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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"The Glass Sentence: Mapmakers Trilogy #1" by S.E. Grove (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Overview: She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.

FORMAT: The Glass Sentence is the first novel in The Mapmakers Trilogy. It stands at 493 pages and was published on June 12, 2014 by Viking Juvenile.

ANALYSIS: The Glass Sentence is a YA fantasy that has a little bit of everything thrown into it. There is some mention about magic, a huge emphasis on science and scientific facts, a quest, and some alternative history thrown into it.

The novel, which is the first book of a series, is very reminiscent of His Dark Materials. That isn't to say it's a carbon copy of it or the ideas are the same, but there is a distinct similarity in writing style, plotline, and even characters. Fans of this series will be sure to enjoy The Glass Sentence, as well as any following novels.

The entire novel revolves around the concept that at one point the world was as we knew it and then suddenly this huge disruption happened. Think, apocalypse, but not really. This disruption caused the entire globe to slip into different time periods. Some areas went back in time, some went forward, but they all co-exist at once.

The Glass Sentence by no means would be classified as a 'fast read'. It starts off with a very slow, almost sluggish start. This is because there is a lot of background information, scientific facts, and world building that needs to happen in order for readers to understand the series. Unfortunately, this takes time and results in a sluggish, slow-moving feel.

If you can make it through the sluggish/slowness in the beginning of the novel, there is a decent, well-rounded novel. Sadly, most readers will probably give up on the novel, which leads people to miss out on a unique story.

I would estimate that a good one-third, to one-half of the novel is sluggish world building. There is a lot of time spent explaining the rather complex 'new world' that people are living in. There is time spent explaining how maps are made, the different types of maps, and even the extensive history/culture/customs of the different eras.

In addition to the sluggish nature of the book, I (personally) found it difficult to suspend disbelief on the whole concept of different eras/time periods/time co-existing in a world. I am not totally sure if it was too scientific for my brain to process or if I just couldn't let go of the world that I know, but I just couldn't envision it happening.

While I was able to get through The Glass Sentence and found the story/plot alright, I believe my inability to suspend disbelief for the story hindered/hurt my experience with this book. I can see how much potential this series has and I realize that for the right reader this is 'the book' to read, I just found it difficult. It wasn't until the very end that things started to 'click' for me and I really started enjoying the book.

Would I recommend The Glass Sentence to everyone? Probably not. There is a certain audience that will really enjoy/love this book. Fans of His Dark Materials, those looking for a unique novel that is not the normal 'YA' read, and those that like complex world building. If you are going to read this book, make sure to give it time as it really does take a while to build up – and of course – be prepared for a huge cliffhanger!
Thursday, January 22, 2015

EXCERPT: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Promise Of Blood
Pre-order The Autumn Republic HERE

Brian McClellan is an author who along with Django Wexler seems to have brought a whole new sub genre alive. Flintlock fantasy's newest proponents are making their presences felt with their individual series.  The Autumn Republic brings to a successful conclusion the Powder Mage trilogy and thanks to Orbit Books, we get to share the fourth chapter with all our readers. The first three chapters can be found over HERE, HERE & HERE. Also for those readers interested in pre-ordering this title, Orbit Books is offering a signed bookplate. All you need to do is fill out the form on the Orbit website over here.


Nila waited beside the carriage for Bo and Adamat to return from their meeting with General Hilanska.

Downhill from her a small stream wound its way through the camp, its banks muddied from the tramp of a thousand boots. Nila watched as a laundress filled a bucket with the dirty water and hauled it back to her fire, where the uniforms of half a dozen soldiers sat piled on her bench. The woman filled her washing pot with the water and sat back to wait for it to boil, drawing a soiled hand across her brow.

A different choice sometime in the last few months and Nila knew that might have been her. She glanced down at her hands. For years they had been cracked and worn by the soap, water, and lye she’d used to do laundry. Now they seemed remarkably smooth to the touch and, Bo told her, they would be put to better use.

A Privileged. She still couldn’t believe it, not even after seeing the fire spring from her own fingertips the first time and during all their practice since. Privileged were creatures of great cunning and strength. They commanded the elements and made armies quake. It seemed so crass that a laundress without family or connections could suddenly hold such power.

She couldn’t help but feel cheated as well. Had she known it lay dormant within her, she might have used that power to escape from Vetas or to protect the royalists. Nila clenched her fist and felt a slight warmth on the back of her hand—fire, blue and white, dancing across her knuckles as if they were at the center of a hearth. Glancing around to see if anyone had noticed, she shook her hand to put out the fire and then hid it behind her back.

She thought about her time with the royalists and remembered Rozalia, the Privileged who had fought for them. Had Rozalia sensed the latent power within Nila and simply chosen not to mention it? Or had she been kind to her for some other reason? Would Nila become like her someday—old, wise, and powerful? Would people be nervous around her as she had been nervous around Rozalia?


Nila emerged from deep within her own thoughts, and it took her a moment to remember that was the name she was using as she pretended to be a secretary to Bo—who himself was masquerading as a lawyer. She turned her head to see him hurrying toward her from across the camp. There was an urgency to his step that concerned her.

“Did you find Taniel?”

“No.” Bo took her by the arm and stepped around to the far side of the carriage, where they were less likely to be overheard. “General Hilanska says that Taniel’s dead.”

The dispassionate way Bo spoke the words made her step back. Taniel had been his obsession ever since he had taken her and Jakob under his wing. His only friend, he claimed. He had been searching for Taniel for months now with a passion that Nila had found inspiring. And now this? Bo could be distant at times, even cold, but this…

“There’s something else?” she asked.

“We’re going to find out for sure. Adamat thinks there’s a chance he’s still alive, and Hilanska is only one man.”

Nila realized he wasn’t dispassionate—he was dazed.

“Where do we stand?”

“Hilanska has dismissed us, but I’m not leaving until I can confirm that Taniel is dead. I want a body or a grave or something more than just Hilanska’s word. I’ll even go to the Kez camp if I have to. Adamat is corroborating Hilanska’s story with the soldiers. I’m going to do the same.” He paused and looked her up and down. “This will be dangerous. If Hilanska finds out who I am, I may be killed outright—along with you, Adamat, Oldrich, and his men.”

