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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winners of the Ken Scholes and Scott Sigler Giveaways!!!

Congratulations to Kathy Scott (Idaho) and Richard Lazorchik (Pennsylvania) who were both randomly selected to win a SIGNED ADVANCE READING COPY of Ken Scholes’Lamentation” courtesy of Tor Books!!! Each winner will also receive a SIGNED COPY of the author’s short story collection, “Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Journeys”, courtesy of Fairwood Press! “Lamentation”, the exciting first volume of a new epic fantasy series—The Psalms of Isaak—will be published on February 17, 2009.

Congratulations also to Tiffany Ginn (Florida), Geraldine Rodriguez (Florida) and Tracey Byram (Alabama) who were all randomly selected to win a SET of
Scott Sigler’sInfected” and “Contagious”, thanks to Crown Publishing!!! “Contagious” is the breathtaking sequel to “Infected” and is officially released today!

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Eldon Thompson


I usually hate this question because it forces me to think back farther than a week or two, which, quite frankly, hurts my head. As if the hamster running my brain isn't working hard enough just turning his wheel, now he has to get down and go sift through the archives. Nevertheless, I do have a first impression, and those are usually the best. So, a pair of memorable reads from 2008 would be
Jess Walter'sThe Zero” and James Clemens'Shadowfall”.

Walter'sThe Zero” was a finalist for the National Book Award. It deals with the aftermath of 9/11 and a hero cop on the trail of... well, problem is, he has trouble remembering. With memory gaps a part of his daily life, he can't seem to figure out if he is hunting terrorists, or if he himself is working for them. It's an engaging, sometimes bizarre tale from an author who, with a single phrase, can cut deeply profound insights into the nature of man and his modern society.

Clemens'Shadowfall” is an epic fantasy that I'd place somewhere in the area between
Terry Brooks' Shannara and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire. It's high adventure such as Brooks likes to tell, but with some of the more mature themes and imagery that Martin has been known to traffic in. I give it the highest possible marks in terms of imaginative world-building, with details both gritty and fanciful, delivered in such a way that never bog down the story. At its heart is the tale of a fallen knight wrongfully dubbed “godslayer” after witnessing the murder of an immortal god. Blessed (some might call it cursed) by the god's touch, the knight ventures forth to clear his name and to stop the terrible evil that actually perpetrated the deed. The second book in this series, “Hinterland”, has already been released. The remainder of the tale is said to be forthcoming.


I've not yet reached the level of professional recognition at which authors or their marketing departments are begging me for praise that can be printed as jacket quotes on their newest releases. As such, I'm not in the best position to offer an insider's look at what readers should be salivating over for the near future. What I have had the pleasure of doing, while attending various writers conferences, is catching a sneak peak of emerging talents whose work has not yet found a publisher but is in the process of doing so. From the “you heard it here first” column, be on lookout for names like
Shawn Speakman, J. Scott Nelson, Steven Booth, Heather McCorkle, Michaela Renee, and Lynnette Baum. I've also read work recently from Mike Ness, Luke Ganje, and Johnathan Creech. Hopefully one or two of them will remember us little people as they make their way to the top of the publishing world. Oh, and so that I don't veer completely off topic, I will add that I've heard nothing but praise for Robert V. S. Reddick'sThe Red Wolf Conspiracy”, which Del Rey will be bringing stateside in 2009.


Keeping me busy at the moment are a number of screenwriting projects in various stages of development. But I'm gradually forcing my focus back to the book world and some of the stories I want to tell now that my Legend of Asahiel trilogy is complete. While there are a number of directions I could turn, fan interest seems to be pressuring me to pick up the adventures of the young assassin, Kylac Kronus, who, true to his wandering nature, ventured off on his own after the events of “The Crimson Sword”. I've invited readers to use their own imaginations as to his whereabouts, but that doesn't seem sufficient to satisfy anyone, so I guess I should go ahead and tell the tale. Beyond that . . . well, let's just see if I survive 2009 before I think too much about what might be in store for 2010.


Eldon Thompson is a professional author and screenwriter best known for his screenplay of
Terry Brooks’The Elfstones of Shannara” which was optioned for film adaptation by Warner Bros. Eldon is also the author of The Legend of Asahiel epic fantasy trilogy. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index
Monday, December 29, 2008

“Twelve” by Jasper Kent (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jasper Kent Website
Order “Twelve
Read An Excerpt
Read Reviews via SFF World

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jasper Kent owns a degree in Natural Sciences from Trinity Hall, Cambridge. For almost twenty years he has worked as a software engineer and has co-written several musicals including The Promised Land and Remember! Remember!. “Twelve” is his first published novel with a sequel, “Thirteen Years Later”, already commissioned by Transworld.

ABOUT TWELVE: The voordalak are a creature of legend, tales of which have terrified Russian children for generations. But for Captain Aleksei Ivanonvich Danilov—a child of more enlightened times—it is a legend that has long been forgotten. Besides, in the autumn of 1812, he faces a more tangible enemy—the Grande Armée of Napoleon Bonaparte.

City after city has fallen to the advancing French, and now it seems that only a miracle will keep them from Moscow itself. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki—a group of twelve mercenaries from the furthest reaches of Christian Europe—who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that the Oprichniki are indeed quite capable of fulfilling their promise.

Unnerved by the fact that so few can accomplish so much, Aleksei remembers those childhood stories of the voordalak. And as he comes to understand the true, horrific nature of these twelve strangers, he realizes that they’ve unleashed a nightmare in their midst…

CLASSIFICATION: Set in 1812 during the French invasion of Russia—specifically the Battle of Borodino, the capture and fires of Moscow, the retreat from Moscow, and the Battle of Berezina—with the primary antagonists being vampires, “Twelve” is much like the book describes itself . . . a vibrant blend of detailed historical fiction and heart-stopping supernatural horror. Myself, I was reminded of a cross between a Bernard Cornwell novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and “Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire”…

FORMAT/INFO:Twelve” is 480 pages long divided over two Parts, thirty-two Roman-numbered chapters, and a Russian Folk Tale as the Prologue. Also includes a map and an Author’s Note. Narration is in the first-person exclusively via Aleksei Ivanonvich Danilov. Story is self-contained and comes to a very satisfying conclusion, but “Twelve” is envisioned as the “first in a quintet (The Danilov Quintet) of novels which span Russian history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” with a sequel, “Thirteen Years Later” (Working Title), currently under development.

