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Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (reviewed by Will Byrnes)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: When the end is near will you know it? Will signs appear to show it? And what sort of end will it be? Ice or fire? Conflagration? Land consumed by an angry sea? And what if there’s uncertainty? What if this is not the result of that, but just the way things are, under no one’s control to cause or prevent? And if there is no control, what is the role of those who speak on behalf of an unseen power? Do they suffer from confusion, perhaps delusion? Can we take them at their word? What if they insist we go along with their intrusion, even though we’ve reached a very different conclusion? Lines are drawn when the mad demand our subjugation. What sort of god could allow such things and still insist on adoration?

Wenling (Wen) will be eight years old in a few days. She and her two daddies, Eric and Andrew, are away from it all, up from Cambridge, at a cabin in northern New Hampshire, near the Canadian border.

"Her dads chose this place because there would be no Wi-fi or cell reception so they could unplug and it would be just the three of them hanging out, swimming, talking, playing cards or board games without any digital distractions."

Peace and quiet, no nearby neighbors, plenty of grasshoppers. Wen is outside collecting some in a jar, to study. She is even giving them names, and making sure to pick smaller ones that will not damage themselves on the jagged edges of the air holes she’s poked in the metal lid. Out of nowhere a very large man appears, Leonard. He might be taller than anyone she has ever met, and he’s as wide as a couple of tree trunks pushed together. He is soft spoken and seems kind, even helps her collect some specimens. But Leonard is (like the Blues Brothers) on a mission from god. He has three other people with him.

"Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen, but they have to. Tell them they have to. We are not here to hurt you. We need your help to save the world. Please."

Well, in that case, sure, come on in…or not. Wen, alarmed, runs to tell her dads. The four insist on entering. The dads are determined to keep them out, and the siege is on.

An apocalypse is coming and these four are both heralds and, potentially, agents of prevention. Were the voices they all heard some common mental illness, an alien intrusion, or truly a sign from you-know-who? That the world seems to be going to hell quickly in a dramatically large handbasket lends them some credence, but what they are asking is unthinkable.

Tremblay has written detective novels, scores of short stories and a few horror books, all while keeping his day job, schoolteacher. Perhaps because of having to deal with adolescents at work and at home, he is fond of horror story tropes. In A Head Full of Ghosts he became one with the demonic possession tale. For a later work, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, he considered what sort of things would most terrify him personally. And the winner was missing child, every parent’s nightmare. This time he took on another favorite source of terror. ‘How would I do a home invasion novel I’d like to read?’ I guarantee you have not read one like this one before.

The intent doesn’t matter much if you do not care about those in the home being invaded. No problem. Wen is edible, and her daddies are a very human couple, with affection and edges reasonably distributed. Details of their lives make you care for them more and more. And you will have cause for concern, as they are facing very real, very existential immediate peril.

There are plenty of elements in common with the usual home invasion horrors. Wondering if your invaders are nuts, fearing for your life and the lives of your loved ones, trying to figure out ways to get the better of the baddies. What is different is that the home invaders do not seem to be evil people, despite the most definitely evil-looking scythe-like weaponry they tote. (When the going gets seriously tough, the seriously tough get going to, your goto provider for your end-times needs. Tribulation-free ordering guaranteed) Leonard, the leader, seems particularly reasonable, a gentle giant, nice even. They might be insane, but what if they are not? There are reasons offered to consider the latter possibility. The other three are definitely equipped with good sides too, but a bit less manifestly than their leader.

Any fine meal is composed of a range of ingredients. Here we have the terror of the invaded, the unexpected facets of the invaders and a big, overarching scare. Is it real or not? But there are other items spicing up this read. There is consideration of faith, religion, and how far one will go in service of one’s beliefs. It is tough not to see the four horsemen imagery in the four invaders, but there are other, more subtle spices at play. A motif of sevens permeates. There are sundry references to other novels that offer some food for thought. Tim O’Brien’s In The Lake of the Woods is one. There are others. Do we believe what we see or see what we believe?

