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Friday, August 31, 2012

"John Saturnall's Feast" by Lawrence Norfolk (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


"A beautiful, rich and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall’s Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house, and rises through the ranks to become the greatest Cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths and one boy’s rise from outcast to hero.

Orphaned when his mother dies of starvation, having been cast out of her village as a witch, John is taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor, where he quickly rises from kitchen-boy to Cook, and is known for his uniquely keen palate and natural cooking ability. However, he quickly gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the Lord of the Manor. In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiancé is an arrogant buffoon. When Lucretia takes on a vow of hunger until her father calls off her engagement to her insipid husband-to-be, it falls to John to try to cook her delicious foods that might tempt her to break her fast.

Reminiscent of Wolf Hall and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, John Saturnall’s Feast is a brilliant work and a delight for all the senses."

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Since his very notable debut some 20 years ago with Lempriere's Dictionary, Lawrence Norfolk has written only one more major novel, The Pope's Rhinoceros which was what I expected and more. The Pope's Rhinoceros is a pretty dense novel at ~700 pages long, though it is very rewarding and makes one understand life in Europe's 1520's better than many historical treatises, through its superb atmosphere and the powerful style of the author.

When somewhat unexpectedly - more than a decade since the last book which was the relatively minor, In the Shape of the Boar, tends to put into perspective "unexpectedly" - I noticed John Saturnall's Feast on one of my regular "new title roundups" followed pretty soon after by getting a review e-copy, I expected to take me a while to read it.

To my surprise I almost breezed through John Saturnall's Feast as it was very hard to put down, but also it stood at about "only" 400 pages and was written in a much more accessible style - a pretty straight forward and more or less chronological narrative interspersed by fanciful "feast recipes" according to particular events of importance in the book. 

Actually, the style is almost sensuous in a way, though the grime and harsh realities of England from around 1630's till 1662 - with an epilogue set a decade or so later - are very much in evidence also.

The book is clearly John's story and the blurb is generally accurate, but despite that the main hero is only a "cook" rather than a knight or such, there is adventure, heroism, seduction, battles, fanatics...

The novel is also very visual - I was picturing quite a lot of it as a Peter Greenaway movie, more precisely the mixture of the period of Draughtsman's Contract and the feasting of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Though now the cook is the lover too and he does not end on the dinner table...

I will also add that the physical US edition of the novel which has been recently released in stores, looks absolutely gorgeous with a superb cover that has that special feel last year's "The Half Made World" had, while the interior design is superlative too.

Overall a great return to publishing for the author, John Saturnall's Feast is a top 25 novel of mine for 2012, while I expect I will reread it quite a few times to enjoy its atmosphere and unlikely hero. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fading Light Anthology Multi Author Interview part four (2 of 2) by Tim Marquitz

ANTHOLOGY INTRODUCTION: When I set out to create Fading Light, I had a specific vision in mind…that was until I was assailed by the slew of great submissions. There were so many amazing stories, so different than what I had expected, they threw a wrench into all my machinations and forced an evolution on Fading Light I hadn’t foreseen. In the end, it was the authors who defined the direction as much as the anthology prompt. As such, I feel it is they who should introduce themselves and the beast that is Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous.

Take a moment to get to know them in part four (part 2 0f 2) of the multi-blog interview… 

Tim Marquitz, 
El Paso, TX 
August 27, 2012 

Fading Light collects 30 monstrous stories by authors new and experienced, in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, each bringing their own interpretation of what lurks in the dark.

Contributors: Mark Lawrence, Gene O’Neill, William Meikle, David Dalglish, Gord Rollo, Nick Cato, Adam Millard, Stephen McQuiggan, Gary W Olson, Tom Olbert, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, Jake Elliot, Lee Mather, Georgina Kamsika, Dorian Dawes, Timothy Baker, DL Seymour, Wayne Ligon, TSP Sweeney, Stacey Turner, Gef Fox, Edward M Erdelac, Henry P Gravelle, & Ryan Lawler, with bonus stories from CM Saunders, Regan Campbell, Jonathan Pine, Peter Welmerink, & Alex Marshall.

For those keeping track, here are all the previous parts:
 1. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at Lincoln Crisler: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
 2. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at The Nocturnal Library: Part 1, Part 2
 3. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at Bastard Books: Interview
 4. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at Fantasy Book Critic: Part one

Keep an eye out over at Wag the Fox and The Dark Fantastic for the forthcoming parts and now onto the interview...

Q] When you first imagine a story, do the characters come first or the plot? Is it always the same?

Gene O’Neill: I need a character, a name, a situation, and a title before I begin.

Adam Millard: Plot comes first. Sometimes, a character won't appear until halfway through. If it's a book about one or two people, then maybe the characters come at the same time as the plot.

Peter Welmerink: Characters usually. Then the poor bastards get put through some sort of ringer of my dastardly design.

Q] Do you work in any other creative mediums besides writing? What are they?

CM Saunders: I just write, but I write many about things. Dark fiction, book and film reviews, non-fiction articles about travel and music or the unexplained.

Jake Elliot: Drinking!!! Hmmm, no. I’m a clumsy half-tard for the most part. It is why my wife knows karate and I let her kick all the asses. (Not true, I can act and tried my hand in Hollywood about 22-years ago and wasn’t too bad, but I decided I really hate cameras. Being a published novelist should prove my shortcoming isn’t a lack of ambition.)

DL Seymour: Other than writing I have also dabbled in video editing creating various music videos using footage from Anime series but this is just an amateur creative outlet of mine that I haven't done in years.

Q] How much of a role do reader/publisher expectations play in your writing? 

Carl Barker: None at all. I write for me, not them. If other people enjoy reading my fiction, then that’s great, but if nobody ever read my work, it wouldn’t stop me writing.

Gef Fox: Reader/publisher expectations don't come into play until I'm on my second or third draft, when I am tightening the screws and hacking off all the ugly bits. The story itself is meant for me.

Q] Any tidbits of advice you can give aspiring authors?

Mark Lawrence: Better to be an aspiring writer than an aspiring author. If you don't love writing, stop. If you do love writing then even if you're never published anywhere your time will not have been wasted.

Ed Erdelac: Don’t just talk about writing. Turn off the TV, stay off the internet, don’t go out to a bar after work. Go home and do it. Set aside two hours a day and don’t allow for distractions. For me, that includes writing in public. I see people with laptops in coffee shops and all that. I don’t get how those people get anything done. Too many distractions. But then again, I hate coffee. Subject wise, don’t write what you think people might like and don’t worry about ‘write what you know.’ Write what you know you love. If you practice it, what you know will come through in what you love.