January 1, 2009 marks the Trade Paperback Publication of “Twelve” via
Bantam Press UK. Cover designed by Paul Young. NOTE: The second cover below was the original design which I personally like :)

ANALYSIS: I love vampire stories, but as I’ve mentioned before, the concept has started to lose its novelty because it’s just the same ideas being used over and over. Which is why I was instantly attracted to Jasper Kent’sTwelve”, a book billed as “the First Napoleonic Historical Vampire Novel”. Simply put, using a war as the backdrop for a vampire tale was a brilliant idea. In fact, I wonder why it hasn’t been done more often. After all, wartime is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for the ever thirsting vampire and is just full of material for an author to work with :)

Yet, as I’ve commented on many times before, an interesting hook can only take a novel so far without the proper execution. This is what makes “Twelve” so special. Because while it was the hook that first reeled me in, it was Jasper’s wonderful writing and storytelling that kept me glued to the novel until its very last page…

Jasper’s writing impressed me for a number of reasons, but most impressive of all was the characterization, specifically of the main protagonist, Aleksei Ivanonvich Danilov. Now with a first-person narrative, one would expect to get a little more insight into a character than they would from a third-person narrative, but Jasper takes it a step further, establishing everything from Aleksei’s personality and his fears & desires to the different levels of friendship he has developed with Maks, Dmitry and Vadim to the love that he feels for his wife and child as well as the prostitute Domnikiia, and much more. The end result is a fully realized, three-dimensional character that readers can care about, root for and connect with emotionally. One of my favorite traits about Aleksei was his wonderful similes/metaphors:

Horses and victuals that had been moved away from the road during the French advance had surged back in after their retreat, as though Napoleon were Moses leading his army of Israelites across the Red Seas, except that what was drawn away in advance of him and returned behind would have brought life, not death to his army.”

In addition to the characterization, the worldbuilding was topnotch, effortlessly transporting the reader back to the Napoleonic Wars when France was invading Russia. History buffs in particular will be thrilled by the amount of detail that Jasper has packed into the novel, especially the way he weaves the main storyline with actual historical events like the Battle of Borodino, Napoleon’s capture and occupation of Moscow, the fires and the French army's retreat from Moscow, and the Battle of Berezina. It should be noted however, that even though the book takes place during the Napoleonic Wars and that Aleksei and his friends are Russian soldiers, “Twelve” is not your typical war novel. Part of the reason is because Aleksei, Maks, Dmitry and Vadim specialize in espionage and fight the war through subterfuge, but it’s also because of the vampire storyline which dominates about half of the novel.

Story-wise, “Twelve” starts off a little slow with the author focused on establishing the setting, the character of Aleksei, his relationship with Maks, Dmitry, Vadim and Domnikiia; the strangeness of the Oprichniki, and so forth. In fact, the vampires aren’t even revealed as such until about 200 pages into the novel. What’s interesting about this though is that the reader knows that the Oprichniki are vampires, so it’s fun to catch all of the little clues that reveal the Oprichniki’s true nature. Plus, there’s plenty to keep the reader entertained including war espionage, the love story between Aleksei and Domnikiia, a traitor amongst Aleksei’s friends, etc. After the Oprichniki are revealed as vampires, “Twelve” starts to venture into more traditional horror territory with Aleksei intent on destroying the Oprichniki, but Jasper does have a few tricks up his sleeve including a couple of unexpected twists—which are easy to figure out if you pay attention—and an engaging game of cat & mouse...

As far as the vampires, Jasper relies mainly on recognizable lore such as the Oprichniki’s increased strength, speed and recuperative abilities; their need for blood; their Wallachian roots; and being susceptible to sunlight, a stake through the heart, and decapitation. Crosses and churches don’t affect the Oprichniki however, and they cannot change into bats, wolves or mist. For the most part though, Jasper’s vampires are of the time-honored variety, although the author does explore the Oprichniki philosophically and psychologically, and also uses vampires as a stark contrast to mankind who are still the world’s worst monsters…

CONCLUSION: Jasper Kent’sTwelve” may fall in the category of historical fiction and vampire horror, but labels are only a small part of the picture. To put it simply, “Twelve” is magnificently written and told, with great characters and villains, a vivid setting, and a haunting story, all of which makes Jasper Kent’s debut one of the best books of the year…
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Sarah Ash


When I’m writing I tend not to read any other novels, partly because I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced by what I’m reading, but mostly because I’m so immersed in the world of the story in progress that I just haven’t the will or interest to enter into another created world, no matter how imaginatively it’s been crafted.

However . . . there are exceptions every year and one was
Mélanie Fazi’s collection of short stories of the fantastic: “Serpentine” from Bragelonne. Mélanie Fazi is a subtle and dark storyteller and weaves her tales with seductive skill. I particularly recommend the title story, set in a tattoo parlour which uses rather special inks…

Another collection of short stories, this time translated from the Japanese by
Anthony H. Chambers for Columbia University Press, is “Tales of Moonlight and Rain” by Ueda Akinari, an exquisite collection dating from 1776, filled with exquisite imagery and scholarly footnotes—I love footnotes, especially when they’re so intriguing and illuminating as these.

I read aloud plenty of children’s books in my role as children’s librarian, some with more pleasure than others and a series that has given me—and the children—great enjoyment is the Mr Gum series by
Andy Stanton. Andy won the first Roald Dahl Award this year with his latest instalment, “Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear,” and it’s wonderfully crazy, hilarious, and inventive, in the best British tradition of humorous writing. “The truth is a lemon meringue!”

