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- ► 2012 (287)
- “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss (Reviewe...
- Three Short Stories from KJ Parker: "Amor Vincia ...
- "Succumbing To Gravity" by Richard Farnsworth (Rev...
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- Orbit Acquires Michael Sullivan's Ryria Revelation...
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Order “The Wise Man’s Fear” HERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “The Name of the Wind”
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Patrick Rothfuss is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point with a B.A. in English, while earning his Masters at Washington State University. His debut novel, The Name of the Wind, is a New York Times bestseller and 2007 Quill Award winner. He is also the author of “The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle” and is the brainchild behind the Worldbuilders charity through Heifer International.
PLOT SUMMARY: My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me...
So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view—a story unequaled in fantasy literature. Now in The Wise Man’s Fear, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, an escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to the kingdom of Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild in an attempt to solve the mystery of who—or what—is waylaying travelers on the King's Road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived . . . until Kvothe.
In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.
CLASSIFICATION: There are different types of epic fantasy. There is the kind written by George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson which features huge casts of characters, multiple storylines and subplots, epic battles, and world-altering events. Then there is the kind that can be found in the Soldier Son trilogy by Robin Hobb, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series and The Imager Portfolio by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. This kind of epic fantasy is character-driven, intimate, introspective. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss is of the latter variety with a little Harry Potter charm thrown into the mix. Regarding The Wise Man’s Fear specifically, there is a surprisingly gratuitous amount of sex in the book—tastefully done though I might add—the occasional curse word, and a few moments of dark violence, but for the most part the novel maintains a PG-13 rating.
FORMAT/INFO: The Wise Man’s Fear is 1008 pages long divided over a Prologue, 147 titled chapters, and an Epilogue. Like The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is a framed story with the framing parts set during the novel’s present day and narrated in the third-person. The story that is framed, which comprises the majority of the novel, is narrated in the first-person via Kvothe. The Wise Man’s Fear is the second volume—or Day Two—in The Kingkiller Chronicle after The Name of the Wind. While The Wise Man’s Fear is a middle volume in a trilogy, the book is structured so it has its own beginning, middle and end. The Kingkiller Chronicle is set to conclude with the tentatively titled, The Doors of Stone.
March 1, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The Wise Man’s Fear via DAW. The UK version (see below) will be published on the same day via Gollancz.
ANALYSIS: To say that The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is one of the most anticipated novels of the year is a bit of an understatement. Not only is The Wise Man’s Fear the sequel to The Name of the Wind, arguably the most hyped and successful fantasy debut ever, but the unexpectedly long wait time between books has increased expectations even further. As readers may or may not remember, when The Name of the Wind was released in 2007, we were led to believe that the already written sequel would be published the following year. Instead, a one-year wait turned into four years. The reasons for the delay have been well-documented, but it basically came down to what was more important: rushing out a product as soon as possible or taking the necessary time to produce the best product possible? Personally, I believe quality is always more important, and after finishing The Wise Man’s Fear, I can confidently say that the decision to delay the book’s release was the correct one.
At the end of the day, despite all of its praise and recognition, The Name of the Wind was far from perfect. The book after all, was still a debut effort. Still rough around the edges with uneven pacing, one-dimensional supporting characters, and shallow world-building some of the novel’s more notable flaws. So when the two books are compared against each other, it’s easy to see how much Patrick Rothfuss has grown as a writer and how much better The Wise Man’s Fear is than The Name of the Wind. The writing for instance, is much more polished. The prose is more refined, the pacing is tighter with fewer lulls, and the overall flow of the narrative is smoother, which is especially impressive considering how much bigger the novel is than its predecessor.
Supporting characters remain largely one-dimensional, but this time around Patrick Rothfuss does a better job of injecting his characters, both old and new—Denna, Wilem, Sim, Auri, Master Elodin, Puppet, Maer Alveron, Bredon, Tempi, Felurian, Vashet—with color and personality. This is aided by much improved dialogue, which helps to mask the characters’ lack of depth with entertaining conversation. In fact, dialogue is one of the novel’s greatest strengths, with Kvothe & Denna’s playful banter and Kvothe’s interactions with Auri, Puppet and the Adem some of my favorite moments in The Wise Man’s Fear. On the flipside, the lack of villains in the book, or more specifically a tangible antagonist, is a bit disappointing.
As far as the shallow world-building, little has changed. The Chandrian and the Amyr for example, remain a mystery, although there is a reasonable explanation for their lack of information. The same can’t be said for why the rest of ‘The Four Corners of Civilization’ is largely ignored, but at least Patrick Rothfuss branches out in The Wise Man’s Fear to give readers a taste of the world’s different cultures and races including the Fae; the Kingdom of Vintas with their superstitions, prejudices, and courtly customs & politics; and the Adem with their unique method of communication which includes hand signals, their way of life which follows the Lethani, and their Ketan fighting style. If you also factor in the author’s well-developed magic system—sympathy, sygaldry, naming—with all of its various rules and restrictions, then one can see how Patrick Rothfuss at least possesses the capacity for more detailed world-building.
