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Monday, June 17, 2019

Worldwide Giveaway: Thieves Of Fate by Tracy Townsend


Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Nine
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Fall
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Tracy Townsend

Tracy Townsend wowed us with her debut The Nine last year (it was our joint #1 pick for the top 10 debuts in 2017) and with the sequel The Fall, she continues to blow our minds. As stated in our reviews, we love her characters, the worldbuilding and the overall plot, hence we are honored to host this contest wherein FBC along with Tracy Townsend are giving away a set of The Nine & The Fall to one lucky winner!!!

To enter, please send an email to fbcgiveaway@gmail.com with your Name, Mailing Address, and the subject: Thieves Of Fate. Giveaway will end 12:01 pm 29th June 2019 and is open to participants WORLDWIDE!

Thank you for entering and Good Luck!

GIVEAWAY RULES:
1) Open To Anyone WORLDWIDE
2) Only One Entry Per Household (Multiple Entries Will Be Disqualified)
3) Must Enter Valid Email Address, Mailing Address + Name
4) No Purchase Necessary
5) Giveaway will end 12:01 pm 29th June 2019
6) Winners Will Be Randomly Selected and Notified By Email
7) Personal Information Will Only Be Used In Mailing Out the Books To The Winner


Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Fall by Tracy Townsend (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Order The Fall over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tracy Townsend is the author of The Nine and The Fall (books 1 and 2 in the Thieves of Fate series), a monthly columnist for the feminist sf magazine Luna Station Quarterly, and an essayist for Uncanny Magazine. She holds a master's degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is the former chair of the English department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, and one very patient husband.



FORMAT/INFO: The Fall is 472 pages long. This is the second volume of the Thieves of Fate series.

The book was published by Pyr on June 11th, 2019 and it's available as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook. Cover art and design are provided by  Adam S. Doyle.


ANALYSIS: The Fall expands Townsend’s alternate universe where science has become a religion and people see God as a great experimenter. Rowena Downshire is one of The Nine - current test subjects of the God who assesses all creation based on their behavior. The problem? No one knows the criteria of the evaluation. Also, scholars assume all nine subjects are human, but why wouldn’t the creator inspect all creation?

In The Fall both Aigamuxa (lethal eye-heeled creatures) and Lanyani (sentient,  mobile, and murderous trees) get their POV chapters. We get an insight into their cultures and aspirations. Where The Nine portrayed Aigamuxa as heartless monsters, The Fall casts a sympathetic eye on them and their society helping readers to understand them better. It turns out they differ from each other, and, as humans, have varied personalities, beliefs, and emotions. They don’t lack intelligence, but their society emphasizes strength and violence rather than careful planning and philosophy. That’s why Aigamuxa fall victim to cunning Lanyani who make them pawns in their plan to purge humanity and show the Creator that they are above judgment.

Lanyani don’t resemble the conventional high fantasy arboreal creatures like Dryads or Ents. Their bodies and ways of communicating are alien. Their outlook on the world has nothing in common with our perception of the natural order. I applaud Townsend for creating such terrifying but also relatable (in a way) creatures. They play the role of villains, but it’s not that simple. Nothing in The Fall is that simple or one-dimensional. Even Bishop Metteron’s machinations and nefarious schemes may have a valid cause.

Speaking of the creatures, magnify The Fall’s cover and look at it. A thing of beauty. Adam S. Doyle did a spectacular job in his presentation of The Fall’s characters and setting. The book takes us to new regions of the world, to Nippon where we can observe a Shogunate, logicians in actions, and clockwork constructs serving people. A well-rounded cast of secondary characters is diverse and include a non-binary character who plays an important role in tightening the plot.

Rowena, the Alchemist and Anselm play a key role in the story, but other characters introduced in The Nine (Haadiyaa Gammon, Philip Chalmers, Beatrice Earnshaw, Clara Downshire) get strong developments as well. To simplify it, our main characters travel with Chalmers to Grand Library in Nippon (a steampunk Japan of sorts) to decipher its mysteries, while Gammon and her team try to make sense of Lanyani’s schemes. Both arcs are emotional and surprising.

Comparing sequels to original stories is unfair but also inevitable. I always expect the sequel to top the previous entry in the series and get pumped before reading it. When things don’t develop the way I wanted, they annoy me. Where The Nine grabbed my attention from the first page, I needed more time to get invested in The Fall. The book suffers from pacing issues caused by intricate, but sometimes too detailed, world-building. As impressive as this world is, I felt there was too much informations to process. My other gripe with the story concerns Rowena. I loved her in The Nine, but couldn’t relate to her in The Fall most of the time. She’s still herself, a tough street-rat with a foul mouth, but she lost some of her charm. What else? Well, we get some pieces of information that set the table for the things yet to come. Don’t expect everything will serve something immediately or to have all questions answered.

But these are just minor complaints. When things finally start to come together, and stakes grow you can’t help but admire a complex intrigue. Also, the ending. The Fall finishes with a nasty, but also exciting cliffhanger that made me crave book three. I’m desperately hoping that this book sells well enough to ensure that full series (Townsend planned Thieves of Fate as a trilogy) will be published according to plan, without a single day of delay. This story must be told. I need to know what happens next.

CONCLUSION: So, if you like deadly politics tangled up in scientific research and religion, steampunk settings with clockwork technology, and imaginative world-building, do yourself a favor and read Thieves of Fate. It’s gorgeously written, unique and clever.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Priest Of Lies by Peter McLean (reviewed by Justine Bergman)


Official Author Website
Pre-order Priest of Lies over HERE (US) and HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Priest Of Bones

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.

By the time he left school this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist kung fu he had been studying since the age of 13. He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with martial arts and practical magic.

He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.


OFFICIAL BLURB: Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster...and spy. As Tomas's power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become--until they can't take it anymore. And when they rise up...may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen's Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen's Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people's champion...or just a priest of lies.


FORMAT/INFO: Priest of Lies is 368 pages long divided over 56 chapters, and is the second entry in the War for the Rose Throne series. The book is currently available for pre-order in e-book, paperback, and hardback format. It is scheduled to be published by Ace Roc Books (US) and Jo Fletcher Books (UK) on July 2, 2019.


CLASSIFICATION: Grimdark fantasy, Dark fantasy


ANALYSIS:
Respect, power, authority. Those are the levers that move me.