And now the manga. I read a lot of manga, some to review, some just for my own enjoyment. So I thought I’d end with some fantasy in manga form. First I have to mention a title that’s hot off the press from
Go! Comi: “07-Ghost” by Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara. I’ve been waiting a while for the first volume of this to be translated and I’m pleased to report that I’ve not been disappointed—far from it. “07-Ghost” is the story of orphan Teito Klein who is a promising cadet at the elite Barsburg Military Academy until the day he discovers a terrible secret about his past. Fleeing the Academy, he finds refuge at the Barsburg Church where three priests take him under their wing. But the officers of the Imperial Army are after Teito and they set in motion a plan which will use the most cruel and unexpected ways to regain control of him. But who are the sinister Seven Ghosts of the Barsburg Church—and what links do they have with Teito’s forgotten past? I really like the fresh approach that Amemiya and Ichihara bring to this exciting shonen/shojo fantasy adventure. They have created believable, sympathetic characters and a fascinatingly dark mythology. Ichihara’s artwork is distinctive and powerful, with some breath-taking action sequences. And this is only the first volume; it gets even better (yes, I confess that I’ve read on ahead.)

Nanae Chrono is best known for her ShinsengumiPeacemaker” manga series and—as I’m one of its fans—I’ve been looking forward to her vampire series “Vassalord”.
Tokyopop has brought out the first two volumes this year, and it’s been well worth the wait. Johnny Rayflo is a wealthy playboy vampire. Charles J. Chrishunds is a cyborg priest vampire hunter. It seems at the beginning as if Charley is out to arrest Johnny . . . but matters are far more complex, as is their relationship. But something is definitely amiss in the world and it may have something to do with the vampires’ desirable powers of longevity. Charley and Johnny will have to work together to uncover the corruption at the heart of the church before it destroys them. Chrono-sensei is a tease and has a wicked sense of humour; her drawings are gorgeous and detailed. I hope, as the tension increases, that we won’t have to wait too long for Volume 3.


Sarah Ash is a British author of several fantasy novels including The Tears of Artamon trilogy. Her new novel, “Flight into Darkness” (Published January 27, 2009 by
Bantam Spectra), concludes the Alchymist’s Legacy which began with “Tracing the Shadow”. Sarah also runs the library in a local primary school. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Jaine Fenn


These days I don’t get anything like enough reading time—somehow it keeps transmuting into writing time. As a result I’m ashamed to say that I’m several years behind everyone else on my reading.

I managed a grand total of one 2008 book this year, which was
Greg Egan’sIncandescence”. In it he manages to combine the mind-expanding ideas of hard SF with characters who, despite being very alien, you can care about, and that’s quite a feat.

A book from last year I only got round to reading this year was
Richard Morgan’s excellent “Black Man” (published in the US as Thirteen). I love his stuff: he creates gripping, well-written SF thrillers with a whole lot of more subtle stuff going on in the background.

I’m still catching up on not-so-old favourites like
Charles Stross and Neal Asher. I’ve just finished Neal Asher’sVoyage of the Sable Keech” which, as well as being a rip-roaring romp, is unique in that the local ecology is almost a character in its own right.

On a friend’s recommendation I also read a largely forgotten Fantasy classic (I don’t read much fantasy, so I like to go on personal recommendations from people who know my tastes): “The Steerswoman’s Road” is a haunting and beautiful book; though it’s also not exactly fantasy.

And finally, I’m now hooked on
Liz Williams’ Inspector Chen books, which are easy to read but hard to categorise (though I’m at least one behind on those too).


Sorry—I’m afraid you’ll have to ask me that in another three or four years!

ON THE HORIZON: Early in 2009 I’ve got a story in “End of an Aeon”, the swansong anthology of
Aeon Speculative Magazine—it’s a shame to see that magazine go the way of too many others. The mass-market paperback of “Principles of Angels” will be out in the UK in February. The second book in the Hidden Empire series, “Consorts of Heaven”, will be out in the UK in May (Gollancz), and I’m hard at work on the third one, “Guardians of Paradise”.


Jaine Fenn is a British science fiction author with several short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. “Principles of Angels” is her debut novel. For more information, please visit the author’s
Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index
Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Gary Gibson


I've read a lot of books this year, but it's only now I realise how few of them were actually published this year. These are the ones that stood out for me.

The following aren't in order of preference, but are rather in order of 'as I remember them'.

1)Anathem” by
Neal Stephenson. I'm sure this is at the top of a lot of people's lists, but I was waiting for this one for a long time. It's unbelievably dense, but rewarding enough that one of these days I'll have to make time to re-read it. Neal Stephenson is one of those few authors of whom I can say I've read and re-read almost everything they've written at some time or another. Not for the weak-hearted, mind—there's a dinner-table conversation about philosophy and classical platonic ideals that lasts for what might be a hundred pages (I read it on a Sony Reader, so can't estimate precisely, but believe me, it was long) that I skipped large portions of it, only to find out reading the bits I skipped were absolutely essential to understanding the book's conclusion. But I came away from the book satisfied nonetheless—it's good, intelligent writing that fills you with sufficiently interesting questions that you know you want to experience again with a depth of understanding gained from the first encounter.

2)Implied Spaces” by
Walter Jon Williams. A terrific post-modern space opera that's as playful as it is inventive. Strangely reminiscent of Roger Zelazny in certain respects. It's a post-singularity novel, but one that refreshingly doesn't rely on the kind of heavy exposition that can make a reader feel like they need to wire their brain into Ray Kurzweil's and take a crash course in half a dozen different fields of developmental and informational technology before they can begin to understand the story.

3)Armed Madhouse” by
Greg Palast. Excoriating trip through the halls of neo-conservative US politics under George Bush Junior as they turn post-invasion Iraq into a sandbox for their lunatic economic fantasies of building a mini-America on the Euphrates. Indeed, everything you want to know about the War on Terror is summed up on the book's first page in only the first of a series of highly evocative images.

4)Little Brother” by
Cory Doctorow. Absolutely one of the most entertaining and informative and fun books I've read in a long time.

5)Seeds of Change”. A neat little package of an anthology from anthologist
John Joseph Adams.

6)The Turing Test” by
Chris Beckett. Chris strikes me as the quintessential British sf writer in temperament and tone, and the nearest thing we have to a 'new' Christopher Priest.