Ryan Lawler: Writing is a skill, just like playing a piano or riding a bike. You need to start at the basics, you need to learn from those who have come before you, and you need to practice hard if you want to take things to the next level. Be a sponge. Learn as much as you can from as many sources as possible. Use criticism as a means to learn from your mistakes.

Q] How has the current publishing atmosphere affected you and how you approach your work?

TSP Sweeney: I love the fact that the short story has really made an incredible comeback as a viable option as a writer. I also love that the internet has really opened up publishing to a much larger group of people. Combine those two things together, and you have a world where you can write the story that you want to write in the format that you want to write it and still be able to find a home for it somewhere.

Writing a novel is something many aspire to, but it is a high barrier of entry for many people. Shorter works allow you to build a portfolio and gain confidence in your own abilities as a storyteller, which I think benefits authors, publishers, and readers equally. I know I would never have had the confidence to put serious effort into writing a book if I hadn’t first had such a positive reaction to the shorts I have written over the years.

Q] Did you a) write for the anthology or b) have a suitable piece ready - & if a) how'd you resist quoting Dylan Thomas? (per Mark Lawrence)

TSP Sweeney: Some combination thereof. I took a semi-formed idea I had had for a different story entirely and used it as the basis of my story for the anthology, so the finished piece bore almost no resemblance at all in the end.

Gef Fox: I fall into the "A" category. I just thought about a world fading to black and then Lester, that lowlife from Jonesborough, stepped into the spotlight. We were off and running after that.

Tim Baker: The story in Fading Light I wrote specifically to its theme and for Tim Marquitz. It was great fun and helped me focus. And as for the last part of the question: It was easy to resist because I have no idea what you’re talking about. I tried to do a quick Google search so I would sound all informed and shit, but no luck. So, I got nothin’.

DL Seymour: I wrote for the anthology, and I tried to keep other authors works, other than Lovecraft's of course, out of my mind. I really didn't give Thomas' poems a second thought.

Q] To steal a question from my friend, Bastard, what’s your favorite alcoholic beverage? Do you imbibe when you write?

Nick Cato: I am beyond dedicated to Amstel Light. It’s a light beer that tastes like a regular beer. I have at least one a day, more if my writing sessions go on longer than expected.

Tim Baker: A beer and a shot of Jack. And no.

Q] What books have you read recently? Any new authors you’re impressed by?

Tom Olbert: I’m currently reading Patricia Esposito’s “Beside the Darker Shore” – I’m impressed by Patricia; she has a brilliant, beautiful talent for atmosphere that reminds me somewhat of Bradbury. I’m also reading and enjoying “Halo of the Damned” by Dina Tosto. Dina has a talent for presenting intricate plots and bizarre mythology with a flair for dark humor and suspense, reminiscent of Joss Whedon.

Adam Millard: I've read too many to name, but authors that have impressed me recently are Craig Saunders, Joseph D'Lacey and John L. Probert. Great stuff coming from these guys now and in the future.

DL Seymour: Well, I did recently read Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and thought that it was an inventive take on the old Let's go Hunt Us some Vampire genres. Though I don't think it is on the line of Bram Stoker, it was inventive and entertaining and Graham is an author I will be keeping an eye on.

Q] Stylistically, what genre is most satisfying to write? Are you married to a genre or do you write across different ones? Is there a specific genre you want to write in but haven’t? 

Ed Erdelac: Well I keep going back to the weird west for whatever reason. I write most comfortably in that, and all my novels so far have been westerns. Love the history. Love learning as I write. But I do write across the board, I think, short story-wise. Theophany is in modern day, and I’ve written about pirates, 18th century slavers, feudal Japan, and the modern day inner city. I wanna try to write a wuxia novel, but I wonder if anybody would read it.

Tom Olbert: It all depends on what story you need to get across. Science fiction is more of a philosophical or speculative vehicle, I find. Supernatural horror can be a good cathartic device for revenge stories. Both can be satisfying, if you get what you’re going after. I’m thinking I might like to try my hand at a swashbuckling, dramatic/romantic period-piece. Eighteenth or nineteenth century, maybe.

Q] You’re drunk at a karaoke bar: what one song will get you up and wailing?

Dorian Dawes: Sweet Transvestite from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Gef Fox: Probably that old Garth Brooks song, "Friends in Low Places." I can't help it. Play that at a kitchen party around midnight and we're all going to singing along to that one.

DL Seymour: I think I referred to several of them in your question about my favorite drink, but also anything by Queen, the Beatles, or the Eagles. It's always fun trying to sing Hotel California while Waistin Away Again in Margaritaville. (Yes, that's the other song I was referring to. As I said, way too young.)

Q] Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

William Meikle: Full details and more waffle on my website.

Nick Cato: My blog.

Tom Olbert: Try my blog.

Dorian Dawes: I have a website with links to my currently published work and a series of rants that are the result of my existence on this terrifying thing called the internet, check it out  for all the latest updates.

Jake Elliot: I’d recommend Jake Elliot Fiction to start. I’m on Facebook and I’ll friend everybody until I’m offered naked pictures. Remember, my wife can kick my ass and she might get upset if I’m looking at your naked pics. I’m on Goodreads too, and there, you can read the fist 15% of ‘The Wrong Way Down’ for free.

Gene O’Neill: Just Google my name.

Ed Erdelac: Check out my blog. Otherwise look me up on Facebook.

Adam Millard: Readers can check out my website for upcoming events and news, and you can find me on Facebook and also on Twitter @adammillard.

Gef Fox: They can check out my blog, or find me on Twitter (@wagthefox) or Facebook. I'm elsewhere online, but those are the big three.

CM Saunders: I have a new blog plus all the usual haunts like Amazon Author Central, Author's Den, and Goodreads. And, of course, Facebook and Myspace. I think I am the only person in the civilized world with a deep suspicion of Twitter!

Ryan Lawler: You can follow me on Twitter – @RyanL1986 – or you can check out my blog.

Tim Baker: They can check me out on Facebook. Will soon have a blog up and running, too.

TSP Sweeney: My personal, all-too-infrequently updated blog and it contains links to the various stories I have thrown up around the web, as well as details about my upcoming published works. I can also be tracked down on Twitter @TSPSweeney

Carl Barker: I maintain a web presence over here.