Perhaps the greatest improvement made between The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear is with the story. Looking back, not a lot really happens in The Name of the Wind, at least nothing major, while the novel’s climactic moments involving a herbivorous dragon, Kvothe’s rival student Ambrose and a possessed mercenary left a lot to be desired, especially considering the lengthy page count and the hype that came with the book. To be fair, the story in The Wise Man’s Fear suffers from some of the same issues as its predecessor does like major plotlines failing to progress and the author spending an extravagant amount of time on Kvothe’s day-to-day minutiae—his studies at the University, his money problems, Ambrose, courting Denna, his love life, et cetera—but as a whole, The Wise Man’s Fear is much more rewarding than The Name of the Wind. Part of it is being able to experience the more dramatic events responsible for shaping the various legends tied to Kvothe with specific highlights including the spectacular manner in which Kvothe defeated a group of bandits, his adventures in the Fae realm with the mythological Felurian, training with the Adem, and rescuing a pair of innocent girls on the road to Levinshir, but it’s also because the story is a lot more entertaining. Then there’s the ending which Patrick Rothfuss handles beautifully, slowly winding down the story to a satisfying stopping point, while tantalizing clues and unfinished business serve as reminders for the third and final volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle.
Now if there is one part of The Name of the Wind that needed little fixing, it was Kvothe’s first-person narrative. Charming, heartfelt, and highly accessible, Kvothe’s narrative was easily a major strength of the first novel, even if the protagonist came off arrogant at times and accomplished things no one his age should be able to accomplish. In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe is still arrogant at times and still accomplishes things that defy his age, but at the same time, the book does a better job of showing off Kvothe’s fallible side including his vanity and his dark temper and his powerful thirst for knowledge. What I personally love about the narrative is the wide range of topics Kvothe covers in intimate detail over the course of his story. In The Wise Man’s Fear, these topics include Kvothe’s music, performing sympathy and sygaldry, working in the Fishery, navigating the Archives, learning how to scout, learning the Ademic language, studying the Ketan, courting Denna and sharing stories like the one about the boy with the gold screw in his belly button, the Faeriniel crossroads, the tale about Aethe and the beginning of the Adem, Felurian, and my personal favorite, the boy who loved the moon. Throughout all of this, Kvothe’s narrative is complemented with witty humor, interesting observations, and thoughtful insights:
“We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”
“Secrets of the heart are different. They are private and painful, and we want nothing more than to hide them from the world. They do not swell and press against the mouth. They live in the heart, and the longer they are kept, the heavier they become.”
“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.”
While Kvothe’s narrative may have been a strength in The Name of the Wind, the same can’t be said for the framing parts—the Prologue, Epilogue and various Interludes—which in comparison were a bit dull and brought little to the table. Not much has changed for them in The Wise Man’s Fear. The framing parts are still somewhat tedious, while providing few answers about why Kvothe became an innkeeper, his relationship with Bast, and the current state of their world. That said, the mystery regarding Kvothe’s chest is intriguing, while the framing parts do work well as a contrast to how far Kvothe has fallen from the hero he once was and how much stories can differ from the truth.
CONCLUSION: The release of The Wise Man’s Fear may have taken longer than expected, but it was definitely worth the wait. Compared to The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is everything that made the first novel such a huge success except bigger, better and more rewarding. Granted, many of the same flaws that ailed The Name of the Wind can still be found in The Wise Man’s Fear, but considering the vast improvements made to the sequel, these issues are only minor annoyances. To put it simply, anyone who enjoyed The Name of the Wind will be blown away by The Wise Man’s Fear. The book is that much better. Even more, there is no doubt in my mind that The Wise Man’s Fear will end up being one of the best fantasy novels of the year. As far as the third and final volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, Patrick Rothfuss can take as much time as he needs to finish the book. If The Wise Man’s Fear is any indication, it will be worth waiting for...
Read FBC Review of The Hammer
Read FBC Review of Blue and Gold
Read FBC Review of The Folding Knife
Read FBC Review of Purple and Black
Read FBC Review of A Rich Full Week (ss from anthology)
Read FBC Review of The Scavenger Trilogy
Subterranean Press keeps publishing wonderful stuff from KJ Parker, so after the two superb novellas Blue and Gold and Purple and Black, there are two short stories published in their magazine, one in the Summer of 2010 edition and one in the Winter 2011 one, as well as another story in their upcoming anthology Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 which will be published later in the Spring and has already a review from us done and scheduled tbp in April.
Here I will discuss these three stories and while the anthology one will be available only later, the other two are available free online so you can read them now!
Amor Vincia Omnit (read it HERE) is a story set in the same milieu as A Rich Full Week with strong similarities with the world of The Fencer trilogy, where magic is both science - as the magicians see it - and religion as the regular people see it. There are "brothers", "adepts", the Studium, the curriculum and then on graduation the degrees of proficiency and adept ranks and the classically named spells that add so much to the depth: Choris Anthrop, Unam Sanctum....
Amor Vincia Omnit follows another Studium scholar sent to deal with a problem as in a Rich Full Week, though in this case, the issue is possibly of a truly exceptional nature: an untrained magician of great raw talent possibly solved "Lorica", a far reaching conjecture in magic hoped to be unsolvable by the powers to be and became invincible for all practical purposes, though of course he does not realize it and behaves like a child with a match.
Our hero Framea, a bright rising star of the Studium is sent to investigate and solve the problem at all costs, and in the author's expected style, at all costs means precisely that and we are treated to a suspensful but quite dark story that is as good an introduction to KJ Parker's work as anything.
A Small Price to Pay for a Birdsong (read it HERE) is set in a world similar to the ones of Blue and Gold, Purple and Black, The Folding Knife, The Company and The Hammer, which are what our world would have looked like were it to continue unbroken from the classical Greek-Roman world without a messianic religion and the idea of progress it brought.
So no magic, but a deep sense of history and priceless moments in which the narrator, a talented musician who scrapped his way up from the lower classes to a (non-tenured yet) professorship at the Academy, muses on the irony of fate when dealing with an unstable musical genius who tries to wiggle his way out of hanging for some stupid bar brawl killing...