7)The Terror” by
Dan Simmons. I was a bit disappointed by Ilium, so I was glad when “The Terror” proved to be a quite gripping read. Like some of Simmons' horror novels from the Eighties and late Nineties, this drew inspiration from real events—in this case two exploration ships of the mid-19th century trapped in dense pack ice while attempting to find the then-non-existent North West Passage (recently opened up and made real by global warming). Both ships and crew were lost forever, but Simmons includes something that might be a vengeful spirit, or might be an undiscovered throwback to some earlier evolutionary period that is stalking and killing the crewmen, one by one. If you want a book that's going to completely draw you in, this is it.

8)Black and White” by
Lewis Shiner. Lewis Shiner was one of sf's great hopes in the Eighties, when hardly a month passed, or so it seemed, without another of his stories in Asimov's SF. His profile has been somewhat lower over the past decade. Nonetheless, his non-genre novel about racism and family secrets was one of my favourite reads of the year. It's a relentlessly gripping narrative, flipping between the viewpoints of the main character—a comic-book artist—in the present, and that of his father, an architect in the Sixties responsible for designing a motorway system intended to cut straight through the heart of—and thereby destroy—a thriving black community. Highly recommended.


I'm looking forward to reading “The Quiet War” by
Paul McAuley, which should be out in the UK in paperback in 2009. Apart from that, I never seem to know about books until about two weeks before they get published. I knew nothing about “Little Brother” by Doctorow until it was out, which is my way of saying, I'd tell you what I was looking forward to in 2009 if I knew what was coming out.

But one book I'm certainly observing with interest—and which looks to be high fun—is “Escape From Hell!” by fellow Glasgow sf circle member
Hal Duncan.

Another long-time member of the same writer's group,
Mike Cobley, has the first in a space opera series—Seeds of Earth—coming out in the UK from Orbit in March of 2009, marking a comeback after his adventures in sword and sorcery in the earlier years of the century (the Shadowkings trilogy).


On my own part, the sequel to “Stealing Light” is coming out in hardback in the UK in September 2009; it's called “Nova War”. I'm busy writing the third in the series just now.


Gary Gibson is a Scottish science fiction author with three novels published by Pan Macmillan/Tor UK including “Gravity”, “Angel Stations” and “Stealing Light”. He is also a member of the
Glasgow Science Fiction Writer’s Circle (Hal Duncan, Neil Williamson). For more information, please visit the author’s Official Blog.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Jeff Somers


I’m not always the brightest bulb in the pack, and my youth was misspent drinking on street corners and playing an obscure game called Bottlecaps on the streets of Jersey City (involving plastic caps from milk jugs, clay, and chalked boards on the street [I swear I am not making this up]), so every year I find myself bogged down trying desperately to discover the fiction and history that everyone else read fifteen years ago. My “best-of” lists, as a result, tend to have a nice, warm feeling of nostalgia and rarely include too many books actually published in that year.

This past year, the books that stand out that were new to me are:

1)Pop. 1280” by
Jim Thompson. Jim Thompson was one of the most taut, efficient writers ever, and I long to be able to spin tales as simple, crafty, and subtle as his. And his main characters are so inhumanly cruel it's easy enough to imagine they're robots, and it's really science fiction!

2)We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by
Shirley Jackson. Damn. I can't believe I went 37 years without reading this.

3) The Gap Cycle by
Stephen R. Donaldson. Okay, a cheat (I think I cheated last year too—muhahahahaha!). This isn't one book, but a series of five books, and a series I've read before. But I re-read it this year, and it still stands up in my mind as one of the best SF stories I've ever read.

4)Wreck of the Godspeed” by
James Patrick Kelly. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kelly at a reading this year, and bought the book there. It's a delight. If you love short stories, buy this and revel in a great imagination.

5)Altered Carbon” by
Richard Morgan. When I sold The Electric Church, a lot of people advised me to pick this up and read it as we tread some similar territory. So I dutifully went out and bought a copy, and then it sat on my to-read list for years. Which is actually the accelerated slot. Normally books sit on my to-read list for decades. It's damned good, as almost everyone but me already knows. Taut, funny, and chock full of good ideas—I'm really glad I finally fast-tracked it and will definitely be checking out the rest of the Morgan ouevre.


Currently, I plan to get to the books I bought in 1999 by 2019.


The third book in the Avery Cates series, “The Eternal Prison”, will be released by
Orbit Books in August 2009.


Jeff Somers is an American author whose bibliography includes “Lifers”, “The Freaks Are Winning”, the Avery Cates novels (The Electric Church, The Digital Plague), and numerous short stories. Jeff is also the creator of the e-zine,
The Inner Swine. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index
Friday, December 26, 2008

Winners of Alison Goodman’s “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” Giveaway! Plus Del Rey Manga’s New Acquisition

Congratulations to Serenity Carlisle (Florida) and Jill Rivera (New Jersey) who were both randomly selected to win a COPY of Alison Goodman’sEon: Dragoneye Reborn”!!! Each winner will also receive an “Eon: Dragoneye RebornPoster all thanks to Viking Juvenile! “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” is officially released TODAY in the U.S., and was just reviewed by Cindy Hannikman HERE.

In news,
Del Rey Manga recently announced the acquisition of the manga “Ninja Girls” by Hosana Tanaka:

In Japan’s distant past, ninja warriors ruled the land. Raizo, a young man disfigured by a strange horn in the middle of his forehead, is an outcast who has a long way to go before becoming a ninja. But an encounter with a beautiful female ninja leads him to realize his destiny—he’s the last living descendant of a feudal lord family, and now he has a group of gorgeous, glamorous ninjas who will do anything to help him regain his throne...

The martial-arts-themed manga is an ongoing series that currently has five volumes published in Japan under the title Rappi Rangai. “Ninja Girls” marks Tanaka’s US manga debut.


Kodansha is the largest trade book and magazine publisher in Japan. Founded in 1909, the company by virtue of its long history, the quality of its publishing, and its established network of sales and marketing is regarded as the trade book market leader in the publishing business in Japan. Moreover, Kodansha has been recognized as the leading publisher with a mission to introduce Japan through its publishing business.