Through fire and blood, Tomas Piety has cleansed the Wheels and the Docks of Ma Aditi and her Gutcutters, claiming the territories as his own. Quietly swayed by the Crown, the Pious Men grow in influential power, yet the Northern Sons are gaining a stronger foothold in the city of Ellinburg with the help of their Skanian masters, who are keen to take advantage of the greed and corruption that mar the city. Tomas has an agenda, one he cannot share with the rest of his crew, but it's getting more difficult to keep them in the dark. Manipulation is key, and having friends in high places is both a blessing and a curse - if he can't successfully stop the threat of these invaders, the blowback will be catastrophic for all.

Priest of Lies is the sophomore installment in McLean's War for the Rose Throne series, taking place six months after the events of book one, and is a true attestation of the corruption that results from achieving too much power. Not only does it mark the progression of the characters we've grown to love, but also the advancement of the secret war being fought in the shadows by some of the world's loftiest ruling classes through intrigue and roguish plotting. This story perfectly highlights the detrimental consequences of secrets and lies, and the idea that choosing the lesser of two evils is only owing your allegiance to one devil or another, which is not really an ideal choice at all. While its predecessor Priest of Bones is akin to a violent and chaotic hurricane of bloodletting and reclamation, this book is more reliant on scheming and cunning, as Tomas strategically exposes weaknesses in order to gain control - don't get me wrong, there's plenty of blood and viscera to go around, as well.

As with book one, the characters and their development take center stage, allowing us to witness their evolution (or devolution in some cases) as events unravel. Tomas, son of a humble bricklayer from the Stink, now overlooks the city from his stately manor on Trader's Row, a status achieved through violent domination. Always a critic of corruption, we watch as he gradually spirals into self-absorption, embracing his hunger for more than is necessary, and becoming more ruthless as he climbs upon the backs of the weak in order to elevate himself above the rest. His brother Jochan, still greatly suffering the effects of battle shock, rapidly degrades into madness. Bloody Anne, in spite of the surrounding hostile environment, leads the Pious Men and mercilessly protects their territories when Tomas is away from home. Billy the Boy's interests shift and he begins to withhold critical information from his Da. Fat Luka seems suspiciously and increasingly comfortable with his responsibilities as spymaster. As the tide changes and more power is funneled into their grasp, we're finally beginning to see everyone's true colors.
It's strange how fast a man can grow accustomed to a thing.
While we spend a considerable amount of time on the Pious Men streets, we're also introduced to Dannsburg, city of the Rose Throne and headquarters to the Queen's Men. Vividly described as being the polar opposite of gloomy and ramshackle Ellinburg, Dannsburg's towering walls and sprawling, cobbled streets give it an air of superiority. One is ruled by those with the biggest swords, the other is ruled by those with the deepest pockets, but it seems that's where the differences end. Both contain an influential criminal underground that is driven by the Crown. In both, it's extremely dangerous to whisper discontent against the ruling powers. And both require a clear and observant sense to wade through the politics and stay alive. While it appears Tomas is clearly out of his element while roaming the Queen's streets, he quickly finds his way to the nearest businessman to begin his conquest of the foreign city.

McLean continues to impress with clever storytelling and beautifully immersive prose; the narrative is penned and by Tomas, allowing us to observe the development of his mindset as he climbs the ladder of refinement, all while explaining events that have happened in the past. We celebrate alongside him when his gambles bear fruit, we join in his sorrow when he's betrayed by someone close to him, and we feel his wrath when harsh justice is served during the Rite of the Betrayer. Each chapter ends with a little nugget of wisdom that immediately pulls you into the following, making this book virtually impossible to put down. The pacing is perfect, slowing down for suspenseful intrigue, then speeding up during the pandemonium of battle. And last, but certainly not least, the staggering unexpected - some of these bits left me speechless.

CONCLUSION: I arrived a little late to the War for the Rose Throne party, but it has quickly become one of my favorite series - I tore through this book in two days, and my only regret is that I have quite a bit of time to wait for more. Priest of Lies digs deeper and hits harder, getting darker by the chapter, with astonishing surprises around each and every corner. And what an ending! I'm really looking forward to seeing what blood-soaked mischief Tomas gets into next. If you haven't yet picked up this riveting and unique series, I highly recommend you do.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (reviewed by David Stewart)



Official Author Website
Order Nevernight over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Stormdancer

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jay Kristoff is a #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction. He is the winner of five Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live. 

He does not believe in happy endings.


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?


FORMAT/INFO: Nevernight is 429 pages long divided over thirty-six chapters with an epilogue.This is the first volume of The Nevernight Chronicle series. 

The book was published by St. Martin's Press in 2016 and is available in all formats. 

ANALYSIS: It is rare for me to find a book, fantasy or otherwise, that I so immediately connect with and enjoy. It happened with my first Haruki Murakami novel, with Senlin Ascends of course, and to my surprise with Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy. If I judged books solely on their cover, I might have guessed that it would happen with Nevernight - it's so beautiful that I could easily see framing it and putting it in my office. I knew almost nothing about the book going in, had never read Kristoff, and in fact had been put off from a few folks who didn't care for his overwrought prose. 

Turns out, I like overwrought prose, but there is a huge caveat - it must be done well, and it must be done appropriately. I think Jay Kristoff nails it with Nevernight, and I am ready to declare Mia Corvere Queen of the World.  

If I had to pitch Nevernight, I would tells readers two things. One, imagine a story wherein Arya Stark, of Game of Thrones fame, heads off to her secret school to become an assassin, but instead of glossing over most of that time in a montage, readers were privy to nearly every detail of her time training. Then imagine that instead of training at the House of Black and White, Arya went to an Italian version of Hogwart's. That, in short, is Nevernight. Combined with the aforementioned progatonist, Mia Corvere, whose focus on revenge borders on the religious, and it makes for a compelling read. 

The world where Mia operates is the fantasy equivalent of Renaissance Italy, which is obvious from the start due to Kristoff's naming conventions and opera-like introduction. The city of Nevernight exists in almost perpetual daylight in a world where three suns rule the sky and the sole moon rarely makes an appearance. I expected this constant light to play more of a role, truthfully, and I suspect such ultraviolet radiation might be more of an issue than Kristoff allows, but it's fantasy, right? For all we know, the suns of Kristoff's imagination exude no UV rays. The Corvere family is Nevernight nobility, at least until Mia's father rebels against the Empire and is hanged before her eyes. She narrowly escapes death herself and finds a man named Mercurio who starts her on the path to revenge. Like Arya Stark, Mia Corvere has a list of names that can only be satisfied with blood. 