“Just for impersonating a lawyer?”

A smile tugged at the corner of Bo’s face, but he stifled it quickly. “I’m serious. Hilanska doesn’t like or trust Privileged. He’s a man with something to hide, and the mere fact that we’re snooping around is going to gain his suspicion. He’s like Tamas—he’ll do what’s expedient. Even if it means killing a whole lot of people.”

“That seems like something you would respect.”

“And I can respect it by not letting him know what I really am. Or what you are, for that matter.” He glanced down at her hands and fell into a long silence. He had told her that no Privileged but the gods could touch the Else without runed gloves to keep them from being burned from the inside out by pure sorcery.

Except for her, apparently. And she was far from a god.

She had no doubt that if she said the word, Bo would send her back to Adopest today. This was her opportunity to run. She could fetch Jakob and go into hiding, using the funds that Bo had left for her. She would be able to get out of danger. If she left now, she would never learn how to control her new powers. She would never find a Privileged as patient or thoughtful or just downright human as Bo. And she would never get the chance to repay him for the kindness he’d shown her and Jakob.

“What can I do?” Nila asked.

Nila waited inside the small wood-and-stone building that had, according to one of the soldiers, at one point been a stable.

The building barely had a roof, and the door was nothing more than a scrap of cowhide, but it seemed that the quartermaster of the Twelfth Brigade was making do. The floors were covered in straw and every available space was stacked with wooden crates and powder kegs. Bo had told her to ask around about Taniel Two-shot, stifling her protests that his instructions were rather vague, and left her to her own devices. He wasn’t exactly the image of rousing leadership.

She didn’t know how to go about asking soldiers about the death of their own. It seemed crass. So she thought she’d put what she did know to good use. Despite the horror of being Lord Vetas’s prisoner, she had learned many valuable lessons. One of those was the worth of good record keeping, and how it could be used against the very people who kept those records.

The cowhide was swept aside and a woman of about fifty ambled into the room wearing an Adran-blue army jacket with the quartermaster’s pin on her collar. She was a slim woman, carrying most of her weight around her hips, and her graying hair was tucked into a bun behind her head.

“How can I help you, my dear?” she asked, dropping carelessly onto a powder keg.

“My name is Risara,” Nila said, smoothing the front of her skirt. “I’m the secretary to Counselor Mattias of Adopest and I need access to the brigade records.”

“Well then.” The quartermaster sniffed. “I’ll have to clear that with General Hilanska.”

Nila produced an attaché case from beneath her arm and opened it on her lap, taking great pains to leaf through the official-looking documents within. She withdrew one in particular and handed it to the quartermaster. “This is a warrant granting me access to whatever records I wish to see. Do you think this is something the general wants to deal with during the current turmoil?”

The quartermaster read the warrant over twice. Nila tried not to let her nervousness show. The warrant was perfectly valid, but Bo had warned her that the army operated outside civilian judicial purview—whether legal or not.

“All right,” the quartermaster said, handing the document back to Nila. “What do you want to see?”

Nila tried not to show her surprise at being granted access so easily or to let on that she didn’t actually know what she was looking for. What would help her track down Taniel? His movements before his reported death? “Give me a copy of all requisition reports of the last two months.”

“All of them?” The quartermaster rocked back on her powder keg. “That’s several hundred pages.”

“Get a scribe in here. I’ll wait.”

The quartermaster grumbled under her breath and began sorting through the crates piled in one corner. Nila waited, trying to put on as patient an air as possible. Lord Vetas had forced her to run many of his errands—not all of them strictly legal—and she had quickly learned that if she only acted like she belonged someplace most people would assume she did.

“Is there anything else you need?” the quartermaster said, wrist-deep in sheaves of paper. “I don’t want to have to go through all this again.”

“What records do you have on individual officers?”

The quartermaster lifted a pile of worn yellow paper almost as thick as Nila’s hand was wide. “You’d have to see the general’s adjutant for that.”

“Of course.” Nila took the records from the quartermaster and leafed through them. “Do you need to make copies?”

“They’re all in triplicate. That’s why the column for order signatures is blank. I’ll have another copy made up when someone has time. Anything you’re looking for in particular?”

Nila hesitated a moment. If she mentioned her goal, it might raise suspicion. But the idea of combing through all those reports was incredibly daunting. “Do you know if Captain Taniel Two-shot made any requisition orders?”

“He did.” The quartermaster scratched her head for a minute as if to run through her memory. “There are a few dozen, I think. I can’t tell you the exact days, but any requests made by a powder mage are marked with a ‘pm’ in the order column.”

“You’ve been most helpful. Thank you. Do you mind if I look through the copies here?”

The quartermaster shrugged her bony shoulders. “Fine by me. You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, though. I’ll just be takin’ a piss.”

Nila was left alone with the records. It took her a few minutes to get a feel for how the pages were organized. They were covered in small script and several columns. Names, dates, orders, and whether they were fulfilled. There were notes in half a dozen different handwritings—various quartermasters, she assumed. Once she found the first ‘pm’—a request by Taniel for more powder, which was denied—it wasn’t hard to spot more.

She had just found the fifth powder request when she heard the old quartermaster behind her.

“Right there,” the woman said. Nila glanced up out of politeness, only to see herself trapped in the small building by two big soldiers. The men wore dark-blue Adran uniforms with red trim and tall bearskin hats. Not regular soldiers. Grenadiers.

“Ma’am,” one of them said, “would you come with us, please.”

Nila’s heart was in her throat. “Is something the matter?”

“Please,” he said again. “Come with us.” He glanced behind him, as if nervous. “Try not to make a ruckus, ma’am.”

Nila didn’t see that she had much choice. She could yell and scream, with only a small chance of attracting Bo. But even then, what could Bo do? For the purpose of this mission they were not in a friendly camp. “Of course, just let me gather my things.” Nila scooped up the requisition orders, securing the whole thing with a string, and forced them into her attaché case before following the men out of the building.

