Tuesday, May 31, 2011

“Black Halo” by Sam Sykes (Pyr/Gollancz)


Lenk & his band of unhappy adventurers return in the second Aeons’ Gate novel

The Tome of the Undergates has been recovered, and the gates of hell remain closed. Lenk and his five companions set sail to bring the accursed relic away from the demonic reach of Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen. But after weeks at sea, tensions amidst the adventurers are rising. Their troubles are only beginning when their ship crashes upon an island made of the bones left behind from a war long dead.

And it appears that bloodthirsty alien warrior women, fanatical beasts from the deep, and heretic-hunting wizards are the least of their concerns. Haunted by their pasts, plagued by their gods, tormented by their own people, and gripped by madness personal and peculiar, their greatest foes may yet be themselves.

The reach of Ulbecetonth is longer than hell can hold.

In Sykes’s second novel, we get more of all the good stuff that made Tome of the Undergates such a compelling and addictive read – specifically, his engaging and unique characters. While it does suffer from one flaw that bothered me in Tome as well, this is a very good novel. If you like your fantasy dark and twisted, Black Halo proves yet again that The Aeons’ Gate is a series tailor-made for you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Best Book-Week EVER…?

Quite probably. This week I have received (and bought) perhaps the most number of Highly Anticipated books than any week previously. Am I gloating by writing about it here? Well, maybe a little bit, but I do also want to take advantage of the opportunity to tell everyone a little bit about these books that are coming out in the near future. So, let’s start first with a photo of The Big Pile O’ Exciting Books:


Here’s why we should be excited about them…

[Please Note: Some of these novels are sequels, so there may be some spoilers in synopses.]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Look: “The Map of All Things” by Kevin J Anderson (Orbit)

With the paperback release of The Map of All Things just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to re-post my review from last year. Kevin J. Anderson’s Terra Incognita series is, in many ways, the first ‘big fantasy’ series I’d read, and it’s been great to follow it as each volume is published (although, I’m slowly adding ever-more ‘BF’ series to my library and TBR pile/shelves).

For readers who are a bit daunted about diving into a Big Fantasy series – perhaps because many are well established with multiple, mammoth novels already published (see Wheel of Time, Malazan, A Song of Ice and Fire) – Terra Incognita would serve as a great starting point into the genre. It’s accessible, touches on a lot of contemporary issues, interesting and realistic characters, and Anderson has a very fluid writing style.

I would, therefore, highly recommend it – and I can’t wait for The Key to Creation (coming July 2011). So, without further ado, here’s another look at my review of The Map of All Things:

*     *     *

Untitled-1The second instalment in Anderson’s awesome Terra Incognita series

After terrible atrocities by both sides, the religious war between Tierra and Uraba has spread and intensified – the series of skirmishes erupting into a full-blown crusade.

Now that the Uraban leader Soldan-Shah Omra has captured the ruined city of Ishalem, his construction teams discover a priceless ancient map in an underground vault – a map that can guide brave explorers to the mysterious Key to Creation. Omra dispatches his adopted son Saan to sail east across the uncharted Middlesea on a quest to find it.

In Tierra, Captain Criston Vora has built a grand new vessel, and sets out to explore the great unknown and find the fabled land of Terravitae. But Criston cannot forget his previous voyage that ended in shipwreck and disaster... and the loss of his beloved wife Adrea – who is now the wife of the soldan-shah in far-off Uraba, fighting to survive against palace intrigues and constant threats against her life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Interview with GRAHAM McNEILL


The first author writing for Black Library to feature on the New York Times bestseller list (with the superb A Thousand Sons), Graham McNeill is also one of their most prolific writers, penning tales of action, adventure and depth set in both the Warhammer and WH40k universes (and elsewhere, but his Black Library releases are where I know him from best).

This year sees the release of a clutch of novels by him, so I was delighted that he took the time to answer some questions about his novels, writing, synaptic Brownian motion, and more.

Monday, May 23, 2011

“Blood Oath” by Christopher Farnsworth (Hodder)


The President’s Vampire, Case One

Sharp and ambitious, Zach Barrows is on his way up. But when he gets a call from the White House, it’s not quite the promotion he expected. Zach is to be the new political liaison officer to America’s best kept secret: Nathaniel Cade. The President’s vampire.