Peter Welmerink: Dark Heroic Fantasy or my website.

DL Seymour: If people are interested finding out more about me, they can visit my website

*************************End of Part two****************************

EDITOR INFORMATION: Tim Marquitz is the author of the Demon Squadseries, and the Sepulchral Earth serial stories. He is also an editor, a heavy metal aficionado, a Mixed Martial Arts fan, and is also a member of the Live Action Role Playing organization. When he’s not busy writing dark stories which catch his imagination he also manages to go about his day job. Tim lives in El Paso, Texas with his wonderful family.

Official Author website
Read FBC's Review of Armageddon Bound
Read FBC's Review of Resurrection 
Read FBC’s Review of At The Gates 
Read FBC's Review of Echoes Of The Past
Read FBC interview with Tim Marquitz 
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zelda Pryce: The Clockwork Girl by Joss Llewelyn (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the Book HERE
Read an excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s review of Zelda Pryce: The Razor’s Edge
Read FBC review of Omar The Immortal 
Read FBC’s Interview with Joseph Robert Lewis

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Joss Llewelyn is a pseudonym used by Joseph Robert Lewis for his Young Adult work. Being curious about world mythology since a tender age, he decided to write stories in which history, mythology, and fantasy would collide in unpredictable ways. He also likes writing about heroines that his daughters can respect and admire and took on this particular pseudonym as his daughters kept demanding more stories. Joe was born in Annapolis and went to the University of Maryland to study ancient novels, morality plays, and Viking poetry. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Maryland with his family, a needy cat, and a zombie fish.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Zelda Pryce’s new business of making gorgeous arcane prosthetics is struggling until her hand-crafted arms and legs start transforming her clients into world-class athletes, rock stars, and crime fighters. But just as she starts to enjoy her success, a chain of strange events threatens to destroy her business and her friends. Her inventions come to life and attack her in the middle of the night, her clients are assaulted in broad daylight, and her best friend is framed for a series of violent crimes.

As the foremost expert on arcane devices in Washington DC, Zelda sets out to unravel these mysteries and protect her friends, but her investigation leads not only to a powerful corporation that wants to ruin her business but also to a young girl with a bizarre secret.

In a harrowing race against time, Zelda uses her amazing inventions and a little help from her super-human clients to uncover the truth about the greatest invention in history and to save the life of one innocent person who will change the very definition of what it means to be human.

Return to Zelda’s world of arcane science where geometers build fantastical devices, alchemists transform the elements on a whim, riskbenders make improbable things happen all the time, and dowsers can find anything that’s ever been lost… including a certain runaway girl.

FORMAT/INFO: Zelda Pryce: The Clockwork Girl is 203 pages long divided over twenty seven numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person via Zelda Pryce solely. Zelda Pryce: The Clockwork Girl is a self-contained story however is the second volume in the Zelda Pryce series. There is also a note about Real Arcana present in the world as well as an “about the author” section.

July 19, 2012 marked the overall Paperback and e-book publication of Zelda Pryce: The Clockwork Girl. Cover photo provided by George Mayer (Dreamstime) and the design was by the author himself.

ANALYSIS: The world of Zelda Pryce is a fascinating one. It’s a kind of an alternate history one wherein arcane knowledge has been present along with the real world sciences. In regards to the first book, I quite enjoyed the premise and the story about a girl called Zelda who is talented at arcane sciences. The story and characters introduced made intrigued me enough to want to know what would happen next.

The second book opens up after quite a few weeks after the events of the first book. Zelda has been trying to fly solo with her shop “Pryceless Arcana” and she has been managing to get by. She soon helps a physically handicapped person and gains attention unlike any before. She doesn’t anticipate the amount and difference of orders and requests she keeps getting and soon is swamped on all corners. She still manages to come up with devices that fulfill the needs of her clients whose lives get changed for the better. Things start taking a weird turn when her arcane devices start functioning strangely or malfunctioning (if that’s the correct way to describe the turn of events). Unable to comprehend what is happening, Zelda is forced to ask her friends and clients to help her out to figure out what’s truly happening and who’s behind it all.

This book was another fun one and continuing from the first book, it expands on the world introduced as well as showcases more of the cool arcane devices. The story this time is focused on the subject of prosthetics and the way the main character uses her knowledge to help people with disabilities. The bones of the plot was inspired by Aimee Mullins and her heroic work, the author has decided to showcase a part of the situation by showing the side of the characters with disabilities. The characterization while done decently is more inclined to the YA side, the main character though intriguing does a few things that make her out to be naïve even after the events of the last book. I felt that naïveté of the character was out of place especially after what has transpired in the previous book, however this book is meant for a younger audience and in that regards these reactions are in line but for adult readers this might not fly the same way.

The world building this time is not the same or as extensive as the last book, as in the previous story, the characters had to travel to a lot of different destinations over on multiple continents; the plot of this book is city-centric. The world-building takes a back seat this time around but there are a few things that get introduced and it will be interesting to see where the author takes his plot next. The things that detracted a bit of the fun this time around was the main mystery plot while the end twist was certainly a good one but along the way the plot twists seemed a bit too simple as things characters do simply facilitated the plot. This book demands to be read on a YA level and therefore all readers should keep in mind who the target audience of this book is and why the author has written these books. 

CONCLUSION: The Clockwork Girl is a good sequel but it lacks the exciting flair of its predecessor. The book does manage to expand the reader’s horizons about the main character and her predilections. This book also goes in a different direction with the plot of this book, whether this was a good thing or not, it will be up to the readers to decide. I thought this was an interesting follow-up and am definitely in line to see what the author cooks up next for Zelda
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

GUEST POST: Fear Is The Mind Killer by G.T. Almasi

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

I like to imagine that Frank Herbert wrote Dune’s Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear” more for himself than anyone else. Maybe he got The Fear like I do sometimes when I sit down to write. There are days when I can approach my writing with the necessary hubris right from the start, but on other days I feel a paralyzing anxiety that sucks my courage right out of me. The Fear is especially strong when I’m working on the original draft of new material. This is when the Litany comes in handy.

