New extract from Jacqueline Carey's STARLESS

The folks from just posted a new extract from Jacqueline Carey's forthcoming Starless (Canada, USA, Europe).

Here's the blurb:

Jacqueline Carey is back with an amazing adventure not seen since her New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series. Lush and sensual, Starless introduces us to an epic world where exiled gods live among us, and a hero whose journey will resonate long after the last page is turned.

Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

Follow this link to read te extract.

New epic fantasy from Serial Box; Avatar the Last Airbender meets The West Wing

This from the folks at Serial Box:

This week, on April 18th, Serial Box will release Born to the Blade, a series combining the visionary high fantasy setting and tense politics of series like Game of Thrones and Mistborn. Created by Michael R. Underwood, Born to the Blade is Serial Box’s first release in the high fantasy genre, and was written in a TV-like writer’s room by the talented team of Underwood (Ree Reyes series), Marie Brennan (World Fantasy Award finalist), Malka Older (Infomocracy), and Cassandra Khaw (Bearly A Lady). You can find more about the creative team here and read a feature on the series from Io9 here.

Youth. Ambition. Power. Oda no Michiko and Kris Denn have much of the first two, and crave the last. To get it, all they must do is survive.

For centuries, the Warder's Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the nations of the sky a way to avoid war, as their chosen warders settle disputes through magical duels of blade and sigil. But that peace is on the edge of crumbling, crushed between the aggression of the Mertikan Empire and the determination of the still-free nations to not be consumed.

Twaa-Fei may be neutral, but it is also home to a million intrigues, schemes, and deadly intentions. Michiko and Kris arrive in this treacherous world together, bladecrafters eager to serve their countries -- Michiko as a junior warder for Katuke, a vassal of the empire, Kris as an upstart challenging to win a seat for his home, Rumika, in the Circle. But before the young bladecrafters have even settled in, a power struggle erupts, a man's head is parted from his shoulders, and every good thing Michiko thinks she knows about the empire comes into question.

A storm is coming, and Kris and Michiko stand at its eye. Will it bind the nations of the sky together... or tear it apart?

Serial Box publishes serialized fiction created by teams of critically acclaimed and best-selling writers. Serials are released through the Serial Box app(s), website, and third party retailers in weekly installments in both e-book and audio formats. During a three-month season, each episode is a 30 minute read or an hour listen.

Since launch, Serial Box has been called “The HBO for reading” by NPR, “a must have app for 2018” by Buzzfeed, “a best app of 2017” by Apple, and Den of Geek says that “Serial Box brings HBO style storytelling to prose.”


The first episode of Born to the Blade is available for free in text and audio here.

Jacqueline Carey news!!

This from her Twitter account:

Okay, so I was kinda waiting until all the "i"s were dotted and "t"s were crossed to reveal this, and I'll have more to say later, but in brief... yeah, almost 20 years after writing the original, I'm telling Joscelin's side of the story.

You may squee now.

Holy shit!!!

Awesome news! She hinted about that in our interview last year and I'm super happy that she's making it happen! =)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download The Sarah Zettel Collection omnibus for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Four galaxy-spanning novels by an award-winning author with a “gift for creating fully realized cultures” (Booklist).

In Fool’s War, Katmer Al Shei has done well with the starship Pasadena, cutting corners where necessary to keep her crew paid and her journeys profitable. But there are two things she will never skimp on: her crew—and her fool. For a long space journey, a certified Fool’s Guild clown is essential, to amuse, excite, and otherwise distract the crew from the drudgeries of interstellar flight. Her newest fool, Evelyn Dobbs, is a talented jester. But does she have enough wit to save mankind?

In Playing God, the planet of the Dedelphi has been riven by war for two centuries. Though delicate, swanlike creatures, the planet’s natives are fierce in battle, and their ceaseless conflict has reduced their world to a wasteland. To save themselves and their world, the Dedelphi have forged a fragile peace and called for outside intervention. The Earth corporation Bioverse constructs a plan to heal the shattered planet. It’s the most ambitious engineering project the universe has ever seen, and if it backfires, the result will almost certainly be genocide.

In The Quiet Invasion, Dr. Helen Failia is nearing middle age at eighty-three, but has lost none of her fighting spirit. The founder of Earth’s first fully functioning colony on Venus, she will do anything to ensure that the home she’s built and nurtured not only survives, but thrives. Despite her constant work, funding for the colony is running out, and she’s dreading telling the ten thousand colonists they must move to Earth, a world some of them have never even seen. When one of her probes returns with the unprecedented proof of an ancient alien artifact on the surface of Venus she cannot believe her luck. This is the first evidence that humanity is not alone, and the discovery will surely secure the research colony’s future.