“Stay with us, please,” one of the men said in a low voice before moving on ahead. The other, Nila noted, fell back some ten paces. It was almost as if they didn’t want to be seen with her.

She was led past General Hilanska’s headquarters and over a slight rise and into another part of the camp. She examined the various standards, trying to remember the brigades and regiments of the Adran army and failing completely. If not General Hilanska, who were they taking her to see? Or were they taking her straight to the stockade?

The man in front of her suddenly stopped beside a white-walled tent and turned as if taking up the guard. He gestured to the flap. “Go on in.”

The other soldier had disappeared. Nila stared at the tent for a moment, both curious and fearful about what she’d find inside. She clenched her jaw. She was a Privileged now. She was going to have to get used to danger—and taking risks. She ducked inside.

A man sat in the middle of the tent, scribbling furiously in a notebook on his lap. He didn’t look up when Nila entered, only pointed to the chair opposite him and continued to write. Nila looked around carefully. No sign of danger here, though that could all change in a moment in a camp full of soldiers. She took the offered seat.

By the size of the tent, Nila guessed that this man was an officer. He was a big man, well over six feet tall standing, with wide shoulders and thick arms. He had a face that looked like it had been punched one too many times, with a crooked nose and high cheekbones. His chair was wheeled, of the kind used by invalids. She spotted the man’s army jacket hanging in one corner, with two hawks over the Adran Mountains emblazoned on the shoulder. It also held four bars over a chevron—Nila knew enough to recognize he was a colonel. Had she read something in the newspaper recently about a colonel being paralyzed in a heroic action?

He finally stopped writing and pushed himself up straight in his chair. “You’re the girl that came in with the lawyer this afternoon?” he asked.

“I am Counselor Mattias’s secretary.”

“How long have you been with the counselor?” The colonel watched her face intently.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

“It’s a direct question,” the colonel said. “How long have you been with him? Are you in his confidence?”

Nila knew she had to make a decision. Throw everything in behind Bo—be there if he was exposed and killed—or pretend that she was nothing more than a hired secretary.

“Some time. I am in his confidence, sir.” The colonel’s eyes narrowed.

“Indeed? Then what’s the Privileged up to?”

Nila forced herself not to bolt for the tent flap. “I don’t know what—”

“Stop,” the man said. “I’ve known Taniel Two-shot since he was a boy. You think I wouldn’t recognize his best friend?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Nila said. “I don’t know your name.”

“Colonel Etan.”

“Colonel Etan. If you think you know someone, shouldn’t you invite them to your tent directly?”

The shadow of a smile touched Etan’s face. “Is Borbador here looking for Taniel?”

Nila couldn’t avoid a direct question like that. This man claimed to know Taniel. This may be the best way to get information out of him. Or it could all be a trap.

“Yes,” she said.

Etan gave a soft sigh, closing his eyes. “Thank Adom.”

“I’m sorry?”

Etan opened his eyes again. “I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to find out what happened to Taniel. Nobody has seen him since he was raised up like a trophy above the Kez camp. Hilanska has refused to ask any questions. He won’t even request Taniel’s body back from the Kez.”

Nila’s throat felt dry. “So Taniel is dead?”

“I don’t know,” Etan said. “He was alive when he was raised up on that beam. He was alive the last time anyone saw him up there, and then when Kresimir killed Adom, he—”

“Wait, what?” Nila couldn’t help herself. She leaned forward in her chair. “Kresimir killed Adom? What are you talking about?” Was this man mad?

Etan waved his hand. “It’s a very long story. One that hasn’t gotten back to Adopest, it seems. Pit, Hilanska is keeping a tight lid around here. To answer your earlier question, I deemed it unwise to bring Borbador here. I’m hoping that you are being watched less closely than the supposed ‘lawyer’ is.”

“You want me to pass him a message?”

“Yes. Don’t trust Hilanska.”

“I don’t think Bo trusts anyone.”

Etan scowled at his legs. He didn’t seem to hear her. “Hilanska is a superior officer and I do him a disservice, but he’s been acting very strangely lately. As I said before, he won’t look into Taniel’s whereabouts. He adamantly refuses to believe that Tamas might still be alive. What’s more, he’s been putting all of Tamas’s most loyal men into their own companies and promoting his own longest-serving soldiers. And he’s been raving about a Kez pincer movement that could come over the southern mountains—he sent two whole companies into the valleys in the southwest, where they won’t be able to do a damned thing when the Kez do attack.”

Nila couldn’t pretend to understand the inner politics of the army, but she imagined it not unlike anywhere else that people were constantly jockeying for rank or status—even like the noble household where she had been employed before the coup. She did know that Bo wouldn’t care one whit for the army politics. But Etan was clearly distraught, and she didn’t think it would help to tell him that.

“Are you able to help us find Taniel?” she asked gently.

Etan glanced at the attaché case in her hands. “I’ve gone through all of Taniel’s requisition forms. I was there when he made some of them. I don’t think they’ll help you, but I suppose another set of eyes wouldn’t hurt. I’ve done everything within my power to discover his fate—I’ve been watching for anyone who might come asking, as well. Bo might have to go to the Kez to get any more information.”

“That would be suicide,” Nila said. Not that it would stop Bo.

“It might. I’m sorry that I could not be more help. I’m leaving for Adopest in the morning. If there’s anything I can do to aid your search, contact me through one of the grenadiers of the Twelfth.”

“Thank you,” Nila said.

She left the colonel and headed back across the camp toward where they had left their carriage. What else could she do now but wait for Bo and tell him about Etan? Etan’s advice had been unhelpful, but she hoped it would make Bo more optimistic to know they had a friend in the camp and that Taniel had last been seen alive.

Their carriage had been moved off the road and down into a gully and the horses unharnessed. She sat in the carriage to read through the reports, going through every page one by one, carefully examining each line to be sure she didn’t miss any of Taniel’s requisitions. The column that interested her the most was the one where the quartermasters entered their own notes about the requisition. Up to a certain point in time, each of Taniel’s requests for black powder had been denied “by order of the General Staff.”