CONCLUSION: This book will keep you guessing. Is this the end of the world? Or maybe just a potential end for some. Tremblay offers an explanation, but can we accept it? The ambiguity provides a constant tension from the first encounter to the last page. There may not be a mysterious voice telling you to get your hands on this one as soon as you can, and read it as quickly as possible. But whether you hear one or not, this will be one of the best reads of the summer and you do not really know how much time you have left.

Note: Four Horsemen of the apocalypse picture courtesy of This review originally was posted by Will on Goodreads.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

SPFBO 2019: An Introduction, What To Expect & Top 3 Cover Finalists (by Mihir Wanchoo)

After last year’s amazing experience of judging SPFBO as a group, for the fifth edition, we have increased our numbers to match the edition So this year we have all four judges returning and we are joined by our newest blog member Justine. Here’s a bit of information on all of us:

About Cindy H: By day, Cindy works as a freelance writer where she writes product descriptions for companies and articles/websites for doctors and other members in the healthcare industry. By night, she is a bookworm who loves to read almost anything, but can usually be found with a fantasy or sci-fi novel. Cindy has been able to share her love of fantasy and sci-fi through FBC where she has been a regular contributor since 2008.

When she isn't reading, which is unusual, she can be found drawing, creating cards to send as happy mail, and writing for fun! Cindy can be found on Goodreads.

About David Stewart: David was living as a mild-mannered librarian when one day he stumbled into a radioactive vat full of books and video games and was instantly transformed into Nerd Man. His powers include not being qualified (or interested) in having anything to do with the realities of life, and so he spends his time reading and writing and gaming, with occasional breaks for work and family. D.C. named his daughter Coraline, proof that he has very little respect for normal society and is completely immersed in fantasy. His favorite authors include Grandfather Tolkien, Uncle Steve (Erikson), and that weird cousin with the crazy hair, Neil. He also loves trees and bears.

David Stewart can be found over here on Goodreads.

About Lukasz: Lukasz Przywoski is an avid fiction reader from Poland. As a reviewer, he tries to be critical and thoroughly analyze books that he reads. As a result, he rarely gives 5 stars ratings - he reserves them to books that feel special. Apart from being keen on reading and inhabiting imaginary worlds, his biggest passion is the science of movement and movement in multiple forms. Life without sport and books wouldn't be worth living.

While fantasy is his favourite genre, he tends to read pretty broadly and is always eager to try new things. Favourite authors: Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Mark Lawrence, Craig Schaefer, Seth Skorkowsky, Matt Suddain and many others.. He's also active on r/fantasy as barb4ry1. he can be found on Goodreads as well.

About Justine Bergman: When Justine isn’t making websites, she’s ravenously consuming as many dark fantasy stories as humanly possible, and can usually be found with a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. As someone who discovered her love for reading later in life, she reads abundant amounts of fantasy and science fiction, in hopes of preventing her to-be-read pile from crushing her to death. She's a gamer that works for a video game company, and she spends far too much time in Tamriel. Justine lives in New Jersey with her lovely husband and their three gorgeous pups.

Her favorite authors include Joe Abercrombie, Michael R. Fletcher, R.J. Barker, Katherine Arden, and Michael J. Sullivan. She can be found over on Goodreads here.

About Mihir Wanchoo: Born and raised in Mumbai, India. Mihir is an avid book collector and longtime reader of fantasy, thrillers and Indian mythology with additional interests in historical fiction and urban fantasy.

Favorite writers include John Connolly, David Gemmell, Rachel Aaron, Rob J. Hayes, Mark Lawrence, Craig Schaefer, Richard Nell, James Clemens and a few others.

With additional interests in cricket and football (the actual kind). Mihir lives in the Pacific North West and is ever looking forward to discovering new authors and old books. Mihir can be contacted directly at Goodreads HERE.