In Reclamation, Eric Born knows his way around the universe. He’s a quick-thinking merchant blessed with natural telekinetic skill. He’s also that rarest of creatures, a human being. Humans have been scattered across the universe, powerless and oppressed, dispersed so widely that no one knows what planet they first came from. Eric survives by selling his talents to the mysterious galactic tyrants known as the Rhudolant Vitae, but has never forgotten he belongs to the human race, and the distant world, the Realm of the Nameless Powers. The Realm may be a backwater, but Eric will do anything to protect his home from the merciless and powerful Vitae.

Jon Sprunk contest winner!

To help promote the release of Jon Sprunk's Blade and Bone (Canada, USA, Europe), this lucky winner will receive a full set of the Book of the Black Earth up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. The prize pack includes:

- Blood and Iron
- Storm and Steel
- Blade and Bone

The winner is:

- Dion Baldwin, from Tukwila, Washington, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robert R. McCammon's Stinger for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Ever since the copper mine closed, the West Texas desert hellholes of Inferno and Bordertown have been slowly dying. Snake River isn’t the only thing that divides them. Racism, gang wars, and anti-Mexican sentiment have turned the sun-scorched flatlands into a powder keg. If anything can unite them for now, at least in awe and wonder, it’s the UFO that comes soaring out of the clouds like a flaming locomotive.

In the wake of the crash, a young alien named Daufin has arrived, too. A fugitive who has taken the form of a human, she knows the terror that awaits the inhabitants of this planet—because it is looking for her.

When Stinger, the monstrous alien bounty hunter, arrives, it’s with a destructive fury and a devious plan to find Daufin—by entombing the residents in an impenetrable and inescapable dome. A relentless killing machine, Stinger has an infinite capacity for death and destruction. And over the next twenty-four hours, this town is going to bleed and burn. Now, the few remaining survivors must come together to protect Daufin, themselves, and the world beyond from total annihilation.

From the New York Times–bestselling and Bram Stoker Award–winning author of Swan Song, Stinger was called “one of the best suspense novels of recent years” by the Science Fiction Chronicle.

The Grace of Kings

A lot has been said regarding Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings. Some of it good and some of it decidedly bad. Although the novel garnered a slew of rave reviews, it remains a divisive works among readers. A quick perusal of online ratings and reviews shows that lots of people didn't like it, and some of them did not even finish it. This being the author's first novel-length epic fantasy project, I figure it was to be expected. Given the fact that Liu won virtually every genre literary award out there for his short fiction, I knew I'd read the book at some point.

My biggest concern was that most of the rave reviews came from the SJW speculative fiction clique. Which is why it took me so long to finally give The Grace of Kings a shot. Though reticent, the promised Asian setting that gave epic fantasy a much-needed breath of fresh air, as a fellow fantasy writer opined, intrigued me and ultimately enticed me enough to sit down and read it.

Here's the blurb:

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

Right off the bat, I need to elaborate on that Asian/Chinese setting. This was, for me at least, one of the biggest selling points about this novel. I was expecting an environment with a political, social, and historical backdrop as researched and well-executed as those found in quality works of fiction like James Clavell's Shogun and its sequels, or Guy Gavriel Kay's memorable Under Heaven and River of Stars. Unfortunately, other than the occasional custom or food item, or the names of places and characters, very little about the setting and the traditions truly felt Asian or Chinese. This was extremely disappointing. I mean, when you read something by Nnedi Okorafor, the African setting influences every single aspect of her stories. Given his background, I was expecting Ken Liu to come up with something akin to that in terms of depth and authenticity. Problem is, this Asian setting, which was supposed to be a world away from the habitual medieval European environment that has become the norm in the genre today, was a bit half-assed. Unlike the aforementioned Clavell and Kay titles, novels in which everything down to the last minute detail reflects the Japanese/Chinese way of life and customs, as was the case with Kate Elliott's Black Wolves very little in The Grace of Kings feels different from other fantasy works on the market today.

One of the book's most annoying shortcomings according to readers has to be the omnipresent POV style. It takes some getting used to, but in the end it wasn't as much of a problem for me as it turned out to be for other readers. It does create a narrative structure that can be off-putting, though. It relies on massive info-dumps to convey information to the reader which have a tendency to kill whatever momentum the novel has going for it. Every time a new protagonist is introduced, a full back story is immediately provided and can last for several pages. Personally, I prefer to get to know characters by increments and see events unfold before my eyes in sequences. Hence, that narrative approach took something away from my overall reading experience and I can understand why it totally killed it for some people.