Until about a month previous. He was given powder, and the note column said, “Special permission, General Hilanska.” Nila set that page aside to show to Bo.

It grew dark, and Nila finally had to set aside her work. It seemed strange to her that neither Bo nor Adamat had returned yet. In fact, she hadn’t seen Sergeant Oldrich or his men either. She leaned her head against the wall of the carriage, wondering if she should go look for them or just rest here until they returned.

Nila thought she heard a soft click from the opposite door of the carriage. She turned, but the carriage door was still closed.

“Hello?” she asked. When there was no response, she put her hand to her door latch and it occurred to her that in a camp of many tens of thousands, there didn’t seem to be anyone close to her carriage.

The opposite door suddenly swung open. Nila glimpsed a dark coat, a covered face, and the dull glint of steel in the moonlight. The carriage rocked as someone dove inside. A hand darted toward her.

Nila threw herself across the carriage, felt a knife catch in her skirts. She twisted away and heard a low curse in a man’s voice as her attacker tried to drag his blade from the cloth. She rolled onto the flat of the blade and kicked out at the man’s shoulder. He pulled back with a grunt, the knife no longer in his hand, only to leap bodily upon her. She caught him under the shoulders. He batted at her arms, pushing them down, one hand snaking around her neck. She felt his fingers close about her throat and remembered Lord Vetas’s hot breath upon her shoulder when he had done the same.

The man hissed suddenly, jumping away from her, his jacket on fire. Nila felt the pressure leave her throat, saw the flame dancing on her fingertips, and she leapt on top of the man, fueled by the coals of her rage. He tried to grapple with her, his attention taken by his burning coat, but Nila forced herself inside his guard. Her hand still aflame, she grasped the man’s face and pushed.

Skin and bone seemed to give way beneath her fingers. The man’s scream died in his throat and his body stopped moving. The cushion and the man’s clothes were still on fire and she beat at the flames with her skirt until they were gone. The body, most of its head melted into a sickening black goop on the carriage bench, lay still beneath her. Nila slowly backed away. Her head hit the roof of the carriage and she ducked down, unable to pull her eyes away from the corpse lying in the smoldering remains of its own clothing.

She looked down at her hand. It was covered in cooked bits of bone and flesh.

“Nila, are you—” Bo jerked open the door she had been resting against just a few moments before and stared down at the body. His face was unreadable in the darkness.

“Come here,” he said gently, taking her by the wrist and pulling her outside. She only noticed the acrid smell of smoke and burned flesh, hair, and wool as Bo led her away. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gently cleaned her hand, emptying some of his canteen onto her fingers. He went back to the carriage and fetched her attaché case.

“I…” She seemed barely able to take a breath. Her heart thundered and her hands shook.

She’d just killed a man by burning through his entire head. With her hand.

“We’ll leave the luggage. I’d set fire to the carriage, but it would just attract attention all the sooner. They’ve arrested Oldrich and his men. We have to go find Adamat.”

Nila looked at her hand, clean now of the charred gore. The phantom stickiness of the blood clung between her fingers. She forced herself to look up into Bo’s eyes. She had to be strong. “And if he’s captured as well?”

“We’ll save him if we can. If not, he’s on his own.”

“And all of Oldrich’s soldiers?”

Bo looked about them furtively. “Not even I can get fifteen men out of an army encampment. They’ll have to face the firing squad for us. Now, let’s go.” He pulled at her arm.

“No,” Nila said.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“You—we—brought them into this. We’ll get them out.”

“Damn it, Nila,” Bo hissed. “We’d have to have help, and we simply don’t have it.”

Nila tilted her head to one side. “Yes we do,” she said.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Raising Hell by John G. Hartness (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the novella HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: John G. Hartness is the author of The Black Knight Chronicles urban fantasy series from Bell Bridge Books, the creator of the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories, a frequent contributor to the Magical Words group blog, and the creator and co-editor of The Big Bad: An Anthology of Evil series of anthologies. He is also the host of the Literate Liquors podcast, featuring the best in fantasy and sci-fi book reviews and liquor pairings

OFFICIAL BLURB: Straight out of the pages of the legendary vampire novel Dracula comes a demon hunter for the modern world. Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker had a son. They named him Quincy. His guardian angel calls him Q.

Dracula calls him nephew. Demons call him The Reaper.

"There are things in this world that men and women aren’t meant to understand. We aren’t supposed to know these things exist, much less how to fight them. The things that go bump in the night, the monsters in the closet, the shadow out of the corner of your eye — that’s where I live."

This exciting new series from the author of The Black Knight Chronicles and the Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories is a walk through the dark side, where things go bump in the night, and somebody has to bump back. Quincy Harker is that somebody.

FORMAT/INFO: Raising Hell is spread over twelve chapter. The narration is in first person solely via Quincy Harker. This is the first novella in the Demon Hunter novella series. January 20, 2015 marks the e-book publication of Raising Hell and it’s self-published by the author.

This title is currently available as an Amazon exclusive & will be available on all other e-retailers (B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc) after 90 days.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I’m a sucker for urban fantasy books and if they offer something different than the usual morass then that just makes that title to jump ahead in my TBR list. Raising Hell by John G. Hartness raised my interest with its blurb describing the protagonist as Dracula’s nephew who also hunts demons. As far as premises go, that’s not a bad one but none too original either. I decided to give it a shot based on the first chapter I read.

For most folks who love John Constantine or Clint Eastwood-esque protagonists, look no further; Quincy Harker is here to fill that void. Surly, quick with his magic (and fists, too) and filled with a righteous anger, we are introduced to Quincy as he’s called into a home for an exorcism. The problem being that he’s already too late to save the victim but that still isn’t the end of his troubles. Forced to take extreme steps, Quincy tries to trace how the victim became infected and what he stumbles upon is the bigger issue. He might have to put out all of his tricks, if he has any hope of survival. What helps with this novella is Quincy’s voice; he’s a snarky magician but with on the path of right and this makes him fun to read about. Think Dresden like but much more meaner and without his assortment of allies.