Del Rey Books was founded in 1977 as an imprint of Ballantine Books, a division of the Random House Publishing Group, under the guidance of the renowned Judy-Lynn del Rey and her husband, Lester del Rey. Del Rey publishes the best of modern fantasy, science fiction, and alternate history. Ballantine Books is an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, which is a publishing group of Random House, Inc, the U.S. publishing company of Random House, the trade book publishing division of Bertelsmann AG, one of the world's leading international media companies. In 2004 it expanded by launching Del Rey Manga, which has grown to be a major force in the U.S. graphic-novel field. Bestselling titles include Tsubasa, Negima, xxxHolic, and The Wallflower.

“Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” by Alison Goodman (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Official Eon Website
Official Eon Myspace
Official Alison Goodman Website
Order “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
Read An Excerpt
Read Reviews via
The Compulsive Reader

Dragons have been a major staple in the world of fantasy for many years. The vast majority of stories tell of creatures that are long extinct or can destroy a wide range of cities in a single swoop of their wings. Alison Goodman’sEon: Dragoneye Reborn” offers readers a different view of dragons…

In an imaginary world laced with Asian culture, there exists twelve Dragoneyes who, along with their apprentices, can touch the power of a certain dragon—if that dragon has chosen them. Eon—a twelve-year-old boy who was a candidate for the Rat Dragon Dragoneye—has reawakened the Mirror Dragon after being dormant for 500 years. With no previous Mirror Dragon Dragoneye available to aid Eon in understanding how to handle the powers that come with being a Mirror Dragon Dragoneye, Eon must explore an unknown world to him. However, Eon is hiding a secret that could mean the death of not only himself, but to all who have had any contact with him: Eon is really Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has the unique ability to see all the dragons’ power within her mind’s eye, a power believed to be available only to males.

While Eon is keeping her secret hidden, the emperor's health is failing and although there is a worthy son as heir, his brother, High Lord Sethon, wants the throne for himself. This known rivalry has caused conflict throughout the country with people aligning themselves with the emperor and preparing themselves for the day that they will have to fight Sethon to keep Prince Kygo and his family on the throne. Sethon, who has been planning to take over the throne for years, has befriended the Rat Dragon Dragoneye, Lord Ido, in his pursuit of power. With this powerful force behind him, Sethon may just be able to succeed in his quest to becoming the next ruler.

From here, “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” takes readers through a classic power struggle between good and evil. Eon, must move through the political world of the Dragoneye council and the courts of the Royal family, while trying to keep the country out of the evil hands of Sethon. At the same time, Eon must find the strength within herself to figure out what awakened the Mirror Dragon and how to harness the dragon's power and use it for the good of the empire…

While not taking place in a real area of China, the world of “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” is very vivid and obviously influenced by Asian culture. For example, the twelve dragons of the zodiac, the structure of the towns, the traditions of the people, et cetera all possesses an Asian flare. Personally, it was nice to see a book deal with dragons in the eastern area of the world as a lot of fantasy novels seem to take place in Scotland or Ireland.

Alison Goodman not only does an excellent job of describing the world, but also the customs that the characters go through. Each detail of a ceremony is explained to the reader so that one understands why the characters are performing such actions or acting in a certain way. While this was a unique side to the story there was a slight drawback. At times, the book felt as though it was focusing too much on explaining customs and cultural experiences rather than the actual story, and can get a bit repetitive.

As a young adult book, “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” is told from the first-person point of view of Eon/Eona, that seems to be favored by many YA titles. This is a writing style that rarely holds my interest, but surprisingly I found “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” to be a page-turner even though the book is close to 600 pages long. The novel does start to slow down after the first fifty pages and can be a bit frustrating at times because of how little action there is compared to all of the ceremonial procedures explained, and how it sometimes feels as though the reader is just going in circles, but Goodman does a good job of keeping these moments few and far between. However, I was disappointed in the book’s lack of action and it is something that could turn away a lot of potential readers. Fortunately, the ending was quite action-packed and I'm hoping that the sequel will be more exciting, since readers will already be familiar with the world and culture.

One major weakness with “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” was the issue of a girl pretending to be a boy in a world that is so male-dominated. While not supposed to be the main focus of the plot, it was hard to overlook this issue, especially since so much time was spent debating on why Eona was so good at pretending to be a boy. Goodman also went into great detail explaining the process of turning a girl into a boy such as taking drugs to suppress any form of feminism to proving to the courts that Eon was really a boy.

Another aspect that slightly overshadowed the plot was the person Eon befriends once in court, Lady Dela. Lady Dela comes from the islands that oppose Sethon, and is a prestigious member of the emperor's court. However, Lady Dela is actually a man who dresses as a woman and can walk amongst the women as one of them. This is frowned upon in the cities that surround and house the emperor, and Dela is almost viewed as a demon—someone to stay away from. While I'm very open-minded, I was a little shocked at this aspect of the storyline since the marketing age for the book is thirteen-years-old.

Overall, I was impressed with Alison Goodman’sEon: Dragoneye Reborn”, and the flavor that it brought. Granted, there are moments when seasoned readers might find the book predictable, but the author offers enough elements to keep you reading and wanting to know more. I just hope that readers can overlook the book’s lack of action and gender issues, and enjoy the unique look at dragons that “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” brings to the world of fantasy…

NOTE:Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” was published in the UK on September 11, 2008 under the title, “The Two Pearls of Wisdom”. A UK YA version, called “Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye”, will be published January 1, 2009 via David Fickling Books.
Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Jedediah Berry


I loved
Jeffrey Ford’s new collection, The Drowned Life. Ford’s short stories are strange and funny and heartbreaking, and sometimes they change the rules of what stories can do. Some of my favorites from the collection are “The Night Whiskey,” “The Dreaming Wind,” and “The Manticore Spell,” but don’t miss the confessions of a hot dog addict in “The Fat One.”

Kelly Link’s new collection, “Pretty Monsters”, is also wonderful, and it has great illustrations from Shaun Tan, author of “The Arrival”. I’ve been a fan of Link’s stories for a long time, and continue to be surprised and delighted by her work.

The Engine’s Child” by
Holly Phillips was a novel that really grabbed me with its taut political story, complicated characters, and brilliantly imagined setting. I read this one during a flight through a bad storm, and at one point the plane shook so violently that everyone screamed and some passengers started praying. My thought was: Now I’ll never find out how this book ends.