In scope and vision, some people claimed that The Dandelion Dynasty was similar to Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen and Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least based on this first installment. Though the worldbuilding can be original and inventive, The Grace of Kings is fantasy "light" for the most part and simply cannot compete with epic fantasy's signature series for the time being. True, there are elements that hint at a more ambitious story arc that might resound with more depth. Time will tell if Liu can elevate his game and bring The Dandelion Dynasty to another level. Also, the relative absence of magic and the level of technological advancements make certain plot points like the tunnels and the submarines appear ludicrous. I know this is fantasy, but a certain level of realism needs to be maintained. In addition, many aficionados stated that this is a literal retelling of the Chu-Han Contention. Hence, anyone familiar with Chinese history may find it difficult to get into the novel. Finally, there is an entire pantheon of gods that get involved in world's events. Which means that there are a number of Deux ex Machina moments that kill whatever tension build-ups Ken Liu managed to sustain.

The characterization leaves a lot to be desired. The info-dumps that characterize the narrative structure make it hard to relate to many of the protagonists. The two principal perspectives are those of two immensely different men. Kuni Garu is a scoundrel with a do-gooder's heart. Think of an Asian version of Mat Cauthon with a beer belly, wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. Mata Zyndu is an 8-feet-tall unstoppable killing machine. Imagine a stiff-necked and stubborn-to-the-death Jeovah's Witness with the body and the strength of Karsa Orlong and the invulnerability of Drizzt Do'Urden. In many ways, Mata is a veritable caricature and it's impossible to connect with him. The love/hate relationship between these two protagonists doesn't always make much sense. And since this relationship is at the heart of the tale that is The Grace of Kings, in the end it hurts the plot in a myriad of ways. To a certain extent, this book is an ensemble of vignettes featuring the perspectives of a number of men and women and gods. But these many narratives often create an incongruous whole. Moreover, the depiction of women is definitely so-so. Jia Matiza, the main female character, spends the years spawning this novel picking herbs, getting pregnant and having babies, encouraging her husband to take a second wife for the good of the realm, getting jealous of the other woman, reconciling with the fact that this needed to be done, etc. She basically only exists to allow Kuni's storyline to progress. Gin Mazoti, who'll become Marshal of Dasu, is little more than a token female warrior. Given her importance in the resolution of the conflict, one would have thought that her portrayal would have shown her as a more complex and well-drawn protagonist.

Due to the number of info-dumps and the vignette-like structure of the narrative, it's no surprise that The Grace of Kings suffers from pacing issues. Weighing in at 623 pages, this is not a slender book. I have a feeling that it would have benefited from excising a few scenes and even full chapters that brought little or nothing to the plot. Although he won multiple awards for his short fiction, the author needs to learn to better pace his novel-length material. Still, given its size, thanks to Ken Liu's evocative prose I went through the novel in a few short days. Regardless of its flaws, The Grace of Kings recounts a compelling tale and you want to find out how it all ends. And while the endgame was nothing to write home about, the ending itself was quite satisfying.

Though The Grace of Kings was far from perfect, there is something about the plot and the worldbuilding that makes me want to discover what happens next. Hence, I'll surely give the sequel, The Wall of Storms, a shot. However, I'm not sure I'll stick with it until the end if Liu has not improved his game in the aspects of his writing that showed the most flaws in this first volume. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download The Novels of the Jaran omnibus by Kate Elliott for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In Jaran, the Earth of the future is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system. Struggling to find her place in the world, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya—who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own—Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother.

In An Earthly Crown, the nomadic tribes of the jaran are uniting the settled cities of their homeland one by one. Their charismatic leader, Ilya Bakhtiian, has his loyal wife by his side, but there is something about her he doesn’t know: Tess Soerensen is a human. Back home, her brother, Charles, led an unsuccessful revolt against the all-powerful Chapalii empire. Charles’s insistence that Tess join him is as strong as Ilya’s reluctance to part with his beloved wife—and neither considers that Tess may have her own plans for the future. As three fiercely independent spirits struggle for a solution, the fates of both the human race and the jaran hang in the balance.