Twists and turns including one at the end that I really did not see though it was hinted subtly in retrospect and a great story about art, society and the relationship between the two. Characters rather than action shine here and I strongly recomend this one too.
A Room with a View is also set in the milieu of the Studium as the first story above and it is shorter and for the most part funnier though being a KJ Parker story it turns darker at the end. I really laughed out loud page after page at the musings of our hero, an underachieving "wizard" seen as of of great potential as a child, but who barely qualified as adept and on failing in job interview after job interview has become a "list freelance adept" called upon for the most unpleasant jobs the local masters need extra people with magic for.
In this case looking into the minds of thousands of imported dogs in a border town to make sure they do not bring "demons" in the country and to top it all, having to do a mentoring job which our narrator utterly hates; more than the dogs actually...
The story has the most detail about the magical system of the author with the "rooms" and what they are and how you move there and there are quotes after quotes that represent KJ Parker at the author's best. The ending is twisty and darker as mentioned though I felt this story needed an extra page or two and it would have been perfect; still an excellent one!
"Fundamentally, I believe, comedy and tragedy are the same thing, right up to the end. At the end, in comedy they get out of the mess they're in and live happily ever after. In tragedy, they all die. But there's a tipping point, a moment when it's so evenly balanced it could go either way"
Overall these three stories published by Subterranean confirm why KJ Parker is at the top of the genre today in terms of creativity, originality and subtlety!
Official Author Blog
Order the book HERE
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Richard Farnsworth is a scientist and soldier who decided to give in to his passion for the written word. He received his doctorate from Baylor College of medicine in cell and molecular biology. He has also served his country in the Iraq war as an Apache AH-64 gunship pilot. He lives with his family in Norfolk, Virginia. He also has various previous short story publications. This is his debut.
BOOK BLURB: Greg used to be an angel, but that was an eternity ago… Back when he was Araqiel, part of the celestial chorus… Back before he gave in to his temptations…. Before his fall!
FORMAT/INFO: The e-ARC of “Succumbing to Gravity” stands at 216 pages divided over forty-five numbered, continuous chapters. The chapter narration is primarily in first person by Greg and secondarily in third person via two characters namely Maria Furcal and Detective Frank Graves.
“Succumbing to Gravity” is a solo dark urban fantasy thriller with philosophical overtones. July 14, 2010 marked the Trade paperback publication of the book by Reliquary Press.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I received a query about this book and these specific words “Heroin addicted angel” which were used in the plot description, got me interested. The story is set in both first and third person POV-format however the flow is pretty much evened out. The story begins with Greg who’s reminiscing about his days as an angel before his fall. His name was Araqiel then however he and a score of angels fell and since have been reminiscing about their glory days in various ways. Greg finds solace in heroin which gives him a peace of sorts and allows him to transcend his physical form and reminisce what it felt like to fly free.
Currently he’s shacked up with a runaway names Sarah who helps him stay sane (as much as that is possible) and also helps get odd jobs as a fortune teller. On a routine job like that he comes across a Dominican woman called Maria Furcal, who seems to be having nightmares about a man who’s hunting her however she doesn’t recognize him except for the fact that his intentions seem particularly threatening. Greg notices a peculiarity about her but does not care to decipher it, He however does warn her to place salt around her bed when she sleeps to avoid these nightmares. Unsatisfied with Greg’s assessment Maria does pay his charges and leaves. Sarah however notices that Greg might be withholding some information and when he reveals that she is in more mortal danger than he told her. Sarah immediately leaves Greg and goes in search of Maria.
Greg later on regrets his decision and decided to go after Sarah & Maria. His actions however do not bear fruit the way he wants them to. A deplorable event occurs which causes him to meet with detectives Frank Graves & Dominique Etcher. Things go from worse to perilous for Greg as he experiences Frank's bad cop side due to his actions and non-compliant attitude. Later on when Maria arrives to identify Greg, trouble arrives with reinforcements and then from here on the tale kicks up as Greg must do his best to protect Maria who’s soul is coveted by his brethren for reasons undisclosed & also at the same time he has to watch his back from Frank Graves who thinks Greg’s existence as an anathema to humanity. The tale then zooms along to its emphatic climax as Greg has to make a choice and therefore make a stand with or against his fallen herald. This story was a very different read because the subject matter while being explored in a variety of ways previously by different authors; is presented in a succinct, emotional way to hook the reader and get them involved.
The prose is competent and often showcases the characters brilliantly in all their flaws. The characters are the main draw in this story as Greg/Araqiel is the central thread which binds this tale we get to see him in all of his previous glory and current squalor. His uneasiness at the current situation is portrayed eloquently throughout the book and showcases that redemption can begin at any step for every one no matter how great the previous fall. The other two characters of Maria and Frank serve as a counterfoil to Greg as we often see him through their eyes as well and can see the confusion and disgust inspired by his actions. Maria’s character however feels a bit under-developed as she often acts as the damsel in distress and rarely shows any initiative especially when she’s supposed to the tale’s epicenter. Frank on the other hand is showcased as a cynical cop however we are given some viewpoints into his actions which are revealing and make his actions believable.
The drawback to this book was that while the author has given us a very emotional story, the pacing is bit languid. This does hamper the read from time to time. The apparent central issue of the tale when revealed does not seem so gargantuan & in the end, there’s a reveal about one of the characters which seemed very off as the reasoning just didn’t make sense to me (this was a personal observation and might not be the case for other readers). There were also a few editing errors which can be concerning for some readers however do not ultimately detract anything from the reading experience.