As always Mark Lawrence has our eternal gratitude for commitment towards running this contest and being the patron saint for self-published authors everywhere. All ten judges have had their lots allotted to them and these are the titles from which the FBC finalist will most likely arise:

Ben Meeks - Petrified
Andrew Butcher - Fear the Wolf
John Bierce - Into the Labyrinth
Christian Corbitt - Exhumations
Casey White - Silvertongue
Phil Williams - The City Screams
Linn Tesli - The Fox and the Hunter
A.C Spahn - Enchantress Undercover
E.M Markoff - The Deadbringer
Geetha Krishnan - Ayana
William C Tracy - Journey to the Top of the Nether
Randall McNally - Shadowless
Shanna Bosarge - Devian
Levi Jacobs - Beggar's Rebellion
J.A Andrews - Pursuit of Shadows
K.B Benson - The Harvest
Kelly Marsden - The Shadow Rises
H.G Chambers - Windwalker
G.S Scott - Cleansed
Allison Pang - Magpie's Song
Andrew Hall - Children of Shadows
L.K Evans - Grayden
Nancy E Dunne - Wanderer
Justin Bloch - The Stolen Karma of Nathaniel Valentine
Carol Ann King - A Keeper's Destiny
Jon Ray - Gorp: Goblin Janitor
Andrew Hiller - A Halo of Mushrooms
Eldon Thompson - The Ukinhan Wilds
D.K Holmberg - The Dark Ability
Hailey Griffiths - Starheart

Following on from last year, Fantasy Book Critic will be following a similar pattern. We will dividing all the titles among of us five. We aim to read and review as many titles as we can. So what does this mean?

Similar to last year, each one of us will be talking about our group and reviewing titles from each person’s lot However we will not be just sticking to our delineated groups and will be reading titles from each other’s selections. This way we can be sure about selecting 6-7 semifinalists which will be strongest of the lot in terms of story/plot, characterization & writing style (IOHO).

We will try to post our thoughts on each book but that might not always be possible. We will ideally go through batches of 6 books and announce one or two semi-finalist each time. However that might not always be possible as we might not like any book in a particular batch.

All of these semi-finalists will be getting proper reviews and we will be offering each author an interview to go along with the review. Authors please understand the main reason why we are not able to offer reviews to all of our 30 books as FBC is a passion project outside of our professional and personal lives.

We strive to make sure that our reviews truly reflect how we feel about the books that we read and enjoy. Please don’t feel slighted if your book isn’t selected. It doesn’t mean that it was a crappy book but simply that it didn’t match our tastes and hence it wasn’t put forward. The books that we love might not always be the ones that you like and vice versa. Keep in mind that we will do our best to select the book that we feel is the best of our lot (irrespective of the sub-genre it inhabits within fantasy) .

From the last couple of times, I’ve also learnt that we aren’t the quickest in terms of finishing through our lot so authors please feel to email us at fantasybookcriticblog(at)gmail (dot)com or message us on Facebook or Twitter asking for updates or any other queries. I promise we are very friendly and will do our best to reply back promptly. If you just want to say hello or have other ideas, we welcome them too :)

We are also posting our top 3 covers among all the wonderful ones in our group. For determining the top 3, we rated all our books with a max score of 50 (10 from each judge) and it’s our great pleasure to present our top 3:

1) Shadowless by Randall McNally - Art by Mon Macairap, design and formatting by Streetlight Graphics
2) Beggar’s Promise by Levi Jacobs - Cover art & design by Mateusz Michalski
3) The Fox And The Hunter by Linn Tesli - Cover design by Linn Tesli

NOTE: SPFBO graphics courtesy of Justine Bergman.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

River Of Thieves by Clayton Snyder (reviewed by Justine Bergman)

Official Author Website
Order River of Thieves over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Clayton began reading the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Madeline L'Engle, and others, at an early age. It ignited a love of the odd, the darkly funny, and the magical in him that never left. Over the past few years, he's published several short stories with various magazines, and three novels with small presses. When he's not telling stories, he works as a systems administrator for a game retailer. In his off time, he games, he cooks, and he attempts to play guitar. He currently lives in North Dakota with his wife, two dogs, and a cat that insists it's the other way around.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Cursed thief Cord relies on his partner, Nenn, to recover his body, stash the money, and convince the authorities that there are no leads left to follow. They spend their days hitting low-tier lenders and banks, but after a botched robbery, Cord begins to think they need something bigger, something that will set them up for life.