I highly recommend
Brian Francis Slattery’s new novel, “Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six after the Collapse of the United States of America”. The outlaws of the title are kind of Ocean’s Eleven for the End Times. Slattery has envisioned a world in which history loops and folds upon itself, catching the powerful and the downtrodden in its violent and transformative storm. Heady, smart, entertaining stuff.

Finally, I must tout the virtues of Benjamin Parzybok’s debut, “Couch” (disclosure: I work part-time for
Small Beer Press, which published the novel). Three guys have to move a couch out of their Portland, OR apartment, but the couch turns out to be magical, maybe, and they end up carrying it all the way to . . . well, much farther than anyone should have to carry a couch. This book is hilarious and odd in all the right ways.

Other novels I loved: “The Good Thief” by
Hannah Tinti, “The Monsters of Templeton” by Lauren Groff, “Wit's End” by Karen Joy Fowler, and “The Gone-Away World” by Nick Harkaway.


Drood” by
Dan Simmons. Release Date: February 9, 2009. Published by Little, Brown and Company.
Troll’s Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales” edited by
Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling. Release Date: April 16, 2009. Published by Viking Juvenile.
Four Freedoms” by
John Crowley. Release Date: May 26, 2009. Published by William & Morrow.
The film version of
The Road.
Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories” by
Lauren Groff. Release Date: January 27, 2009. Published by Voice.


My novel “The Manual of Detection” will be published by
Penguin in February. It’s about a file clerk who must solve a mystery involving dream detectives, a carnival magician, and a city-wide alarm clock heist. It will also be available in the UK from Heinemann (March 5, 2009) and as an audiobook from HighBridge.


Jedediah Berry’s short stories have appeared in in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best New American Voices and Best American Fantasy. He works as an assistant editor of
Small Beer Press. “The Manual of Detection” is his first novel. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Brian Ruckley


My memory sucks. I’ve no idea what I was reading in early 2008. Maybe I’m doing this reading thing wrong. Am I supposed to be keeping a list or something? But here are a few books I definitely do remember, for one reason or another, reading this year:

The Unblemished” by
Conrad Williams. This one has stayed with me simply for its startling effectiveness in creating a dark, unsettling feel: England—and London in particular—being consumed (literally) from within by predatory, disguised . . . well, I’m not sure exactly what they are, really, but they’re creepy critters.

Every Dead Thing” and “The Unquiet” by
John Connolly. These are books one and five in an ongoing crime series, and I perversely read book five first, then book one. Which turned out to be a good thing because book one is frankly a bit bonkers (it’s got a body count that makes GRRM look positively benign), but by book five things seem to have calmed down a little, considerably to the story’s benefit. The thing about the series is that as far as I can see it’s clearly horror or dark contemporary fantasy masquerading as gruesome crime fiction: the supernatural elements are largely peripheral, but they’re explicit, and book five seems to hint they might actually be more central than they appear.

The Umbrella Academy” by
Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. My favourite amongst the graphic novels I read this year, and the word that comes to mind when I think of it is ‘fun’. Wildly inventive sf superhero romp, with art I find utterly irresistible. (With an honourable mention to All-Star Superman Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, just because I’ve never liked Superman as a character, but they came up with something I enjoyed despite that, which is quite clever of them.)

Hyperion” by
Dan Simmons. Cheating a bit, because this is a re-read. There are not that many books I return to, but “Hyperion” tends to come down off the shelf every two or three years, and every time it does, it’s up there amongst my favourite books of the year. An author firing on all cylinders, and then some.


I can confidently predict that there will be very few books I read as soon as they’re published next year, because it’s like that every year. I’m up to my neck in unread but allegedly good stuff published two, five or even twenty years ago, so I never get straight to all the really new stuff I’d like to be getting to. That said, a couple of upcoming books that have caught my avaricious eye:

China Mieville’sThe City and The City” and Jeff VanderMeer’sFinch”. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of theirs in the past, so disappointment seems unlikely. What’s particularly interesting is that judging by the available info they seem to have independently hit upon somewhat similar new twists on their past work: both are promising crime fiction in fantastical urban settings. And both of them are writers I’d expect to deliver just that spectacularly well.


Mass market paperbacks of “Bloodheir” should be coming out all over the place around the end of March, early April time (sort of like daffodils, only violent and bloody ones) and then “Fall of Thanes” will see the light of day in May, I believe: hardback in the UK, trade paperback in the US (
Orbit Books). I should also have short stories coming out in at least one anthology, possibly two, but publication dates for those are yet to irrevocably finalized…


Brian Ruckley was born and raised in Scotland. After studying at Edinburgh and Stirling Universities, he worked for a series of organizations dealing with environmental, nature conservation, and youth development issues. Brian is the author of The Godless World fantasy trilogy which so far includes “Winterbirth” and “Bloodheir”. For more information, please visit the author’s
Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview index
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

“Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant” by Gwyneth Jones (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Official Gwyneth Jones Website
Order “Spirit: The Princess of Bois DormantHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

INTRODUCTION:Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant” by Gwyneth Jones is a standalone novel in her Aleutinian universe which includes the White Queen trilogy and several short stories. I liked the only story I had previously read by Gwyneth Jones—“Saving Tiamaat” originally published in the New Space Opera anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan & Gardner Dozois and currently available for free online—so I gave this novel a try and was bowled over by it. I liked the book so much that I immediately ordered the original trilogy and intend to read those novels as soon as I get them :)

SETTING: In the Diaspora universe of Humanoid Bipeds, there are several different races including the humans of Earth/Blue Planet, the Aleutinian immortals, and the vampire bat-like Sigurtians.

On Earth, humanity is divided between Traditionalists (marriage for life, men as the head of families, women restricted in their roles, etc.) and Reformers (mostly bi-gendered alternating between male and female aspects, social workers, part-time marriage, etc.) with the latter holding power at the beginning of the novel, while various factions vie for a “restoration” of the Traditionalists. There is also a group of “half-caste” humans who are strongly influenced by the Aleutinian adventurers/conquerors, which includes ignoring advanced technology and cutting off their noses to look more like Aleutinians. These “half-caste” humans are despised and marginalized by both Traditionalists and Reformers, but are also quite useful to each faction in their continual jostling for power.