CONCLUSION: In the end while this book was a good read, it didn’t really measure up to its evocative blurb. Therefore while I think Richard Farnsworth is very much talented and am interested to see what he writes in the future; for me Succumbing to Gravity remains a good book which could have been better.
Order What Time Forgets HERE (tpb) or HERE (Kindle)
INTRODUCTION: "What Time Forgets" is a recently published independent book about which we have received a review inquiry a week or two ago and as with all such that have an interesting blurb for me - criteria are mentioned in my post about notable 2010 Independent Books - I took a look at the available sample.
Since I quite liked what I read there despite not having too much of a clue where the book plans to go, I asked for a review copy and it jumped close to the top of my reading queue. The blurb below is fairly generic and actually the novel goes in some surprising directions, so I will discuss the setup in more detail later.
I would also add that What Time Forgets belongs to the relatively recent breed of books that freely mix genres and genre conventions and do not fit in a clear "subgenre" while still being core *secondary world sff adventures*: there are prophecies but not an ancient evil on a world domination/destruction quest that just got reawakened, mysterious artifacts of power, but not in quite the "magic talisman/sword" way we read in so many books and I could continue with sf-nal analogies too....
"Seers and cutthroat politicians, technocrats and a warrior class, jockey for power in a world where memories imperil the future. A soldier and a determined young woman, adversaries with their own secrets, ally to find the key that will avert a terrible reckoning on their world. A prophecy takes them from a mercenary’s stronghold to an oracle’s decaying temple, on to a monastery’s long-buried secrets and, finally, to a violent confrontation in a long-ruined fortress at sea’s edge. A final justice may well sacrifice everything they know"
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "What Time Forgets" starts with a bang when a ship is boarded by enemies after being attacked with cannon fire and a dying man slips a pendant into the hands of a younger man who then slips away through a secret hatch. Then we are introduced to the city of Ard Creggan where the main storyline starts and we witness a discussion about pendants involving Zoe Deich, younger scion and heir of the city's first family, whose great-aunt Livia is the nominal head of Concordia, the assembly of the leading Ten Families that control the oligarchic city.
However we soon find out information that starts to undermine the more-or-less traditional setup with a city dominated by noble families - the "Publicans" - that control mineral wealth and mostly pre-industrial technology - though with guns and some metal industry - and who is in conflict with an agrarian, more numerous and aggressively egalitarian but poorer society - the "Citizens".
There is the mysterious Counselor that came out of nowhere centuries ago and unified the noble families and taught them how to make iron and guns and hence dominate the surrounding areas, there are long-lived seers - so the powers and longevity of the Counselor are not singular - that can see multiple future paths but are scrupulously neutral, there is Noor a secretive mind reading strange being that was brought by Zoe's diplomat father Jomini in the girl's infancy and has been her "governess" since, though she keeps a low profile so to speak, and there is the upstart miner's son, Sinon Yar who raised himself by hook and by crook to a position of power and wants to break the Publicans and lead Ard Creggan by himself.
We later meet Tiernan, the young man from the opening scene who turns out to be a "soletei" - a member of the Citizens elite military special forces - but with strong ties with Ard Creggan that were forged in the intermittent periods of truce between the two entities. The novel also expands its action way beyond Ard Creggan and we visit quite a few places, meet lots of new characters and see action, intrigue, suspense and more...
So quite an intriguing setup and while twisting and turning and going in unexpected directions, things come together as the novel goes on and What Time Forgets turns out to be a standalone with a clear theme and a definite ending though promising more; the author let me know there will be a next volume.
Looking at what made What Time Forgets a hit with me, I would have to say that the world building and the novel's main storyline with its twists and turns that kept me guessing till the end were the main reasons, while the narrative flowed very well and kept me turning page after page until the end.
The characters are pretty interesting too since while having partly the usual traits, they also have their own quirks and so become distinctive as the book goes on - most notably Zoe and Tiernan but several others I do not want to spoil too, while Sinon Yar makes a somewhat cardboard but still "love to hate" villain.
If there is a niggle outside of minor editing issues, it is the fact that What Time Forgets occasionally gets on the border of "too clever" for its own good with some anachronistic word usage like say (lumpen) proletariat and others, but overall that did not detract too much from the enjoyment of the book and the author's generally ironic modern tone made it sound natural enough, only making me "huh?" after the fact rather than throwing me out of the narrative flow all together.
Overall What Time Forgets (A+) is a highly recommended sff adventure that has both fantasy and sfnal overtones, a book with inventive world building, page turning narrative flow and a lot of twists and turns and come together in a complete package but with a hook for more...
"Orbit is pleased to announce that it has acquired the six-book Riyria Revelations series by author Michael J. Sullivan, in a six-figure deal with agent Teri Tobias of the Teri Tobias Agency LLC. Orbit will be publishing the six titles as three two-book omnibuses in consecutive months in Fall/Winter 2011-2012. The first volume, Theft of Swords, will be published in November 2011; the second volume, Rise of Empire, in December 2011, and the final volume, Heir of Novron, in January 2012.
Senior Editor Devi Pillai says: “This is the kind of fabulous new adventure fantasy that readers of Terry Brooks and Brent Weeks can fall in love with. Michael really delivers a great story that keeps to the idea of great epic fantasy while taking on fantasy clichés and having fun with the idea of two thieves caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I read the first book – and I was hooked.”
Michael J. Sullivan says: “"I couldn't be happier to have The Riyria Revelations released by Orbit. Of all the fantasy imprints, they have shown an unsurpassed eye for quality and I'm both excited and humbled to be included in a select group of authors as talented as Brent Weeks, Gail Carriger, and so many others."
