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INTERVIEWS

Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

Mazarkis Williams author of The Emperor's Knife

Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

Anthony Huso author of The Last Page (review here)

Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded

RECENT REVIEWS

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
My BlogCatalog BlogRank Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature

REVIEW | The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas (Roc)

Dark dragons this way cometh.

Kings and Queens from the Dragon Realms are eligible every 10 years to become the unquestioned overseers of all the lands. The 10th year has come and many parties are vying for the seat of power whether it is through political machinations, coercive means, or down-right ruthlessness. And let us not forget the dragons who are more monstrous than nearly any other dragon you've read about before.

The Adamantine Palace is Stephen Deas's debut novel and what a rending and smoking debut it is at times. The first chapter sets a dark and compelling tone and never lightens from there with some of the meanest dragons and wicked characters found in Fantasy. If Christopher Paolini decided to go on a meth-fueled writing bender he probably still wouldn't come close to writing his dragons so devilishly.


There are a few problems, but pacing isn't one of them as he keeps to short, tight chapters that push the story along in a Thriller type fashion. However, the pushing is at a sacrifice to the characters and the world-building. The human characters come off very cold and more lizard-like than the Dragons as they can't seem to keep themselves from sleeping with one another or from trying to kill each other at every turn. While the dragons are oppressed creatures who have been held down too long and are after vengeance for what has been done to them and their peers.

Many of the characters just seem like slight variations on one another, especially when viewed from one generation to the next. Also, the motivations of many of the characters are cloudy at best with them seeming to do just what is unexpected to spite people. In some ways the rest of the book doesn't live up to that first chapter, but things take a turn for the better at the end where Deas has pulled off a jaw dropper after setting so much up to go another way.

The Adamantine Palace shows a lot of promise and sets the ground for what could be a memorable series, but doesn't standout from it's predecessors under the name of gritty fantasy published over the last few years. If you are a big dragon fan you may want to pick it up as Deas does give the dragons a fairly original treatment, but I have a feeling there are better things to come from them in future volumes. I give The Adamantine Palace 6.5 out of 10 hats. I'll definitely be checking out the second book in The Memory of Flames series, The King of Crags once it is released in the states to see if Deas brings much needed detail to the world and characters.


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REVIEW | Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

NEWS | Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fears pub date


Patrick Rothfuss has just confirmed that the long awaited sequel to The Name of the Wind is nearing completion. The Wise Man's Fear has a firm publication date of March 1st, 2011. He is set to turn in the final draft by September. Mark your calendars! In his very candid post he said:

It’s the third draft she’s read, but it’s the first one I’ve really had any confidence in. The first one was pure crap. The second one was mostly complete but still pretty shaky in parts.

This draft was good. I’m verging on being proud of it. It still has a few problems, but they’re manageable problems. They’re problems I can perceive and get my head around, and that means they’re problems I can solve.
During his talk with his editor at DAW, Betsy Wollheim he was asked very pointedly whether he could commit to these dates:
I said I was sure I could finish it by September.

She asked me if I was sure. Really sure.

I thought about it. Back in 2007, I was sure I’d have the book done by 2008. But I was hugely ignorant and optimistic back then. So I was dead fucking wrong. That caused a lot of grief.

I told her I was really sure I could have it finished by September.

Come hell or high water? She asked me.

Come hell or high water, I said.
Let us all rejoice because come hell or high water we'll have some Kingkiller Chronicles goodness to look forward to in early 2011.  This is a series close to my heart as The Name of the Wind was the book that really turned me on to book review blogs what with Rothfuss doing so many interviews and eventually led me to start Mad Hatter's Bookshelf.  So you have Patrick to blame for all I've plied upon you.


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LOOKING FORWARD | Fantasy Books to Watch for in 2010

INTERVIEW | Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates

Sam Sykes is a bit of a wild card in interviews if you've been following him around as he is making a name for himself while trying to promote his debut Tome of the Undergates, but one thing you can be sure of is an entertaining take on any questions asked. I went a little off the deep end with this one as I was hoping Sam would take the ball and throw it through a wall, which he has, much to my delight. I also gave Mr. Sykes a flash fiction challenge as well, which means I am now a publisher of sorts and he is beholden to be from here onto eternity.

MH: You are definitely lighter than Abercrombie. Reading his work you'd think he be a depressive with a violent streak. Reading your work could make you think you hate the water and might have some issues making friends.

SS: My loathing of the water, like a salmon writhing through my subconscious current, actually spawns from my inability to digest fish. Cursed with a crippling iodine allergy, I have been kept far, far away from the world of delectable seafood that you decent, godly people enjoy. My relationships, career and three marriages all collapsed due to my intolerance for their tender flesh. Flung far from society, I harbored my grudge against the ichthyoid menace until it became the manifesto you just read.

Right, then. Let me put on my serious face for a moment...

MH: Thanks for joining me in my little neck of the blogosphere. Firstly, can you tell me what first drew you to Fantasy? I definitely feel like you played a bit of D n D growing up.

SS: It'd be fairly accurate to describe my D&D experience as "a bit." It feels slightly shameful to admit it, especially with so many people claiming that I copy and pasted a campaign into the book, but I haven't actually played a whole lot of the game itself. I owned a lot of books on the subject and read them voraciously, but I lacked the patience to put them to play. I actually became a fan of D&D after I was attracted to books like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. I still hold those dear to my heart, as I devoured them messily from age 12 to 15, but by that point, I was finding the books a little hard to accept. You had adventures, but they were always a little too cut and dry for me (get money, stab bitches). Which segues nicely into your next question.


MH: Tome of the Undergates follows a small group of people you call Adventurers. Why Adventurers? And what is it that so many people in that world find revolting about them?

SS: I did, actually, start writing about adventurers because that's what I thought people wrote about in fantasy. By this time, I was reading a lot of new and interesting stuff, though, and when I went back to my story, I realized I had just written the same story that everyone else had. That wasn't what altered the story's path, though, so much as the fact that nothing made sense to me.

Adventuring is, as we've been led to believe, a pretty dangerous job: people pick up swords and, without any guarantee of ever coming back, go into dark, dirty places to perform an act that basically boils down to murdering someone and stealing all their stuff. Why would they be noble, kind-hearted and good? Why wouldn't they be greedy, spiteful and a little suicidal? That all sort of spiraled out of hand as I started questioning the ideas of fantasy that we sort of accept as real. Why would humans hate orcs but get along with elves? Why would priests be instantly armed with unshakable faith? Why would a wizard, someone who can bend the laws of reality to his whim, ever feel the need to acknowledge a higher power? Why would savages be noble and teach us more about ourselves than civilization ever could and not...you know, smearing themselves with feces and eating brains?

So I guess the answer to the cause for revulsion: if you met a dude who ran around killing people and taking their stuff, would you like him?