And Cade is the world’s only hope against a horrifying terrorist threat…

If you were to blend the thriller stylings of Vince Flynn or David Baldacci, and mash them together with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, this is probably what you’d get. Fast-paced, engaging and great fun, this was a pleasant surprise, and a book I devoured extremely quickly.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

“Battle of the Fang” by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-BattleOfTheFangThe Thousand Sons bring the fight to the Space Wolves’ homeworld

It is M32, a thousand years after the Horus Heresy. The Scouring is over and the Imperium at the height of its post-Crusade power. When Magnus the Red is tracked down to Gangava Prime, the Space Wolves hasten to engage the daemon primarch.

Even as Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm closes on his ancient enemy, the Fang on the Space Wolves home world is besieged by a massive force of Thousand Sons. A desperate battle ensues as the skeleton forces of Wolf Lord Vaer Greylock attempt to hold back the attacking hosts before the last of his meagre defences gives in. Though a single Scout ship survives to summon Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm back to Fenris, none of the defenders truly realise the full scale the horror that awaits them, nor what the Battle for the Fang will cost them all.

Continuing the story of the blood-feud between the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons, Battle of the Fang takes us beyond the Horus Heresy, as the Thousand Sons stage a daring attack on the Wolves’ homeworld of Fenris. This is the first novel in the Space Marine Battles series that I’ve read, and it really is great. Evocative, brutal, and brisk, it’s exactly what I was hoping for.

Friday, May 20, 2011

“The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss (Gollancz)

Rothfuss-2-WiseMansFearDay Two of the Kingkiller Chronicle

Picking up the tale of Kvothe Kingkiller once again, we follow him into exile, into political intrigue, courtship, adventure, love and magic... and further along the path that has turned Kvothe, the mightiest magician of his age, a legend in his own time, into Kote, the unassuming pub landlord.

Given the considerable anticipation for this novel, I thought I’d leave it a little to avoid the initial crush of reviews and blog-posts around its publication date. I thoroughly enjoyed The Name of the Wind, and I am happy to report that in many ways The Wise Man’s Fear lived up to its predecessor, but in others it fell short. This was a very enjoyable (though flawed) novel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

“X-Men: The Complete Onslaught Epic #1” (Marvel)


The Start of one of Marvel’s Momentous Cross-Title Events

The saga that literally re-made the Marvel Universe of the 1990s. The psionic force of nature known only as Onslaught sprang forth from the fractured psyche of mutant mentor Charles Xavier and the genetic terrorist called Magneto – touching off a cataclysmic conflict destined to deprive a world of its most revered icons.

My journey into Marvel’s X-Men comics continues, this time with the ‘event’ that took place before the series I read as they were released. This book collects a good number of the issues that started off the Onslaught era, from some of Marvel’s best writers and artists. While the book was enjoyable, it was not excellent. I’m also starting to notice a bit of a pattern in Marvel’s bad-guys, which I found a bit frustrating. [There are some spoilers in this review.]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Interview with Kate Elliott


Following on from Alyssa’s review of Kate Elliott’s latest novel, Cold Magic – a “steampunk meets ice” fantasy – the author was kind enough to answer some questions about her world-building, novels, writing and more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

“Cold Magic” by Kate Elliott (Orbit)

Untitled-1Reviewed by Alyssa

Introducing The Spiritwalkers Series

As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airship technologies and the dawning Industrial Revolution, but magical forces still rule. And the cousins are about to discover the full ruthlessness of this rule.

Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood and old feuds, Cat is betrayed by her family and forced to marry a powerful Cold Mage. As she is carried away to live a new life, fresh dangers threaten her every move and secrets form a language she cannot read. At least, not yet.

But both cousins carry their own hidden gifts and these will shape great changes to come. For in the depths of this treacherous world, the Wild Hunt stirs in darkness and dragons are waking from their sleep.

