Interview with DJANGO WEXLER

WexlerD-AuthorPicWelcome back to Civilian Reader. For new readers, let’s start with an introduction: Who is Django Wexler?

Hmm. Fantasy novelist, games enthusiast, student of history and economics, once and future programmer, cat wrangler. Something like that?

Your latest novel, The Infernal Battalion, will be published by Ace in January. It’s the fifth novel in your Shadow Campaigns series. How would you introduce the series to a new reader, and what can fans of the first four books expect from this new novel?

The Shadow Campaigns is military fantasy set in a Napoleonic world – muskets, cannon, cavalry, and subtle and hidden magic. It follows the spectacular career of Janus bet Vhalnich, a young officer who rises fast amidst a revolution, focusing on the men and women who follow him and where their loyalties truly lie. Continue reading

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New Books (August-September)

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Featuring: James Barclay, J. Patrick Black, Lila Bowen, Edward Cox, Blake Crouch, John French, Mira Grant, Mark Hill, Gregg Hurwitz, Greg Iles, Eowyn Ivey, Vic James, K.V. Johansen, Owen Laukkanen, John le Carré, Jill Leovy, Tim O’Mara, Susan Perabo, Sarah Perry, Anthony Riches, George Saunders, Amy Schumer, Alan Sepinwall, Matt Zoller Seitz, Michael Tolkin, Neely Tucker, Karine Tuil, Wendy N. Wagner, Django Wexler, Colson Whitehead, Fran Wilde Continue reading

New Books (July)

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Featuring: Libba Bray, Mason Cross, Max Gladstone, Christie Golden, John Gwynne, Louisa Hall, Benedict Jacka, Mike Lawson, James Luceno, Maggie Mitchell, Jamie Schultz, Django Wexler, Chris Wraight Continue reading

New Books (May)

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Featuring: Michael Arnold, Rob Boffard, Mike Brooks, James L. Cambias, Wesley Chu, John Henry Clay, James S.A. Corey, Cindy Dees, Bill Flippin, David Hair, Laurell K. Hamilton, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrew Michael Hurley, N.K. Jemisin, Chuck Klosterman, Gayle Lynds, K.M. McKinley, David Mitchell, Keith Richards, Slash, Bradley Somer, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Mick Wall, Django Wexler, Bill Willingham Continue reading

Books Received… (Amazon Associates Pay-Back)

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I’ve been signed up to the Amazon Associates programme for what feels like forever, but this month was the first time I’ve earned enough to receive pay-back. So, as I always intended to do, that money will be going towards books that I will be reviewing here. Given the timing, some of this money will go towards buying eBooks of ARCs I’ve received and won’t be able to take with me to Canada. (Sad.) Much like the “Books Received” posts, therefore, I thought I’d share details on the books I bought (so far) with the Amazon credit…

Featuring: Megan Abbott, Edward Cox, Mark Charan Newton, Joanna Rakoff, Django Wexler

AbbottM-QueenpinUKMegan Abbott, Queenpin (Simon & Schuster)

A young woman hired to keep the books at a down-at-heel nightclub is taken under the wing of the infamous Gloria Denton, a mob luminary who reigned during the Golden Era of Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. The moll to end all molls, Gloria is notoriously cunning and ruthless. She shows her eager young protégée the ropes, ushering her into a glittering whirl of late-night casinos, racetracks, betting parlours, inside heists and big, big money. Suddenly, the world is at her feet — as long as she doesn’t take any chances, like falling for the wrong guy.

It all falls to pieces with a few turns of the roulette wheel, as both mentor and protégée scramble to stay one step ahead of their bosses and each other.

In the tradition of hardboiled potboilers such as Double Indemnity and The Grifters and mob tales such as Goodfellas, Queenpin offers a feminine twist on a classic story of underworld seduction and greed, or tortured loyalty and inevitable betrayal.