General Yu is the nominal head of one of the most powerful Traditionalist houses, but much of that power resides with his principal wife Lady Nef and her Aleutinian secretary and unofficial lover Francois. They are “Seniors”—allowed sophisticated genetic treatments enabling them to live 150-200 years with Lady Nef having the prestigious title of “Immortal Designate” which makes her household almost untouchable despite the General’s blunders to acquire more power. Through General Yu, we are introduced to the book’s main character, Gwibibwr/Bibi—means “Princess”—the lone survivor of a suppressed rebellion. Taken to Lady Nef, Bibi is offered the choice of becoming her servant or the General's concubine. Bibi chooses the former and is later nicknamed “Savage” for her strict traditionalist beliefs.

Additional characters include Honesty and Nightingale, two Han Chinese girls who are Bibi's bed-neighbors in the girl's wing of the Yu/Nef household; Col. Ben Phu, Drez Doyle and Sergeant Aswad who participated in the massacre of Bibi's family and try to help Bibi adapt life in the Nef/Yu household; Pepper Lily, a concubine who schemes to make the General divorce Lady Nef and take her place as principal wife; the Reformer Mahmood who befriends Bibi at college; and Prince Caspian Konoe, the scion of a wealthy noble Japanese family.

FORMAT/INFO: The PDF e-ARC of “Spirit” I read stands at 661 pages divided over four major thematic parts and 80 numbered chapters. Also includes several intermission chapters that add depth to the main storyline. The narration is in the third-person, mostly via the point-of-view of Bibi, though in the fourth part it starts focusing on several new characters. The ending is superb, tying up all of the novel’s various threads. December 29, 2008 marks the UK Hardcover and Trade Paperback Publication of “Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant” via
Gollancz. Cover art provided by Jon Sullivan.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: After her miraculous escape from the rebel massacre and her arrival in the Nef/Yu Great House, Bibi befriends Honesty and Nightingale while making an enemy of the senior dorm girl Ogul. Growing up a pretty but “untamed” teen, she attracts the wrong kind of attention from General Yu, but is saved from “dishonor” by Francois, gets sponsored for college and returns as a junior Social Worker under Lady Nef's patronage. Honesty, who remained in domestic service, becomes her maid and confidante while Nightingale, the daughter of a dead hero, becomes an officer in the People's Army.

Bibi meets a young Reformer named Mahmood at college and their “houses” agree to a match. Honesty meanwhile is studying to become chief-servant, while Nightingale has a powerful young Prince as a lover so our three heroines seem to have their future assured. But of course things are never so simple.

Chance and fatality intervene, throwing our heroines unwittingly into the middle of dangerous plots: Bibi and Honesty have to accompany Lady Nef and General Yu on a diplomatic mission to far-away Sigurt, the home planet of the humanoid vampire-bats. There, Bibi is temporarily promoted to Francois' assistant and noble status, but the promotion comes with a hidden price…

Spirit” is divided into four thematically distinct parts covering over thirty years of Bibi’s life. The first part is a coming-of-age tale set on Earth with its very interesting milieu. The second part mainly follows Bibi's adventures and career in Lady Nef's entourage, but after that the story takes an unexpected direction and becomes a modern space/science fiction version of a much-loved classic. Anchoring the story is Bibi's growth from a traumatized orphan to the powerful and mysterious Princess of the title. Exquisitely crafted, Bibi is one of the most memorable characters to have surfaced in recent SF.

Spirit” does takes a while to get into, especially for a “newbie” like myself to the Aleutinian universe, but once you get into the novel’s flow and strong narrative pull, you won’t want to put the book down until it’s finished. And, it’s worth at least one reread, though I expect I’ll be rereading “Spirit” several more times in the years to come :)

Part Count(ess) of Monte-Cristo in space, part space opera, and part sociological/gender SF, “Spirit: The Princess Du Bois Dormant” is a wonderful, wonderful novel that instantly made me a huge fan of Gwyneth Jones and has vaulted into my Top Five Science Fiction novels of 2008…
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Gwyneth Jones

2008 FAVORITES (In no particular order):

1) Two collections, both of them “specialist” in content but terrific for the general reader, with the proviso that Periphery probably comes with a parental advice warning :)

The Starry Rift” edited by
Jonathan Strahan. Sixteen surreal, skiffy, fantastical and plain weird stories for/about young adults.

Periphery: Erotic Lesbian Futures” edited by
Lynne Jamneck. A fresh perspective on standard fantasy/sf situations, some real gems. Much talked-about and deserves the attention.

2) One graphic novel (in two episodes):

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood” and “Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return” by
Marjane Satrapi. “Persepolis” (English version) was originally published in 2004, but I “discovered it”, along with a lot of other people, only after I'd seen the b&w animated film, which came out in May 2008 in the UK. Rebellious girlhood in Iran, at the time of the 1979 revolution. “A graphic novel of immense power and importance”. It's not exactly fantasy, but it's fantastic, wonderful.

3) One poetic, satiric re-visioning of
Alex Haley's Roots:

Blonde Roots” by
Bernadine Evaristo. I reviewed this for Strange Horizons HERE.

4) And one episode from a highly superior traditional fantasy sequence:

An Autumn War” by
Daniel Abraham.


I'm looking forward to reading “The Price of Spring”, the last episode of
Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet.


I have a story collection, “Grazing The Long Acre”, coming out from
PS Publishing (UK) in the spring. In the US, there'll be a collection of essays from Aqueduct Press, called Imagination/Space. Aqueduct will also be publishing a compendium of my short fiction; no details on that as yet though. I'm also working on another story set in the same universe as “Spirit, Or The Princess Of Bois Dormant”, and I hope to finish playing Zelda Twilight Princess, if I can ever beat the increasingly pesky dungeons.