MH: Besides to help pay for your rent and dog food why should everyone get Tome of the Undergates? What do you think sets it apart from other fantasy books? I'm especially interested because you pointed out that nearly all the reviews of Tome thus far have mentioned wildly different aspects.

SS: Well, my ape fighting circuit takes care of rent, so no worries about that.

Really, I think the answer is right there, isn't it? Everyone has been taking different things from TOME and I couldn't be happier about that. Some people enjoy the fight scenes, some enjoy the characters, some enjoy the monsters; many frequently enjoy all three. I think that everyone will find at least something they like about the book because the book itself is a little hard to explain. There are moments of grittiness, to be sure, but even amidst the violence and the animosity, there are moments of tenderness and compassion amongst the characters. There's worldbuilding, of course, but a lot of it comes from the people who live in the world, rather than scenery and history.

The best endorsement I can give it is that, whatever they've loved, whatever they've hated, nobody reading TOME has been bored.

MH: You've been making quite a name for yourself through your blog, twitter, and various review blogs. You've even giving yourself the moniker "angriest man alive." Which just begs the question what would you do if a Carebear walked up to you and wanted a little cuddle from you?

SS: Are we talking Carebears proper or those degenerate swine known as the Carebear cousins? Who thought of that, anyway? "You know what Carebears are missing? Mental illnesses. Give that to them and they are effing set."

I really don't have a choice in being the angriest man alive. It was scientifically proven after my blood was tested for anger and the sample jumped clean off the slide and assumed the doctor's identity, sleeping with his wife, raising his children and eating his food while painting the man proper as an impostor and forcing him to stare from a prison made of lies into the horror that was once his own flesh.

MH: I was thinking the regular variety Carebears. Next I have something of a challenge for you and if you aren't up for it I would totally understand. Have you ever written much flash fiction? If so I'll give you a couple thoughts and leave it to you to write me an instant classic masterpiece. There is a restaurant. One room is left vacant except for a old rickety ladder is in the corner. That room's ceiling is covered with a variety of old doors. A little boy wanders in there. Go!

SS: The people above are hungry. This is what mama tells me. I go downstairs because we need more. We need more, she says, because the people are always hungry. I go in and I find the ladder. The doors start shaking. Mama knows what's behind them. I only know voices. I know the one behind the red door that says mean things, calling me words I can't find in the dictionary we have. I know the one behind the blue door that cries all the time and won't listen to me when I ask it to please be quiet. I know the one behind the green door that used to scream and cry but then started talking softly, telling me things about children my age who run on grass and get toys to play with. The doors never stop shaking until I leave. Today, though, one of them isn't shaking. I pick up the ladder and walk beneath it. It's the blue door. I'm sad. But I go up there, anyway. I wonder what the voice looks like. I wonder if maybe it's just sleeping and maybe I can talk to it today. But probably not. The people above are hungry.

MH: Wow! I didn't know you had it in you. This is creepy and cool at the same time. I'm proud to be the first to publish it.

Besides your short story Humane Killer with Diana Gabaldon in The Dragon Book are there any shorts available or that are planned to be published? Or are you just concentrating on the Aeons' Gate series? What are we in store for in the future from you?

SS: Humane Killer is pretty much it, I'm afraid. We'll see what happens later, but for the moment, I'm working hard to bring out BLACK HALO (the next in the Aeons' Gate Series), and after that, the third book. So You can definitely look forward to those in the impending years.

MH: You recently attended Eastercon, which is one of the bigger Cons in the UK. How was the experience? Also, just how many authors did you lick while there?

(image courtesy of Kamvision)

SS: Eastercon was something of a hoot. It was my second time in Britain, the first time being to meet everyone at Gollancz. I got to meet Joe Abercrombie in passing there, but the actions I took sealed our bitter, blood-deep hatred for each other. It was inevitable, really. We were two opposing forces; nothing quite so dramatic as fire and ice or light and darkness, more of a mild opposition...like cabbage and turnips. Of course, you already know he's cabbage. He just sort of looks like cabbage, doesn't he?

Anyway, I didn't get to lick anyone else. In fact, Mr. Newton, in addition to having eyelashes like moth wings, has the reflexes of a rabid koala. He quickly tumbled away from me the moment he knew what was happening and scrambled up a nearby tree, where he remained for the rest of the Con. I did, however, get to threaten to spit in his editor's mouth. You would have thought she'd be more grateful for the fact that I didn't...

MH: If Sam Sykes were a book what kind of book would he be?

I've always wanted to be one of those "forbidden" books, like the Necronomicon...or the Reaganomicon. The thing is, I'm actually quite a gossip and very bad at keeping secrets. So if I was one of them, I don't think I'd be a very good one. As people walked by, I'd like be sputtering out with my paper lips: "Hey! HEY! Forbidden shit, right in here! Come take a gander, why don't you? How about you, sugar-lips? Dare you look...inside these forbidden pages? Yes, come closer...place your tender hands upon my leathery cover. Yes, ease me out gentle...careful! My spine is so delicate. Yes, look upon me and...what? Well, yeah, there's nothing inside! It's a FORBIDDEN book. Who the fuck was going to think to look inside? Oh, don't you act like this was my fault, you little...hey! Get back here! You can't just leave me open like this! You're ruining the whole 'forbidden' angle!"

I've played this out a million times and it always ends like that.

MH: What are 2 things about you most people don’t know? Do you have a helper monkey to feed and bathe you?

SS I've been told I'm actually quite sweet, which may contradict the image many people have of me being naturally vengeful and sasquatchesque. Aside from that, I suppose one thing people don't know about me is that I never tell people things they don't know about me for fear that they are squirreling away secrets to use against me should I become wealthy, famous and/or possessed of super powers.

Of course, I already have super powers, but I'm not telling you what they are. One of them does involve a monkey, though. I've already said too much.

MH: What is your preferred type of hat? Do you have a horned helm somewhere around the house?

SS: You know, for awhile, I was really into hats when I was in high school. I have no idea why, really; they just seemed like a fun thing to collect. At my pinnacle, I had an army pith helmet, a fez, a top hat, a bowler derby (which I still have), a deerstalker cap and a coonskin cap. My most prized hat, however, was a replica of an 1800s British military helmet. You know, the kind that's all upright and sort of like a cone-head that the British used to wear when they went around kicking the world's collective nuts for a few decades?

I liked this one because, unlike many people my age, I actually had a British friend who would wear it and instantly assume an air of authority, which usually meant he would declare manifest destiny and take my sandwich. "For king and country," he claimed. I was going to argue with him, but he did have the helmet to prove it.

I've been sorely tempted to buy a horned helmet every time I go to the Renaissance Festival, but I've not yet mustered the nerve, mostly out of fear that it will go too well with my drinking horn and one day my ex-wife will read the headline: "HAIRLESS VIKING ARRESTED FOR PUBLIC INDECENCY, CALLING THE PRESIDENT AN 'OWLHOOT.'" None of us need to see that.

MH: And I'll leave the final word with you.