What I love about the Litany is how it encourages me to accept fear and anxiety as something common and natural, like hunger, or thirst. It also helps me see The Fear as coming from within myself, and allows me to tell myself, “There isn’t anything intrinsically scary about writing, I’m just making this fear happen to myself. It’s not like anyone’s watching me write, and if I don’t like what I write I just won’t show it to anyone.” Then I can peck away at my eternally discreet computer, which keeps all my secrets. It never tells anyone how many clutzy typos I make, or the way I figure out my dialogue by walking around the room rehearsing both sides of a conversation out loud, or how many dozen times I have to rewrite a chapter before I get it right.

Except for health issues, there are few things worth really worrying about, and writing is way-y-y down the list. Yet many times I still get The Fear and I have to do whatever works that evening to calm myself down. Sometimes it’s Herbert’s Litany, sometimes it’s blasting the Sex Pistols on my iPod, sometimes it’s reading a chapter from one of my favorite books.

Another thing I do is remind myself how much fun it is to spend time with my characters, to follow them around while they do all these cool things. Very often this gets a sentence going in my head; either a snappy line of dialogue or some snarky observation I can attribute to my main character. The next thing I know I’m off and writing.

If none of this works, I do some research to give me ideas for where to start. There’s always something for The Research Department to check into. Another thing that helps is when I talk to a friend about the book. It’s a non-threatening way to get the creative juices flowing.

Trepidation is as much a part of the writing process as inspiration, perspiration, rejection, and elation. As part of my process I sometimes have to force my way past The Fear so I can access the fun-filled landscapes of my imagination. Once I’m there, everything is okay and the only opinion that matters is my own.

From one of the greats:

When I was writing Dune there was no room in my mind for concerns about the book's success or failure. I was concerned only with the writing. Looking back on it, I realize I did the right thing instinctively. You don't write for success. That takes part of your attention away from the writing. If you're really doing it, that's all you're doing: writing.” - Frank Herbert

 I couldn’t say it better. - GTA

Order “Blades Of WinterHERE
Read an excerpt HERE
Read FBC's Review of Blades Of Winter
Read FBC's Interview with G.T. Almasi

AUTHOR INFORMATION: George T. Almasi graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration & Design and moved to Boston to pursue a career as a graphic designer. He has also previously been a bass player, and wrote and designed the band’s newsletter. Once his career as an art director took off, he continued to supplement his design talents by writing copy for his clients. As a novelist, his literary influences include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. He also draws inspiration from John Woo’s movies and Todd Howard’s videogames. He currently lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his wife and their lovably stubborn dog, Ella.
Monday, August 27, 2012

Fading Light Anthology Multi Author Interview part four (1 of 2) by Tim Marquitz

ANTHOLOGY INTRODUCTION: When I set out to create Fading Light, I had a specific vision in mind…that was until I was assailed by the slew of great submissions. There were so many amazing stories, so different than what I had expected, they threw a wrench into all my machinations and forced an evolution on Fading Light I hadn’t foreseen. In the end, it was the authors who defined the direction as much as the anthology prompt. As such, I feel it is they who should introduce themselves and the beast that is Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous.

Take a moment to get to know them in part four (part 1 0f 2) of the multi-blog interview… 

Tim Marquitz, 
El Paso, TX 
August 27, 2012 

Fading Light collects 30 monstrous stories by authors new and experienced, in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, each bringing their own interpretation of what lurks in the dark.

Contributors: Mark Lawrence, Gene O’Neill, William Meikle, David Dalglish, Gord Rollo, Nick Cato, Adam Millard, Stephen McQuiggan, Gary W Olson, Tom Olbert, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, Jake Elliot, Lee Mather, Georgina Kamsika, Dorian Dawes, Timothy Baker, DL Seymour, Wayne Ligon, TSP Sweeney, Stacey Turner, Gef Fox, Edward M Erdelac, Henry P Gravelle, & Ryan Lawler, with bonus stories from CM Saunders, Regan Campbell, Jonathan Pine, Peter Welmerink, & Alex Marshall.

For those keeping track, here are all the previous parts:
 1. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at Lincoln Crisler: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
 2. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at The Nocturnal Library: Part 1, Part 2
 3. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview at Bastard Books: Interview

Keep an eye out over at Wag the Fox and The Dark Fantastic for the forthcoming parts and now onto the interview...

Q] Thanks for taking part in the multi-blog, Fading Light interview. Tell us a little about yourself. 

Gene O’Neill: I’ve written six novels, seven novellas, 120 short stories.

Tom Olbert: When not writing fiction (or, working) I volunteer for progressive candidates and causes like clean energy. I come from a very interesting and colorful family. 

TSP Sweeney: I’m a 27 year old, recently married guy from Sydney, Australia. I’ve done everything from work in the limousine industry through to freelancing as a journalist and critic, but these days I make my way by working in procurement for the ominously named Ministry of Health by day and writing into the wee hours by night. 

DL Seymour: I am a high school English and Speech teacher in El Paso. I have had a lifetime love for literature especially fantasy and stories of the macabre, especially those of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft.

Q] Besides the anthology prompt, what led you to write your Fading Light contribution? 

Ryan Lawler: I’ve been trying to find my feet writing in the fantasy genre for quite a while. I have a few short stories and a lot of first chapters, but the only thing that really worked for me was a short story I based on the royal wedding that I packed full of snarky humour and gratuitous violence. 

I found that I had a knack for darker stories, and I was working on a very dark story about a post apocalypse engineer when the Fading Light story prompt came through. With a few tweaks of my setting and the addition of some monstrous enemies, I had my submission. 

TSP Sweeney: I had actually written the beginnings of a sci-fi novel that had a core idea that I absolutely loved, but I simply could not get the concept and the actual story to mesh. I had bashed my head against it over and over again, but just could not get it to click and eventually gave up on it entirely. About a year later, I came across Fading Light being mentioned on an online writing forum I frequent (The Black Library Bolthole), and I instantly realised that the germ of an idea I had been attempting to force into this sci-fi novel was, at its core, far more suited to being a horror story. The rest of it just seemed to naturally fall into place. 

Adam Millard: I'm always on the lookout for great concepts to write for, and Fading Light, to me, was such a fantastic idea. To have something ancient, something almost Lovecraftian, emerge from the darkness and plague mankind was an idea too good to pass up, and I think I started writing it within five minutes of noting the particulars. 

Q] Does music play a part of your writing? Television, movies? 

CM Saunders: I usually listen to music when I write. I like rock and punk most, it gets my juices flowing, so to speak. Current favourites on my playlist include the Bouncing Souls, Less Thank Jake, Yellowcard, the Gaslight Anthem, and vintage WASP! 

