and macabre work has been praised by the New York Times as, "wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty…a Valentine from hell."

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

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Stephen King's Holly is down two positions, ending the week at number 4.

V.E. Schwab's The Fragile Threads of Power debuts at number 6.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Sky and Breath debuts at number 1.

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood returns at number 3.

Cover art and blurb reveal for James S. A. Corey's THE MERCY OF GODS

The folks at Orbit just unveiled the cover art and blurb of James S. A. Corey's The Mercy of Gods. Can't wait till next summer!

Here's the blurb:

How humanity came to the planet called Anjiin is lost in the fog of history, but that history is about to end.

The Carryx—part empire, part hive—have waged wars of conquest for centuries, destroying or enslaving species across the galaxy. Now, they are facing a great and deathless enemy. The key to their survival may rest with the humans of Anjiin.

Caught up in academic intrigue and affairs of the heart, Dafyd Alkhor is pleased just to be an assistant to a brilliant scientist and his celebrated research team. Then the Carryx ships descend, decimating the human population and taking the best and brightest of Anjiin society away to serve on the Carryx homeworld, and Dafyd is swept along with them.

They are dropped in the middle of a struggle they barely understand, set in a competition against the other captive species with extinction as the price of failure. Only Dafyd and a handful of his companions see past the Darwinian contest to the deeper game that they must play to survive: learning to understand—and manipulate—the Carryx themselves.

With a noble but suicidal human rebellion on one hand and strange and murderous enemies on the other, the team pays a terrible price to become the trusted servants of their new rulers.

Dafyd Alkhor is a simple man swept up in events that are beyond his control and more vast than his imagination. He will become the champion of humanity and its betrayer, the most hated man in history and the guardian of his people.

This is where his story begins.

Cinder Spires news

In my review of Jim Butcher's The Olympian Affair, I claimed that two books into this series and it's still unclear whether or not this is an alien world or a post-apocalyptic Earth. My galley didn't include any maps, so I couldn't tell. But now that the novel is out, the map it contains shows that the action takes place in the skies above what used to be the USA.

Here's the blurb:

The fate of the Cinder Spires may be decided by crossed swords in the next exhilarating fantasy adventure from the author of the Dresden Files, in this New York Times bestselling series of noble families, swordplay, and airships.

For centuries the Cinder Spires have safeguarded humanity, rising far above the deadly surface world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses rule, developing scientific marvels and building fleets of airships for defense and trade.

Now, the Spires hover on the brink of open war.

Everyone knows it’s coming. The guns of the great airship fleets that control the skies between the last bastions of humanity will soon speak in anger, and Spire Albion stands alone against the overwhelming might of Spire Aurora’s Armada and its new secret weapon–one capable of destroying the populations of entire Spires.

A trading summit at Spire Olympia provides an opportunity for the Spirearch, Lord Albion, to secure alliances that will shape the outcomes of the war, and to that end he dispatches privateer Captain Francis Madison Grimm and the crew of the AMS Predator to bolster the Spirearch’s diplomatic agents.

It will take daring, skill, and no small amount of showmanship to convince the world to stand with Spire Albion–assuming that it is not already too late.

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

A Peace to End All Peace

I can't really write a comprehensive review of this book because I lack the expertise to do so. All I can say is that it's an amazing read that shines some light on many of the current problems in the Middle East.

David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace is a meticulously researched work that is surpringly easy to read if you are into history. Going in depth as it does, the book is the perfect primer if you are interested in Middle Eastern affairs and conflicts and have always wondered how it all began.

I just wish it covered events beyond 1922.

Here's the blurb:

Published with a new afterword from the author―the classic, bestselling account of how the modern Middle East was created.

The Middle East has long been a region of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and ambitions. All of these conflicts―including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis, and the violent challenges posed by Iraq's competing sects―are rooted in the region's political inheritance: the arrangements, unities, and divisions imposed by the Allies after the First World War.

In A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin reveals how and why the Allies drew lines on an empty map that remade the geography and politics of the Middle East. Focusing on the formative years of 1914 to 1922, when all seemed possible, he delivers in this sweeping and magisterial book the definitive account of this defining time, showing how the choices narrowed and the Middle East began along a road that led to the conflicts and confusion that continue to this day.

A new afterword from Fromkin, written for this edition of the book, includes his invaluable, updated assessment of this region of the world today, and on what this history has to teach us.

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

Quote of the Day

Nobody tried to stop him, of course. That's not how wizards roll. The only interest anyone took was purely academic. We couldn't give a rat's ass as long as he doesn't rain on our parade or draw too much attention from the normals.

Magic's like Fight Club that way. You don't talk about it. Can't have the regular folk knowing this shit's real. We might have to share.


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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kevin Hearne's Hounded, the first volume in the Iron Druid Chronicles, 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 first novel in the Iron Druid Chronicles—introducing a cool, new, funny urban fantasy hero.

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

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Chris Wooding's The Ember Blade for only 0.99$ 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:

Empires rise, civilisations fall and one culture comes to subsume another. It's the way of the world . . . sometimes ways of life are improved, sometimes they are not. But the progression of change is huge and - usually - unstoppable.

In this story, the Ossian way of life is fading and the Dachen way is taking its place and Aren is comfortable with that. Even when his parents are accused of treason he supports the establishment and maintains there's been some mistake . . . which is all it takes to get himself and his best friend arrested . . .

Thrown into a prison mine they plan their escape - only to be overtaken by events when they're rescued, and promptly find themselves in the middle of an ambush. By the time they've escaped, they're unavoidably linked to Garric - their unwelcome saviour - and his quest to overturn to Dachen way of life.

If they leave Garric now, they'll be arrested or killed by their pursuers. If they turn him in, Garric will kill them. If they stay with him, they'll be abetting a murderous quest they don't believe in. There are no good options - but Aren will still have to choose a path . . .

Designed to return to classic fantasy adventures and values, from a modern perspective, this is a fast-moving coming-of-age trilogy featuring a strong cast of diverse characters, brilliant set-pieces and a strong character and plot driven story.

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

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing is up one spot, finishing the week at number 1.

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

John Scalzi's Starter Villain debuts at number 14.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Sebastien de Castell's The Malevolent Seven for only 0.99$ 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:

'Seven powerful mages want to make the world a better place. We're going to kill them first.'

Picture a wizard. Go ahead, close your eyes. There he is, see? Skinny old guy with a long straggly beard. No doubt he's wearing iridescent silk robes that couldn't protect his frail body from a light breeze. The hat's a must, too, right? Big, floppy thing, covered in esoteric symbols that would instantly show every other mage where this one gets his magic? Wouldn't want a simple steel helmet or something that might, you know, protect the part of him most needed for conjuring magical forces from being bashed in with a mace (or pretty much any household object).

Now open your eyes and let me show you what a real war mage looks like . . . but be warned: you're probably not going to like it, because we're violent, angry, dangerously broken people who sell our skills to the highest bidder and be damned to any moral or ethical considerations.

At least, until such irritating concepts as friendship and the end of the world get in the way.

My name is Cade Ombra, and though I currently make my living as a mercenary wonderist, I used to have a far more noble-sounding job title - until I discovered the people I worked for weren't quite as noble as I'd believed. Now I'm on the run and my only friend, a homicidal thunder mage, has invited me to join him on a suicide mission against the seven deadliest mages on the continent.

Time to recruit some very bad people to help us on this job . . .

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.