SS: Well, shit, man, everyone's read your review (and other fine reviews) of TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, so I guess if this interview convinces anyone to buy it, that's great. I'd have to wonder what was wrong with the other interviews I gave, though. What, were they just not wacky enough? Will you only support my ostentatious bachelor lifestyle if I dance for you like a mandrill? IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED TO SEE?!


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Recent Read Run-Down & Updatery

Over the last year I've been able to keep to a fairly consistent schedule of at least 4 posts a week if not more. Well, that has suffered a little the last month or so as I've had a lot going on at work. But that still hasn't kept me from keeping up to my review a week pledge, which is still going strong. Plus I've had a lot of things in the cooker that are finally coming to fruition.  Tomorrow look for a lively interview with one Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates. I'm quite proud of the interview in which both Sam and I let loose.  It is definitely one of my sillier interviews.  I've just sent the last batch of questions to Ian Tregillis whose debut Bitter Seeds just recently released and his answers so far have been great as I had some very pointed questions.  Look for that interview next week.  My long awaited interview with George Mann should be up sometime in May as well. Plus I've cornered Lou Anders to an interrogation interview of sorts as he has got loads going on.  I've also been reading a few books as well including a couple great debuts. Lately, I've been going for shorter reads so I've managed to get through quite a few, but as you can see from the list below my tastes have been all over the place.


The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee - This one was a bit of a stretch for me to begin, but around the 80 page mark things started to click as it was something of a culture shock at first.  Definitely not your typical Fantasy novel. The story is set in the icy north with Inuit type cultures that are clashing with the long established settlers from the east. These settlers now live to the south and have some long standing issues of their own with other groups after them.

Some characters have a spiritwalking/animal abilities that re-imagines the werewolf mythos into new and interesting areas. There is only a slight Steampunk bent to the novel, but I didn't learn until finishing that Karin has plans to do more with these characters so it looks like it'll be explored further. There is still much to be revealed about this world, especially the war that is brewing and how the spiritwalkers will play into it. Recommended, especially for those tired of a European/Anglo setting/feel.

Changes by Jim Butcher - The latest in the Dresden Files answers more questions than any of the previous volumes with lost of culminating events. In many ways this acts a a giant season finale.  Some of my cast favorites are inexplicably missing, but this series still hasn't disappointed me yet. Highly recommended, but only if you are caught up on the series.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - A very drool classic time twister that was slow and a little too detailed at times. It definitely took awhile to get going for me.  The first part of the story is very disjointed, but Willis had that planned from the start. Rarely will an author try to intentional confuse the reader as much as she did, but expertly so. Recommended.


Kid vs. Squid by Greg van Eekhout - A debut middle grade reader from van Eekhout whose adult debut Norse Code I enjoyed.  The story more than equals the fun of the title.  Atlantis mythology crossed with a seaside boardwalk equal loads of laughs and some great crustacean fighting action. I already know a couple kids who I'll be buying copies for.  Recommended for those look for a light read between Epics.

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis - This is Ian's stellar debut effort which shows incredible skill at setting and character development. Full review to come.  Highly recommended.

Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk - Another debut, which is one of the best Swords & Sorcery books I've read in this year. Great bloody action with hints of good things to come from what is a planned trilogy.  Full review to come. Highly recommended.  Look for an interview with Spunk in the near future. I actually finished it a couple months back, but Pyr wanted to wait until closer to publication before its release. This is also the first interview I've ever conducted where I hadn't read a book by the author first.

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois - It took me a little while to get through this mammoth collection, but it was worth it.  I couldn't help, but read the GRRM dunk story The Mystery Knight first, which if your a fan of the series will make it worth the cover price alone. I actually went back to re-read the first two Dunk & Egg stories before starting the third since it has been years.  All together they make a great tapestry into the earlier years of Westeros.  The Mystery Knight wasn't as entertaining as the first story, but we can finally get an inkling of what he as planned for these characters.  We know how they end up.  We just don't know precisely how they got there. The next standout to me was Joe Haldeman's Forever Bound, which is a prequel to his Forever Peace world. Great use of VR tech.  Dirae by Peter S. Beagle is quite a strange story, but it gets better the deeper you go as the style takes a few pages of getting use to as a warrior women keeps getting switched on and off to complete missions.  There were a few stories I didn't care for, but those turned out to be from authors I haven't enjoyed in the past so it was a bit expected.   A great collection all around.


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REVIEW | Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann (Pyr)

Steampowered cars. Check. Golems. Check. A dank Noir NYC. Check. Twisted people. Check. Strange gadgets. Check.

Ghosts of Manhattan is the first in a new series placed in the same world as Mann's Newbury & Hobbes only pushed into the future late 1920s. I enjoyed Mann's The Affinity Bridge, quite a bit, which is why I had to read Ghosts as soon as I nabbed a copy. With Ghosts of Manhattan Mann goes for the pulp comic feel of the early 20th century instead of a Shelockian pastiche he did so well. Mann's NYC is a version gorgeously accentuated set in a time period I love where Gangsters, big guns, and fast talking women rule. Mann succeeds fairly well especially with the action sequences, but there are some issues which boggled me quite a bit. Either way I did find myself enjoying the book even more than the Newbury series, which had to do a lot with the setting and dark nature of the characters.

Ghosts of Manhattan is like the dirty love child of H.P. Lovecraft and Bob Kane's Batman circa 1920s with flappers and prohibition in which The Ghost is after mob boss The Roman. Mann strings us along for a few chapters about the identity of the hero known as The Ghost, but I wish he had pushed it a bit further to really nail the separate personalities down a bit more. The mysterious Roman as an arch nemesis worked for the first half of the book along with his nefarious minions doing his bidding, but by the time he got directly involved he lost his ominous and dangerous presence even when finally taking center stage. The Ghost still manages quite a few hold-your-breath battles with clockwork Golems, loads of mobsters, and big gun fights that will more than keep you flipping the pages.


The Ghost himself is an also an intriguing character with his history and inventing capabilities, which have enabled him to create some interesting, if not buggy, gadgets along his way as a dark vigilante. Though there are some major problems with the narrative. Mann had the habit of holding out too much on the reader to the point when big plot points are revealed they didn't entirely fit in with what had been covered. For one the main love interest Celeste is left far too vague and when her history and connections are revealed it doesn't seem to make sense. A clue or two more would have helped. This also plays into the problems with not enough revealed about the main villain until the very end, which makes part of the plot feel too thin.

Overall, I recommend Ghosts of Manhattan with some reservations, but it will take hardly anytime to read as it zooms by with breakneck speeds at times and the stylization of the world and most characters is well done. If you're a steampunk fan looking for something a little bit different Ghosts of Manhattan is well worth checking out. Mann has done an admirable job of pushing the steam into the 20th century.