When that thing happens to be a heist no one else in the kingdom has the stones to pull off, he gathers a group of rogues with a particular set of talents—Nenn, handy with a knife and a cool head; Rek, cat-fancier and strongman; and Lux, undead wizard.

Together, they converge on the city of Midian to steal the heart of a saint and punish a tyrant. What comes out of the carnage is so much more—a conflict between gods that could decide the fate of every thief in the worlds.

FORMAT/INFO: River of Thieves is 322 pages divided over three parts and 33 numbered and titled chapters. The book is currently available in e-book and paperback format, as well as on Kindle Unlimited. It was self-published by the author on April 16, 2019. Cover design by the author, Clayton Snyder.


We were the worst kind of people. For the best reasons. We understood that, even if no one else did.
After a robbery gone horribly wrong, Cord, a cursed thief, broadens his horizons and plans to execute the heist of a lifetime. With fellow thief and knife connoisseur Nenn in tow, the two build their ragtag crew to target the heart of the kingdom - Midian, the seat of tyrant King Mane Anaxos. As treachery, horrifying creatures of nightmare, and opposition bar their path at every turn, the gang must depend on skill - intellectual, martial, and magical - to deliver them an endless summer and keep them free from the clutches of evil despotism.

I've had the pleasure of beta reading this book and have witnessed something great only evolve and grow in scope and grandeur, becoming even more amazing, with each iteration. On its surface, this story is a wild and insane ride, peppered with plenty of "wtf?" moments, violent, wince-inducing action, and crude humor, but beneath all the layers, this is a tale of fighting for what you believe in, of how inaction is just as detrimental and damning as the actual crime, and how people need not share blood in order to be family. While dark and serious themes are tackled within, the pages are literally oozing with an unapologetic, sarcastic, and refreshing humor I've rarely encountered in books I've read over the years. And if I'm being completely honest, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard reading a story in my life...ever. River of Thieves is highly imaginative, wildly hilarious, and so very weird - in the best way possible.

It's impossible to begin discussing River of Thieves without giving Cord & Co. the attention they deserve, as Cord, Nenn, Rek, and Lux complete one of the most dynamic and charming "ragtag group of rogues" I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Collectively, they're a group of charismatic, intelligent (debatable), debaucherous, sweary, and stabby thieves with tons of heart, willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to instill and protect the free will they believe all are entitled to. However, they have no regard for collateral damage, and more often than not, disaster and death of immeasurable proportion follow in their wake. While each contributes to the group in their own distinct way, they have more in common than they would like to believe, leading to some pretty impressive and witty banter, bickering, and artistic insults - as with any family, of course. As for secondary characters, I...I just can''ll have to pick up the book to meet them yourself (Tug's my favorite, by the way).

Ever since I cracked open Snyder's Child of Nod, I've been a fan of his flowing and poetic prose, and he never ceases to impress. The use of metaphors and skillfully executed comparative language vividly paints this story in a such a way I didn't think possible, being both impactful and exceedingly amusing. The narrative itself is told through the eyes of Nenn, giving it a strong voice, projecting a firsthand account of the action, and perfectly immersing you in the many misadventures they face along their journeys. She's a sassy and sarcastic badass, and the tone of the tale reflects this. In addition to the main storyline, crafted myths are injected to add depth and history in interesting and entertaining ways - the tale of the goblin king is quite possibly the most beautifully written little yarn I've ever read.
He did not weep though the ground doubled and trebled before him and the carmine drops on his blade blurred to the point of blossoming into petals.
The story itself is broken up into three parts, each their own little adventure, but tied together throughout. Whether we're celebrating St. Cruciatus Day in the flooded streets of Midian, hiding away in a little hamlet under the boot of religious oppression, ascending the dominating onyx tower in the bustling center of Orlecht, or just sailing our way downriver, there's no shortage of interesting settings, strange enemies, or trouble to encounter. Although part one is the largest of the three and mainly focuses on events in one city, parts two and three are definitely a build-up for a grander story to (hopefully!) be addressed in future Cord & Co. books.