In His Conquering Sword, the jaran have been taking over towns and bending all non-jaran to the law of their rule. With Ilya Bakhtiian in charge, the nomadic fighters are now preparing an assault on the royal city of Karkand. But within the campaign, another struggle looms. Charles, the brother of Ilya’s wife, Tess, is still driven by thoughts of revolt. Charles travels to Rhui for key information about the past, hoping to bring back his sister—his only heir.

And in The Law of Becoming, Charles Soerensen’s revolutionary inclinations have been reignited. In this final book, the story of Tess, Ilya, and Charles comes to its stunning conclusion as new generations get involved in the intrigue, Earth’s exiled jaran people resurface, and the Chapalii overlords make one last, unexpected move.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 9th)

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up two positions, ending the week at number 9 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

First in the bestselling Dragon Prince series, explore a lush epic fantasy world replete with winged beasts, power games of magical treachery, and a realm of princedoms hovering on the brink of war • “Marvelous!”—Anne McCaffrey.

When Rohan became the new prince of the Desert, ruler of the kingdom granted to his family for as long as the Long Sands spewed fire, he took the crown with two goals in mind. First and foremost, he sought to bring permanent peace to his world of divided princedoms. And, in a land where dragon-slaying was a proof of manhood, Rohan was the sole champion of the dragons, fighting desperately to preserve the last remaining lords of the sky and with them a secret which might be the salvation of his people...

Sioned, the Sunrunner witch who was fated by Fire to be Rohan’s bride, had mastered the magic of sunlight and moonglow, catching hints of a yet to be formed pattern which could irrevocably affect the destinies of Sunrunners and ordinary mortals alike. Yet caught in the machinations of the Lady of Goddess Keep, and of Prince Rohan and his sworn enemy, the treacherously cunning High Prince, could Sioned alter this crucial pattern to protect her lord from the menace of a war that threatened to set the land ablaze?

Stronghold, the first volume in the second trilogy, is also 2.99$ here.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Raymond E. Feist's Magician: Apprentice for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A worthy pupil . . . A dangerous quest.

To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry.

Yet Pug's strange sort of magic would one day change forever the fates of two worlds. For dark beings from another world had opened a rift in the fabric of spacetime to being again the age-old battle between the forces of Order and Chaos.

Bad Man

You may have heard of Dathan Auerbach. The author originally made a name for himself when he self-published his first book after it began as a post on Reddit. His entries on the website's "No Sleep" horror forum were a big hit and went on to become some of the most up-voted posts among the community's twelve million subscribers. Auerbach's GoFundMe campaign received more than one thousand percent of its funding objective, which allowed him to rewrite these entries into a novel titled Penpal.

That self-published book garnered enough sales and positive reviews that Blumhouse Books, an imprint of Doubleday, signed Dathan Auerbach to a book deal. They appear to have high hopes for Bad Man, which piqued my curiosity and compelled me to give the novel a shot.

As advertised, Bad Man is indeed a creepy, slow-burn horror book. Some things work extremely well, but at times the execution leaves a little to be desired. In the end, though all the ingredients that make a great read were present, we had to settle for a merely good novel. Which, given the story's potential, was a bit disappointing.

Here's the blurb:

Reddit horror sensation Dathan Auerbach delivers a devilishly dark novel about a young boy who goes missing, and the brother who won't stop looking for him.

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.

They say you've got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there's any chance of putting yours back together. That's your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben's life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben's father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there's something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There's something wrong with the air itself. He knows he's in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.

That he should have stopped looking.

If there is one aspect of this work on which Dathan Auerbach has perfect control, it has to be the atmosphere. He sets the disturbing mood from the very beginning and the eerie and troubling set-up engenders more and more creepy imagery with each new chapter. It's particularly true at the store during the night shift, where even the baler feels evil. The suspense and the tension grow as the tale progresses. In terms of setting, the author nailed it right on the head. This is exactly how horror novels should feel like.

Ben is a decidedly flawed protagonist and an unreliable narrator. Most of Bad Man is told from his perspective and it works well for the most part. Understandably, the disappearance of his younger brother has profoundly affected him. The more so because he feels responsible and has never truly forgiven himself for losing him. Reading the book, we are never quite sure if Ben is totally honest, or if he is going mad. Given his circumstances, Ben is an easy character to root for. Although he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, his heart is in the right place and he means well. Having no friends, his relationships with Marty and Frank, the two other graveyard shift employees, become especially important. The supporting cast is comprised of markedly flawed men and women. In their own ways, they all have their secrets and are suspicious. Overall, it's Ben's interactions with the rest of the cast that give Ban Man its own distinctive flavor.