Ghosts of Manhattan is an adventurous pulp style story with shades of The Shadow, The Phantom Detective, and even a little of the noir side of Batman: The Animated Series. The world and story definitely lend themselves to a comic book audience, which may have been a better medium for it. The Cthulhu type universe intrigues me greatly, which I hope is further explored in future installments. I give Ghosts of Manhattan 7 out of 10 hats. I'll definitely be there for the sequel and I still have the second Newbury book The Osiris Ritual beckoning at me from the to-read shelf.


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Blog-o-versary giveaway winners

Sorry about not announcing the winner sooner. I was in charge of moving my company's offices for the last week, which also explains the sporadic posting this week.  But a review will be going up later today or tomorrow to keep my review streak alive.  The grand prize winner of Ares Express and one mystery book is Lynn Marler. The runner-up is Bryce Lee who will win one mystery book. Both winners should expect an e-mail shortly with the selections for their mystery book. Congratulations!

Covers Unveiled for Brandon Sanderson, Chris Wooding, & Pierre Peval


Quite a few new covers have been released recently with Gollancz's new catalog for the latter half of the year some of which have been seen other places, but I still wanted to show these off for one reason or another.  Also, note some of these covers are probably not in their final form.  First up we have the UK version of The Way of Kings, which echoes the look and style of the UK Mistborn covers, but falls short of the coolness of those. Also, I have to question the logic in staying to the same look for The Stormlight Archive since that is going to be a very long series (10+ books).  It would seem deserving of a look all its own at least with the type if not the art concept.



Retribution Falls blew me away recently and now we have the second Tale of the Ketty Jay Black Lung Captain to gander at and get our saliva percolating in anticipation.  The cover is in the class of the first with another gorgeous piece by Stephan Martiniere. Also, the short synopsis has been released.

Buckle up for heist action, thievery, shoot-outs and double-crossing galore


Darian Frey is down on his luck. He can barely keep his squabbling crew fed and his rickety aircraft in the sky. So when Captain Grist meets him, with news of a crashed aircraft laden with treasure, Frey is up for a death-or-victory getrich-quick scheme. If Grist is telling the truth then there’s a fortune up for grabs; it’s going to take all of Frey’s considerable skill at lying,cheating and stealing to get his hands on it...


Pierre Pevel's The Cardinal's Blades has been gaining nice accolades in the UK with liking it to an Alexandre Dumas novel crossed with dragons.  It has been translated from French and Pyr will be publishing The Cardinal's Blade in the next 12 months or so with the follow-up The Alchemist in the Shadows to follow, which is shown above. Pyr has also mention they'll be keeping the UK cover art, which is a smart idea, especially given both are done by Jon Sullivan, the artist behind many of my favorite recent covers including the US launch of The Shadows of the Apt series.  The cover is a little on the low resolution side, but I found the original art on Sullivan's site, which shows it off quite well.


Welcome to Paris in 1633, where dragons menace the realm. Cardinal Richelieu knows that France is under threat once again, and aims to counter it with his most trusted men: the Cardinal’s Blades. But they’re up against a man as elusive as he is manipulative, as subtle as Richelieu himself. The Alchemist in the shadows... Packed with beautiful, dangerous women, dashing rogues, and dragons, this is another triumph from Pierre Pevel.

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REVIEW | Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
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REVIEW | Clementine by Cherie Priest (Subterranean Press)

Cherie Priest's second long-form entry Clementine in The Clockwork Century world follows a side story from the Hugo nominated Boneshaker, which just happens to be one of my favorite reads from last year. Having read Boneshaker isn't necessary to enjoy Clementine, but it does add to some of the references made.

The story flips between two perspectives which are both uniquely idiosyncratic and well developed in their own right.   The stars are airship captain and escaped slave Croggon Hainey and former confederate spy and patriot Maria "Belle" Boyd. Both are something of a living legend or menace in this world depending on what side of the fence your are viewing from. Neither take crap from anyone.

Croggin is chasing after his airship the Free Crow, which was nefariously stolen from him in Seattle. Belle is sent to ensure the Free Crow reaches its destination without Croggin's interference. Belle is actually based on a true person of the same name who acted as a spy for the Confederate army. Priest builds on her history to create a very determined and dangerous character very much true to life. Clementine's greatest strength is the dialog of the main characters. Each has their own style that colors the characters perfectly.

Clementine is a much more subtle story than Boneshaker, but it is no less enthralling as every chapter moves at a brisk pace. Airship fights, spies, thieves, and giant guns all make Clementine a seriously steam-powered wild ride through the sky, which showcases a larger part of Priest's Clockwork Century fractured North America. The war of the North versus the South is still on going in the late 19th century filled with steam-powered weaponry and mad scientist trying to turn the tide of the war one way or the other.

I did feel Cherie had to rein herself in with the book to keep it to novella length as she clearly loves this world and its inhabitants. Hopefully, she'll treat us to more with Belle and Croggin. Belle definitely has an adventure left for here. I kept expecting more of a intimate relationship to develop between Croggin and Belle, but things do seem to have been left open somewhat in that regard. The story arc does complete itself rather well with a fitting culmination and a few surprises along the way. We also learn being a Mad Scientist doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad scientist.

(detail from Clementine art unused by Myke Amend)

Priest is gives us glimpses of a world that is wide and wild in a story that hardly touches the ground. Clementine shows off the southern flair that Cherie has become famous for, but will please even hardened Steampunk fans with her ingenuity at keeping everything fresh and yet historically stylized. I give Clementine 8 out of 10 hats. Cherie still has a lot more in store for us in The Clockwork Century including at least two more shorts and the next full length novel Dreadnought, which Tor will be releasing this September. She is definitely earning the moniker as the Queen of Steampunk, but she may have to duel it out with Gail Carriger in some sort of no holds-barred battle royale.


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So Much Steampunk, So Little Time
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INTERVIEW | Neal Asher author of The Skinner

British Fantasy and Philip K. Dick award nominee Neal Asher has been churning out very well regarded Sci-Fi in the UK scene for nearly ten years now with more than that many novels so far and many more on the way.  I only recently read The Skinner, which is one of his best known and earliest novels, but its shear depth was staggering at times while still being able to create well rounded characters in a wide universe with a huge history.  Most of his novels are set in one universe generally known as the Polity Universe, although there are a three distinct series set there.  I had to learn a bit more about Neal of his books so I went directly to the man himself to find out.


MH: You've created the Polity Universe, which started with water covered world of The Skinner, but you have a habit of filling many of its time periods with various series. What are the best entry points to this Universe for those uninitiated?

NEAL: The prequels Prador Moon and Shadow of the Scorpion are a pretty good place to start: nice short books not too taxing to begin with. For the hardened SF reader who likes to go in directly at doorstep level the first books of each series can stand alone: The Skinner and Gridlinked. There’s also my collection of short stories, The Gabble, if you’re a browser rather than a guzzler. And of course there’s the stand-alone called Hilldiggers. My general advice would be just don’t jump in at the middle of a series but, then again, I’ve spoken to people who have done just that and it hasn’t put them off.