Blood, in fact, is a large theme in Nevernight. "When all is blood, blood is all," is a phrase oft repeated, and everything from the color palettes described to character motivations is tinted by the color red. Shadows are Nevernight's other component. "The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow." Mia Corvere is Lady Niah's chosen, Niah being the solo moon deity that must constantly fight her brighter ex-husband. Mia can command the shadows around her, allowing her to disappear when she wills it. Layer these themes of blood and shadow and Kristoff paints a dark portrait, but one sumptuous with layers and some of the best purple prose in fantasy.  

The only thing I didn't love about Nevernight, and the one thing that almost ruined it, is Kristoff's use of footnotes. I imagine this is a contentious point, and one editors likely mulled over for a while. It also asks questions about exposition and the "showing versus telling" argument that we have all heard. Kristoff peppers his text with footnotes, as though we were reading some historical text about a long-dead civilization and needed constant explanations about the references therein. The footnotes are also often the narrator's way of offering their opinion or an excuse to crack a joke. Often these jokes work, and there is a personality to the footnotes that delineates them from the actual body of the book. However, they severely break up the flow of the narrative. It's frustrating because I can appreciate the attempt here not to inundate the story with paragraphs of world-building. This can be cumbersome, and some of the best fantasy manages to sneak in its world-building without simply telling the reader what might have happened or why a system is the way it is. Kristoff chooses to build most of his lore into these footnotes, and in this way he wriggles out of the need for in-paragraph exposition. I'm not sure it works, and I was thankful that by the midway point of the book it starts to happen less and less, particularly as the book's plot begins to ramp up to frantic levels. 

If those footnotes hadn't scratched the surface of this beautiful book, I might have been ready to declare its perfection. From the front cover to the last words, I enjoyed Nevernight like it was a vintage red wine, except that I am clueless about wine and know leagues more about good writing so that analogy fails a bit but I needed to say something red and that fit. It is dark, in the extreme, and that some people have dubbed this book as young adult is profane and laughable. Mia might be young, but there is nothing innocent or naive about what Kristoff has portrayed. This is as grimdark as it gets, but with less of the crude nature often found in such works and more elegance than much in the genre. I am as excited as I get about reading through the rest of Kristoff's Nevernight trilogy, and Mia has been granted her place on my personal fantasy character Mount Rushmore. Long may she reign. 



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Interview with Tracy Townsend (interviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)


Official author website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Nine


Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little bit about yourself. Feel free to brag ☺

Thanks for having me! I’m Tracy Townsend, author of the Thieves of Fate fantasy series, which began with The Nine in 2017 and now continues with The Fall (out June 11, 2019). I teach science fiction and fantasy literature and creative writing at a public boarding school for students gifted in STEM, so the intersection of humanism and rational study in my stories is no coincidence -- although I can confirm there aren’t anywhere near as many heists happening on my campus as happen in my books. I have a background teaching martial arts and coaching actors in both stage combat and accent performance, which doesn’t come in useful for much aside from being a very exciting bedtime story reader for my children.

When and why have you decided to become an author?

I’ve been writing stories ever since I was small. Becoming an author was just a way of making it official and slightly less weird to others.

The fantasy genre is broad—your writing seems to be more on the innovative, genre-blending end of the spectrum. You draw inspiration from different mythologies, periods and subgenres. One of reviewers called The Nine a Gaslamp New Weird. I find it fitting. Can you discuss this?

I’m fond of telling my students that when someone presents something under a particular genre label, they assume there’s been an argument that they’ve already won. I love the malleability of speculative fiction, so there was never any question of me writing sf that was “pure” anything, at least in terms of genre conventions. I’m fairly sure I understand what gaslamp fantasy is, but New Weird is. . . well. . . intentionally slippery. I’m glad you find the label fitting! It’s always a bit of a surprise to me, how people categorize my work -- dark fantasy, horror, literary fantasy, science fantasy. It’s been called a lot of stuff. In the end, I’m happiest when a reader is able to find a way of explaining the text to themselves. Whether or not I agree with the label they use to do it isn’t ultimately important.

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer?

Every writer has their own good and bad habits, which I suppose is how I’m distilling the vast question of “my journey” down. I think about character and setting in meticulous detail naturally, but I also tend to overwrite in my first and second drafts. Most of my revision process is taking things out -- being more coy with signals between characters, holding back a bit more. My journey as a writer has largely been about understanding what I do well enough to not let it get in the way of the rest of my storytelling.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. When and where do you write? Do you start with a character, an image, or an idea? Talk a little bit about how a novel “grows” for you.

I tend to write things out of sequence -- scenes and images and encounters come to mind, and I hash them out as rough drafts, pieces of what will eventually become a larger whole. Then I review them and try to find the throughline. Which moment happened first? Are these two characters talking about the same thing, in different places and times? And so on. Once I do that, I have this extremely skeletal, impressionistic collection of scenes that lie at the core of the narrative. Then I go back to the beginning to figure out how my characters have navigated their way through this journey and fill in from there. Often I’ll stop to study images online or in books, look up historical context (mostly so I can figure out how to warp it to my own purposes), and otherwise do bits of inspiration-driven research that helps fuel the process as I go.

Do you give yourself mini-deadlines (e.g. must have chapters x-y written by January 1st) or do you progress with an ultimate deadline in mind?

I do all sorts of things to try to outsmart my own tendency to overschedule and fall behind in my work. Mini-deadlines, writing accountability buddies, NaNoWriMo, word sprints. In the end, it’s the ultimate deadline that looms largest and controls my process the most. Everything else I tend to adapt around it, as my brain is far too squirrelly to behave under the same system of supports for very long.

What’s the hardest thing for you during the whole “writing experience”?

Waiting. Professional writing is waiting. Realizing this draft will take longer than you thought, and waiting on yourself to finish. Waiting on critique partners or your agent to read and give feedback. Waiting on news from your editor or your publicist or somebody else in the publishing pipeline. Waiting for permission to announce big news, once you have it.

I hate waiting.

What are the reasons you decided to publish?

I’d written something that felt. . . good. And important. I wanted to know what the world would think of it, for good or ill.

What did you find easy, difficult, or surprising about the publishing process?

Waaaaaitinnnng is awfuuuuuuuul. . .

What was your initial inspiration for Thieves of Fate series?




Look up Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings. He writes about a group of people he calls the lamed wufniks (more properly, the lamed vovniks). That’s where it all started. Something about God finding a kind of observational subset of humanity to use in order to judge our collective worthiness smacked of a kind of bizarre, almost scientific experiment. All the rest followed after.