River of Thieves is one of the most entertaining reads I've read this year, and I cannot express enough how much I've fallen in love with these amazing characters. To me, this is a bit of a deranged retelling of Robin Hood - punish the rich…and also everyone else - done in such an exceptional way, using ridiculous(ly funny) pop culture references, pitch black humor, and unwavering emotion. I had so much fun reading this and am really looking forward to spending more time with the gang in the future. This book has a little bit of something for everyone, so you should definitely pick it up and give it a try. I highly recommend.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Ioth, City Of Lights by D. P. Woolliscroft (reviewed by Justin Bergman)

Official Author Website
Pre-order Ioth, City of Lights over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kingshold

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Born in Derby in England, on the day before mid-summers day, David Peter Woolliscroft was very nearly magical. If only his dear old mum could have held on for another day. But magic called out to him over the years, with a many a book being devoured for its arcane properties. David studied Accounting at Cardiff University where numbers weaved their own kind of magic and he has since been a successful business leader in the intervening twenty years.

Adventures have been had. More books devoured and then one day, he had read enough where the ideas he had kept bottled up needed a release valve. And thus, rising out of the self doubt like a phoenix at a clicky keyboard, a writer was born. The Wildfire Cycle is David's debut series.

He is married to his wife Haneen and has a daughter Liberty, who all live with their mini golden-doodle Rosie in Princeton NJ. David is one of the few crabs to escape the crab pot.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Be careful what you strive for.

The people won and now Mareth is Lord Protector of Edland. But winning an election is a lot different than governing a country, especially when the empire of Pyrfew is expanding into the Sapphire Sea. In the interests of peace, Mareth must dispatch Alana to Ioth, city of a thousand lights, to convince the ruling merchants to turn their back on the empire. Neenahwi, armed with the knowledge revealed to her in her coming of age ceremony, desperately wants to determine Pyrfew's plans and to take the fight to the emperor. But Llewdon, ancient elven emperor of Pyrfew, has had decades to develop his schemes and his agents are embedded in the least expected places. Everything seems to revolve around the disappearance of Jyuth's master a millennia ago.

Will the heroes of Kingshold be able to survive fire belching ships, strange slimes, sinister doppelgängers, demon dogs, greedy merchants and past vices to lead Edland to safety?

Following on from Kingshold and Tales of Kingshold, read the much anticipated next chapter in the Wildfire Cycle, compared to Michael J. Sullivan, Brett Sanderson and Daniel Abraham.

FORMAT/INFO: Ioth, City of Lights is 531 pages divided over 45 numbered and titled chapters across three parts, and an epilogue, and is the second full-length entry in The Wildfire Cycle series. The book is currently available for pre-order in e-book format, and will also be available in paperback format on its publication day. It is scheduled to be self-published by the author on June 20, 2019. Cover art and design by Jeff Brown.

CLASSIFICATION: Epic fantasy, Political fantasy

"Today was to be a day for them to stand in the wind and take the storm's fury."
Several months after the election, the victors are beginning to settle into their roles in the realm's new regime, however, unrest still remains in the city of Kingshold, while promises made have yet to be delivered upon. Across the Sapphire Sea, the real threat is taking root in Ioth, as Pyrfew soldiers flood the streets and waterways, their intentions unknown. In an attempt to gather information, as well as broker peace, the Lord Protector sends a trusted team to deliberate and compromise with the political and spiritual leaders of the City of Lights, hoping to prevent this potential danger from spreading. Secrets unravel, battles are fought, and unlikely heroes emerge, but is it enough to thwart the designs of an ancient Emperor?

Ioth, City of Lights is the second full-length installment in Woolliscroft's The Wildfire Cycle series, and it takes everything we've come to know and love from Kingshold and expands upon it in ways I didn't think possible. While book one mainly focuses on events that affect one city, this book stretches its fingers across the Sapphire Sea, into neighboring Redpool and Ioth, with flashes of insight into the Pyrfew societal structure, as well. Presented with nail-biting action and utterly heartbreaking loss, we witness the true might of the enemy at last. Much like its predecessor, Ioth tackles the plagues of unbalanced power and corruption, but on a much broader scale, affecting larger societies, and in more profound ways. It focuses on the issues faced when not allowing all tiers of the populace a voice, and how the arrogance and greed of those at the top can only lead to one possible outcome: devastation and ruin.