(Polity books timeline - click to embiggen)

(Cover art by Jon Sullivan for The Line of Polity)

MH: Tor UK has been recently re-releasing many of your books with new cover art, which I must say are usually outstanding. I've noticed they're usually going with some sort of crazy looking monster-alien creature popping off the page. Before I had read The Skinner I thought they'd be a crazy Horror/Sci-Fi mash-up, while they are clearly more than that were you going for a Horror feel at all. Do many of the stories involve monsters of a sort?

NEAL: Yes, many of my stories involve monsters, some of which, of course, are human. I don’t think the intention was to go for a horror feel to the books, since the horror market is not exactly in the rude health it was in twenty or so years ago. I think here we have more of a case of unashamed cover design. This is science fiction, this is science fiction with aliens, big guns and weird robots and, no matter what any myopic twits in the publishing industry might think, we are not going to have a still-life cover featuring a rose and a handgun.

MH: I think fans appreciate it. You can only have so many ephemeral space stations and ringed world covers. Were any of your books particularly difficult to write? If so why? I noted in a past interview you considered writing a fairly easy job compared to your many manual labor jobs of the past.

NA: Nope, not an easy job but a preferable one. This all depends on what you mean by difficult. They all take about eight months of effort, some of which is sheer joy and most of which is drudge work. The Voyage of the Sable Keech was one in which plot lines proliferated and I had to hack them out remorselessly, Cowl was repetitive and required a lot of cutting and reordering, the last two books of the Cormac series required a great deal of attention to detail because they reference the previous three or four books and because I had to deliver an ending rather than cop-out with a deus ex machina. Let me put it this way: none of them have been easy to write.

MH: Do you think all of your early hard physical work help mold the types of tough characters you are know for? Do you ever base your characters on people you know?

NA: I’ve never based characters on people I know as a whole, though I do use fragments, what writer doesn’t? No, I don’t think that the physical work molds the characters, but I do think a certain pragmatism from those years of work informs them.

MH:What was your experience when you sold your first novel?

NA: Prior to being taken on by Macmillan I’d already sold and had published three books – two novellas and a collection of short stories – but I guess that’s not what you’re asking about. I’d been sending off my synopses and sample chapters for twenty or so years, one day I got a phone call from the editorial director of Pan who wanted to see me for a chat. I took my ammo of reviews and previously published stuff along (after putting him onto my website) and, after that meeting I was offered a contract for three books. It was exhilarating, and I felt turbo-charged throughout the following year. In fact, I’ve got two articles up on my site called ‘Getting There’ and ‘How it Happens’ which cover this.

MH: You recently mentioned on twitter you're working on researching your next book, which is tentatively titled Zero Point. Will this be part of the Polity Universe as well? What sort of research is this project entailing?

NA: This answers your question below too. In my last 3 book contract for Macmillan the middle book was one outside of the Polity Universe based on my ‘Owner’ stories in The Engineer ReConditioned. It is called The Departure and I finished it last year. The next book was to be another Polity book, provisionally titled Gabbleducks. Since The Departure was the start of an entire new series, the editor at Macmillan wanted to swap round my publishing schedule so the whole series would be published consecutively. I agreed and therefore knuckled down to finish the Polity book, which then acquired the title The Technician. So there are two books waiting in the queue and now I’m looking at writing the second book in the ‘Owner Sequence’ which is called Zero Point. The research I was referring to was into zero point energy since, if viable, it could lead to inertialess space drives and possibly tapping infinite energy from the very fabric of the universe, so I’m reading some books on that. If it all turns out to be bunkum (highly possible) the title might have to change.


MH: Who are some under rated authors you think should have a wider readership? Or any new authors we should be on the watch for?

NA: Generally, if they’re good, authors get the readership. As for new authors to watch out for, in the last two years I’ve not read anything notable from one. Prior to that I would have pointed straight at Peter Watts, Alan Campbell and Gary Gibson, but they’re probably old news now.

MH: In keeping with the name of the blog: What is your favorite type of hat? I see you as a tweed hat wearer.

NA: I just wear a woolly ski-type hat if I’m cold.

(Cover art by Jon Sullivan for Gridlinked)

MH: Congratulations on your recent contract signing for a 5 book deal with Macmillan that will continue your relationship with them for at least the next 5 years. What kind of moment was that for you? To know you'd have such job security for years to come and not to mention the vote of confidence that your publisher shows. Did you butter up Julie with a Skinner shaped cake?

I used no cakes on Julie, though I'm aware this is a technique other authors employ. Really, as far as job security is concerned, it isn't really there. These contracts lay out the terms of payment but, quite simply, if I produce a crappy book Macmillan retains the right to reject it, so really the security is in me continuing to produce good books. Of course I am happy about the big vote of confidence, but damn, this is my fifth contract (the previous four being 3-book ones) so I have much of a feeling of 'business as usual'. Also, this has come on top of them redesigning the covers of all my previous books and relaunching them which, in a way, I feel is a bigger vote of confidence.

MH: What are two things most people don't know about you?

I'm running a search through my mind at the moment and coming up blank. I spend such a lot of time communicating over the internet, on my blog, on Facebook and elsewhere, I've probably told people more about myself than I'm even aware of. Okay, here's a couple: I've still got all my teeth and I don't have an English mobile phone.

MH: Is there anything you'd like to add in closing?

Well, The Technician is out this August and The Departure is out the following year. For your perusal, here are the blurbs:

The Technician:

Twenty years after the fall of the Theocracy, a religious policeman, Jeremiah Tombs, the only living survivor of a hooder attack, has escaped his sanatorium. The scorpion drone Amistad lets him run, for though Polity technology could cure him, the AIs are reluctant to meddle since it was the near mythical Technician that attacked him, and it did something to his mind that even they don’t understand.

The amphidapt Chanter pursues the Technician in his mudmarine, trying to understand the grotesque sculptures of bones the creature makes with its victim’s remains, trying to understand its art. He is recruited by Amistad, along with ex-rebel Commander Lief Grant, and a lethal black AI everyone thought was dead.

Tombs could possess information about the racial suicide of the Atheter, but his self-destructive madness needs to be cured by confrontation with the reality about him, a reality in which the religion-hating Tidy Squad wants him dead. And meanwhile, in deep space, the mechanism the Atheter used to reduce themselves to animals, stirs from slumber and begins to power-up its weapons.


The Departure:

Like Wellsian war machines the shepherds stride into riots to grab up the ringleaders and drag them off to Inspectorate HQ for adjustment, unless they are in shredding mode, in which case their captives visit community digesters, or rather whatever of them has not been washed down the street drains.