TSP Sweeney: Music definitely has a huge influence on my writing, to the point that I am usually quite careful to tailor my songs depending on the mood of the piece I am working on at the time. A bit of heavy metal might be fantastic to listen to when writing a rapid, brutal duel to the death, but it becomes a little inappropriately bombastic when describing the tears of a father mourning his child. 

Gef Fox: It used play music while writing years ago, but for the last couple of years my tolerance for noise has lessened. I don't mind instrumental or orchestral music, but I tend to get distracted by lyrics. That's why I don't often write while the TV is on. The dialog commands my attention. 

Tim Baker: When I write I either listen to Atmospheric music because I don’t want to be distracted by something too interesting or I put my complete Blue Oyster Cult collection on shuffle. I’m a huge fan of BOC, seen them many times, have everything they’ve recorded, and have been much inspired by their lyrical content. I know their music so well it doesn’t distract me when I write. 

DL Seymour: I would say the greatest influence in my writing, outside of the numerous books and other stories I have read in the past, would be movies. At times I will have a piece of music that I might be listening to that will get me in the mood to write a certain way, but I am always thinking in the way a movie is, especially some of my favorite classics. I think of the settings and ask myself how would David Lean set up this shot, what would it look like, and then I would describe what I see, or I ask myself how would Hitchcock build that feeling of suspense. For this story though I was also trying to do this while still keeping myself rooted within H. P. Lovecraft's distinctive writing style, which proved to be a challenge in and of itself. 

Q] Tell us about your story in Fading Light.
Gene O’Neill: It’s a homage story to Shirley Jackson

CM Saunders: Jimmy and Tito make up one of the freelance ambulance and recovery crews patrolling the notoriously dangerous roads and highways of Brazil. Their job is not to the common man's taste, but the money is worthy, and they’ve become very good at it. Everything worked great until the night they stumbled across an accident victim who refused to die. Meet Roadkill! 

Gef Fox: "Where Coyotes Fear to Tread" is a bit of horror meets heroic fantasy, minus the hero. Lester, the protagonist, is more interested in getting as far away from the things that go bump in the night than saving the day, but because he's still in love with valiant ex-girlfriend, he'll follow her to the ends of the earth. 

DL Seymour: Well, set in the small community of Dunwich, Massachusetts, scene of H. P. Lovecraft's "Horror of Dunwich," my story is about an outsider entering into a town that is re-inventing itself into a community of openness and understanding in a time of great racism and injustice, only to find that even in this new utopia there is still that element willing to let everything degenerate into violence, bigotry and depravity. 

Q] Writers are a different breed of human. What led you to down the path to making up worlds and telling stories? 

Ed Erdelac: Maybe it’s because I was an only child and there were no other kids in my neighborhood. I read a lot, played alone a lot, dictated these sprawling adventures for my GI Joe figures. I always knew I wanted to tell stories somehow, but it took me awhile to settle on the writing medium. I think my start was delayed by the invention of the word processing program. I’ve always gotten bad hand cramps writing, so I didn’t care for writing things out long form, and the unforgiving nature of the typewriter and my dislike of whiteout kept me from punching out stories that way. 

For a while I wanted to be a cartoonist. The first two books that made me realize how awesome writing could be was Jack London’s Call of The Wild and Simon Hawk’s novelization of Friday The 13th Part 6, believe it or not. Till then I’d had no idea how brutal and engrossing fiction could be. I got into Robert E. Howard not long after that. 

Gef Fox: I've been a daydreamer ever since I was a little kid. But I never though writing stories was something I could get paid to do someday. I may as well have wanted to a movie star when I grew up, it felt so out of reach. But over the years, after letting go of that love of writing, I hit a point in my life where I needed a creative outlet and nothing felt as fulfilling as putting pen to paper. It's a license to daydream again. 

Carl Barker: Never growing up, to be honest. I was quite solitary as a child and always loved using my imagination. Now that I’m aware of the realism of the adult world, escapism has become more important than ever. It keeps me sane. 

                                                   (Picture courtesy of Daily Lost)

Q] What led you to submit to Fading Light? 

Tim Baker: Actually, it was Tim Marquitz (the editor) that prompted me. We met at WHC 2011 and then again at WHC 2012 where he read a story I was shopping around and he gave me some positive feedback and some great advice. I have big respect for Tim, have read and enjoyed his writing, and his advice was practical and without a twinge of arrogance or pretention. Tim told me about the anthology and he encouraged me to submit something with the warning that the chance of being accepted weren’t good as he had several top writers already on the list, but hey, throw the dice. I just wanted to get something in his hands hoping to get some good feedback and hope for some future acceptance. 

I saw the prototype book cover and thought, “hell, he want tentacles from the sky, he’s gonna get it”. Wrote the story in a week, finished, edited, and submitted it the day before submissions closed, thinking I had no chance in hell, and received an acceptance from Tim within an hour saying, “Damit Tim! I thought I was done!”. My own little fairy tale of my first accepted story. Will never forget it and will always be grateful to Tim for giving me this chance and putting me amongst such awesome writers. (Wipes tear away) 

CM Saunders: Why not? 

Peter Welmerink: Not trying to suck up here, but when I found Tim Marquitz at the helm of this particular dreadfully sinister ship called FADING LIGHT, and enjoying his writing, knowing his passion and professionalism…that was one of the reasons. Other reason, it sounded like a kick ass challenge to write a story revolving mankind’s last stand as the lights fade on his stage. 

DL Seymour: Someone at my school needed to take up Tim's challenge to write a story for his collection, and it was too tempting of a challenge to pass up. 

Q] Who are your greatest influences in your life, both literary and otherwise? 

Nick Cato: A high school English / computer teacher named Irving Greenfield, who has over 300 published books and is still writing in his late 70s. The man is amazing (one of his novels, TAGGET. Was made into a film in the early 80s). I still speak with him today on occasion. 

Tom Olbert: I grew up reading Bradbury and Asimov, Stanislaw Lem and a few other authors. Also, my dad’s a physicist, so that captured my imagination. 