The first book in the saga, The Crown Conspiracy, was self-published through Ridan Publishing, a company started by Sullivan’s wife. He’s been a Kindle bestseller in historical fantasy ever since.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Michael J. Sullivan has lived in Vermont, North Carolina, and Virginia. He worked as a commercial artist and illustrator, founding his own advertising agency in 1996, which he closed in 2005 to pursue writing full-time. He currently resides in Fairfax, Virginia with his wife and three children."Congratulations to Mr. Sullivan!
Here are the FBC reviews of all five volumes so far:
Read FBC Review of The Crown Conspiracy
Read FBC Review of Avempartha
Read FBC Review of Nypron Rising
Read FBC Review of The Emerald Storm
Read FBC Review of Wintertide
Edit 2/23: As noted in comments Mr. Sullivan has a blog post about the announcement, discussing the issue of the 6th volume and in the comments there it is noted that while indeed the last book will be published in early 2012 rather than the expected Spring 2011, Orbit is looking into issuing it as a single volume too in addition to being part of omnibus 3 together with Wintertide, so people who have the first five volumes complete the set. I do not know how the issue will be addressed logistically since short print runs are quite expensive and POD is still in infancy, so it may be done only electronically, but it's good to know that people are listening to readers' concerns!
I also would like to note that while sure, I would have loved to have Percepliquis this spring, the delay is of the order of 8-9 months which is nothing in the traditional publishing slowly moving business model, however much it seems for us used to the fast moving internet world and I am very happy that the series has a chance to get the wide audience it deserves.
BOOK BLURB: Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Marshalling the thieves' guilds under his control, he declares war against the Trifect, an allegiance of wealthy and powerful nobles.
Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since his childhood to be Thren's heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.
Guilds twist and turn, trading allegiances for survival. The Trifect weakens, its reputation broken, its money dwindling... The players take sides as the war nears its end, and Thren puts in motion a plan to execute hundreds. Only Aaron can stop the massacre and protect those he loves...
Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences!
CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a world wherein there are multiple factions at work, this book is a dark, character-driven, gritty fantasy novel in the vein of George R.R. Martin, Brent Weeks and Peter V. Brett.
FORMAT/INFO: A Dance of Cloaks is 217 pages divided over twenty nine numbered chapters with a prologue & epilogue. Narration is in the third person via several different point-of-views, both major characters and supporting ones as well, including the main protagonist Aaron Felhom, Thren Felhom, Alyssa Gemcroft, Kayla, Veliana, Maynard Gemcroft, and many other minor players. A Dance of Cloaks was supposed to be a stand alone novel however the author soon realized that the entire story could not be told in a single volume and hence is the first book in the Shadowdance trilogy.
This book is set in Dezrel, the same world as that of the Half-Orc Series and enough background information is provided for readers. The plot of the book is set before the events of the Half-Orc series. The book ends on a clean note but clearly indicates there is more to follow!
August 19, 2010 marked the North American publication of A Dance of Cloaks via paperback and ebook format. Cover art is provided by Peter Ortiz.
ANALYSIS: I read this book last year however due to certain personal reasons could not get the review published. While I was reading it, I was certainly struck by its fast pace, constant plot switches and mainly the unpredictability it brought to the table. A bit of history before one reads this book, the tale is set in the world of Dezrel, the same one of the Half-Orc series however any new reader can jump into this book and have no problem with it [I did the same]. It focuses on the character of Aaron Felhom who is in line to be the heir to Thren Felhom, the leader of the Spider Guild and a thoroughly deadly individual.
This book originally a standalone was supposed to show how Aaron became the person whom some readers have already met in Book 2 of the Half Orc series. Secondly the author was heavily impressed by George R.R. Martin’s "A Game of Thrones" and therefore was inspired to create a world wherein nothing is ultimately safe and the reader will be forced to turn the page to find out what happens next. It is safe to surmise that David has indeed accomplished what he set out to do.
Firstly there are four primary story threads ongoing in this tale, the first one focuses on Thren and his relentless march to wipeout the Tri-fect and secure a kingdom for himself, the second one focuses on Aaron, Thren’s heir and who is rather forced to learn how to become an effective ruler, the third thread focuses on Maynard Gemcroft, who is worried about his daughter Alyssa and about the precarious nature of his house and lastly Alyssa who is willful and faces danger through her choices. There are a few more characters and I feel to spell it all out would ruin the charm of this book. For most characters, nothing goes out as planned and the atmosphere prevalent is one wherein the reader will be forced to think about each character’s motives and plans.
The author does a fine job of constantly switching the tale focus and keeping the reader hooked with various twists and new POV characters. I was very surprised by this book as I simply went in without any assumptions, and yet I was completely blown away by the writing and overall plot. The prose is very good and draws the reader in and then keeps them hooked. The world setting is not explored much beyond the city of Veldaren but then you hardly notice as the action and intrigue never lets up. The world is much deeper than imagined and we do get glimpses and conversations of other things rummaging on the background but readers who have read the Half-Orc series might be able to glean more from them.
Negative points if any were almost negligible, not that this book is a masterpiece and will be counted as the next “A Game of Thrones”. What it is though; a fine book from an upcoming writer who read the aforementioned book and crafted a worthy tale set in his world. There are a few tropes which have been utilized here but again they have been presented in such a way that you do not cringe. Some readers might be a bit thrown off by the number of POV introduced especially during and just before the climax, also a couple of characters make an appearance after being introduced in the earlier half, but then again its not difficult to read and find out what they are up to. Another thing the author is guilty of; is that of finding the tale is longer than he imagined it to be, but considering his inspiration, this can be easily forgiven.