Please, tell our readers what do your characters have to overcome in The Nine and its upcoming sequel The Fall? What challenge did you set before them?

Murder, political treachery, inter-species warfare, cultural absolutism, dark pasts, old scores, restless ghosts, Rowena’s exceptionally bad cooking, and the Alchemist’s tendency toward airsickness. Among other things.

What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

In The Nine, I could do basically anything I wanted with my world and its characters. But The Fall exists in a world that’s at least partly exposed and understood already. There are rules now -- rules I made. You’d be amazed how many things there are to remember across 260,000 words of series and counting, and how being the one guilty of writing them doesn’t actually make it that much easier to keep it all straight.

The Nine was one of my top reads in 2017. I loved everything about it, but for the sake of this interview I’ll try to name these things. So, one thing I really enjoyed in The Nine  was the relationship between religion and science. Tell me more about the idea of science serving to prove and record the existence of God?

If you think about it, there’s something almost faith-based at the core of scientific practice. That unwavering certainty that with fidelity to a process -- continuous observation, meticulous collection of data, and ongoing reflective practice -- we can achieve a more complete understanding of our world. It’s ritualistic. We tend to use the word “ritual” as if it indicates repetitive processes that are symbolic, or somehow negligible. But rituals can be practical. All science is, when you come down to it, is a ritual we have agreed achieves the desired result of greater comprehension of our universe, an understanding we strive to make objectively true and inviolate -- even if we must strive through our own imperfections to achieve that state. I mean, honestly. Doesn’t that sound a bit like religion to you, too?

Another thing that impressed me was the inclusion of unique creatures such as Aigamuxa and Lanyani. Please, tell us more about their origin and how they fit in the world of the Thieves of Fate?

The lanyani -- sentient, mobile trees whose outlook on the world is as alien to humanity as their bodies are different from ours -- were really a by-product of me being bored by the conventional high fantasy depictions of arboreal creatures. They’re either ethereal, gentle, and timid, or ravening savages. There’s no in-between. High elves are boring. Treants and Ents are ponderous and distant. I wanted beings that were of nature in a highly visible, highly literal way, and which were equal parts grace and murder. Hence, the lanyani.

The aigamuxa, I really can’t take credit for. They’re actual mythological creatures that appear in the stories of the Khoikhoi people of Africa. There are some key differences between their aigamuxa and mine, though. I made mine jungle-born brachiators and keen, organized predators, rather than clumsy, solitary ogres stumbling through savannah. I wanted a reason for their eyes to be in the soles of their feet, and making them tree-dwelling creatures who descend on their prey from above seemed the way to do it. To the Khoikhoi, aigamuxa are vicious, but dull-witted, easily tricked, and so badly hampered by their eye-feet that their man-eating ways don’t pose much of a threat to the well-prepared. I wanted creatures that had their own brutal dignity, instead: horrifying and dangerous and in their own way, deeply human.

The main characters in any book are commonly considered a reflection of the author. Is this true in Thieves of Fate series?

I tend to magpie little bits and pieces of people I know -- and of myself -- in making characters. So, in a sense, all of my characters are a reflection of me. I identify with Gammon’s struggle to balance cool pragmatism with Doing What Is Right on an emotional level. The Alchemist’s constant struggle to present his real feelings is partly me, too. Anselm’s snark and confidence are entirely my husband. Rowena’s struggle with her mother is rooted in my own struggles with my late mother’s prolonged, profound physical and mental illnesses. Even Rabbit is based on one of my dogs.

Who is your favorite character to write, and why? And least favorite?

I love writing Chalmers. So much. His various neuroses and priggish tendencies are such fun to play with. He’s also a playful amalgam of many actual academics and scientists I’ve worked with over the years, so putting things in his perspective is a kind of homage to them and all the ways they’ve driven me up the wall. The truth is, though, there’s no character in the mix I don’t love writing. If I didn’t love crawling around the inside of their heads, I wouldn’t give them a point of view in the first place.

I really like Anselm and his grey morality leaning toward blackish. It would be amazing to read a novella or a short story from his POV. Would you consider giving us a glimpse of his thinking process?

Funny. I tend to think that’s what the switches to close third person chapters in the different characters’ POVs already does. I try to embed the information needs to understand a character’s thinking process in the tone and focus of their POV chapters. If what you mean is, “Is there an Anselm-focused story in our future?” then the answer is, “Maybe.” I’ve certainly considered it.

You’ve created rich world with unique creatures, fairly advanced technology, and magic. What challenges did you face not just in making it accessible, but in incorporating all the information that needed to be conveyed to make the story work?

This may sound strange, but honestly, the way to work through world-building where you’re juggling so many disparate elements is to not incorporate too much information. I know the answers to lots of things I don’t put on the page, simply because getting lost in all the details doesn’t help the reader. Instead, I try to focus on what helps create the perspective necessary for this moment and build on that in successive chapters and scenes. Eventually, the partial information feels whole enough to satisfy readers without taking them out of the story itself.

If you would be given the chance to rewrite any of the scenes in The Nine before publication, would you do it? If yes, what and why? I ask because I’m sure you can’t sleep at nights after killing you know who.

Honestly? No. There are sentences I might tweak, but the arc of the story itself I’m proud of. I sleep just fine, where that book is concerned.

And if you’re upset with me about that part of The Nine. . . you might be really upset with me over The Fall.

Would you say that Thieves of Fate series follows tropes or kicks them?

I suppose the most honest answer is, “Yes, both.” I can’t think of a story that dismantles and rejects every trope you could think of, because there are so many. Indeed, I have a lot of favorite tropes, both in what I write and what I read. What matters to me most is that every piece of my story, from the characters through the setting and on to the plot, reflects my take on how the story needs to be told. Sometimes, winking at a trope helps make that happen; other times, I want to offer something more startling and less familiar. But absolute novelty for its own sake is likelier to make a text inhospitable to its reader than inviting.


Which question about the series do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Nobody ever asks about character names! I wish they would. There’s a story behind each and every one. Rowena, for example, is named for a character I played in a tabletop RPG many years ago, though she isn’t anything like that particular character. I started off using the name as a placeholder, fully intending to change it later, until I realized that it really did fit. Anselm Meteron’s name is a double Easter egg (and no, I won’t just give the answer; a little Googling should help you find your way). Resurrection Jane Ardai is named for a co-worker of my husband’s who also introduced himself with his full name, including middle initial. It was years before I realized his name was “[redacted] R. Dye,” and not “[something something] Ardai” or “Ardye,” as I’d always heard. And of course, there are many, many others.