Ed Erdelac: Literarily, Robert E. Howard, Richard Matheson, Cormac McCarthy, Kazuo Koike, Alan Moore, Ambrose Bierce, Larry McMurtry, Mickey Spillane, Mishima Yukio, Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, Lovecraft, Shakespeare, and Patrick O’Brian. Frank Frazetta’s art has always inspired me, as well as that of Gustave Dore, William Blake, John Martin, Hieronymous Bosche, Peiter Bruegel, NC Wyeth, Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. Johnny Cash. Howlin’ Wolf. John Brown, Moses, Jesus, George Patton. My parents and grandparents. The movies of Sergio Leone, John Ford, George Romero, Akira Kurosawa…it probably goes on and on. 

Q] The zombie apocalypse arrives: who do you want on your response team? 

Jake Elliot: Definitely my wife, she knows karate. I’m pretty handy with a rifle, or at least I was before my eyes turned on me, but my wife can kick the ass of any zombie that gets close. If we could get Chuck Norris as back-up, that would be nice too. 

TSP Sweeney: Superman. Sure, I think he’s kind of lame and uninteresting as a character, but I guarantee he’d be able to deal with the hordes of flesh-eating undead with a minimum of effort thanks to being the biggest Mary Sue of all time! 

Ed Erdelac: Ideally the United State Marine Corps. But I’d settle for my boar hunting buddy Mike Reilly up in Portland. 

Peter Welmerink: Specialist Clint Johnsson and his sniper rifle, and Alice Cooper. Perhaps he could turn them, or we could at least rock out until our brains were consumed. 

Q] How do your daily experiences impact your writing? 

Dorian Dawes: Like I said earlier, the experiences a writer has along with whatever is in their subconscious is a big orgy of influences on the work. It's a swirling miasma that always makes its way into the work whether you like it or not, at least that's the way it is with me. I'll find myself staring in disgust at the rotting buffet of moronic political candidates we have for our next collection, feeling the sense of hopelessness when staring at the presidential ballot, and that same political hopelessness will show up in my work a few days later. 

CM Saunders: I think it is unavoidable that your experience (or how you interpret experiences) impact on your writing. I live and work in China most of the year, and since I have been there I have been introduced to the other side of life, where many people can't afford to feed their kids every day. Although perceived as the next global superpower, China is in one of those crazy situations where about 85% of the country's wealth is owned by about 15% of the population. Most of the people in China still struggle to make enough money for their needs. 

Peter Welmerink: The big events in life don’t usually bring about story ideas to me. It is usually while I am staring off unfocused and spot something, like an object in the road, or two people talking, a cross on the side of the highway, and the dark woods flashed in the beams of car headlights and—what’s that! Was there something in the woods! It is…it is…oh my god! 

Q] Given the opportunity, is there any one author you’d like to write a story with? What would you write about? 

CM Saunders: Stephen King or his son Joe Hill. I would write anything they wanted me to write! 

Carl Barker: Probably not, as I’m too much of a control freak to play well with others. I do think Neil Gaiman would be fun to work with though, as he always surprises me. 

Q] All authors have goals they set for themselves, be it getting published, getting a bigger deal, or selling millions of copies. Can you share some of yours? 

Ryan Lawler: My biggest goal is to see the speculative fiction genres like fantasy, horror and sci-fi be accepted as a positive influence on society. For so long these genre’s have been the subject of derision from so many different communities, normally because they don’t understand these genres and are not interested in trying to understand these genres. I feel that these genres can provide the catalyst for positive change, from social commentary on big issues (ie Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl) through to the positing of cool technological solutions for scientists to strive for(ie. invisibility cloaks and ultrasonic healing). 

Ed Erdelac: For a long time my goal was just getting published. Now it’s just to provide for my family doing what I do best, preferably full time, which is no more than anybody asks. I’d like a house, a yard for the kids to play in. Security. To be able to write 4-8 hours a day and not have to make time for a second job. That’s it. 

Q] What projects are you working on now? Anything cool you can share with us? 

Dorian Dawes: Right now I'm trying to get a full-length novel published about a race of people whose culture revolves around extreme (ie impossible) body-modifications and the erasing of their own history, and the horror that comes out of forgetting the sins of the past. Also working on drafting the second half of another novel inspired by the early horror films of Dario Argento and the popular trope of the "final girl" in slasher films. 

William Meikle: I’m currently at work on a Professor Challenger collection for Dark Regions Press that’s scheduled for release in hardcover in early 2013. They’re also bringing out a Sherlock Holmes collection of mine in hardcover later this year, having already done a Carnacki: Ghosthunter one. I’m planning on more historical character collections from them in the future. 

Q] A troll, a rabid skunk, and Justin Bieber walk into a bar: how does the story end? 

Ryan Lawler: The troll, after disposing of the rabid skunk with a swift club to the face, falls head over heels in love with Justin Bieber’s androgynous stylings. The troll doesn’t know if Bieber is male or female, and that’s what makes it so exciting. The overzealous troll pushes through the crowd of wailing teenagers, screaming out Bieber’s name just hoping to get noticed. The troll is overcome with emotion when Bieber looks over and says the immortal words “Damn, you are one fine troll. I believe in you.” 

In a fit of jealous rage, the mob of wailing girls turn on the troll, swarming over it like ants, wasps, beetles, and any other insect you can think of. The troll dies with a smile on its face, the horde of teenagers feasting on the flesh of the chosen one. And Bieber, as usual, feels no remorse after sacrificing yet another of his followers so he can make a clean escape with his hair still intact. 

DL Seymour: As she hid her head in her drink, Selina Gomez wondered how all her exes were able to track her down, and how could she sneak out the back door. 

Q] Tell us a little about your writing process: do you outline, pants it, write twenty drafts or just one, practice voodoo? 

Gef Fox: I'm not much of a pantser. I use what I call a fishbone outline. The head of the fish is my big idea. The backbone with all those ribs are whatever plot points and diversions I might want to include, which get smaller and more focused towards the end. Then it tapers off to the tail, which is the big finish. Using that, I start writing. The writing itself involves a lot of procrastination and a lot of second-guessing. I used to rewrite as I went along, but that got me nowhere, fast. 

Adam Millard: I'm a pantser. If I plot, I get bored. I think characters need to grow, and the best way to let them do that is by letting go of the reins occasionally. 

Jake Elliot: I do everything on a computer, I hate typewriters. I write my outlines backwards. I want to know how the story ends, then work it back to the beginning. My outlines are very brief, a couple words per projected chapter and leaving lots of room for the unexpected. First drafts are the hardest for me because I’m a perfectionist and first drafts are always ugly. Second drafts are fun and that is where I get creative. The third draft tones things down, trims the fat. By the fourth draft I’m sick of the damn story and it is time to send it to whoever I think might like it. 