Pain inducers are used for adjustment, and soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human being need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online…

Alan Saul has taken a different route to disposal, waking as he does inside a crate on the conveyor into the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Janus speaks to Saul through the hardware implanted in his skull, sketching the nightmare world for him. And Saul decides to bring it all crashing down…



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Happy Blog-o-versary! & Giveaway

I knew the one year anniversary for Mad Hatter's Bookshelf was coming up, but I nearly forgot now that it is here. It was a year ago today that my first review went up and now with more than 170 posts, 80 book reviews, a dozen interviews, which includes one going up later today with Neal Asher, it looks like I'll be continuing on for the foreseeable future. I like to think this blog has come a long way since that review and has gained a good following in so short a time.  One of my goals when I started was to keep this a regularly updated site and even though it has been a struggle at times I've kept it up.  My run of at least one book review a week stands even though there have been some close calls.   My writing has improved, which was another goal although this is always a work in progress.  But ultimately my wanting to spread the love of all the books I read beyond my small circle of friends seems to be working out as well. And I've had loads of good discussions with many of you for which I want to thank you all for with a special shout out to my wife who nudged me along the whole way.

To thank my loyal and new readers I'm giving away an ARC of Ares Express by Ian McDonald and one mystery book. A second place winner will also be chosen for a mystery book. To enter send an email to madhatterreview (AT) gmail (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address and "BLOGOVERSARY" in the subject line. Also, include whether you are more of a Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or Urban Fantasy fan, which I'll use to give the winners a list of books from my vast library to choose from for the mystery book. These could end up being almost anything. The deadline is midnight April 21st. I'll announce the winner on the following day or as soon as I remember. This contest is open to the people of the United States only. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest.

OPINION | What Kind of Connections Do You Make With Books? Or why I didn't want to buy it online?


In my recent procurement post the other day I mentioned my desire to buy Gene Wolfe's Shadow & Claw in a bookstore instead of online. Or to be more precise:
I've been looking for this book on and off for the last couple of years, but whenever I think of it the store I'm in only seems to have the second volume. For some reason there are some books I want to buy in a store and some I'll buy online. In this case I wanted to grab it in store.
Now this essay could have easily focused on the fact that most bookstores have a poor stocking of backlist books (that's publisher jargon for older books), but I felt the less trod upon idea is one of personal memories made with said books. The more I& pondered about this thought the more I wanted to discover the why. Not about why I like a certain book or why I buy a particular book, but more on why I buy them where I do and what types of associations I make with these books.  Sometimes a book doesn't evoke memories of the story, but the story of your life at the time when you read it or where you found it.

(no books were actually harmed in the
montaging of this image)

Like most people I obtain my books from a wide swathe of sources. Of course I receive a good number of review copies from publishers, but I'm still a big book purchaser. I have to go to a real bookstore at least every two weeks (more often if I can), but I also buy online regularly, especially pre-orders and I've even been known to use PaperBackSwap.com and BookCrossing.com from time-to-time. However, there are some books I need to buy in person to get the right satisfaction out of the purchase. A lot of this also has something to do with the inner hunter spirit trying to get out from the cave I've sequestered it in to spear that elusive white rhino. To get that special find in your cross hairs you've been desiring for awhile along with the instant satisfaction and feel of it in your hands. To know you put in more effort than a couple clicks of the mouse and a few key strokes.

The proliferation of internet buying has taken the fun somewhat out of a good book hunt. I can remember only 6 or 7 years ago calling around to bookstores to find a particular book and making the trek there or even doing mail order a couple times if the book in question was nowhere to be found around me. Also, it gives certain bookstores good street cred in my eyes if they have a book I've been scouring for and this fact will make me go back to that store even if it's out of the way. And don't tell me about special ordering the book in a particular store. That takes all the fun out of it.  One habit I have is when I travel for vacation or work is to always drop by a local bookstore and pick-up a book. I nearly always remember where I bought said book, which is accompanied by memories of the place.


Traveling into those old dusty bookstores where you just want to pitch a tent and camp out for days because you never know what you're going to come upon is what I'm after. To find my personal Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There is one store in particular that comes to mind: Dauphine Street Books in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I've been to NOLA at least a half dozen times before, but they were the find on the last trip as one thing you do in New Orleans is wander about the Quarter. What caught my eye was a women putting out a box of books on a stoop with a little "$1 each - Pay& Inside" sign. I look up and what do I see but the glorious sight and musty smell of a store so packed with books you can barely move around in it because of the waist height piles in every already narrow aisle.

I spent 2 hours in that tightly packed store and had 8 books at one point, but winnowed it down to 4 because tough decisions must be made when traveling. Of those I can't remember one, but two others have become very cherished in my collection with the last still unread. The two cherish volumes are my numbered edition of Adventures in the Dream Trade by Neil Gaiman, which was a steal at $50 especially since I had never seen it before and The Bear Who Went Over the Mountain by Walter Kotzwinkle, which turned out to be one of the funniest books I've ever read. What happens now every time I look at these books is a memory of  the good times I spent in that bookstore and by extension my vacation. And also the beignets  Can't forget those delicious puffs of fried dough... drool....


Than we have the idea of how where you first read a book can ingrain itself in you. For me the foremost example of this is Chronicles by Bob Dylan. I bought it right before I went on my honeymoon. I see it every time I look at my bookshelf where the memories flood back of sitting on the most perfect beach while reading along side my wife and the adventures we had on that trip. All of this has to do with creating more of a real connection to the experiences had while reading the book and not just the story. Not that they aren't important too.

Feel free to chime in with books and stories that bring back your most vivid memories.


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FREE FICTION | The Black Prism by Brent Weeks sample chapters


Orbit has the first 3 chapters of The Black Prism by Brent Weeks up on their site, which certainly gets my Epic Fantasy juices going.  Thanks to TheBlackPrism.net for the tipoff. Also, a word of warning. I bet these are not the final version as Weeks only recently finished the manuscript and edits are still underway, but this is the best glimpse we've gotten so far especially after the spoilery synopses to date.




The Black Prism
Chapter 1

Kip crawled toward the battlefield in the darkness, the mist pressing down, blotting out sound, scattering starlight. Though the adults shunned it, he’d played on the open field a hundred times–during the day. Tonight, his purpose was grimmer.

Reaching the top of the hill, Kip stood and hiked up his pants. The river behind him was muttering obscenities, or maybe that was the warriors beneath its surface, dead these sixteen years. Kip squared his shoulders, ignoring his imagination. The mists made it seem he was suspended, outside of time. But even if there was no evidence of it, the sun was coming. By the time it did, he had to get to the far side of the battlefield. Farther than he’d ever gone searching.

Even Ramir, wouldn’t come out here at night. Everyone knew Sundered Rock was haunted. But Ram didn’t have to feed his family; his mother didn’t smoke her wages.

Gripping his little belt knife tightly, Kip started walking. It wasn’t just the unquiet dead that might pull him down to the evernight. A pack of giant javelinas had been seen roaming the night, tusks cruel, hooves sharp. They were good eating if you had a matchlock, iron nerves, and good aim, but since the Prisms’ War had wiped out all the town’s men, there weren’t many people who braved death for a little bacon. Rekton was already a shell of what it had once been. Thealcaldesa wasn’t eager for any of her townspeople to throw their lives away. Besides, Kip didn’t have a matchlock.