Quincy’s tale is set in the North Carolina region and the author does his best to highlight the region. Coming back to the characterization, with Quincy being the sole voice, the tale entirely hinges on him. Of course this also means that if he’s a fabulous narrator then it just gets to be that much more fun. The author also spruces up the story by giving him a guardian angel that doesn’t do much and Quincy’s relationship with God is one that you should read about directly in the book. Plot wise, this is pretty much a straight-forward tale that will have flipping pages with its mix of pace, action & snarky one-liners.

Because of the novella structure of the story, the author doesn’t get to give the readers much history about the world and magic system beyond a tad more than bare bones approach. I’m not going to hold it against the story because it's a novella and there’s only so much you can contain within so few pages. What the story does have is a sarcastic voice, funny quips and some action that will only whets up your appetite for more.

There’s also the character cast that gets introduced uncle Luke, Renfield the butler detective Rebecca Flynn & agent John Smith. I’m hoping there will be more of them in the sequel volumes but as far as introductions go, they managed to snag the readers interest. Overall this was a fun read and for all urban fantasy fans, you will love this if you like Harry Dresden, Frank Trigg or Atticus the druidQuincy Harker’s first foray was quite an enjoyable one and if it’s any indications, then I look forward to the future volumes with gusto.
Monday, January 19, 2015

GUEST POST: A Casual Fish Fry; Taoism in The Unhewn Throne Series by Brian Staveley

"Govern a nation as you would fry a small fish."

This admonition opens the sixtieth verse of the Tao Te Ching, one of Taoism’s foundational texts. Many readers have identified the Buddhist influence on my books, particularly in the world of the Shin monks; the Taoist influence, on the other hand, generally goes overlooked, even though it’s arguably more important.

The nation/fish passage strikes me as just the sort of impenetrable pronouncement that Kaden is always trying to puzzle through; Shin lore is filled with aphorisms like this. My students used to argue over this tiny passage endlessly (the fact that there are dozens of conflicting translations doesn’t help). The crucial question, of course, is simple: How exactly does one fry a small fish? Carefully and watchfully, because the fish is so delicate? Or casually, almost indifferently? After all, it’s only a small fish, not some great feast.

I’d go with the latter interpretation. The Tao Te Ching is filled with exhortations to do less, to act less, to think less. The crucial notion of wu-wei (non-action) permeates the text. Here, for instance, is verse eleven in its entirety: 

Wu is nothingness, emptiness, non-existence

Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub 
   yet only the hole at the center 
   allows the wheel to spin 

Clay is molded to form a cup 
   yet only the space within 
   allows the cup to hold water 

Walls are joined to make a room 
   Yet only by cutting out a door and a window 
   Can one enter and live there 

Thus, when a thing has existence alone 
   It is mere dead-weight 
   Only when it has wu, does it have life 

 (Trans. Jonathan Star)

The ideas here might sound familiar to people who have read The Emperor’s Blades. Near the start of the book, Kaden questions the value of emptiness. Heng, his mentor at the time, responds as follows:

 "He laughed out loud at the challenge, and then, smiling genially, replaced his pupil’s bowl and mug with two stones. Each day Kaden stood in the refectory line only to have the monk serving the food ladle his soup over the shapeless lump of granite."

 "Sometimes a chunk of lamb or carrot balanced miraculously on top. More often, he was forced to watch in famished agony as the thick broth ran off the stone and back into the serving pot. When the monks filled their own mugs with deep drafts of cold water, Kaden could only splash the stone and then lick it off, the quartz rough against his tongue."

Of course, the Shin monks aren’t Taoist any more than they’re Buddhist. The nature of their study departs from both, and there isn’t quite a corollary in either real-world philosophy to the inscrutable figure of the Blank God. The Shin have more troubling origins and, at least in some cases, goals that diverge sharply from the religious or philosophical. And yet, they might not exist at all if I’d never read the Tao Te Ching.

Official Author Website
Order The Providence Of Fire HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Emperor's Blades

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Brian Staveley is a teacher and writer. He has taught literature, religion, history, and philosophy, all subjects that influence his writing, and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. He works as an editor for Antilever Press, and has published poetry and essays, both in print and on-line. He lives in Vermont with his wife and young son, and divides his time between running trails, splitting wood, writing, and baby-wrangling.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Color Of Vengeance by Rob J. Hayes (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Pre-order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Northern Sunrise

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy. 

OFFICIAL BLURB: The Color of Vengeance is the second book of the debut trilogy, The Ties that Bind by Rob J. Hayes

Beaten, battered and damned near broken with a bounty on his head so large he’s tempted to turn himself in, the Black Thorn finds himself on trial for the crime of being him. Despite the impending probability of death he has but one thought on his mind; taking revenge against the Arbiter who took his eye. 

In order to carry out his vengeance Thorn must first escape Sarth and recruit a new crew, each one with their own designs on revenge. 

FORMAT/INFO: The Color of Vengeance is divided into three sections with forty-three POV chapters and an epilogue. The narration is in third person via Betrim Thorn aka The Black Thorn, Henry, Jacob Lee, Pern Suzku the Haarin, and Anders. This is the second book of the Ties That Bind trilogy

January 19, 2015 will mark the north American e-book & trade paperback publication of The Color Of Vengeance via Ragnarok Publications. Cover illustration is provided by Alex Raspad.

CLASSIFICATION: The Ties that Bind is a dark fantasy trilogy with terrific characterization and a twisted plot-line that is very reminiscent of the works by Joe Abercrombie, David Dalglish and Scott Lynch

ANALYSIS: After finishing The Heresy Within, I couldn’t wait to see what happens next and immediately bought the second book and began reading. To my delight I read the blurb and saw that it focussed on the Black Thorn who along with Jezzet was my favorite character so far. A warning though before I begin my review, the start of the book is spoiler-ish for the climax of The Heresy Within so if you haven’t read it or don’t mind a minor spoiler, then read on. 