CONCLUSION: A Dance of Cloaks is a gritty book with intriguing characters and has a plot which will keep you hooked till the end. David Dalglish will definitely be gaining new fans with the release of this book and if he can continue his form with the next two releases in the Shadowdance trilogy, I can foresee him ascending new heights and being counted as one of fantasy’s rising stars.
BOOK BLURB: Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn’t make any difference…
On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on–There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.
Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, her ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price?
The world is about to find out!
CLASSIFICATION: A mix of hardboiled noir with SF and mixed with a subgenre that the author refers to as bug-punk. God’s War is a little hard to classify but to sum it up in a line, it’s a tale of a woman warrior’s search for answers amidst a world of chaos.
FORMAT/INFO: God’s War is 286 pages long, divided over thirty nine numbered chapters, which are grouped into two sections. Narration is in the third person mainly via the protagonist Nyxnissa and a few of the chapters from the view of Rhys, Taite and Khos. God’s War is the first volume in the Umayma trilogy and will be followed by Infidel and Babylon (hopefully). This book can be read as a standalone and ends on a clear note.
January 18, 2011 marked the North American trade paperback publication of God’s War via Night Shade books. Cover art is provided by David Palumbo.
ANALYSIS: I was interested in Kameron Hurley’s book since I had heard about it late in 2009, I had originally included it in my 2010 anticipated list, however due to certain publishing dilemmas this book was given the pink slip by its original publisher and then was picked by Night Shade books. This delayed the book’s publication by nearly a year and so when I contacted Ms. Hurley for a review copy, she gladly obliged & I dove in wondering how it would stack up against my anticipation.
God’s War is divided into two parts, of which the first opens with Nyxnissa entering Faleen after selling her organ and looking for a new job of sorts. She looks up an old acquaintance [if acquaintance is indeed the word] however ends up being introduced to her old comrades who have an ulterior motive in meeting her. The first part thus ends soon after introducing Nyxnissa and Rhys and gives the reader a small but mysterious glimpse of the world of Umayma.
The second part opens a few years later showing Nyx with her rag tag band operating as a mercenary unit and trying to survive in a rather harsh world. They get an assignment of sorts which has every other mercenary, both groups and loners hustling to get more information about the bounty and the target. Something seems amiss to Nyx as the summons come from the Queen of Nasheen. Upon attending the summons, she learns that a visitor from the planet of New Kinaan is missing and if that person is not found or if she falls in to the enemy hands, the war will end very badly for Nasheen. Thus begins Nyx’s odyssey which will see her visit old and new places, meet older enemies and find out what really makes her tick.
Kameron Hurley’s book went slightly against my expectations in the sense that it is a far grittier book than I thought it would be; but the ace in the hole is her world building. The world is revealed bit by bit as the pages rush along and the reader realizes that as good as the story is, the world in itself a far more interesting place to ponder about. There are snippets revealed here and there which help the reader in understanding the history and background of the world. In this regards I found the author’s writing to be a bit similar to that of R. Scott Bakker as the history of the world is revealed slowly and the reader will have to piece things together to form the larger picture. However with an advantage that it’s less dense than Bakker’s books. This is a plus (for me) as while I like Bakker’s world-building and his story, sometimes it feels like a chore to read or re-read his books.
Now there are a few kinks in this debut novel as well, namely the first part acts a 50 page prologue and can be a bit confusing with all the new terms which are used by the characters, this can be a bit disorienting to the reader however once the second part begins and the actual plot kicks in, that’s where the book really picks up speed. Some readers might be a bit put off by the hard protagonist, however Hurley shows off Nyx as a person with many sides to her and by the end of the tale, the reader will surely sympathize for her if not empathize with her. A slight drawback to this tale could be that while the reader gets a detailed view into Nyx, the same cannot be said of the other POV characters (besides Rhys to a certain extent).
CONCLUSION: Over all I really enjoyed this debut novel which was a fun mish mash of SF and hard boiled noir set on a distant world wherein even with a singular religion, society has disintegrated and men[in this case women as well] fight against each other for causes which they believe to be true. Kameron Hurley paints a rather bleak picture of the flaws of mankind which sees them fighting a war and thus repeating history as we are doomed to do.
From the author of the remarkable debut Filaria (FBC Rv), May will see the publication of The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter, a new novel that promises much and starts extremely well. With a title for the ages and a cover that looks pretty cool, here is the blurb:
The city is crumbling . . . . Clouds over Nowy Solum have not parted in a hundred years. Gods have deserted their temples. In the last days of a dying city, the decadent chatelaine chooses a forbidden lover, separating twin outcasts and setting them on independent trajectories that might finally bring down the palace. Then, screaming from the skies, a lone god reappears and a limbless prophet is carried through South Gate, into Nowy Solum, with a message for all: beyond the city, something ancient and monumental has come awake.
From the author of the remarkable collection Objects of Worship (FBC Rv), April will see the publication of The Door to Lost Pages. From what I gleamed so far, this book is a mix between a novel and a collection of related stories in the vein of the superb Things We Didn't See Coming.
Here is the blurb:
Step through the door to lost pages and escape a life you never wanted . . .