Auerbach weaves a panoply of threads within his plotlines and creates a multilayered mystery which surrounds Eric's disappearance. He does his best to be misleading and each new storyline throws the reader onto various false trails. When all is said and done, Bad Man is so convoluted that it seems that even the author lost control of the plot. There are simply too many lose ends for the ending to be really satisfying. True, the novel keeps you guessing till the very end. And yet, with so many seemingly important elements turning out to be unanswered questions, chief among them the identity and motivations of the blond boy and the mystery surrounding the Blackwater School, you are left with little or no resolution regarding a number of storylines. Too many, to tell the truth. And this robs the ending of the impact Dathan Auerbach obviously wished for.

Bad Man also suffers from pacing issues. Weighing in at only 320 pages, it's a relative short work of fiction. And though it's meant to be a slow-burn kind of book, at times the rhythm is atrocious and it feels as though you are reading a much longer novel.

All in all, although it had great potential, Bad Man reads like a debut. Which, honestly, it is, as Penpal was self-published. It's obvious that Dathan Auerbach has what it takes to become a popular horror writer. If he can focus on what he does best and avoid the pitfalls of trying to make everything too complex for his own good, he could become one of the genre's big names in the near future.

Having said that, horror fans in the mood for an ominous setting, flawed characters, and a creepy mystery will find a lot to love about Bad Man.

I'm looking forward to whatever Auerbach will write next.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

C. S. Friedman made a name for herself with the amazing Coldfire trilogy. Indeed, these books established the author as a master of dark fantasy during the 90s. Sadly, the Magisters trilogy, although awesome, flew so low under the radar that very few people seem to have read it. If more and more people actually gave these books a shot, we might soon refer to the Coldfire trilogy as the Friedman's other fantasy series. Yes, it's that damn good!

And you can now get your hands on the digital edition of the first volume, Feast of Souls, for only 2.99$ here. This trilogy deserves the highest possible recommendation!

Here's the blurb:

At the end of her bestselling Coldfire trilogy, C.S. Friedman challenged readers to imagine what a world would be like if sorcery required the ultimate sacrifice-that of life itself. Now, in Feast of Souls, she introduces us to a terrifying world in which the cost of magic is just which the fuel for sorcery is the very fire of the human spirit, and those who hunger for magical power must pay for it with their lives. In this epic tale of nightmarish shadows and desperate hope, the greatest threat of all may not be that of ancient enemies returned, or ancient wars resumed, but of the darkness that lies within the hearts of men.

Here's a link to my review from 2007.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time only, you can download Helene Wecker's excellent The Golem and the Jinni for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (April 2nd)

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down three positions, ending the week at number 11 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology maintains its position at number 15 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Once again, you can now download C. S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising, the first volume in the Coldfire trilogy, one of the best dark fantasy series ever written, for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Blending science fiction and fantasy, the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy tells a dark tale of an alien world where nightmares are made manifest.

Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength.

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Matthew Woodring Stover's Heroes Die for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


But Caine's no hero. He's an assassin.

Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does. He is free.

At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society, bound to ignore the grim fact that men die on a far-off world for the entertainment of his own planet--bound to keep his rage in check.

But now Michaelson has crossed the line. His estranged wife, Pallas Rill, has mysteriously disappeared in the slums of Ankhana. To save her, he must confront the greatest challenge of his life: a lethal game of cat and mouse with the most treacherous rulers of two worlds.

Matthew Woodring Stover has created a spectacular, page-turning epic where a Jackal-type assassin maneuvers through a vivid Tolkienesque world. With a plot as driven as its main character and drawn against a setting as vivid as the very best in fantasy, Heroes Die is a brilliant feat of the imagination.

You can also download Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, first volume in the Craft Sequence, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Mike Carey's The Devil You Know for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. It may seem like a good ghostbuster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle--but there's a risk: Sooner or later he's going to take on a spirit that's too strong for him. While trying to back out of this ill-conceived career, Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London--just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That's OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It's the living who piss him off...

Finally, you can also download Connie Willis' Crosstalk for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk—a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.


In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal—to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely—in a way far beyond what she signed up for.

It is almost more than she can handle—especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize that love—and communication—are far more complicated than she ever imagined.