I still haven’t read anything by Abbott, but I now have four of her novels – Dare Me, The End of Everything, and The Fever as well as this one. I’ve heard nothing but excellent things.

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CoxE-RG1-RelicGuild2014Edward Cox, The Relic Guild (Gollancz)

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls 100 feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

Because I read an early version, loved it, and can’t wait to read the final version. It’s also available as part of Gollancz’s 2014 Debuts eBook Promotion, so it’s only £1.99.

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NewtonMC-DrakenfeldPBMark Charan Newton, Drakenfeld (Tor UK)

The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive…

Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered – her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.

I have no idea why I haven’t read this, yet. I loved Newton’s first series, The Legends of the Red Sun, after all. I think it arrived during one of my fantasy-fatigue moments, so got put back. Now I have no excuse.

Also on CR: Interview with Mark Charan Newton; Catch-Up Interview; Reviews of The Nights of Villjamur, City of Ruin, The Book of Transformations, and The Broken Isles

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RakoffJ-MySalingerYearUKJoanna Rakoff, My Salinger Year (Bloomsbury)

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J.D. Salinger. She spends her days in the plush, wood-panelled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Brooklyn apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend.

Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities and struggling to trust her own artistic sense, Joanna is given the task of answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back…

I’m actually reading this at the moment, having started it last night. In fact, I should have it finished tonight, and reviewed by the end of the week. It’s a… strange read. I can’t stop reading it, and the prose is very breezy, but at the same time I can’t figure out if I like it or find it really irritating. Hopefully I’ll have figured this out by the time I review it. My Salinger Year is not what I was expecting – in some ways, this is very disappointing, while in others it has been better than expected.

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WexlerD-2-ShadowThroneUKDjango Wexler, The Shadow Campaign (Del Rey UK)

Anyone can plot a coup or fire an assassin’s bullet. But in a world of muskets and magic, it takes considerably more to seize the throne.

The ailing King of the Vordan lies on his deathbed. When he dies, his daughter, Raesinia Orboan, will become the first Queen Regnant in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. The most dangerous of these is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and master of the secret police. Having meticulously silenced his adversaries through intimidation, imprisonment, and execution, Orlanko is the most feared man in the kingdom.

And he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.

Exposure would mean ruin, but Raesinia is determined to find a way to break herself – and her country – out of Orlanko’s iron grip. She finds unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, fresh from a brilliant campaign in the colony of Khandar, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass.

As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could free Vordan from Orlanko’s influence – at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise

Really enjoyed the first novel in the series, The Thousand Names, and also the short story The Penitent Damned. I am, therefore, very much looking forward to reading this. It’s out on July 3rd. The Shadow Campaign has already been garnering good reviews, so I’m rather excited about starting this ASAP. Maybe on Thursday, as soon as it’s delivered to my Kindle…

Also on CR: Interview with Django Wexler; Reviews of The Thousand Names and The Penitent Damned; Guest Post on Terry Pratchett

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Upcoming: THE SHADOW THRONE by Django Wexler (Del Rey UK / Roc Books)

Now that there’s a UK cover, I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention the second novel in Django Wexler’s flintlock fantasy series, The Shadow Campaigns: THE SHADOW THRONE. Interestingly (to me, anyway), this time I think I prefer the US cover over the UK artwork:

WexlerD-2-ShadowThrone

UK / US Covers

Here’s the synopsis:

Anyone can plot a coup or fire an assassin’s bullet. But in a world of muskets and magic, it takes considerably more to seize the throne.

The ailing King of the Vordan lies on his deathbed. When he dies, his daughter, Raesinia Orboan, will become the first Queen Regnant in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. The most dangerous of these is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and master of the secret police. Having meticulously silenced his adversaries through intimidation, imprisonment, and execution, Orlanko is the most feared man in the kingdom.

And he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.

Exposure would mean ruin, but Raesinia is determined to find a way to break herself – and her country – out of Orlanko’s iron grip. She finds unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, fresh from a brilliant campaign in the colony of Khandar, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass.