Another recurring theme throughout is the refusal to adhere to blind, and oftentimes misplaced, faith. Rather than following the flock, sometimes it is best to step back and question the destination, as it's possible the thing you're so intent on following may be straying far from its true intended path. And finally, it builds upon the bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie, and the difficult choices made in the name of the greater good.

The story is broken up into three parts, each generally taking place in a different part of The Jeweled Continent. While part one, set in Redpool, acts as a precursor of what's to come, and part two, set in Kingshold, allows us to further investigate the courtly intrigue post election, part three transports us to the City of Lights, a Venetian-inspired metropolitan of winding streets, canals laden with vessels, and whitewashed buildings. As with Kingshold, Ioth is so finely crafted, down to the most minute detail. Each district named for the things they are known for producing or putting on display, such as the Brass Isle or the Isle of Flowers. The Sanctum of Arloth; five shards reaching towards the heavens, one tipped in fiery gold - the Finger of Arloth. The ramshackle and dangerously soaring towers and promenades of The Ladders, home to the misfortuned poor. The striking columns and seemingly impossible ceilings of the Palazzo Confluens, seat of the ruling Assembly. Villas and storefronts and market stalls at every turn. The more we wander around the city, the more grand it becomes, and although led by several corrupt officials, I wish I could've kept exploring all the nooks and crannies to find what else Ioth has to offer.
"Why don't you go and find a book and a quiet place to read?"
Ioth is also a story that highlights the metamorphoses of several of the key characters we've been previously acquainted with. A bard becoming ruler, once only caring for himself, and now fighting for the safety of all his constituents. A maid promoted to Ambassador, unsure in her abilities, but more capable than anyone could've ever imagined. The adopted daughter of the founder of Edland, now one of the nation's most formidable mages with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Mercenaries and assassins hired for legitimate stately purposes. In addition, many new characters that we've met in Tales of Kingshold make their first appearances in the precarious game being played by the world's most influential super powers.

Character dynamics play a crucial role in the development of all, and for fear of spoiling, I'll let you discover this on your own. We finally get a glimpse of the true threat as Ioth streets are surging with the green and gold of Pyrfew soldiers, and the appearance of the Bird Man, gigantic eagle in tow, and his jester-like accomplices. We get but a taste, but are definitely left with a lasting impression.

It's impossible to discuss this book without mentioning the insanely intense and enthralling action encountered throughout. Fire-breathing ships, arcane and chemically induced magics, invisible towers guarded by mysterious, murderous goop, it has it all. Skirmishes are described in such vivid detail, you feel as though you're right alongside Motega, Trypp, and Florian, dodging bolts and attempting to keep your footing on blood-slicked ground, or fighting back-to-back with Alana as assassins appear over balconies railings. Our heroes seem incapable of catching a break, and they're met with conflict around each and every corner, whether head-on by city guardsmen, or sinister troubles from within the shadows. And during each, you're on the edge of your seat, hoping to see your beloved favorites emerge unscathed.

Ioth, City of Lights is a wildly emotional and compelling ride, and Woolliscroft's best yet. The foreshadowing throughout the book hints at something monumental, but let me tell you, it's so much more than I expected, leaving me utterly slack-jawed at the final page. As we travel across The Jeweled Continent, my commitment to and adoration of The Wildfire Cycle continues to grow exponentially, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. I must point out that if you haven't read Tales of Kingshold before giving this one a try, you're doing yourself an extreme disservice, so get on that! For those of you that have yet to begin this incredible series, now is the perfect time to dive right in, and for those who are patiently awaiting Ioth, prepare yourselves for one thrilling adventure! I highly recommend.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Recursion by Blake Crouch (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Blake Crouch Website
Order “RecursionHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Pines" by Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Eerie” by Blake and Jordan Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Run” by Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Serial Killers Uncut” by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Wayward" by Blake Crouch

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Blake Crouch was born in Statesville, North Carolina and graduated in 2000 with degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina. He has written four previous novels and a host of short stories. Two of his stories have been optioned for film adaptation. Blake currently lives in Durango, Colorado with his wife.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

FORMAT/INFO: Recursion is 336 pages long divided over five book sections with an epilogue. Narration is in the third-person via Barry Sutton and Helena Smith.

