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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Small Press and Independent Books on FBC in 2010 - Part 1 (Liviu)

Since there has been some recent discussion about this topic, I would like to highlight some titles I have read and reviewed as well as some titles I am currently reading or looking forward to. I also have a list of Top Small Press Reads in 2009.

Mihir and Cindy have reviewed quite a few titles that qualify, so hopefully we will follow with a Part 2 post with the small press/independent books they have reviewed or are planning to do so.

The main rule for consideration here is that the author's book-length work is essentially all small press/independent since of course there are many established authors that
occasionally publish with smaller presses or more recently that even offer their work independently and the main focus for me here is to highlight newer, less well known authors.

A notable example of the above is
Beth Bernobich's superb collection A Handful of Pearls from smaller specialized Lethe Press which does not really qualify for this post since her wonderful debut novel (review closer to publication date) Passion Play will soon come out from as-major-publisher-as-it-gets-in-sff Tor.

Currently I am reading four small press/independent books:

Ironroot by SJA Turney - standalone set in the Interregnum universe and one of those "drop everything I read" on arrival books; will be one of my next 3 reviews.

The Kinshield Legacy by KC May - originally published in 2005 by a small press and republished in 2010 by the author on rights reversion; standalone (I think) in a more traditional fantasy universe, but quite engaging so far - will finish and review soon, by mid-September most likely.

Roman Hell by Mark Mellon - a standalone short novel with a horror theme set in Roman times and involving the poet Martial; in this one I got stuck a bit when some werewolves (re)appeared since I kind of dislike that trope, but will resume, finish and review in September too since I like the author's writing style a lot and Escape from Byzantium is still one of my top short novels of last year.

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale - a standalone fantasy published by small specialized press Blind Eye Books; I got interested in this one a while ago but sort of forgot about it until I saw some reviews of the author's new series - a duology published in consecutive months - Lord of the White Hell and I remembered I had Wicked Gentlemen waiting... Quite interesting so far and another September read most likely.

Highly expected (and hopefully arriving soon) are the sequel to
Field of Fire by Jon Connington and Wintertide by Michael Sullivan, both "drop everything I read" on arrival too...

And now for the 2010 reviews in chronological order:

Mellon, Mark
, Napoleon Concerto - alt-history standalone
from the author of Escape from Byzantium and Roman Hell
Smith, Douglas, Chimerascope - ChiZine Publications collection from the author of another superb collection Impossibilia from PS Publishing
Lalumiere, Claude
, Objects of Worship
- ChiZine Publications collection
Wisoker, Leona
, The Secrets of the Sands
(reviewed together with Cindy) - debut of an epic fantasy series from Mercury Retrograde Press

Sullivan, Michael, Nyphron Rising (reviewed together with Cindy) - adventure/epic fantasy #3/6
Sullivan, Michael
, The Emerald Storm
(same as above) - #4/6
Connington, Jon
, Field of Fire - debut steampunk fantasy series; book 2 imminent
Davidson, Rjurik, The Library of Forgotten Books - PS collection of stories
Zarioiu, Dorin Cristian
, The Labyrinth - standalone contemporary fantasy

Kornher-Stace, Nicole
, To Seek Her Fortune (story from the Clockwork Phoenix 3 anthology)
- story by the author of the superb Desideria which was one of my two top small press novels of 2009; we also have an online story from the anthology: Lineage by Kenneth Schneyer which you can judge yourself by reading it for free on FBC.

Hamerton, Greg
, Second Sight: Second Tale of the Lifesong
- traditional epic fantasy and sequel to The Riddler's Gift; both novels wrap up their main threads, while this one offers a very satisfying ending so while further Tales of the Lifesong may be published these two have enough completion to satisfy people wanting that. Check the author's post on FBC too.

Northern, Chris
, The Last King's Amulet
- series debut adventure/epic fantasy; together with immediate sequel The Key to the Grave the book forms a duology with complete resolution of all main threads; while further books featuring the main hero Sumto are planned, these two have enough completion to satisfy people wanting that.


Anonymous said...

Small/independent press books always interest me because it seems like they are somewhat "underground" a lot of the time.... there are some interesting titles here which have peaked my interest.

Anyway, good post.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words. I check out any title we receive a review inquiry for and that sparks my interest by its blurb, though of course there are only few such I want to read, but hey that's true of the major sff publishers output too.

I greatly enjoyed the ones in this post and once we hopefully add Mihir and Cindy's reviews of small press/independent books - some quite different ones there - there will be a good selection for people to try.

Bastard said...

Some good timing on your post here, considering a recent blog post by Mark Charan Newton. I think he would approve.

Really enjoy the attention you're giving to these books, thanks to that I managed to read Secrets of the Sands an enjoyed it quite a bit. In my opinion, it's one of the best things you guys have to offer. Not only small press/independent books, but just books that seem to have been overlooked overall by the masses (Ian Whates and Gav Thorpe for example).

I also imagine that since you seem to have a capability to read books quite fast (and of course, re-reading when needed) you find yourself in a fairly enviable position to have the capability to try some of these books out, while not falling behind on the "mainstream" ones.

I'm looking forward to checking more from the books you've listed.

By the way, you ever find out if the Chris Northern books are only available as an ebook? Don't remember if you did.

Liviu said...

I think that right now Last king Amulet and sequel are e-only.

Bastard said...

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Staying on-topic, you know anything about David Douglas' Demon's Bane? It has a cartoonish cover, though I think that's simply because a friend offered to do it... being self-published and all.

It seems to have some decent reviews from what I've seen, though don't know if it's your cup of tea.

I have it on my bookshelf, but haven't motivated myself to give it a try yet.

Liviu said...

For me covers are important to attract my attention to an unknown book and no more.

I will take a look at this one shortly, see if it tempts me and then if I like the writing.

Two more indies that I looked yesterday were Perception of Evil by Budo von Stahl and The Ways of Khrem by Nathan Hilliard

For the first one I liked enough the writing style for an inventive subject (eg something like Field of Fire) but not enough to put up with a traditional kings and the like, destined boy tale

The second one had an interesting set-up, but I disliked the writing style

Benjamin said...

I read Wicked Gentlemen and it was interesting. The worldbuilding and the writing were both quite well done. The main problem I had with it was that the author focused on the relationship between the characters at the expense of the plot and that always turns me off.

Heck, I'm all about werewolves! And I like books set in ancient Rome. The book looks a little cheesy, but I'll check it out.

Jeff C said...

Liviu: nice list..there are a few here I want to check out. I might put on hold the "classic" part of my challenge and concentrate on the "indie" books first.

Liviu said...

Benjamin: I definitely plan to finish Wicked Gentlemen sooner rather than later; I have probably 3 or 4 asap's before I will focus fully on it but I liked what I read so far; I see what you say about relationships from the first pages but it does not bother me.

Mark Mellon writes very well imho, so Roman Hell is worth a try especially if you can find a sample for this one - I did not look for such since for me any book by him that is remotely of interest is an asap since Escape from Byzantium was such a big time favorite and I cannot highly recommend it enough for people who like darker and a bit absurdist stuff (sort of KJ Parker like but with a modern setting)

Jeff: Many of the books here have big excerpts on Smashwords and you can easily see if they tempt you or not. You cannot go wrong with M. Sullivan though and since book 5 is on track for October and book 6 for early next year, it's almost a done series, no worries about incompleteness

kevinjamesbreaux said...

Thanks for all the Small Press love. My novel SOUL BORN will be released from Dark Quest Books LLC this November and its always good to know we have support like this.

Again, thanks so much!

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