What can we expect after The Fall? If I remember well Thieves of Fate is supposed to be a trilogy?

After The Fall, we wait. Pyr always knew I was writing a trilogy, but taking on a new author is a risk for all involved, and so the final book is what publishers call “an option” book. Based on the sales and reception of The Fall, they’ll decide what to do about concluding the series. So if you really want to give the Thieves of Fate the conclusion they deserve? Buy the book! Review it online! Talk it up to your friends! Spread the word on social media! Ask your local library to order a copy, or your local bookstore to carry it! Hell, see if your library or bookstore wants to have me over for a visit. The more Pyr sees the demand for the final chapter of the saga, the closer we get to making it a reality.

Do you have any other authorial goals that you are striving towards that you want to talk about?

I have another, entirely unrelated to the Thieves of Fate project I’m working on and looking forward to publishing. It’s a science fiction story set in space, perfect for anyone who has loved Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers books, Farscape, or Barbary Station: dark, character-driven, dangerous, tense, and sometimes shockingly heartwarming.

Can you name three books you adore as a reader, but that make you feel inadequate as a writer?



Max Gladstone’s entire Craft sequence of novels. I don’t care if that’s cheating, it’s just a fact.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. No one should be able to launch a series in second person, right? It’s not the done thing. Heh. Nora Jemisin does not care about your “done things.”

Fonda Lee’s Jade City. The world-building. The politics. The family drama. It’s a book so good, I was made I didn’t write it (not that I ever could have).

Thank you so much for agreeing to this conversation, Tracy! We greatly appreciate your time and thoughts.

You’re very welcome!








Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Part-Time Gods by Rachel Aaron (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)



Official Rachel Aaron Website
Order “Part-Time Gods HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Forever Fantasy Online"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "FFO: Last Bastion"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "A Dragon Of A Different Color"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Last Dragon Standing"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Minimum Wage Magic"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's joint interview with Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Colorado with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Life in the magical mess of the Detroit Free Zone is never easy. When you’re laboring under the curse of a certain prideful, overbearing dragon, it can be down right impossible.

My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner. At least, I used to be. Thanks to the supernatural bad luck that turns everything I do against me, these days I’m more of a walking disaster. Getting rid of this curse is the only way to get my life back. Unfortunately, dragon magic is every bit as sneaky and deadly the monsters behind it, and just as hard to beat.

But I’ve never been one to take her doom at face value. Cornered doesn’t mean defeated, and in an awakened city that rules herself, dragons are no longer the biggest powers around.

FORMAT/INFO: Part-Time Gods is 374 pages long divided over eleven numbered chapters and a prologue. Narration is in the first person via Opal Yong-ae solely. This is the second volume of the DFZ series.

June 11, 2019 marks the e-book publication of Part-Time Gods and it will be self-published by the author.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Part- Time Gods is the sequel to Minimum Wage Magic and continues the further exploration of the DFZ that began with Minimum Wage Magic. I was excited about this title and after finishing it, I can only say that Rachel is really having a lot of fun with her first sequel series.

The plot actually begins almost immediately after the events of book 1 and we see Opal trying to figure out what she can do with the curse that has been inflicted upon her. She along with her partner Nik have to come up with a new plan to outwit the dragon’s curse laid on her. Never one to step back from a challenge, Opal will have to figure out one of life’s biggest mysteries: How do dragon curses work? There’s also life in the DFZ and other mysteries to unravel but can she do all of it and yet pay her debt? All of this and more happens in the middle volume of this trilogy as both the readers and the Dragon of Korea discover just how stubborn Opal can be.

As with the first book, we get a cracking story and more DFZ exploration. And similar to the last time, we are given a ringside view of the events with Nik and Opal. Both these characters have issues and yet are endearing to each other. There’s a lot of stuff that was hinted at in Minimum Wage Magic, in Part-Time Gods, we get to see more of their backgrounds and there’s some big surprises unveiled. I enjoyed knowing more about Nik and I hope the author gives us more as the half cyborg has some intriguingly dark things in his past. But with Opal, we get to see some glorious flashbacks as well as current family situations. I loved reading about the family dynamics of the only dragon who consorts with humans and keeps them around. The Dragon of Korea has been a shadow over Opal’s life and it's fun to see Opal work out the kinks that have been strangulating her luck. The relationship between Opal and her father is a very strange one and it's not as one-sided as we have been led to believe. This is where Rachel's characterization and plotting comes to the fore as we see things aren't black and white. Dragons feel differently than human beings but they do feel....

Opal as a character is stubborn and while it has led to where she is. Her stubbornness also stops from seeing the big picture and it’s this very lack of insight which seems to have marred her life. We as readers get to see this very trait over and over again with this volume and it was a tad irritating. As a reader, you want to be able to make her see and indeed a couple of famous characters do try but Opal being the person she is, doesn’t see it that way. I feel that the trilogy ender will definitely be a make or break one for her. The other characters also introduced in this book are very, very intriguing (as has been the case with the Heartstrikers series as well). The world is intriguing as it is and in this volume, we get to see more of the DFZ and her changes she has wrought.

The DFZ as she was formed had a very violent birth but since then has learnt what it means to be a free city. The problem is that with the freedom, there comes a certain leeway with the populace that it attracts and the DFZ isn’t all that happy about it. That’s another interesting  priesthood angle that’s set up within this story and I enjoyed that aspect of avatars/priest that has been cultivated within. I hope that the author explores more of this as the DFZ as a spirit and as a city is just too interesting an entity to not do so. Lastly since the first book, as a reader I’ve been dying to see/hear about the Heartstrikers and in this book we get some solid and wonderful cameos. It’s always fun to see our favorite characters after all these years and these characters don’t disappoint whenever they appear.

The only thing that stuck down my craw about this story was a plot twist that happens near the end which seemed more than a bit contrived. I hold Rachel Aaron in very high regards and hence this drawback could be subjective for me. But other than that there were no other issues from this read considering its aims and genre.

CONCLUSION: Part-Time Gods is a sequel that ratchets up the tension, avoids the middle book syndrome and gives the readers an excellent thrill ride with a generous sprinkling of character cameos that are sure to bring a smile to many a readers’ faces. Part-time Gods is a solid story that outshines its predecessor in every way and made me excited for the trilogy ending

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The God King's Legacy by Richard Nell + Q&A (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The God King's Legacy over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Paradise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Ash
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Richard Nell

Today we have another excellent cover reveal courtesy of Richard Nell and cover designer Shawn T.King. Richard has been on my radar after his debut Kings Of Paradise blew Lukasz's and my mind. Since then he's released a sequel to it and also managed to write about a whole new series and world. The God King's Legacy is an omnibus of novellas that serve as prequels to the main series The God King Chronicles.