June 11, 2019 marked the Hardcover and e-book publication of Recursion via Crown Publishing.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Blake Crouch is an author whose career has exploded after he explored self-publishing. With Run, he re-established himself as a writer that wasn’t afraid of labels. Since he went from strength to strength and has also been picked up by publishers once again. Dark Matter was the dark hit of 2016 and it has paved the way for Recursion. Almost everyone has heard of the amazing Netflix deal that occurred even before the release of this book. After reading it, I can see why Netflix is keen on it. With such a book, I’ve to discuss the main plot and so there will be mild spoilers.

The main plot deals with something titled False Memory Syndrome, this is a mental disorder wherein people develop strong memories of lives they have never lived. Often driving people crazy, no one know what is causing it or even how to stop it. We have our two main characters Barry Sutton, a NYPD cop and neuroscientist Helena Smith whose lives get entwined with this phenomena. They both have to try to figure out why things are happening the way they are and what is truly causing it.

Blake Crouch has done something spectacular, I don’t mean just writing a great story. Yes he’s done that but what he’s truly done is write a love story within sci-fi trappings. Yes that’s the truth, that’s how Blake Crouch intends to conquer another genre. He’s already made it clear with Dark Matter that he’s the logical successor to Michael Crichton’s SF-thriller throne. He’s also writes better characters than the great Michael Crichton but now it seems he’s set his sights on Nicholas Sparks’ lofty heights.

It’s safe to say that this is the beginning of the end for Nicholas Sparks’ reign if this story is any indication. We don’t realize it until the very last third of the story but this, I repeat is a love story. Blake Crouch has always had a way with his characters and its not different in this book. We learn all about Barry and Helena. Both of them are defined by the tragedies in their lives but they strive on and we truly learn what drives them. I loved to read what Blake Crouch had planned for both of them and it’s truly unpredictable. In this regards, it’s hard to match his characters amidst any of his contemporaries in the SF thriller field. Be it agent Ethan Burke from the Wayward Pines trilogy, or Jack Colclough from RUN. His characters always have complex reasons for doing the things they do. With Recursion, Blake Crouch continues this trend with both Helena and Barry but also Marcus Slade and many others whom give the plot a very strong flavor.

 The author really strives to showcase the mental strain that can befall a person who cannot trust their own memory. The False Memory Syndrome really does a number on individuals and I enjoyed reading about the way that the human mind tries to comprehend memories (both false and true). The plot certainly takes a lot of mental gymnastics and the author strings it along wonderfully.

The plot of this book is a strong crossover between Inception and Edge Of Tomorrow, why do I say so, you can RAFO. But the main plot deals the survival of the whole of humanity and it is one hell of a ride. The story picks up from the opening pages as we are swept along in a turbulent ride as the readers find more and more about False Memory Syndrome and how it began.

The last few chapters are so breakneck that it will be hard for the readers to put down the book. Wanting to know how it all ends and the ending confirms what I said all along. This is a love story pure and simple.

CONCLUSION: Recursion is one of those rare Sci-Fi thrillers that begins as something and then takes a wild turn to metamorphosize into something grander. This book is definitely one that will have you zooming through the pages but remember it is a story to be savored. Blake Crouch is on an incredible roll, already overtaking Michael Crichton and Nicholas Sparks, I can only wonder whom he’ll dethrone next.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Worldwide Giveaway: Thieves Of Fate by Tracy Townsend

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

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

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

Thank you for entering and Good Luck!

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Fall by Tracy Townsend (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Order The Fall over HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLASSIFICATION: Grimdark fantasy, Dark fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (reviewed by David Stewart)

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

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

He does not believe in happy endings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Interview with Tracy Townsend (interviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

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

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

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

When and why have you decided to become an author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate waiting.

What are the reasons you decided to publish?

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

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

Waaaaaitinnnng is awfuuuuuuuul. . .

What was your initial inspiration for Thieves of Fate series?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re very welcome!

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