Apocalypse Nyx

As I mentioned in my review of The Stars Are Legion last year, Kameron Hurley originally came to my attention when God's War was nominated for the Nebula Award for best novel in 2012. I instantly fell in love with that book, and the same goes for the two sequels, Infidel and Rapture. Dark, violent, complex, touching, compelling, populated with flawed but endearing and unforgettable characters, I felt that the Bel Dame Apocrypha could well be the very best speculative fiction series of the new millennium. And a few years later, I still believe this. At the top of her game, I claimed that Kameron Hurley ranked among the best SFF writers out there. I couldn't wait to see what the future had in store for her. I went so far as to say that Hurley had now joined my short list of speculative fiction "must read" authors.

In the following months, something quite unexpected happened. Kameron Hurley gradually became known more for her blog posts, genre-related articles, or essays, and not necessarily for her novels. Nothing wrong with that, of course. She also became somewhat of a poster girl for the online SJW SFF clique. Which is why, in the end, I was so reticent to read The Mirror Empire, the first installment in The Worldbreaker Saga. Yes, I am aware that I've just said that Hurley was now part of my "must read" authors and I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into whatever she would publish next. Problem is, the advance praise for that book scared me. You see, all those reviews went on and on about what Hurley was trying to do. Not much was being said about the story itself. It was nice to learn that she had not just subverted all those fantasy tropes and clichés. She kicked them in the balls, kicked them while they were down, set fire to them, and then pissed all over them. Good for her. But I'm a plot kind of guy. Always have been and always will be. I wanted to know just how good the story was. But all I was reading about had to do with gender role reversal and gender non-conformity, yada yada yada. Kameron Hurley was being applauded for coming up with something totally different. But not, as far as I could tell, for writing an awesome and captivating story. Understandably, The Mirror Empire was an extremely divisive work among readers when it was released. Still is to this day. And although I've bought both the first volume and Empire Ascendant, I'm still quite reticent to read these books. I'll get to them at some point, no doubt about it, but I'm in no hurry to do so.

Then the announcement came that Hurley's The Stars Are Legion, a space opera stand-alone novel featuring a female-only cast, would be published in 2017. Again, this was acclaimed by the SJW clique and the book, more than a year prior to its release, received a lot of coverage from those sources. I had the same reservations about that book, yet I resolved to give it a shot. This was a single, self-contained science fiction tale, and I wanted to review it. Overall, it turned out to be a good read. However, it suffered from too many shortcomings to even come close to the greatness that made the Bel Dame Apocrypha such an amazing series. The violence, the anger, the general badass vibe; it was all there. Unfortunately, the depth, the originality, and the superior characterization were absent, and The Stars Are Legion was a much weaker work for that.

But when I received an email offering me an early read of Apocalypse Nyx, I jumped for joy! Four of the five novellas that comprise this book were initially written and published for Kameron Hurley's Patreon supporters and will now be widely available for the first time, thanks to this nice Tachyon edition. It was pure delight to be reunited with Nyx and Rhys, if only for the span of five short fiction pieces. This collection recaptures everything that made the Bel Dame Apocrypha such a memorable read and is a must for anyone who's a fan of the original series. Apocalypse Nyx is also the perfect opportunity for newcomers to get a feel for the universe and its protagonists for the first time. It may lack the full depth of the trilogy, but it certainly introduces Nyx with a bang!

Here's the blurb:

Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx.

Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter Nyx is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey—it’s a living.

Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx’s mind, it’s also justified. After all, she’s trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices.

Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future—but only if she can survive.

Apocalypse Nyx is the much-anticipated print edition of Kameron Hurley’s five newest Nyx novellas, as well as the first e-book collection of her gritty, exciting adventures.

The worldbuilding that serve as the backdrop for the Bel Dame Apocrypha was top notch. Hurley's vision was quite unique and the world she created came alive in a manner that is seldom seen. Islam has taken to the stars, but the religion has evolved over the centuries. The author's narrative created a vivid imagery that made the ravaged world leap off the pages. Add to that some strange insectile technology and magic, as well as some cool concepts such as the bel dames and alien gene pirates, and you realized that Kameron Hurley has created something truly special. If you are one of those jaded science-fiction reader believing to have seen it all, think again. The novella format prevents elaboration on most of the ideas introduced in the series, so in that regard existing readers might get a bit more out of each tale than newcomers. And yet, each story is written in a way that makes them accessible even if you have not read the trilogy.