The cover art and design is by Shawn T. King and looks very, very snazzy while perfectly illustrating what readers can expect within. Knights with gunpowder and swords, demon infestations and political intrigue. Here's the blurb for it:

From the author of Kings of Paradise comes two tales in a world of knights and demons, muskets and cannon fire. God-king Marsun, the 'Demon King', has ruled for centuries. Once just an illiterate tribal chief, Marsun trapped an ancient evil within his mighty soul, united scattered tribes in peace, then retreated from the world. But his sacrifice is all but forgotten by those he now rules. Technology marches on; new ambitious powers rise; unhappy lords plot rebellion; and from every corner of civilization, savage enemies gather. The god king's legacy, it seems, has just begun...

1) Rebellion of the Black Militia - Johann Planck, bastard and scribe of the god-king's tower, is yanked from his peaceful life of academia, and ordered to capture an immortal creature of darkness. If the knight he's accompanying doesn't kill him, or the demon 'Sazeal', fresh rebellion just might.

2) Devil of the 22nd - A crumbling empire. An abandoned army. Kurt Val Clause is an ordinary man trying to keep it all together because no one else has the balls. Now he has one chance to win a glorious future, die in agony, or lose his soul. He might do all three...


Richard was also very kind to answer a few questions about the cover, his new upcoming series, the world within and more...

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic and thank you for the opportunity to allow us to host this cover reveal. Can you tell us about why you decided to go the omnibus route?

RN: My pleasure! The two stories in The God King’s Legacy are very much intended to ‘showcase’ the world. Both are stand-alone and fast-paced, and together should give the reader a good sense of what they’re getting into with the series to come. If you like this, basically, buckle up…

Q] You are currently writing an epic, epic fantasy that perhaps offers the only fantasy equivalent to Hannibal Lecter. But yet you wrote these novellas between the releases of Kings Of Paradise and Kings Of Ash. What motivated you to create this story?

RN: I’m one of those writers with 15 projects on the back-burner. I chose these partially as a break from the giant, 600 page epics that are the Ash and Sand books - almost like therapeutic writing. But beneath these shorter adventure stories is another detailed world of multiple continents, epic wars and social turmoil, spanning a trilogy with likely more room for novellas.

Q] What can you tell us about the inception of the Godking Chronicles of which this omnibus is a prequel to? Particularly that title is very intriguing and when can we expect the main series?

RN: I’m a fan of Brian McClellan, Django Wexler and similar writers, and wanted to try my hand at ‘flintlock’. My stuff is in many ways lower magic, and maybe presents a more brutally realistic world plucked from the pages of history. But then, there are flesh and spirit rending demons…so, there is that. I hope to have the first book in the trilogy by the end of 2020.

Q] I loved the cover for the Omnibus with its haunting image and the demonic aspects. What were your main pointers for Shawn as you both went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?

RN: I love it, too! I really didn’t tell Shawn much - I told him the genre, a little about the world and the magic aspect. I find it best with professionals like him to just go where he takes you and not interfere too much. Couldn’t be happier with the end result.


Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Godking chronicles is set in? What are the curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this world?

RN: This is a ‘flintlock’ world with early gunpowder, in historical terms maybe 14th or 15th century. Armies still use swords and spears and cavalry, but they also have cannons, muskets and pistols. It’s a time of huge chaos, both on and off the battlefield, with wealth changing hands, monarchy in crisis and new republics forming to challenge them. The main magical aspect of the world is the presence of ‘demons’, a kind of seemingly immortal predator that men have managed to imprison by binding them inside an individual’s flesh, usually with magical consequences. The ‘godking’ is one such man, and has ruled over a kingdom for centuries with his enhanced powers. But times, they are a changin’…

Q] So what should readers expect from this omnibus and will you be releasing any more novellas in the near future?

RN: Expect fast-paced, character-driven adventure, with flintlock battles, knights and demons in a gritty, low-fantasy world. I’d honestly like to do several more novellas, but the next on my list involves a mysterious woman with amnesia who becomes a rather terrifying pirate. And if that sounds a little unlikely, you just remember it’s historically inspired!

Q] What are you currently writing and what will be your next release?

RN: I’m currently hard at work on the final book in the Ash and Sands series, Kings of Heaven. I intend to release it January of 2020, and so far so good. For me it will be the end of five years of love and labor.

Q] Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

RN: Just a thanks as ever for being patrons of the arts and the genre. I couldn’t do what I do without readers supporting, reviewing, and spreading the word. I hope you enjoy the books.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Paternus: War Of Gods by Dyrk Ashton



Today we have the utmost pleasure of hosting Dyrk Ashton, who is allowing us the grand honour of revealing the cover to his third and final book of his debut trilogy. So without further ado, we hand over the reins to our good friend Dyrk.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*

Hi everybody!

First of all, I’m thrilled and honored that Fantasy Book Critic has agreed to host the reveal of the final book in The Paternus Trilogy - thank you everyone at FBC!

So here it is, the cover Paternus: War of Gods. I’ve actually had this for a couple of months, and it’s been killing me not being able to show it to everyone yet. I think illustrator John Anthony Di Giovanni and cover designer Shawn King of STK Kreations have really done it again. A few folks have told me they think it’s the best one yet. Can’t wait to hear what you all think.


The blue beastie with all the arms is Pratha, in the form of Kali, Goddess of Death, and there in front of her is, you guessed it, Fiona Megan Patterson, in her Valkyrie gear. Note that the copy on the back is there as a placeholder for now (see below). All except the tagline at the top, “Let slip the gods of war,” that’s staying :)

I have no solid release date yet–sorry! This one has proven incredibly challenging, with all the threads to tie up and a massive battle with dozens of characters to coordinate, but progress is good, and I still plan for a Fall release—early Fall, hopefully. There may also be a Kickstarter to fund hardcopies for all three books, some other fun swag kind of stuff, and maybe even a very special box set. That may push back the release a bit, but I’ll keep everyone updated.


If you like, you can sign up for my newsletter on my site or hit “want to read” for War of Gods on Goodreads. I’ll announce the release date and the Kickstarter on social media, but if you want to be sure to get the news, and get it first, those are the places to be.