In Cold Magic, Elliott has created a fascinating and complex alternate nineteenth-century Europe. In this world, people are as likely to have migrated due to plagues of ghouls as political upheaval, and the government is a kind of dual feudal system of Mage Houses and princes. There are threads of magic running throughout the world, but the powerful Houses are made up of ‘Cold Mages’, who wield cold like a weapon. The imaginative world and intriguing magical element of this novel make for an enjoyable and engaging read.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Condescension towards “Nerds”

The terrible New York Times and Slate reviews of HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and what the authors had to say about fantasy and fantasy fans are very well known at this point, due to the viral circulation and quick and vociferous reaction they received around the internet. As it turns out, they are not the only news publications to print negative opinions or snide remarks about genre fiction and its fans.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fortnightly Acquisitions

It’s been a while since I did a post like this, but given the exciting stuff that’s arrived these past two weeks, I thought I’d share a bit. After being away from home for a week (which should explain the relative inactivity), there were a couple of nice surprises waiting for me, too! So, here’s the pile:


And some brief details on the titles, all of which have been on my radar for a while (some longer than others)…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Quick Chat with Bill King (Creator of Gotrek & Felix)

King-Felix&GotrekGraphic1Many moons ago, I stumbled across a short story anthology, Wolf Riders, published by Games Workshop. In it, there was a story by the same name by Bill King, featuring Gotrek and Felix – a dwarf slayer and his human companion and chronicler. I was hooked, and eagerly sought out the other two GW anthologies, Red Thirst and Ignorant Armies, which also featured Gotrek & Felix stories. A few years later, Black Library published Trollslayer, the first in the continuing Gotrek & Felix series (which has now been taken on by Nathan Long). After a while away from writing fiction for Black Library, Mr King returns this year with Blood Aenarion, and I thought it was a perfect time to send him some questions about what he’s been up to and what we can expect from his return to Warhammer fiction.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Capsule Review: “Lye Street” by Alan Campbell

Campbell-LyeStreetKindlingNovella prequel to Deepgate Codex

The Greene family is cursed. Every fifty years Deepgate’s scarred angel, Carnival, returns to murder another descendant. Now, five hundred years after the first victim’s death, Sal Greene is facing his own doom. His time has almost run out. In a desperate attempt to break the chain of violence and save his family, he summons a demon to the chained city: a warrior he hopes is powerful enough to stand against the angel.

Yet the creature which arrives in Deepgate is not quite the legendary mercenary Sal Greene was expecting.

This prequel to Alan Campbell’s first trilogy, The Deepgate Codex, offers a perfect, bargain-priced introduction to the author’s work, and certainly whet my appetite for more story set in this world.

While I’ve only read one of Campbell’s books (this year’s excellent Sea of Ghosts), he has a reputation for superb writing. In Lye Street, this skill is certainly on display. The author evokes his gothic, dark and original world perfectly. Reading this novella left me very eager to get stuck in to The Deepgate Codex.

His prose flows very well, and his writing is wonderful to read. The dialogue is always realistic and engaging, and often witty. Passages of description (be it of the city, characters or atmosphere) are great, but never feel over-done. There are some original, quirky takes on some classic fantasy tropes (demons, in particular), and the characters are all well-rounded and realistic, not to mention often sympathetic. Carnival in particular is a complex and tragic figure, suffering from amnesia yet stuck in a cycle of violence that appears never-ending. The Spine (this world’s religious sect) is only really introduced, so I assume the novels will contain far more information and description – it will be interesting to see what Campbell does with the religion and its agents in the novels.

As a novella, this is only a taster of this world, but Campbell does a great job of bringing it to life on the page (or Kindle screen, really), and we are given vivid descriptions of the world and its characters. The description is never too much, which helps keep the pace of the story going. It’s perhaps become cliché to mention Mervyn Peake in a review of Alan Campbell’s work, but there is an air of Gormenghast-ian gothic wonder about the story.

The novella is not wholly satisfying, I must admit – this is not a complaint about Campbell’s writing or plotting, rather the length of the novella. I have always found full-length novels more satisfying than shorter works, so there is a natural lack of exposition and expansiveness in Lye Street that would not be lacking (I assume) in Scar Night, Iron Angel and God of Clocks. Knowing that there are three novels that follow this, however, certainly took away the majority of my concerns.

Lye Street should make anyone hungry for more. The characters, story, world, and magic (thaumaturgy – very important in this novella) are all great and one is left with a sense of great things to come in the full-length novels. There is a great, if bloody and brutal, ending, which brought this story to a very satisfying conclusion.

(The lengthy sample of Sea of Ghosts will also give new readers a great taste of Campbell’s latest novel as well.)

Highly recommended for all fantasy fans (with Kindles).