At the ending of The Heresy Within, we are presented with an ending that is shocking to say the least and so with The Color Of Vengeance, we begin with Betrim Thorn who has been imprisoned after his failed attack on the Arbiter Kessick. Awakening in a dank corner he recalls his failed fight and the vital organ he lost. He manages to find his way out his most recent impediment and goes back to the wilds wherein he knows what to expect. Pern Suzku is a Haarin, warriors who take contracts to guard people who can afford their services. Among the Haarin, he is considered to be one of the best if not the best one.

His newest client however might be one to force Pern to reconsider what it means to be a Haarin. With the Black Thorn’s escape, the inquisition decides to send a new type of person to deliver their verdict. Jacob Lee is the person chosen for the task and he’s a Templar with a penchant for dancing and seeing through lies. However his dance is the type that leaves broken bones, & dead bodies in his wake. Lastly all these characters are heading towards Solantis wherein most of them will meet up with some of their past and a reckoning for the future. 

There are a few other characters from the preceding volume who make their appearances as well but I’m hoping that the readers RAFO about them. But to put it mildly, The Colour of Vengeance simply blows away The Heresy Within and is safe to say the better book of the two. Once again the main reason is the characterization and as with the last book, it’s the POV characters that make it such fun to read. Beginning with the Black Thorn, Suzku, Jacob, Henry and the non-POV characters, mostly everyone is a two-faced killer and even harder to judge.

The author marvels in creating a volatile situation in the city of Solantis and to add to that are all these hot-headed killers and deadly warriors that are headed towards a violent finish. While this does seem a bit generic in the sense that cool characters come together and fight, what differentiates this book from the riff-raff is that the author creates a fantastic storyline wherein every new chapter adds to the tension and keeps the plot simmering all the way to its action-packed climax.  

I can't stress how terrific these characters are but think of all the bad-ass, grey characters we know from ASOIAF, the First Law trilogy, the works of David Gemmell and David Dalglish, simply put we get similar bad-ass rogues here and they will absolutely keep you riveted. Secondly the dialogue and action sequences are top-notch, with the variety of characters that fill in the pages, dialogue becomes crucial and the author doesn’t disappoint with his gems from time to time. The action is also considerably amped up and for those who can’t get enough of it; this book should very well fulfill all your cravings.

Also this book introduces a bit more of the secondary characters including a certain pirate who becomes a monumental figure in the overall happenings as well gives a clue about the overall world and therefore expands the story from its simple trapping of being a revenge saga. I loved how the author takes minor characters from his previous books and makes them standout ones. Cases in point are Anders, Henry and Drake Morass, the author deftly showcases what might be truly happening but then again readers must be wary that all is definitely not what it seems to be.

Negative points about this book are almost next to none for me. However one big point for many could be the absence of two of the main POVs from its predecessor. However because this volume focusses on newer characters who shine brightly if not more. Perhaps the reappearance of all the characters from the previous book can be thought of more than simply coincidental as the story makes it out to be. The author could have smoothened this bit of the story but the way it all happens I didn’t mind it. I didn’t have any other complaints about this book and it’s safe to say that this is a dark fascinating gem of a sequel. 

CONCLUSION: The Color Of Vengeance is not simply a revenge saga, no more than The Lies of Locke Lamora is simply a story of thieves. It’s much more than that and possibly the best fantasy book I've read so far in 2013. Don’t take my word for it and start reading this series to see why I think Rob J. Hayes is the next fantastic Brit addition to the field of dark, gritty fantasy and another Indie gem after last year's Anthony Ryan.
Monday, January 12, 2015

GUEST POST: Every Writer Must Have Their Own Bookstore by Duncan McGeary

I'm in an enviable position for a writer. I own a bookstore. I've owned Pegasus Books in downtown Bend, Oregon for the last 30 years. My wife, Linda, owns a used bookstore a couple miles away, called The Bookmark. (Yes, 'His' and 'Her' bookstores.)

I'm looking forward to selling my latest, Tuskers, by Ragnarok Publications, via Angelic Knight Imprint. Because it turns out, there's nothing like being an author in a bookstore at the same time the customer is.

I found this out with my first book, Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves. I ordered what I considered a lifetime supply for the store, which really wasn't that many. You have to understand, even the best books in my store will only sell few copies a month. (Books are about one-third my store, and include used books. Comics and games take up the other two-thirds of my revenue.)

As I always tell people when they ask me what's selling, "I don't sell a lot of anything, I sell a little of a lot." Anyway, I put my book in the window and some copies by the cash-register and waited to see what would happen. I told my employees to point it out to the customers, but not to push too hard. (My manager says it sells best when he mentions it's by a "local author.")

To my great surprise, the books started selling. It helped that there were a couple of articles in local media. But sometimes the book just sold. Without my prompting. I heard comments from passersby on the sidewalk outside, intrigued by the cover and the title, not knowing that the author of the book was lurking inside.

It helped that it has very good cover, by local artist Andy Zeigert. Mostly, whenever I'm working, I will just lean over and say, "I wrote this book!" It's even better when they pick up the book of their own volition, "That's my book!" I'll say.

I can be a pretty good salesman -- it's what I've been doing for the last three decades, after all. Most people don't immediately ignore me. Some seem very interested -- and then don't buy a book, and others don't seem interested at all, but then do. But every day I work, without really trying, I sell a few copies.

There's a Catch-22, though. I'm only working a couple days a week these days, because, you know, I'm busy writing the rest of the time. I've completed five more books, of which the latest is Tuskers. Meanwhile, my wife also sells a few copies every day that she works. (As well as pointing out her own ebook, Telling Tree, by Linda McGeary.)

So they steadily go out the door. I am impressed that so many people are willing to take a chance on me. After a few weeks, my 'lifetime supply' suddenly wasn't enough. I ordered more copies, again thinking that would be it. Those also sold through. I mean, I can only sell so many copies in my store. It doesn't make me a best-seller. But it's fun to see them actual go out the door. (Most often with my signature, natch.)

I suppose eventually, it will be unseemly to keep pushing my own books. But since I get so many out-of-town customers, there really isn't any good reason not to keep mentioning them. It's almost enough for me to drop my writing and hawk my books full-time.