On her tenth birthday, Aydee runs away from home and from her neglectful parents. At first, surviving alone on the streets is harsh, but a series of frightening, bewildering encounters with strange primordial creatures leads her to a bookshop called Lost Pages, where she steps into a fantastic, sometimes dangerous, but exciting life. Aydee grows up at the reality-hopping Lost Pages, which seems to attract a clientele that is both eccentric and desperate. She is repeatedly drawn into an eternal war between enigmatic gods and monsters, until the day she is confronted by her worst nightmare: herself.*************************************************************
Napier's Bones (tbp March) is a novel that attracted my attention for two reasons; first as being published by Chi-Zine which so far never put a book out that "felt for me" and disappointed; second the blurb is irresistible for someone with a math background, so I decided to give it a try and I will let you know what I think - the first pages read quite well, so I will get to this one sooner rather than later.
What if, in a world where mathematics could be magic, the thing you desired most was also trying to kill you?
Dom is a numerate, someone able to see and control numbers and use them as a form of magic. While seeking a mathematical item of immense power that has only been whispered about, it all goes south for Dom, and he finds himself on the run across three countries on two continents, with two unlikely companions in tow and a numerate of unfathomable strength hot on his tail. Along the way are giant creatures of stone and earth, statues come alive, numerical wonders cast over hundreds of years, and the very real possibility that he won't make it out of this alive. And both of his companions have secrets so deep that even they aren't aware of them, and one of those secrets could make for a seismic shift in how Dom and all other numerates see and interact with the world.
Edit 2/28: I finished this and it was a very good read, conventional (UF) formula in structure but the content made it worth and the author has a flowing style that kept the pages turning. Here are some raw thoughts with the full review in several weeks:
"Napier's Bones is a very entertaining mix of sf and UF; the structure is all UF (evil being with superpowers, awakened in our day and time wants to take over and change all, good guys have to stop it but to start they are too puny, so there are chases, hidden powers, unexpected allies and all the paraphernalia of traditional fantasy set in our world and time) but the content is all sfnal since the conceit of the novel is numbers as magic and there is a lot of real fun numerology - I have no idea if the author has read Martin Gardner's ultra-entertaining essays on numerology but the stuff in the novel is as good as anything there and the book is worth reading if only for that.
The characters are ok though nothing outside stock and some of the major twists are easily seen but the writing flows well, the pages turn by themselves and the book is a very entertaining reading experience with a great ending. Another recommended book - and a positive surprise for 2011."
AUTHOR INFORMATION: James R. Bowman was born and brought up in Ipswich, Suffolk. He currently resides there with his family. He’s been fascinated by Native American culture and has relished his inquisitive nature by making a trip over to the American Southwest. He’s also been shortlisted for the Brit Writer's Published Writer of the Year 2010 award. This is his debut novel.
PLOT SUMMARY: Death, War, Famine and Pestilence; known to the sentient races of the Multiverse as the Absolutes, face their greatest threat since the first race made its mark on the cosmos. The Adversary, Lucifer s right hand and enforcer has decided the time has come for him to take charge instead of orders; freeing Fenris the Dread Wolf to aid him and systematically wiping out the Earth s guardians those individuals whose destiny it was to protect the world from extinction and slavery he gathers his forces, poised to strike and annihilate humanity. The world as mortal kind knows it stands to fall and the age of humans is about to end. Extinction is only moments away.
Two heroes rise to challenge the Adversary, drawn into the conflict by an Arch-Angel, two ancient Dragons and the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse themselves. Tomas a former government operative winds up trapped in Hell and becomes allied with a group of exiled Valkyrie; while Gwen is forced from her home in Santa Fe and is sent on a quest for the First Tree, the tree that seeded all others including the legendary tree of knowledge, and whose whereabouts has been forever lost in the mists of time and memory.
Success depends on their survival and their survival is threatened on an almost perpetual basis by the demonic minions of the Adversary, werewolf like Hounds of Fenris and swarms of possessed, to name but a few. For the sake of the Multiverse, humanity, every other living creature and for the pure life essence of the Earth herself, let battle be joined.
CLASSIFICATION: The Adversary is a mixture of Epic Quest fantasy and Urban fantasy, with an apocalypse impending!
FORMAT/INFO: The Adversary is 1028 pages long divided over twenty numbered and titled chapters with a prologue. Narration is in the third person via many different characters such as Tomas Walker, Gwen, The Adversary, Azaroth, Daniel and a few others. The Adversary is the first volume in a series. There's also an "Acknowledgments" section and an introduction written by the author. Cover art is by Peter Pracownik.
ANALYSIS: The Adversary was a book which got queried at our blog and the premise seemed very exciting for me. After I read the first 25 pages I decided to give it a try. The book blurb reveals it to be quite a mish-mash of genres and the book doesn’t disappoint in the size and scope of the tale imagined by the author.
The tale begins by introducing us to Tomas Walker, an ex-British agent who’s become disgruntled with his life and now has become a wanderer of sorts. He travels around and is soon beset with an otherworldly encounter which convinces him to focus on his self preservation and beguiles him as to the nature of his opponent. He soon meets up with an archangel who convinces him that he’s not losing his mind however events are being precipitated which require his urgent attention and if left unchecked could mean the death of all living things. Tomas being himself is quite skeptical however soon loses all his reservations when he is joined by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They proceed to lay out his role and why he’s crucial to their battle.
Another thread opens up on the other side of the Atlantic by introducing us to Gwen, who has been living a life of her own but suddenly gets introduced to a paroxysmal shift in the nature of things and soon finds out that two of her best friends are more than what they appear to be. Gwen is also tasked with another responsibility as she finds out that she is akin to a repository and she has been entrusted with new powers. In the third and significantly stronger thread we get a view point in to the Titular character and the antagonist of this tale, the Adversary who has upended hell and its denizens and also whose plans include coercing the power of Fenris and many others who have similar ambitions. There are also a few more players to this mix and it will be best if I don't allude to any more of the plot.