If you haven’t read book one yet, and have any interest at all, Paternus: Rise of Gods is on sale for $0.99 right now through June 12, in both the U.S. and the UK. As the magnificent Scott Lynch said to me when I met him at a Worldcon a few years ago and told him I’d just purchased The Lies of Locke Lamora, “I hope it doesn’t suck.” (Don’t tell Lynn Kempner, she hates it when I say that ;)


Enough said. Thank you for taking a look!

All the best,
Dyrk

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Official Author Website
Order Paternus: Rise Of Gods OVER HERE (US) & OVER HERE (UK)
Order Paternus: Wrath Of Gods OVER HERE (US) & OVER HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Paternus: Rise Of Gods

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Dyrk Ashton is a writer, educator, filmmaker and former actor active in storytelling and media making. Born and raised in the Ohio, he spent his formative years in the American Midwest wherein he got a BFA, Masters & PhD in the field of filmmaking & Movie studies. Dyrk loves the outdoors and even more the genre of speculative fiction. He currently resides in Ohio, but the fantasy landscape is the place he calls his true home. Paternus: Rise Of The Gods was his debut.

NOTE: Author picture and all other art courtesy of the author.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Quill by AC Cobble (reviewed by David Stewart & Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order Quill over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: AC Cobble is the author of the Benjamin Ashwood and Cartographer series.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A heinous murder in a small village reveals a terrible truth. Sorcery, once thought dead in Enhover, is not. Evidence of an occult ritual and human sacrifice proves that dark power has been called upon again. Twisting threads of clues lead across the known world to the end of a vast empire, and then, the trail returns home. 

Duke Oliver Wellesley, son of the king, cartographer, and adventurer, has better things to do than investigate a murder in a sleepy fishing hamlet. For Crown and Company, though, he goes where he’s told. As the investigation leads to deeper and darker places, he’ll be forced to confront the horrific spectres rising from the shadows of his past. When faced with the truth, will he sacrifice what is necessary to survive? 

Samantha serves a Church that claims to no longer need her skills. She’s apprenticed to a priest-assassin that no one knows. Driven by a mad prophecy, her mentor has prepared her for a battle with ultimate darkness, except, sorcery is dead. When all is at stake, can she call upon an arcane craft the rest of the world has forgotten? 

FORMAT/INFO: Quill is 539 pages long divided over fifty-two chapters.This is the first volume of The Cartographer series. 

The book was self-published by the author on June 1st, 2019 and is available in print or as an e-book. 

ANALYSIS (David): Quill is a new type of fantasy for me, but one that I feel has been lacking in my life. I have a fondness for the colonial periods of our world history, despite the innumerable horrors inflicted upon native peoples during the imperialist rampage. There is a sense of adventure and discovery to this time period that is unique an era when humanity learned how to sail but had not yet discovered how to do it safely. The metaphorical unfurling of the world map must have been exciting in ways that perhaps future generations will feel about space travel. AC Cobble, in his first Cartographer book, captures this sense of adventure, but instills it with magic and floating islands and spirits, and it is a successful merging of these ideas. Quill has its fair share of flaws, some that niggled at me more than others, but on the whole, I think it is well worth reading, and I am eager to see where it goes. 

Oliver Wellesley is a rake, albeit one with royal blood. When he isn't bedding nubile noble twins, he's out mapping the world, and to his credit he is good at his job (on both accounts). Oliver's father is the king of fantasy England, a land called Enhover, and it is apparent from the start that Cobble's world-building is strongly dependent on its parallels to our own. This was, in fact, such a strong component of the setting that I was worried it would reflect too much our own history. Thankfully, my initial misgivings were soothed and Cobble does eventually set his world apart. In structure, it very much looks like 18th century Europe, but there are enough details to give it its own flavor, and this is vital to this type of work.


The beginning of Quill begins with a grisly murder, and Oliver is called on to investigate it due to the noble personages involved. The Church of Enhover, a very Roman Catholic-like institution, sends its "Priestess" Samantha along with him. There is sorcery involved, and the Church's role in Cobble's world is one of stamping down the magic arts in favor of faith. There is an immediate repoire between Oliver and Sam, and though there are some banter-jokes between them that fall extremely flat (such as a joke about the title of Duke and whether it's a name or not), their relationship evolves into one of depth that is engaging to follow. They make a good team, and it isn't long before they are both wrapped up in a massive conspiracy involving the crown, the church, and the fate of sorcery itself. 


I like quite a bit about Quill. It completely captures the adventurous spirit of the colonial age, to the point where I found myself smiling as characters would look out on the horizon at some new landscape, wishing I too were on that airship discovering new lands. The amount of exploration is limited to places that, at least, Oliver has already visited, but the spirit is there, and I hope to see more exploration in further novels in the series. Quill is set up as a murder mystery, but by the end it is clear that there is a larger story at work here, and Cobble has a multitude of options open to him in exploring his built world. 

There are also aspects of Quill that I found difficult to stomach. Cobble calls the book sexy on his website, in comparison to his other works, but I found much of the sexual descriptions downright pornographic. I have no qualms with this, it just did not fit the rest of the narrative very well and felt disharmonic. The character of Sam is also consistently put down and derided, despite proving herself time and time again, and while I understand this is a novel set in an parallel era when women were seen as little more than objects, I still cringed every time someone called Sam "girl." It happens more times than I could count. And this is fantasy, a fantasy where a woman fairly easily becomes captain of an airship and where the clergy seem to be held in high esteem. Calling one of the main characters "girl" over and over again does not feel in line with the world. Aside from that, the writing itself is not without flaw, and there were many times throughout the book that I saw the absence of professional editing. It is self-published, but that isn't necessarily a free pass when it comes to mistakes and syntax errors. 

ANALYSIS (MIHIR): I was attracted to Quill for three main reasons, firstly that it was a conspiracy thriller in the fantasy mode and secondly because of the underpinnings of the story as mentioned by the author in our interview: 
- “I spent a lot of time considering the implications for these cultures before/after colonial rule”, 
- “there is a lighter nautical theme in my book. There are ships, airships, and even pirates”. 
Lastly the series title which hints at the occupation of one of the protagonists, combined with my love of maps, I knew I HAD to read this book.