Official Author Website
Order Tuskers HERE

GUEST AUTHOR INFO: Duncan McGeary has owned Pegasus Books in downtown Bend, Oregon for the last 30 years. He met his wife, Linda, in a local writer's group, and they've been side-by-side writers ever since. He's the author of several fantasies, Star Axe, Snowcastles, and Icetowers (published by Tower Books), as well as two historical horror novels, Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves and The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush, as well as the Vampire Evolution Trilogy: Death of an Immortal; Rule of Vampire; and Blood of Gold, all published by Books of the Dead Press.
Friday, January 9, 2015

Mihir's Top Reads of 2014

I’m a little late with my list this year but I finally managed to pot it. This past year at FBC, we have been a little lean on the reviews than we would like it to be. Our professional lives kept us busier than we wanted and hopefully we’ll be able to turn it around this year. Moving on here are my top picks among all the books, which I did manage to read this year.

As has been the case with previous lists, many of the reviews are from this site and are done by Liviu, Casey, Cindy or me. I have also linked the remaining reviews of books that I enjoyed but could not review over here. The main reasoning for choosing these titles (as always) are the varied milieu of the plots, excellence in prose, characterization and the overall enjoyment they provided. And so without further ado, here are my choices...


1) City Of Stairs by Rob J. Bennett – Rob J. Bennett’s first foray in secondary fantasy turned out to be a colossal winner. Combining a spy story within a world of gods, Rob’s tale of colonialism gives us a stark story about loss, nationality & how history affects the perceptions of people. City Of Stairs was simply a fabulous story that blew away all my expectations.

2) Defenders by Will McIntosh This was a fascinating SF story about alien invasion in which the author superbly inverted several tropes and gave us a frightening future wherein mankind’s defenders turned out to be something much worse. A riveting story that deserves many more accolades than it has received.

3) Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews This was the big book event for the Kate Daniels series, six previous volumes have lead to the climatic meeting between father and daughter and it didn’t disappoint. The authors knew the amount of expectations that fans had from this book and yet they made it that much more exciting. Setting up a fascinating end to the first arc, the series is still very much on for further adventures of Kate, Curran and the rest of the amazing cast.

4) Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan The sequel to last year’s Blood Song was a title that was as highly anticipated as Rothfuss & Lynch’s next titles (if not more). The story builds upon the exciting first chapter in Vaelin’s life and the author further adds three other POVs and makes the story that much more epic. For some this was a disappointment as the story lacked the tight narrative of the first book, but for many others it was as terrific a book as the first but with even more fantastic twists and revelations.

4) Maplecroft by Cherie Priest  I had no clue about the real life legend of Lizzie Borden but kudos to Cherie Priest for blending fact and fiction in a Lovecraftian story wherein the readers are slowly drawn deep into the happenings. With a strong narrative voice as well as a fantastic historical thriller, Cherie Priest simply proves that when it comes to fantastic ideas and their execution, there’s none to match her brilliance.

5) Prince Of Fools by Mark Lawrence Seems like with every new book, it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore Mark Lawrence’s cynical intelligence. Set in the same world as his debut trilogy, but with a completely new protagonist and geographical settings. Prince Of Fools is simply a book that beguiles with its terrific quotes about the nature of man & beast while providing a fantastic read for those enamored with the darker side of fantasy.

6) Shotgun Arcana by Rod S. Belcher – Rod Belcher continues to impress with his ensemble cast of characters stuck in this weird west town wherein the apocalypse is just sort of a few steps away. The sophomore effort was even more ballistic in almost every department and absolutely demands a sequel book.

7) Unholy War by David Hair – The Moontide quartet is perhaps the most understated fantasy series currently being written. It features a wide, diverse cast of characters spread out over dual continents. Focusing on a clash of civilizations storyline, David Hair offers a tale that encapsulates epic fantasy to its entirety.

8) Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach – Rachel Bach is one of my all time favorites and with this SF-action trilogy; she proved her plotting skills in spades. Mixing a whole lot of twists, along with a tad bit of romance and then garnishing it with action, the trilogy and its narrator Devi Morris were a huge hit. Heaven’s Queen rounded out the story laying bare all the secrets that were hinted and culminating in an absolutely balls to the wall climax.

9) The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler – Django Wexler impressed a lot with his debut and in the sequel volume, he ups the ante by introducing political machinations and spycraft. The characterization has been noteworthy and the world & magic settings were considerably magnified. All in all this series is shaping up to be a superb epic fantasy series. 

10) Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes YardleyThis was my first Mercedes Yardley title and this is one quite hard to describe. What it also is a fantastic genre-mixing read that offers a completely different experience. Closest to the darker works of Neil Gaiman along with a solid dash of Terry Pratchett’s oddball comedy, this book is one for the ages.


1) The Martian by Andy Weir This is another self-published book that tore through the charts and soon got picked up by Crown Publishing. I hadn’t read it when it was released nearly 3 years ago but I did pick it up on its re-release and I can’t stress enough how much a delightful page-turner it is. Mixing some solid scientific commentary with some terrific plot twists makes this book the best debut of last year. If you haven’t read it, then buy a copy promptly and thank me later.

2) I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes This was a thriller debut that was so much more complex than its blurb makes it out to be. Focusing on two different individuals who are at the opposite ends of international law. The story was fleshed out superbly and the characterization top-notch. The end result was a debut that will surely be considered a thriller classic in the future.

3) The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes Okay I cheated with this one, as it was self-published last year and was re-published this year with some changes. This edition is the stronger one and basically is a book that out-Abercrombies the one person who’s considered the gold standard in the grimdark genre.

4) The Enchanted by Rene DenfeldThis was a solid debut and an even solid tearjerker (if you consider its ending). Focusing on a prison and on understanding, the roots of crime, the reality of prison life, the possibility for redemption, and the ability of people to use imagination to rise beyond the purely material to the transcendent. The book is a must read for all readers who love prose.

5) The Traitor’s Blade by Sebastian de Castell – This was a great throwback to the 80s & 90s escapist fantasy. Mixing in a little bit of the musketeers as well as a fun character voice, Sebastian de Castell announced himself successfully as a fantasy writer to be enamored with.