Gwyneth Jones is the author of more than twenty novels for teenagers, mostly using the name
Ann Halam, and several highly regarded sf novels for adults. She's won two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the British Science Fiction Association short story award, the Dracula Society's Children of the Night award, the Philip .K. Dick award, and shared the first Tiptree Award in 1992, with Eleanor Arnason. For more information, please visit the author’s Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic's 2008 Review/2009 Preview index
Monday, December 22, 2008

“Gears of the City” by Felix Gilman (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Felix Gilman Website
Order “Gears of the City
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s
Review of “Thunderer
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Felix Gilman

ABOUT GEARS OF THE CITY: In this stunning follow-up to his acclaimed debut, “Thunderer”, Felix Gilman’s brave hero returns from one thrilling and dangerous quest only to confront another. In a magical landscape where time is meaningless, reality precarious, and countless selves work toward countless possible futures, one man must seek a city’s truth—and rediscover his own:

Imprisoned with a prophetic half human, half beast, the lost man learns his name: Arjun. Slowly the terrible memories emerge, and at last he remembers where—and when—he has been . . .

In the last days of the once great city of Ararat, Arjun is just another ghost lost in the shadows of the Mountain. To some, the Mountain is a myth, to others, a weapon. Above all, it is a dark palace leaving its seekers to wander the city below. For no matter how far one walks, the Mountain never draws closer, and time itself becomes another trap.

Rescued by two sisters from the mindless Know-Nothings who erode what’s left of the city, Arjun volunteers to retrieve their long-lost third sister from a ghost like himself: Brace-Bel, another man out of time. It will require a perilous trek through ruins to a decadent mansion—one surrounded by traps and devices that could not possibly exist yet. And what awaits Arjun inside is something he could not possibly have imagined.

As he struggles to recover the lost girl and piece the fragments of his life back together, Arjun knows he must finally return to the Beast to hear the rest of its prophecy. But each step is more treacherous than the last . . . and the Beast who knows his fate may pose the most deadly trial yet…

A spellbinding novel of imagination and intrigue, “Gears of the City” will propel you into an adventure like no other, in a world like no other…

CLASSIFICATION: Felix Gilman’s debut was almost impossible to describe, and while “Gears of the City” is a little easier to classify, it’s still not your typical fantasy novel. In a nutshell, “Gears of the City” firmly falls in the category of ‘New Weird’, right next to books by China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, and M. John Harrison. In other words, you can expect fantasy, science fiction, horror, mind-bending surrealism and much more all mixed up together into unusual configurations. In addition to this, the book also exhibits some steampunk characteristics and brings to mind Catherynne M. Valente and Gregory Frost for its story-within-story elements. All labels aside though, “Gears of the City” is recommended for readers who like their fantasy imaginative and unpredictable.

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 464 pages divided over twenty-eight chapters, a Prologue, and three ‘Books’. Each chapter is titled with hints about what to expect in that particular chapter—Example: “Darkness-Naming-Wounding-Flight”. For about the first 90 pages, the book follows the third-person POV of Arjun, but after that the novel alternates between the POVs of Arjun, Ruth Low, Brace-Bel, and Inspector Maury. Technically, “Gears of the City” is a follow-up to “Thunderer”—complete with references, continuing plotlines and such—but it’s not really necessary to read “Thunderer” first because the new book is mostly self-contained. Plus, with Arjun losing most of his memory in the novel’s prologue, “Gears of the City” does a good job of recapping what happened in “Thunderer”. As far as another novel set in the world of Ararat, that possibility is not completely out of the question, but “Gears of the City” does wrap up things satisfactorily.

December 30, 2008 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Gears of the City” via
Bantam Spectra. Cover art provided by Stephen Youll.

ANALYSIS: Despite a somewhat slow and haphazard beginning, I thought Felix Gilman’sThunderer” was one of the best debuts I read in 2007 and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. Alas, “Gears of the City” was a bit disappointing…

I think the biggest issue I had with the book were the characters. Simply put, I just didn’t care about any of them, which was a little surprising considering that returning protagonist, Arjun, was fairly compelling in “Thunderer”. In “Gears of the City”, Arjun’s goals are still the same—he’s searching for his lost god—but Arjun himself is changed, twisted by what he’s seen and experienced in Ararat, and he’s not always likeable. Plus, as the other characters are introduced and as the story progresses, Arjun’s importance seems to diminish. Of the others, Ruth Low is central to the novel because of her connection to the Mountain, the mysterious Shay, and the Beast—as well as an unconvincing romance she develops with Arjun—but she lacks in the personality department. Brace-Bel on the other hand, has a very colorful personality and narrative voice, but since he’s quite mad, it’s kind of hard to root for him. Inspector Maury also has a distinctive narrative voice, but I felt his POV was kind of pointless and would have better served for one of the more interesting supporting characters like the Beast (Felix’s version of a dragon), Ivy—the youngest of the three Low sisters—or Shay himself. And arguably the most fascinating character from “Thunderer”, the city Ararat, just wasn’t as intriguing this time around. Overall, the characters in “Gears of the City” are an eccentric lot but not nearly as memorable or charming as Jack Sheppard and company in “Thunderer”.

Another issue I had with the book was the story. After a wonderful prologue that beautifully sets the stage for “Gears of the City”, the novel slows down considerably and meanders some before buckling down for an excellent finish in Book Three: The Final Expedition. Additionally, some parts of the story weren’t executed as well as they could have been such as the revelations towards the end which lacked an element of surprise. Also, there was a notable shortage of heart-pounding action in the book.

Now just because I had problems with “Gears of the City” doesn’t mean that it’s not any good. On the contrary, “Gears of the City” is a very good book, distinguished by Felix’s outstanding prose and imagination, some really superb dialogue—some of which is quite witty—and a thought-provoking plot that makes up for its deficiencies with pacing and execution with its unpredictability. Then there were the excellent stories-within-stories which I thought were some of the best parts in the novel. Besides all that, fans of “Thunderer” will want to read “Gears of the City” to discover the answers to the Mountain, its connection to Ararat, who Shay/Lemuel/Cutter is, and whether or not Arjun ever finds his god…

CONCLUSION: Even though I didn’t enjoy “Gears of the City” as much as I did “Thunderer”, I was still really impressed with the book, particularly its imagination, unpredictability, skillful writing and how different it was from its predecessor, all of which goes back to Felix Gilman who, after only two novels, has already established himself as one of the brightest new voices in speculative fiction. In short, I expect great things from Mr. Gilman and can’t wait to experience the author’s next creation…

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