Q] What do you do to get better as a writer? 

William Meikle: Write. A lot. Then write some more. 

Carl Barker: Keep writing, keep reading, and try to continually live outside my comfort zone.

*************************End of Part One****************************

EDITOR INFORMATION: Tim Marquitz is the author of the Demon Squadseries, and the Sepulchral Earth serial stories. He is also an editor, a heavy metal aficionado, a Mixed Martial Arts fan, and is also a member of the Live Action Role Playing organization. When he’s not busy writing dark stories which catch his imagination he also manages to go about his day job. Tim lives in El Paso, Texas with his wonderful family.

Official Author website
Read FBC's Review of Armageddon Bound
Read FBC's Review of Resurrection 
Read FBC’s Review of At The Gates 
Read FBC's Review of Echoes Of The Past
Read FBC interview with Tim Marquitz 
Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spotlight on Four More Recent Titles of Interest, Sandi Tan, Kim Fay, Sabina Berman and Karen Maitland (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

In an ideal world I would have already read and reviewed these four August releases as I've read a number pages from each and they are all excellent in different ways, but for now a quick spotlight and hopefully a full review in the future.

Ghosts in the Far East and an extremely compelling narrator made me pick up The Black Isle by Sandi Tan.

"Uprooted from Shanghai with her father and twin brother, young Cassandra finds the Black Isle's bustling, immigrant-filled seaport, swampy jungle, and grand rubber plantations a sharp contrast to the city of her childhood. And she soon makes another discovery: the Black Isle is swarming with ghosts.

Haunted and lonely, Cassandra at first tries to ignore her ability to see the restless apparitions that drift down the street and crouch in cold corners at school. Yet despite her struggles with these spirits, Cassandra comes to love her troubled new home. And soon, she attracts the notice of a dangerously charismatic man.

Even as she becomes a fearless young woman, the Isle's dark forces won't let her go. War is looming, and Cassandra wonders if her unique gift might be her beloved island's only chance for salvation . . .

Taking readers from the 1920s, through the Japanese occupation during WWII, to the Isle's radical transformation into a gleaming cosmopolitan city, THE BLACK ISLE is a sweeping epic--a deeply imagined, fiercely original tale from a vibrant new voice in fiction."


An interesting blurb and good opening pages in "The Map of Lost Memories" by Kim Fay

"Suspense and secrets are woven together in this engrossing fiction debut by Kim Fay. The Map of Lost Memories takes readers on a daring expedition to a remote land, where the search for an elusive treasure becomes a journey into the darkest recesses of the mind and heart.

In 1925, the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no woman knows this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for the coveted curator position at Seattle’s renowned Brooke Museum. But she is not ready to accept defeat. Skilled at acquiring priceless, often illicitly trafficked artifacts, Irene is given a rare map believed to lead to a set of copper scrolls that chronicle the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. Such a find would not only restore her reputation, it would be the greatest archaeological discovery of the century.

As Irene travels from Seattle to Shanghai to the Cambodian jungles, she will encounter several equally determined companions, including a communist temple robber and a dashing nightclub owner with a complicated past. As she and her fellow adventurers sweep across borders and make startling discoveries, their quest becomes increasingly dangerous. Everyone who comes to this part of the world “has something to hide,” Irene is told—and she learns just how true this is. What she and her accomplices bring to light will do more than change history. It will ultimately solve the mysteries of their own lives"

Update September 5 (short raw thoughts):

A somewhat disappointing novel that starts quite well (secrets, Shanghai of the 20's, mysterious women..) but slowly morphs into an average historical thriller where only the exoticism of the location and the female archaeologist-adventurer main lead kept me turning the pages as the action became the run of the mill predictable such and there was nothing exceptional in the writing either

Better books out there


An unexpectedly compelling voice that had me paying attention in Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

"As intimate as it is profound, and as clear-eyed as it is warmhearted, Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World marks an extraordinary debut by the award-winning Mexican playwright, journalist, and poet Sabina Berman.

Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family's failing tuna cannery. But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers a real girl amidst the squalor. So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea. 

Despite how far she's come, Karen remains defined by the things she can't do—until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family's fishery. Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations."

Update September 2 (short raw thoughts): Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World is a book that attracted my attention by its cover and then after the blurb seemed ok and I opened it, just took over my reading for a while. After that though I had quite a few other books to read but I knew I wanted to get back to it soon and I finally finished it.

A first person narrative from quite an unusual narrator ("Me" who has problems with "you" and with projecting subjectivity and has big cognitive issues, but has some genius level characteristics, most notably the ability to empathize with animals - not that it stops "Me" to be a sort of humane slaughterer in various meat related industries from pigs to fish, though she does not eat flesh - and to focus on a given subject)

Heart warming, funny and with lots of notable moments, the odyssey of Karen Nieto (see the blurb which is generally accurate and offers all the story detail one needs) is one of the surprise highly recommended books of 2012 for me - fast read with narrative pull and very life affirming, the book is also highly recommended if in need of an uplifting novel


Finally a book I've just heard about yesterday and I only had the occasion to check an excerpt, but it is Karen Maitland the author of the superb Company of Liars, now going international to 1530's Portugal, the Inquisition, magic and much more in The Falcons of Fire and Ice.

"The year is 1539 and the Portuguese Inquisition ushers in an era of torture and murder. When the Royal Falconer is imprisoned on false charges to remove him from the inner circle of the boy King, the Inquisitors strike an impossible deal with his daughter, Isabela. Bring back two rare white falcons from Iceland within the year or her father dies.

Meanwhile in Iceland, a menacing stranger appears to have possessed the soul of a woman chained up in a volcanic cave and is threatening to destroy the community. The woman's twin sister, Eydis, is desperate to intervene but vivid dreams suggest the twins' only salvation lies with a young girl from afar, travelling in search of white feathers ...

Isabela's quest might hold a more crucial purpose then she could ever imagine and there are those among her travel companions who have an interest in doing her harm. But in order to fulfil her destiny, first she must reach Iceland's shores. Alive"

Friday, August 24, 2012

King Of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “King of ThornsHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read an Extract HERE
Read FBC’s Review of "Prince of Thorns"

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Mark Lawrence is a research scientist working on artificial intelligence. He lives in England with his wife and four children.