As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could free Vordan from Orlanko’s influence – at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise

The Shadow Throne is due to published in July 2014 by Del Rey UK and Roc Books in the US.

Also on CR: Interview with Django Wexler; Guest Post by Django Wexler; Reviews of The Thousand Names and The Penitent Damned

Short Story Reviews, Flintlock Fantasy Edition: HOPE’S END by Brian McClellan & THE PENITENT DAMNED by Django Wexler

Two new short stories from the new wave of flintlock fantasy authors

McClellanB-HopesEndHOPE’S END by Brian McClellan

Captain Verundish has two problems. On campaign with the Adran army and far from her homeland, she is helpless when the young daughter she left at home is threatened. To make matters worse, General Tamas has put her lover in command of a Hope’s End — the first charge through a breach straight into the teeth of enemy cannon and sorcery. To save the people she loves, Verundish will have to come up with a deadly solution…

This is a pretty interesting story. A “Hope’s End” is the first charge against a fortress or other reinforced emplacement. It is pretty much guaranteed death. Tamas likes to select those who bought their commissions to lead these hopeless endeavours. In this case, however, Captain Verundish is in love with the man chosen to lead the next Hope’s End. With trouble back home (her husband is an asshole, and threatening the welfare of her daughter), the story actually opens with her contemplating suicide. Instead, she decides to volunteer to take over the Hope’s End, with the expectation of dying and guaranteeing her daughter’s financial future. Naturally, not all plans go according to plan.

Anyone who was disappointed at the lack of female characters in Promise of Blood will be pleased with Captain Verundish. She’s an interesting character, and I like the way she handles the personal and professional tests she’s presented with. The battle scene is pretty good, too – it’s focused, tightly-plotted, and not over-written. It is followed by an example of how good a leader Tamas is off the battlefield. It’s nice that McClellan has actually paid attention to developing our understanding of why Tamas is such a beloved leader – rather than just telling us that he is, and letting that be the end of it. It’s a good story. (This is set when Tamas’s son, Taniel, is only two years old.)

Well written, this is another good introduction to McClellan’s writing and fantasy world. I really like the way the author has been releasing these short stories to add more to our overall picture and understanding of the pre-coup world. Certainly recommended, and a must-read for fans of the novel. This has only increased my anticipation for The Crimson Campaign

Also on CR: The Girl of Hrusch Avenue Review, Interview with Brian McClellan, Guest Posts Favourite Novel and Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy

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Wexler-PenitentDamnedTHE PENITENT DAMNED by Django Wexler

Alex is a master thief, with dark magic to give her an edge. When she goes up against Duke Orlanko’s Concordat secret police, though, she may have taken on more than she bargained for…

I read Wexler’s The Thousand Names recently, and thought it was a very interesting start to a new series. In The Penitent Damned, the author takes us far from the location of his novel, and back to a city under control of Duke Orlanko. Alex, the protagonist, has always had special abilities which have given her an edge in her chosen profession. Schooled by a former master-thief, she has taken a job in the city. Frustratingly, to go into much more detail about the story will ruin it (it’s a very short story). We get a glimpse of more of what is going on behind the scenes. We learn just a little bit more about certain events at the end of The Thousand Names, which opens up some intriguing possibilities for the next book in the series. All very cryptic, but I think if you read the novel, and then this short story, you’ll see why I don’t want to go into too much detail. We get to see more magic in action, this time around (which didn’t feature as much in Thousand Names). And it was very cool, giving rise to some good action scenes.

Even if you haven’t read the novel, though, this is a pretty good introduction to Wexler’s writing style and fantasy world. I’d recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet decided if they want to read The Thousand Names, as well as fans of the novel. Wexler is, I believe, definitely an author to watch. A very satisfactory short story, discussed in a rather unsatisfactory review. Sorry about that.

Also on CR: Interview with Django Wexler, Guest Post on Terry Pratchett