In a war-torn and contaminated world, you cannot expect goodie-two-shoes men and women. The product of a brutal and unforgiving environment, the characters are what you expect them to be. Hurley's characterization is similar to that of authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, and George R. R. Martin. Forget black-and-white protagonists, for every single protagonist has shades of grey. Hence, not for the faint-hearted, but oh so satisfying. As a matter of course, Nyx takes center stage in every novella. Rhys, her contracted magician, plays an important role in most of them. The supporting cast is made up of interesting characters such as Anneke, Taite, and more. Going through these novellas made me want to abandon my scheduled reads and reread the Bel Dame Apocrypha. Yes, it is that good!

Although each novella acts as a stand-alone vignette and is episodic in nature, the five stories form a whole that works quite well. Hence, even if Apocalypse Nyx is a collection of five different stories, there are enough threads linking them together to create a work that stands well on its own.

The rhythm throughout is fast-moving, making Apocalypse Nyx another page-turner. My only complaint would be that you reach the end too quickly, thoughroughly satisfied but begging for more. Here's to hoping that Kameron Hurley is planning additional Nyx stories, because I for one will be waiting in line to read whatever comes next for our favorite alcoholic bounty hunter!

The author's prose is dark and brooding, the rhythm often balls-to-the-wall, yet Hurley nevertheless finds ways to hit you with touching moments that pack a powerful punch in terms of emotional impact.

If the legendary Frank Herbert, Richard Morgan, and Joe Abercrombie had ever teamed up to write something together, the Bel Dame Apocrypha is the sort of creation they would have come up with. Indeed, the trilogy deserves the highest possible recommendation and I encourage you to give the first installment a shot. Brutal, uncompromising, brilliant, enthralling: That's God's War in a nutshell.

But if you find yourself in need of a primer, so to speak, something that works as a great introduction to one of the most badass heroines in SFF history and to one of the best science fiction series of the new millennium thus far, then Apocalypse Nyx is just what the doctor ordered.

I would like to thank Kameron Hurley for this chance to revisit these remarkable protagonists and their unforgettable setting. The genre needs more Nyx.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

The digital editions of all of Narnia installments by C. S. Lewis are 1.99$ each here.

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Narnia . . . a land frozen in eternal winter . . . a country waiting to be set free.

Witness the creation of a magical land in The Magician's Nephew, the first title in C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy series, which has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years.

On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.

This ebook contains the complete text and art. Illustrations in this ebook appear in vibrant full color on a full-color ebook device and in rich black-and-white on all other devices. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you want to journey back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robin Hobb's excellent Ship of Magic for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships—rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Now the fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.

For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. For Althea’s young nephew, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard the ship, the Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the ship—and the Vestrits—may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider: the ruthless buccaneer captain Kennit, who plans to seize power over the Pirate Isles by capturing a liveship and bending it to his will.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Robin Hobb's Mad Ship.

You can also download Paper Cities, an anthology edited by Ekaterina Sedia, for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


The city has always been a place of mystery, of magic, and wonder. In cities past, present, and future, in metropoli real and imagined, meet mutilated warrior-women, dead boys, mechanical dogs, escape artists and more. From the dizzying heights of rooftops and spires to the sinister secrets of underpasses and gutters, some of the most talented authors writing today will take you on a trip through the urban fantastic. Edited by Ekaterina Sedia, author of The Secret History of Moscow and The Alchemy of Stone.

With stories from Forrest Aguirre, Hal Duncan, Richard Parks, Cat Rambo, Jay Lake, Greg van Eekhout, Cat Sparks, Steve Berman, Stephanie Campisi, Mark Teppo, Paul Meloy, Vylar Kaftan, Mike Jasper, Ben Peek, Kaaron Warren, Darin C. Bradley, Jenn Reese, David Schwartz, Anna Tambour, Barth Anderson and Catherynne M. Valente. Introduction by Jess Nevins.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (March 26th)

In hardcover:

Jason Fry's Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition is down nine spots, finishing the week at number 11.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up two positions, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology debuts at number 15 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Tim Powers' Last Call for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Enchantingly dark and compellingly real, the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Last Call is a masterpiece of magic realism from critically acclaimed author Tim Powers.

Set in the gritty, dazzling underworld known as Las Vegas, Last Call tells the story of a one-eyed professional gambler who discovers that he was not the big winner in a long-ago poker game . . . and now must play for the highest stakes ever as he searches for a way to win back his soul.

You can also download Margaret Fortune's Nova for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.

My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.

And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.

Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode.

But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.

Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up.

If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.

