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Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019 Review/ 2020 Preview - Sebastien de Castell


Favourites from 2019

It’s funny how forgettable so much entertainment has become for me. I feel like I consume books and movies in the way one consumes fast food. Sometimes tastes good at the time, sometimes not, but only rarely is it memorable. Maybe it’s because we’re so inundated with entertainment options these days that knowing we’re only experiencing such a tiny fraction of it causes our brains to be perpetually skimming rather than emotionally engaging because of the constant anxiety that there’s so many other choices waiting for us. Maybe I’m just getting crotchety in my old age. Next up: “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!”

I think what I look for now are stories that surprise me in one way or another, so that’s what I’ll focus on here:



The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter - A terrific debut fantasy that’s already captivating loads of readers. I had only planned on reading a bit of it because I was going to be doing a book event with Evan and while I was absolutely slammed for time I felt I needed to have some acquaintance with his work. But Rage of Dragons just pulled me in and I ended up sacrificing a load of writing time to finish the entire book in just a few days. Damn you Evan!

The Huntress by Kate Quinn - Sorry fantasy fans, but despite the title, this is a WWII spy story about women pilots and nazi-hunters. Quinn wrote The Alice Network which is also terrific. Both those books have echoes of the absolutely fabulous Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I’m not sure why, but there seem to be far more WWII books about female protagonists that grab my attention these days than the traditional dude-spy tales.

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem - This book reminds you that truly compelling fiction doesn’t owe you happy feelings. The Feral Detective is ostensibly a sort of noir detective novel but told from the client’s perspective. All the tropes and beats of good old private eye stories are there, but Lethem constantly reminds you that people’s motivations are often far more banal than their actions warrant. You’re never quite sure if the client has gotten themselves onto this strange quest to find her friend’s missing daughter because she genuinely cares about the girl or whether this is just her way of dealing with her inner turmoil over the 2016 U.S. election—something that at first you think is a joke but as the story progresses you really start to wonder.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan - You only need to know three things about this book:
1) The narrator is a fetus.
2) I wasn’t kidding about #1. and
3) McEwan really does make a kind of noir-ish detective story of a husband’s murder being plotted by his wife and her lover as investigated by their unborn son.

In a time when fiction has become almost unbearably sanitized into safely constructed genres, watching a writer attempt a high-wire act is surprisingly fun.

Looking Ahead To 2020


I’m curious to see what happens with the new Dune movie. Anyone who’s watched the wonderful documentary “Jodorowsky's Duneknows there's a kind of curse that attaches itself to anyone who dares make a Dune film. Three people in my writing group have fantasy and sci-fi novels that will be ready to go in 2020 and I’m looking forward to seeing which publishers pick up their debuts.

What’s Coming Up For Me In 2020

I’ve got two books coming out in 2020. Play of Shadows marks my return to the world of the Greatcoats and focuses on a Bardatti actor whose performances on stage unwittingly reveal a hundred year old conspiracy that has repercussions in his own time.


Way of the Argosi is the working title of the first half of an Argosi duology in which we learn how Ferius Parfax became the Path of the Wild Daisy. If that doesn’t make any sense to you it’s because you haven’t read the Spellslinger series, but fear not: you can easily start with Way of the Argosi if you want.

Equally important to me is that 2020 is the year when, after having had 10 novels published, I’m determined to find a writing process that doesn’t involve me calling every person I know on the planet five times during the first draft to tell them the book is a disaster and I’ve lost whatever illusory talent I had in the first place. Maybe I can just call them three times.

About the Author

Official Author Website

Sebastien de Castell was born in Canada and currently holds dual citizenship with the UK. Sebastien enjoys playing music, speaking in public as well travelling around the world. He has a special love for fantasy and noir detective genres. He made his debut in 2014 with Traitor’s Blade and since then has published 10 books in a period of 5 years. He lives with his beloved in the great white north and is always looking to travel together.

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