The book is a rather large one at slightly more than 1000 pages encompasses a lengthy tale which is only the opening salvo of the entire saga which the author has planned. The plus points to this book are the author has amalgamated many mythologies and has constructed a vast global mythology to this world which might appeal to jaded Urban fantasy readers. There are also not too many characters and the tale is tightly focused on the POV characters as they travel to new places and continue their quest to save their universe. The writing for a debutant author is good however has some faults which I’ll be discussing next.
The pacing deserves a lot to be said as of there are quite some info-dumps in between as the author tries to explain the world which though required; does detract a bit from the reading experience. Another point was that the main characters of Gwen and Tomas were not fleshed out beyond their roles as chosen ones in the books and this perhaps can lead to a slight disconnect as majority of the plot unfolds around both of them (then again since this is a first book, there might be more to come in the remaining three titles.)
Lastly not all of this gargantuan effort is all that vexing, there are quite a few positives namely the imagination of the debutant author which has to be lauded for coming up with such a mythological background to this tale and his rather exuberant attempt to connect the dots amongst the various myths mentioned in the book. The characters are decently drawn out however with the drawbacks mentioned above, if the author can remedy these in the remaining part of the sage, this series can indeed become special. This book I would rate as a good debut effort with a lot of heart in it however it could very well do with a trimming of its content page wise and a rather coalescing of the plot so as to remove the tepid flow to the pace of this tale. Most readers should very well try this hefty debut from across the pond as it offers something new in terms of effort and plot while retaining some favored clichés.
Official Michael David Lukas Website
Order 'The Oracle of Stamboul" HERE
Read an Excerpt from The Oracle of Stamboul HERE
INTRODUCTION: The Oracle of Stamboul was the first real positive surprise of 2011 for me as it was a book that came out of nowhere for me and took over my reading with a combination of magical prose and pitch perfect atmosphere.
I recently saw the title in a list of "just published" books when looking for more information about what turned out to be the first big flop of 2011 for me and the title sounded appealing, so I checked the blurb below which made me continue exploring the novel, while the excerpt linked above convinced me to get the novel immediately and then it took over my reading.
"Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, and Eleonora Cohen is ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. "They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch." But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora's mother dies soon after the birth.
Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy."OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Oracle of Stamboul is a magical novel, short but fulfilling. Somewhere at the border between historical fiction and the fantastic, not straying away from the possible but hinting at the supernatural, the book has as main protagonist Eleonora, a girl whose birth in unsettled and ultimately tragic circumstances is heralded by portents.
Growing up in Constanta on the Black Sea - the ancient Tomis of Ovid and a city I spent many summers on its beaches, though here we see it in the twilight of the Ottoman era and the beginning of the Romanian one in the 1870-1880's - and in a world of prejudice against women and minorities - her family is a Jewish merchant one - Eleonora is grudgingly allowed to develop her stunning intellectual gifts by doting father Yakob Cohen against the wishes of her aunt/stepmother Ruxandra who pushes her into "women stuff" - eg housework of all kinds from as early an age as possible.
There are strict conditions that Eleonora cannot show or tell anyone what she learns since already a flock of rare birds has taken residence around her house and sometimes the birds are following her when she goes out and as Ruxandra knows too well, when you are Jewish and reasonably prosperous, it is not good to attract too much attention. As it's obvious, soon Eleonora will make a naive misstep when shopping with her aunt and the ignorant shop boy miscounts the change, so from then on she is restricted to one book per month.
In very poignant scenes we follow the 8 year old as she must a make a choice as what book she will get to treasure in the next month, until by chance she discovers an old favorite novel of her mother, a 7 volume series called The Hourglass which will open her eyes to the wider world and give her a taste for adventure. So when her father goes to expand his business to Stamboul, it is natural for Ellie to follow what she has learned in her treasured books and sneak in a trunk with all planned as how she will endure the week long sailing trip.
And so Eleonora's adventure begins and in the Ottoman capital we meet an assorted cast of characters that will interact with her in both usual and unusual ways of which the most notable are Yoncef Bey a Turkish official and intellectual with a reputation for subversive liberal thought, Rev. Prof. Muehler who is rector of the American college there and moonlights as a spy for both the Grand Vizier and the US government and of course Abdulhamid himself, the (last true) Sultan of the empire...
As structure, The Oracle of Stamboul mostly follows Ellie's POV but alternates it with the Sultan's one and occasionally with some of the other adults that come into Eleonora's magical circle. There are no other children in the book and in many ways her world is the world of a "real world" child - doing what the adults ask while creating her own separate universe - though the mundane and the fantastic intertwine around her.
The main strength of the book is the superb style of the author - poetic and evocative, but also making one turning the page until the "too soon, I want more" fitting end. From this point of view the book sits comfortably in the tradition of tales of yore without any modern anachronisms regarding the way the world was in the late 19th century. The atmosphere is also wonderfully evocative and I felt the author really understood the flavor of the places where he has his action happening.
The Oracle of Stamboul (A+) also belongs to the category of books that feature children as main protagonists but are not really addressed to them for the reasons expounded above - basically the children live in an adult world and follow adult rules, rather than being the motive power of action, eg saving the day, world, situation, by themselves - the awesome The Children's Book by AS Byatt or the excellent but darker The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti are similar narrative space novels I have reviewed here - and as such it is a book for all ages, but one that I predict will be enjoyed more by lovers of beautifully written "magical" tales than anyone else.
I would like to note that The Oracle of Stamboul is Michael David Lukas' debut though it reads like the work of a quite experienced writer...