OFFICIAL BLURB: The boy who would be King has gained the throne...

Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath vowed when he was nine to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother—and punish his father for not doing so. When he was fifteen, he began to fulfill that vow. Now he is eighteen—and he must hold on by strength of arms to what he took by torture and treachery.

King Jorg is a man haunted: by the ghost of a young boy, by a mysterious copper box, by his desire for the woman who rides with his enemy. Plagued by nightmares of the atrocities he committed, and of the atrocities committed against him when he was a child, he is filled with rage. And even as his need for revenge continues to consume him, twenty thousand men march toward the gates of his castle. His enemy is far stronger than him. Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight.

But he has found, in a chamber hidden beneath the castle, ancient and long-lost artifacts. Some might call them magic. Jorg is not certain—all he knows is that the secrets they hold can be put to terrible use in the coming battle... 

CLASSIFICATION: King of Thorns is R-rated epic fantasy that combines Robert E. Howard/Glen Cook-like sword-and-sorcery action with George R. R. Martin-inspired court intrigue and a huge side of dark humor to make Joe Abercrombie proud.  

FORMAT/INFO: King of Thorns is 464 pages long divided over forty-nine numbered chapters, a prologue and thirty journal entries by Katherine. Narration is in the first-person, via King Jorg Ancrath and in the third person via diary entries by Katherine Ap Scarron. King of Thorns does well to read as a standalone however should be read after Prince of Thorns to appreciate the character arcs, and is the second volume in The Broken Empire trilogy.

August 7, 2012 marked the North American Hardcover publication of King of Thorns via Ace Books. The UK version (see below) was published on August 16, 2012 via Harper Voyager. Cover art is provided by Jason Chan. More information, including a Map and a Cast of Characters, can be found at Mark Lawrence’s Official Website.

ANALYSIS: Last year Mark Lawrence debuted on the fantasy scene with his dark and morally tipsy book Prince of Thorns. It shocked many readers and led to interesting debates about the book, its main protagonist and the overall direction of the story. I thought that the writing and storyline was sheer brilliance. Mark Lawrence’s plot had the main protagonist who is a teenage sociopath and who in most novels would be featured as the series villain. The dark beauty of the series is that it dwells into his mind and showcases all that he does and why he does it. It was an excellent debut and one which manages to push the boundaries of dark fantasy so far beyond that those set by its predecessors.

I found this book to be a bit difficult to review because of its complexity, so kindly forgive me for the rambling nature of it below. To begin with King of Thorns continues the pattern of dual storylines found in the first book with the same time period of four years. The first storyline is set four years after the events of the first book wherein Prince Jorg became King though not in the place he set out to be. Currently settled in as the King to the Renar Highlands, he faces dual problems; firstly his castle and kingdom are surrounded by enemy  forces from the kingdom of Arrow. Prince Orrin fated to be the Emperor uniting the Broken Kingdoms, stands on his doorstep waiting to knock it down or get Jorg’s support.

Secondly he’s about to get married to a princess called Miana and he doesn’t have the proper attire for it. There’s also the curious presence of a metal box that isn’t supposed to be opened as well as the ghost of a small child that comes and goes in Jorg’s presence. In the other storyline, it begins very much in line after the events at the end of the first book, Jorg has been crowned King and is trying to settle in with his motley bunch. His problems are never far Gog has been having some issues with controlling his fire powers and that has lead to the development of some burning queries. To top that Jorg also gets a visit from Prince Orrin and his brother Prince Egan, both from the country of Arrow and who have plans for uniting the small kingdoms into one glorious empire.

As evidenced by the information above, this book is a huge mix of storylines, both the past and present are intriguing and the author also introduces another crucial observer element in the form of diary entries by Katherine. This story is much more complicated than the previous one, as with the preceding title we had Jorg trying to exact revenge on his family for reasons he thought were just. In this book however we are shown mysteries and things that were only hinted at previously. In the previous volume, the past recollections held a clue to the things occurring in the present. However in this volume, the author cleverly makes both timelines dependent on each other as twists and turns are present in both but their raison d'être will be clear only to the observant readers. Each phrase or narrative turn is to be examined as it will play out in the later half. This book has a lot more travels to it as well than the first book, Jorg and his crew travel as far as to the Thar Desert in Asia and then head north to the Scandinavian coasts. In between these two timelines are also present the diary entries by Katherine and we get a crucial look into her acumen and her feelings for Jorg become crystal clear.

Characterization as in the previous volume is handled competently as the narrator is a sociopath but in this volume we get a slightly more emotional Jorg. Not that he breaks down and repents but in the essence of his actions, Jorg has started taking into account the consequences and effects onto others. There’s also the other characters that make their presence felt namely Katherine who reveals more about herself via her journal entries than previously seen from Jorg’s POV. There’s also princess Miana who is to wed Jorg and even though she’s present for a very small period of the book, she shows fortitude that belies her age and size. I hope we get more of them in the next book. There’s also the prose which stand up to the expectations from the first book, beginning with Jorg and his  observations, to the brotherly quotes between chapters, fans of the first book will find acerbic wit, striking dialogue and more in this second outing. There are also certain dark events that get described in a haunting way and particularly one event that leads to the mystery of the boy ghost.

Now with all that has been said, there are certain things that need to be mentioned like the fact that if you didn’t like the first book then the second one will not change your opinion. There’s also some events in this book that will add to the diatribe against a character like Jorg. One of the points which can be confusing to the reader is the travels taken by Jorg and his crew all around the Broken Kingdoms, it often feels as if there’s no rhyme or reason to it. I felt that way as well however quite a lot of it makes sense in the end so readers might want to persevere. There’s also the question about the book’s pace as it slows down in the middle of the book wherein Jorg is shown wandering and experiencing several adventures, and in the present timeline when the beginning of the defense of the castle is shown. Both these things while going on concurrently drag the pace down and might confuse the readers. Lastly one great thing about this book is that we learn the Nuban’s real name as he was too good a character to be left unnamed.

CONCLUSION: Mark Lawrence has definitely upped his game and with King Of Thorns, he shows the evolution of his craft as well making his story more twisted than its predecessor. This is a dark story that demands attention from its readers but also rewards them immensely for their attention in the end. Read King of Thorns to be shocked and awed by the boy who would be king, Honorious Jorg Ancrath and now onwards to Emperor of Thorns.

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