We have our two protagonist Duke Oliver Wellesley, a rake with a good heart and a cartographer to boot. Then there’s Samantha, apprentice priestess to Priest Thotham and a badass of her own might. We begin the story with these two and these two only come together because of a horrific murder. Things soon take a turn for the worse as the murder turns out to be related to the dark arts that have been outlawed. Things just spiral from there and our two protagonists find themselves swinging from location to location going down the rabbit hole and trying to make sense of it all.

This story was a real fast read and it very much read like a conspiracy thriller. The plot really takes off from the opening pages and with each POV change we are taken further and further down the rabbit hole. I liked this aspect and with the fast pace, there are quite a few twists within the story as well. The author also gives us protagonists who are refreshing good natured and its fun to see them spar. There’s a mild romantic angle that’s set up and I hope the author explores it in the sequels. Lastly the action is more on a personal level and so there’s not much to be found for those looking on an epic scale. But there’s enough hints and scenes provided within to keep the readers entertained.

There are a couple of things about this book that didn’t click for me. Particularly the world building which is there but only hinted at. Perhaps this was done for the expediency of the plot pace but I’m hoping the author reveals more in the sequels because the world is a very intriguing one. Lastly the author had mentioned this book was about the after effects of colonialism and I wish there was more about this as it would have brought a more interesting angle than the one presented. The author focuses on religion and secret societies as a means of the repressed to get back at their oppressors and I can’t wait to see what happens next as the ending is a mild cliffhanger.

Overall I really enjoyed AC Cobble’s writing style and the way this book ended, I wanted to read what happens next immediately. I think that’s a solid sign of AC’s ability to get readers hooked in. As a reader I don’t think I can ask more of an author. AC Cobble showcases himself as a writer to watch out for with his mix of thriller stories within a fantasy lens, read Quill to see why both David & I enjoyed it thoroughly.


CONCLUSION (DAVID): As I said, I liked Quill, and I would read more of this world that Cobble is building (cobbling?). It strikes a nice balance between world-building and plot, and the main characters are genuinely likable and worth following. There are enough unique fantasy hooks to make this stand out, and the setting is almost untouched in the genre even if it remains very Euro-centric in its roots. 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Nine by Tracy Townsend (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)


Order The Nine over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tracy Townsend is the author of The Nine and The Fall (books 1 and 2 in the Thieves of Fate series), a monthly columnist for the feminist sf magazine Luna Station Quarterly, and an essayist for Uncanny Magazine. She holds a master's degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is the former chair of the English department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, and one very patient husband.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In the dark streets of Corma exists a book that writes itself, a book that some would kill for...

Black market courier Rowena Downshire is just trying to pay her mother’s freedom from debtor's prison when an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares. Rowena escapes with her life, but the strange book she was ordered to deliver is stolen.

The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, and when Rowena shows up on his doorstep, frightened and empty-handed, he knows better than to turn her away. What he discovers leads him to ask for help from the last man he wants to see—the former mercenary, Anselm Meteron. 

Across town, Reverend Phillip Chalmers awakes in a cell, bloodied and bruised, facing a creature twice his size. Translating the stolen book may be his only hope for survival; however, he soon realizes the book may be a fabled text written by the Creator Himself, tracking the nine human subjects of His Grand Experiment. In the wrong hands, it could mean the end of humanity.

Rowena and her companions become the target of conspirators who seek to use the book for their own ends. But how can this unlikely team be sure who the enemy is when they can barely trust each other? And what will happen when the book reveals a secret no human was meant to know?


FORMAT/INFO: The Nine is 366 pages long. This is the first volume of the Thieves of Fate series.

The book was published by Pyr on November 14th, 2017 and it's available as an e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Cover art and design is provided by  Adam S. Doyle.

ANALYSIS: The Nine doesn’t sit comfortably in any singular genre. Rather, it reshapes various fantasy subgenres in an engrossing tale that takes place in an alternate universe.

Imagine a world where Science has become a religion. God the Experimentor maintains life as an experiment. He continually reevaluates his experiment by observing the way The Nine (randomly chosen human beings whose names remain unknown to anyone but God) live their lives. Some factions and creatures want humankind to fail God’s trial.

Thirteen-year-old underworld courier Rowena Downshire loses a book that writes itself to a creature called Aiganamuxa. Afraid of her brutal patron Ivor, she chooses to report the theft to book recipient – infamous and dreadful Alchemist. Accompanied by Alchemist old friend/foe of dubious morality – Anselm – they’re thrown into a dangerous quest. They become the target of conspirators who seek to use the book for their own ends. 

The Nine hooked me from page one. Mix of imaginative secondary world, vulnerable and relatable characters and a layered plot was hard to resist. While I consider myself atheist, I’m fascinated by religions and the way Tracy Townsend touches the subject is interesting and intelligent. It gives plenty of space for spinning and reassessing ecclesiastical theories. Religion, though, is just one side of the story focused on character arcs. The idea of creation being an ongoing experiment is fun, but the book focus lies elsewhere. Don’t expect it to be a philosophical treatise; it’s a fascinating adventure tale that touches more serious issues.

The journey we’re taken on seems well-conceived. Parts of the plot intertwine in surprising ways, and some twists are genuinely surprising. All ideas presented in the book come together in elegant ways. The world is admirably dark, filled with people struggling to survive in poorly lit alleys. Given that Rowena’s mother is enclosed in debtors jails and our protagonist tries to repay her debt, the story has some Dickens vibe to it. 

Apart from humans, there are two other races in the city –anatomically impossible aigamuxa with eyes in the soles of their feetand Lanyani – kind of living trees that enjoy feeding on human bodies. 

Characters presented in the book are well portrayed. Rowena is stubborn, loyal and fierce. The Alchemist POV is introduced later in the book, so while we observe him through other characters eyes, he seems reserved and sullen. On the other hand, we see enough to acknowledge that underneath grumpy appearance, he’s a good guy with a big heart. There’s also Anselm. Anselm is cool. He’s cold and cynic ex-mercenary who enjoys his decadent retirement. He describes himself as a villain with a penchant for self-aggrandisement and a portfolio of maladjusted habits. At one time he states:

Turpitude is my problem, not degeneracy. A law-abiding life was out of the question from the start.


Also, interactions between the three characters are done very well. There’s another character I liked a lot that, sadly, was killed by Tracy Townsend. After her r/fantasy AMA I thought she was a nice person but, clearly, I was wrong. Killing cool characters is uncool, you know. 

If you look for intelligent, well-plotted book that mashes political intrigues, conspiracies, heists, found family, steam- and clockpunk stylings, redemption arcs, interspecies conflict and grey morality, you can stop right now. This is it. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.



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