6) Damoren by Seth Skorkowsky This book was another fantastic debut from Ragnarok Publications and it focused on the concept of magical weapons and its wielders. Damoren is the special gun that has been fighting evil since it was forged, Seth Skorkowsky managed to construct a fun but intriguing tale and world mythos that made the UF & thriller fan in me salivate for more. A thriller in UF clothing, Damoren heralds Seth’s arrival rather convincingly.

7) The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – Brian Staveley mixed quite a lot of fantasy tropes in his debut story and then gave them his own interpretations to make the story fantastic. The best part of the story is all the world-building and cool things that are hinted at and showcased partly. I can’t wait to dig into the sequel to see where he takes the story.

8) Fluency by Jennifer F. Wells This was a book I discovered thanks to the ever-awesome Rachel Aaron. A throwback to alien contact stories previously, Jennifer F. Wells gives a wholesome heroine to root for, as well as a story that has many tropes we love. What made this book such an enjoyable read was the superb mix of characterization, plot twists & cool SF. All in all, this is a story for those who want to read SF with a solid amount of fun associated with it.

9) Frostborn by Lou Anders  Lou Anders is a name that is already well known to many fantasy fans. He had established Pyr books and has been a very successful editor. With this book, he makes the switch to the other side of the writing craft. His debut focusing on Norse mythology and two young kids completely won me over with its charm, buddy travel adventure trope and the gorgeous world set within. Lou Anders has a written a fun story that is sure to be hit among younger readers and those elder readers with a younger heart. Very highly recommended & I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

10) Moth And Spark by Anne Leonard  This debut book manages to mix dragons with certain lovable aspects of Pride and Prejudice. Anne Leonard’s debut mixes fantasy, action, romance and a whole host of characters and she manages to pull it off with a few bumps along the road. I enjoyed this debut which had intriguing protagonist couple (in-the-making) and of course dragons.


Last year, I thought these five folks managed to make a distinct impression with their writing skills and I’ll be waiting for their next books with lots of interest:
 - Will McIntosh 
 -  Mercedes M. Yardley 
 - Andy Weir 
 - Jennifer Foehner Wells 
 - Lou Anders
Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Top Five Expected Novels of 2015 - First Half (by Liviu Suciu)

While I keep a continually updated list of wanted books on Goodreads, I thought about presenting my top five expected novels of the first half of 2015. In the later part of the year there are some hugely anticipated releases like the next Safehold book by David Weber (Hell's Foundations Quiver), the new announced novel from Kate Morton, a possible new book from KJ Parker (Savages, announced a while ago though nothing heard since), new books from Christian Cameron (Salamis, Tom Swan 10-12, maybe more), Serge Brussolo's sequel to Frontiere Barbare - Anges de Fer, Paradis d'Acier, but for now I will limit myself to books that have clear publication dates until June 2015. 

The five choices below comprise two sf novels from favorite authors Neal Stephenson and Neal Asher, where after some books which did not interest me that much (Reamde and The Owner trilogy respectively), I expect a return to what put these authors on my asap list.

Then two literary novels with sff overtones, one from Sarah Hall who has been a must since her awesome How to Paint a Dead Man and then the debut novel from Laura van den Berg which seems quite interesting, while I really enjoyed the several short stories I've read from her. I will also note that an excerpt from Sarah Hall's upcoming The Wolf Border has appeared in the Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4, excerpt that made me want the novel asap.

Finally, the one must fantasy for me in the next several months is the new novel from LE Modesitt, as I loved the 8 Imager books to date quite a lot and their universe has become one of my all time favorite fantasy setting.


When the moon blows up, the earth’s atmosphere is predicted to go through changes that will eventually lead to a Hard Rain, a meteorite storm that could last for thousands of years, rendering the earth’s surface uninhabitable. In preparation, the nations of the earth send an ark of humans to an International Space Station. But the Station isn’t immune to the galactic catastrophe and many of its people are lost, mostly men. When stability is reached, only seven humans remain, all of them women. 

Jump forward thirty thousand years. Two peoples exist: those who survived on Earth, living rustic, primitive lives; and those who derived from the Seven Eves of the space station, affluent, sophisticated, organized sects looking to colonize the surface of earth. Stephenson’s next novel is an epic potboiler, with political and military intrigue, and plenty to say about evolution, genetic engineering, and civilization as we know it.


For almost a decade Rachel Caine has turned her back on home, kept distant by family disputes and her work monitoring wolves on an Idaho reservation. But now, summoned by the eccentric Earl of Annerdale and his controversial scheme to reintroduce the Grey Wolf to the English countryside, she is back in the peat and wet light of the Lake District. 

The earl's project harks back to an ancient idyll of untamed British wilderness - though Rachel must contend with modern-day concessions to health and safety, public outrage and political gain - and the return of the Grey after hundreds of years coincides with her own regeneration: impending motherhood, and reconciliation with her estranged family.

The Wolf Border investigates the fundamental nature of wilderness and wildness, both animal and human. It seeks to understand the most obsessive aspects of humanity: sex, love, and conflict; the desire to find answers to the question of our existence; those complex systems that govern the most superior creature on earth.


Four centuries after its founding, Solidar’s Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The Collegium is so lacking in leadership that the dying Maitre must summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle far to the south who has little knowledge of politics in the capital, as his successor. When Alastar arrives in L’Excelsis and becomes the new Maitre, he finds disarray and lack of discipline within the Collegium, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as being mad.

To make matters worse, neither Rex Ryen, ridiculed as Rex Dafou, nor the High Holders have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar finds himself in the middle of a power struggle, with Ryen demanding that the Collegium remove the strongest High Holders and the military leadership in turn plotting to topple Ryen and destroy the Collegium. At the same time, Ryen is demanding the High Holders pay a massive increase in taxes while he initiates a grandiose building project. And all that, Alastar discovers, is only a fraction of the problems he and the Collegium face.


After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel—a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.

Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients—including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.


Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human…

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her cross-hairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it’s clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?

Dark Intelligence is the explosive first novel in a brand new trilogy from military SF master Neal Asher and a new chapter in his epic Polity Universe.


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