[An interview with Alan Campbell]

Buy the Novella: Amazon UK & US

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

An Interview with Rachel Aaron


Earlier this year, Orbit were kind enough to send me the first novel in Rachel Aaron’s Legend of Eli Monpress series. Despite my mind continuously re-spelling his name (I always seem to think it should be Moonpress, for some inexplicable reason), I read The Spirit Thief in two sittings and couldn’t wait to read more – I have the second two novels – The Spirit Rebellion and The Spirit Eater – on my shelf, glaring at me reproachfully for not having done so. Soon, I promise.

Considering how much fun the series is, I am rather surprised that I’ve never seen it for sale in a single bookstore... This may very well be because it’s mis-filed, or because it’s rather difficult to categorise (as Rachel admits herself, below). Nevertheless, if you like your fantasy with a little more fun than ‘grit’, then I’d recommend you pick up The Spirit Thief and enjoy.

In order to find out a little more about the series and the author, I decided to contact Rachel, and see if she could give us some more information…

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

“The Dragon’s Path” by Daniel Abraham (Orbit)

Abraham-D&C-1-TheDragonsPathBook One of The Dagger & The Coin

The dragons are gone, the powerful magics that broke the world diluted to little more than parlour tricks, but the kingdoms of men remain and the great game of thrones goes on. Lords deploy armies and merchant caravans as their weapons, manoeuvring for wealth and influence. But a darker power is rising – an unlikely leader with an ancient ally threatens to unleash again the madness that destroyed the world once already. Only one man knows the truth and, from the shadows, must champion humanity.

The world’s fate stands on the edge of a Dagger, its future on the toss of a Coin...

The beginning of Abraham’s highly-anticipated new series, The Dragon’s Path is grand fantasy at its best, and entirely lived up to my expectations. After a solid first half, the novel blossomed in the second, proving that Abraham really is one of the best writers in the genre, willing to take some slightly unorthodox approaches to his storytelling. Readers who found The Long Price Quartet a little difficult will find The Dragon’s Path less dense, but no less intelligent or expertly crafted (although I have to say, I have never understood that criticism: I didn’t find TLPQ inaccessible at all). With The Dragon’s Path, Abraham has written a superb fantasy, set in an interesting and engaging new world.

Interruption to Normal Service…

I’m going to be traveling down south this coming week to see family, so I’m not entirely sure what the internet situation will be. I’m taking plenty of reading material with me (of course), but I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post reviews and other stuff up on the site.

I’ll hopefully get one review up this afternoon/evening (Dan Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path – spoiler: I loved it), and I’ll be posting an interview as normal tomorrow morning (with Rachel Aaron, who was a delight to chat with), but after that things may go a bit quiet until Monday. Hopefully not, but you never know.

So, happy reading all, and I’ll be back very soon with more reviews (a couple already in the works), interviews (three already in the offing), and other book-related goodness.

Monday, May 02, 2011

“Hell’s Corner” by David Baldacci (Macmillan)

Baldacci-HellsCornerUKThe Camel Club return, in their most difficult and confusing case, yet.

Oliver Stone – once the country’s most skilled assassin – stands in front of the White House, perhaps for the last time. The president has personally requested that Stone serve his country again on a high-risk, covert mission. Though he’s fought for decades to leave his past career behind, Stone has no choice but to say yes.

But Stone’s mission changes drastically before it even begins. It’s the night of a state dinner honouring the British prime minister. As he watches the prime minister’s motorcade leave the White House, a bomb is detonated in an apparent terrorist attack against both leaders. It’s in the chaotic aftermath that Stone takes on a new, more urgent assignment: find those responsible for the bombing.

Stone’s opponents are elusive, capable, and increasingly lethal. Worst of all, it seems that the park bombing may just have been the opening salvo in their plan. With nowhere else to turn, Stone enlists the help of the only people he knows he can trust: the Camel Club. Yet that may be a big mistake.

In the shadowy worlds of politics and intelligence, there is no one you can really trust. And Hell’s Corner truly lives up to its name. This may be Oliver Stone’s and the Camel Club’s last stand.

Out of all of Baldacci’s series, the Camel Club novels are by far my favourite: The motley band of sleuths and conspiracy theory junkies who have grown over the course of five novels into quite the diverse and capable band of crime solvers, complete with endearing quirks and a hard-nosed and noble former government assassin (who goes by the name ‘Oliver Stone’) as their nominative leader. With Hell’s Corner, Baldacci has written yet another fast-paced and enjoyable thriller, but also one that has a bit of a shaky start, not quite living up to its predecessor, Divine Justice.