Nor were javelinas the only creatures that roamed the night. A mountain lion or a golden bear would also probably enjoy a well-marbled Kip.

A low howl cut the mist and the darkness hundreds of paces deeper into the battlefield. Kip froze. Oh, there were wolves too. How’d he forget wolves?

Another wolf answered, farther out. A haunting sound, the very voice of the wilderness. You couldn’t help but freeze when you heard it. It was the kind of beauty that made you shit your pants.

Wetting his lips, Kip got moving. He had the distinct sensation of being followed. Stalked. He looked behind himself. There was nothing there. Of course. His mother always said he had too much imagination. Just walk Kip. Places to be. Animals are more scared of you and all that. Besides, that was one of the tricks about a howl, it always sounded much closer than it really was. Those wolves were probably leagues away.

Before the Prisms’ War, this had been excellent farmland. Right next to the Umber River, suitable for figs, grapes, pears, dewberries, asparagus–everything grew here. And it had been sixteen years since the final battle–a year before Kip was even born. But the plain was still torn and scarred. A few burnt timbers of old homes and barns poked out of the dirt. Deep furrows and craters remained from cannon shells. Filled now with swirling mist, those craters looked like lakes, tunnels, traps. Bottomless. Unfathomable.

Most of the magic used in the battle had dissolved sooner or later in the years of sun exposure, but here and there broken green luxin spears still glittered. Shards of solid yellow underfoot would cut through the toughest shoe leather.

Scavengers had long since taken all the valuable arms, mail, and luxin from the battlefield, but as the seasons passed and rains fell, more mysteries surfaced each year. That was what Kip was hoping for–and what he was seeking was most visible in the first rays of dawn.

The wolves stopped howling. Nothing was worse than hearing that chilling sound, but at least with the sound, he knew where they were. Now… Kip swallowed on the hard knot in his throat.
To continue reading: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3


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New Procurements including a rarity, a couple classics, and more

As you can tell from the photo below a large pile of goodness has graced my doorstep yet again. This is quite an oddball collection as two classics I've been meaning to read have made their way here. I also managed to find one somewhat rare book that I've been checking prices online from over a year and finally bit the bullet.


Swords and Deviltry: Lankhmar Book 1 (The Adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) by Fritz Leiber and read by Jonathan Davis - The Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books are some the the most esteemed work in Swords and Sorcery with Leiber virtually inventing the genre. Brilliance Audio is planning to release each volume in audio for the first time or so I believe. I've been meaning to check out this series for more than a decade so I couldn't turn down a review copy and I'll definitely be making time for this in the near future. I think this series will work well in the audio format as each book is a string of short stories.

In the snowy reaches of ancient land ruled by witches and demons, the young prince Fafhrd battles his clan for his honor and freedom.

Beset by the spells of his evil mother and enchanted by the dancing of a beautiful actress, Fafhrd is driven into exile by his uncontrollable desire for adventure and exotic love.

Meanwhile, the apprentice magician - the Gray Mouser - returns to Nehwon from a quest only to find his master, the great white wizard, dead. With revenge in his heart, the Gray Mouser risks everything to inflict vengeance on the evil Duke, gaining in the process an unholy access to the evil arts of black magic.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — brothers in arms — meet one dark night in the great and amoral city of Lankhmar, the glittering gem of Nehwon. Fighting side by side, they cement a friendship that will span the ages and lead them to the outer reaches of Nehwon and beyond…


The Mirrored Heavens and The Burning Skies by David J. Williams - The first two books in Williams's Autumn Rain trilogy supposedly reinvigorate the Cyberpunk genre.  John and Graeme both had very nice things to say about the first volume.  Also, check out the author's very well put together site for the series, which gives you a good idea of the world he envisions.

In the 22nd century, the first wonder of a brave new world is the Phoenix Space Elevator, designed to give mankind greater access to the frontier beyond Earth. Cooperatively built by the United States and the Eurasian Coalition, the Elevator is also a grand symbol of superpower alliance following a second cold war. And it’s just been destroyed.

With suspicions rampant, armies and espionage teams are mobilized across the globe and beyond. Enter Claire Haskell and Jason Marlowe, U.S. counterintelligence agents and former lovers—though their memories may only be constructs implanted by their spymaster. Now their agenda is to trust no one. For as the crisis mounts, the lives of all involved will converge in one explosive finale—and a startling aftermath that will rewrite everything they’ve ever known—about their mission, their world, and themselves.


The Reef by Mark Charan Newton - This is Newton's true debut despite the fact many think Nights of Villjamur has that honor.  I had to track down this copy through the used market in the UK for a somewhat fair price as word on the street is only 300 copies or so were produced, which makes this quite a rarity if true. The Reef was published by small UK publisher Pendragon Press who are up to some interesting things at the moment..

Has-jahn: a continent of exotic cultures, cities and long-forgotten technology. Two members of a race once thought extinct wash up on the shores near the city of Escha. In their possession is a call for help from a human living on the little-known tropical island of Arya, where their race is being murdered. A crew of freelance explorers, led by the charismatic Santiago DeBrelt, travels to discover the mystery behind the killings. However, Santiago's controversial nature leads to him being accompanied by government agents — who wish to explore Arya and find out why Eschan naval vessels have disappeared in the seas surrounding it.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Rhoam, a city in central Has-jahn, a band of terrorists are embarking upon an epic journey to the very same waters. Still angry from an old war with Escha, they've gathered explosives and weapons, and will allow nothing to interfere with their quest for a phenomenal revenge. But secret pasts are revealed and soon all eyes turn to the coral reef off the coast of Arya.


With Great Power... Edited by Lou Anders -  If you follow here regularly you've probably heard me make mention of this great superhero themed concept anthology, which is why I'm quite happy to have received an ARC of one of my most desired anthologies of the year.   Also, checkout this awesome cover, which Lou recently unveiled. I also learned a thing about comic characters and art.  Apparently the first artist to illustrate a characters shares in creation rights with the writer of said character, which is why the cover does not depict a specific character from the anthology.



Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe - This is the first omnibuses of Wolfe's highly vaulted genre twisting series The Book of the New Sun. I've been looking for this book on and off for the last couple of years, but whenever I think of it the store I'm in only seems to have the second volume.  For some reason there are some books I want to buy in a store and some I'll buy online.  In this case I wanted to grab it in store.  Does this happen to anyone else?  I also picked this one up because of Larry's recent challenge to bloggers, which pushed me to again track down a copy.

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis - This is Ian's debut effort, which has been low on my radar, but when a review copy happily materialized it has quickly caught my eye again.  This is the start to The Milkweed Triptych which mixes WWII action involving demons and genetic supermen. Tregillis is also part of GRRM's Wild Cards collective. Be sure to check out the author's uber cool website.