Win a copy of the mass market paperback edition of Mark Lawrence's RED SISTER

I have three copies of the mass market paperback edition of Mark Lawrence's Red Sister up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at Ace! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "RED." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

The Obelisk Gate

Prior to reading The Fifth Season a few weeks back, although N. K. Jemisin had won the Hugo Award for best novel twice, I had only read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from her. That novel was a solid debut, no question. And yet, like most speculative fiction debuts, it featured a number of flaws. Most notably a first-person narrative, which is always tricky, a corny love story, and some decidedly clichéd villains. Still, overall, Jemisin's fantasy debut turned out to be an imaginative and enjoyable read. And even if the characterization was subpar, the author scored points for exploring themes such as slavery, sexism, racism, and the abuse of power. She wove these deeper issues throughout the various storylines, sometimes subtly in the background and sometimes in more flagrant fashion. Regardless of how it was done, this was what ultimately gave soul to the novel.

Though I was in no hurry to continue on with the Inheritance trilogy, this was what made me want to read The Fifth Season. Everyone opined that this was her best work to date, so I decided that this was the book I had to read next. And I'm sure glad I did, for The Fifth Season delivered on all fronts. Now I know why it was nominated for all those genre literary prizes.

Even better, the sequel also won the Hugo Award for best novel. Building on its predecessor's plotlines, Jemisin elevates her game even more in this second installment, making The Obelisk Gate an even better novel. The Broken Earth trilogy is definitely shaping up to be one of the most original SFF series of the new millennium and I'm looking forward to discovering how it will all come together in The Stone Sky.

Here's the blurb:


The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

The Obelisk Gate is another blend of fantasy and science fiction. More fantasy than scifi, mind you, but there is science involved in the premise. The worldbuilding is particularly interesting and just might be my favorite facet of this novel. The Earth has changed dramatically and has become an extremely geologically unstable world. Seismic activities cause enormous volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that wipe out vast chunks of the planet's population periodically. These catastrophes generating extended winters are known as Fifth Seasons and they can last for years and decades. The Stillness is the only continent known to exist. Orogenes have the ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events. Trained at the Fulcrum and closely supervised by the Guardian order, they are despised and feared due to the potentially devastating powers they wield. In addition to the Fulcrum, there is also a network of nodes manned by orogenes positioned throughout the Stillness to help reduce or quell seismic events. Such an unstable and unforgiving environment makes for a truly original setting, something that we haven't seen before, and I loved everything about it. The Fifth Season began with a new breaking of the world, one that might signal the true end of existence, for this new Fifth Season could last for centuries and even millennia. At the end of the first installment, we were told that there might yet be a way to save civilization from being wiped out. One that involves something known as the moon and the floating obelisks.

The only gripe I had with the first volume was that Jemisin played her cards way too close to her chest. She introduced various fascinating concepts and ideas, but provided virtually no answers to any of the questions these raised in readers' minds. Thankfully, The Obelisk Gate offers a number of tantalizing answers that raise the stakes even more. Secrets about the obelisks, the Fulcrum, the stone eaters, the Guardians, orogenes, the moon, and a lot more are unveiled. All of which adds new dimensions to an already multilayered tale, which is really saying something. And yes, these answers beget yet more questions that will hopefully be answered in the final installment.

As a matter of course, Essun returns as a POV character. As her new community faces a threat that may destroy them, she must learn whatever Alabaster is trying to teach her before he dies. The second perspective is that of Nassun, her daughter. Leagues away to the south, she is being trained to become something she doesn't yet understand. Her father, Jija, made the long sojourn because he believes that this place can cure Nassun of her orogeny. The book also occasionally features Schaffa's point of view. There is a good balance between Essun and Nassun's perspectives and one doesn't take predecence over the other. I'm pleased to report that the supporting cast plays a more important role in The Obelisk Gate. Hoa, in particular, is revealed to be more than he/it appears to be. Steel, another stone eater, seems to be another character that will have a major role to play in what is to come.

Although The Obelisk Gate doesn't suffer from rhythm issues, like its predecessor it cannot be called a fast-paced novel. Having said that, it is definitely a page-turner that you'll get through in no time. As I mentioned, N. J. Jemisin truly elevated her game in this one and the revelations keep you begging for more. And the ending of both Essun and Nassun's plotlines pave the way for what should be one grand finale.

The Obelisk Gate is another demanding yet very rewarding read. Like in Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon, in the first volume the author dropped you off in a very complex world where litte made sense at the beginning. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride, for Jemisin takes you on an ambitious and emotional journey across uncharted waters. This sequel is another gripping read filled with engaging protagonists and an enthralling setting.

Impossible to put down.

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.