It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the tale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different.


Dragonfly Falling and Blood of the Mantis by Adrian Tchaikovsky - These are the second and third books of the Shadows of the Apt series, the first of which Empire in Black and Gold I absolutely loved. I'm thinking of doing a trilogy review together in the near future once I make my way through them all.

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New Procurements, February 24, 2010
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Bite Me Winners


The lucky winners of Bite Me by Christopher Moore are:

Kathleen Popovsky from Elmhurst who's favorite Moore character is Pocket from Fool and Ken aka Neth from Flagstaff who loves the Biffmeister from Lamb.

Both winners are in store for a fun ending to the series.

FREE FICTION | Ari Marmell's The Orge's Pride

Ari Marmell and Spectra have put up a short story titled The Orge's Pride placed in the world of The Conqueror's Shadow. I've been reading fairly good things about The Conqueror's Shadow from a few reputable sources and this story does hit a few of my buttons. I'm hotly awaiting Marmell's next new work The Goblin Corps due from Pyr later next year, which should turn some Fantasy tropes upside down just the way I like it.  And now without further adieu the start to The Orge's Pride:

He ran, ran as he hadn't run in years. Broad sticks splintered beneath his heavy boots, driven deep into gritty soil. Branches whipped his face, scrub scraped at his calves above his boots, raising welts that remained all but invisible against skin red enough to suggest an agonizing sunburn. Or at least it would have, had he been human.

On an ogre, it was typical enough, no more abnormal than the single eye that darted frantically left and right, seeking any possible escape, or the horn that snagged on overhanging boughs and left a rain of dismembered leaves falling in his wake. He crashed directly through the trees where he could, snapping branches and saplings without slowing, darting around the larger trunks where even his prodigious strength proved insufficient to clear his path. And still he heard the sounds of pursuit, drawing ever nearer. The trees were not tightly packed here, and those who followed him could fit between and flit around far more easily than he.

Damn it all, he hadn't even wanted this! He'd killed neither man nor woman, save when forced to defend himself, in almost three years. Not since he'd turned apostate, forsaking the worship of Chalsene Night-Bringer. Since he'd given up serving Lord Corvis Rebaine, the so-called Terror of the East.

Since he'd abandoned his tribe, in search of something better. Something he still hadn't found, and was starting to doubt even existed.

He'd been on the hunt that morning, seeking a deer or perhaps an unguarded sheep or cow on which to munch as he made his way across the plains of Imphallion. He traveled mostly at night—even before Rebaine's campaign of terror, an ogre near any of the nation's cities or highways could expect a welcome carried on the fletching of arrows—but he'd thought himself far enough from civilization that he could risk a daylight excursion.

No such luck. He never learned why they were there—perhaps some nobleman just wanted a change of scenery, or maybe this misfortune was the vengeance of Chalsene himself—but even as he'd darted across a length of back road that should have been empty, he'd stumbled directly into the path of a small procession. A heavy carriage-and-four, its wood painted black and emblazoned with the ensign of a golden gauntlet, was trundling up the path, surrounded by no fewer than a dozen mounted knights.

Knights who were, perhaps understandably, unwilling to wait and find out just precisely why an ogre twice their own height had appeared in their liege's way.
Read the rest of the story here.


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The League of S.T.E.A.M. is a fun little web series well worth checking out, especially on a lazy Friday afternoon.  Think of them as a Steampunk style Ghostbusters and you'll just be about there.  All of their videos can be found here.



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REVIEW | Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

Retribution Falls is one of those books I kept hearing unbelievably good things about to the point I thought it couldn't live up to the hype. Well, hype is probably not right.  More like unabashed praise from most quarters, which is why I went to the trouble of getting the book from the UK. But than I let the book languish in my to-read pile for months because I wanted to separate myself from what was said so my dreams wouldn't be too dashed as often happens when you build something up.

Retribution Falls has been called everything from a Steampunk Firefly to Jack Sparrow in a sky ship, both of which just ooze thoughts of wild adventure. I can now say unequivocally that Retribution Falls deserves every good word said and many more. Retribution Falls starts on a compelling high note and never lets up. It'll have you holding your breath in anticipation dozens of times. Retribution Falls has already been recently named for the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist of just 6 titles.

Retribution Falls is a hard book to classify. It has classic elements of Fantasy, but with Sci-Fi tech akin to Steampunk yet I hesitate to put it in that camp as it is much more advanced. Retribution Falls is much more than a Firefly riff as it is like an entire season without one lull compressed into less than 375 pages of complete and utter bliss. I do wonder if it would exist without the influence of Joss Whedon, but either way Wooding does an incredible job of creating a group of the most compelling characters I've found in sometime and he makes you care about nearly each and everyone of them right down to the sleep asphyxiating cat.

Darian Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, who is quite the sordid ne'er-do-well to the nth degree. Frey's only cares are that he own the Ketty Jay and that no other may posses or even pilot her. His crew has been a revolving door for years, where few of stayed or lived long enough to decide if they want to stay. The ship's doctor is a drunk. The mechanic a virtual mute. The Ketty Jay also has two out-fliers, which are smaller aircraft that provide support, reconnaissance, and much needed gun power on their run, but they are piloted by a very loathsome young man and another who is so war-beaten he can't part with his ship. There is also a mysterious passenger with access to some very unusual science/magic, especially with his dutiful metal monstrosity at his beck and call. And not to forget their brand spanking new female pilot with a puzzling pass and a secret that could mean her ostracization at any moment. Each and every character is larger than life and grow on you more and more. The character's back stories were released a perfect points and really nailed where the character came from and the motivation or lack thereof for their current situation.

From the dialogue with supremely funny re-joiners to the a world  that is so well realized, Retribution Falls is a can't miss novel. It is touching in all the right places and a non-stop adventure from start to finish. I feel like I'm gushing a bit on this, but it is without a doubt one of my favorite books this year. I only wish I got to it sooner, but than the wait for book two would be even longer. But not to worry, there is a clear resolution for the story and most of the crew of the Ketty Jay except for one character who will probably need a whole book in and of itself to properly address. The whole plot is intricately and smartly laid out that all quarters are covered.

The fast and furious Retribution Falls is a staggeringly and ridiculously good page turner. The quality of the writing is close to that of Scott Lynch and has left room for so many more immersive stories for the crew of the Ketty Jay. I give Retribution Falls 9.5 out of 10 hats. This is the first time I can remember pre-ordering the second book in a series before even finishing the first. It is that good. The sequel The Black Lung Captain will be released this July in the UK and it can't get here soon enough for me. Wooding has already signed on for two more volumes of the Ketty Jay for release a year apart with the third currently titled The Iron Jackal. The first two books will be published in the US by Spectra in 2011 in October for the first and the second in November. Wooding also has a series of prequel type vignettes in the guise of Frey's Logbook, which certainly gives a nice entry into this world on the mind of its captain.


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