Excerpt & Covers: TOMOE GOZEN Series by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (Open Road Media)

SalmonsonJA-TG1-DisfavoredHeroOpen Road Media will be publishing Jessica Amanda Salmonson‘s Tomoe Gozen series in eBook for the first time this year. The three novels — The Disfavored Hero, The Golden Naginata and Thousand Shrine Warrior — will be available from April 7th, 2015. Here’s the synopsis for the first novel:

Forced to betray her lord, a disgraced samurai fights to regain her honor

In the fabled land of Naipon, there is no warrior more feared, no samurai more respected than the legendary Tomoe Gozen, whose twin blades can change the course of any battle. After years of service to Lord Shigeno, she is about to renew her oath of loyalty when the sky darkens and a cry of rebellion comes from the hills. Possessed by an evil wizard, the peasants are marching against their master. Tomoe holds off the wave of pitchfork-wielding farmers for as long as she can. Finally, the battle overwhelms her, and the greatest samurai in Naipon falls dead.

She awakes in hell, on a slope lined with bloody corpses. After an eternity of fighting, she reaches the summit and finds herself in the chamber of a wizard who restores her to life. She is alive — but now she must do his bidding. Her honor has been shattered, but Tomoe Gozen will do whatever it takes to win it back.

Read on for an excerpt from The Disfavored Hero. Continue reading

Short Story Reviews: FORSWORN and THE FACE IN THE WINDOW by Brian McClellan

A pair of short stories set in the world of McClellan’s Powder Mage fantasy series. McClellan continues to impress and these two stories (which follow previous short stories The Girl of Hrusch Avenue and Hope’s End) do a wonderful job of adding more to the world he’s creating. And heightening my anticipation for The Crimson Campaign

McClellanB-PM-ForswornFORSWORN

Erika ja Leora is a powder mage in northern Kez, a place where that particular sorcery is punishable by death. She is only protected by her family name and her position as heir to a duchy.

When she decides to help a young commoner — a powder mage marked for death, fugitive from the law — she puts her life and family reputation at risk and sets off to deliver her new ward to the safety of Adro while playing cat and mouse with the king’s own mage hunters and their captain, Duke Nikslaus.

Occurs 35 years before the events in Promise of Blood.

This is a great novella. This time, we’re in Kez, and we learn about their strict censure of powder mages – lowborn mages are executed, but highborn mages can forswear their gifts and live (branded). It is set a long while before the novel, as is mentioned above, and it’s only at the end that McClellan connects it with Tamas and his revolution. I really liked the way he wrote all of the characters. The story is very well-paced, and the fight scenes are expertly done. The author continues to impress, the more of his work I read.

Very highly recommended.

*

McClellanB-PM-FaceInTheWindow(BCS140)THE FACE IN THE WINDOW

Taking place two years before the events in Promise of Blood, “The Face in the Window” relates the story of Taniel’s trip to Fatrasta and his first meeting with a mysterious girl named Ka-poel.

Published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue #140.

The author announced this rather suddenly on his website and via Twitter, just as I was finishing Forsworn. Naturally, I went straight to Amazon and bought it… It’s a great story, too, one that has a slow build to a sudden, appropriate ending. It was great to read of Taniel’s first meeting with Ka-poel (my favourite character from Promise of Blood, probably). It’s set in the muggy, oppressive, dragon-infested swamps, and Taniel attaches himself to a regiment who end up devastated by their enemies. With Ka-poel’s help, he seeks revenge on the Privileged who murdered his company.

Much shorter than Forsworn, McClellan nevertheless offers a satisfying story. You don’t have to have read Promise of Blood, but you will probably get a bit more out of “The Face in the Window” if you have.

*

Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood is published in the UK and US by Orbit Books. The next novel in the series, The Crimson Campaign is due to be published in May 2014. I can’t wait!

Upcoming: THE REMAINING series, by D.J. Molles (Orbit)

Molles-R1-TheRemainingI caught the announcement of D.J. Molles’s The Remaining series via a Twitter conversation between Justin and Rob (both are among the best SFF bloggers, in my opinion, so be sure to check out their sites and reviews). Naturally, I invited myself to join in the discussion, and decided to put together this post (I was on a role – it’s the third tonight).

Seeing as I’ve just blitzed through the first four The Walking Dead collected volumes, I must admit to being rather intrigued by this – certainly enough to read the first book at least. I have a weakness for the Zombie Apocalypse sub-genre. I’ve been pretty good at resisting reading everything, though, as I know I could quickly get sick of it. Thus-far, alongside The Walking Dead, I think my favourite has been V.M. Zito’s The Return Man (also published by Orbit, but only in the US – and it’s excellent, so you should all go out and buy it). The four books follow “Captain Lee Harden and a group of survivors as they fight to rebuild a devastated America.” Hm. Barrington’s After America but with added zombies? Here’s the synopsis for the first novel:

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a Special Forces soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace.

The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed.

Soon the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his duty: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD.

The eBooks of all four books will be made available in January 2014, with print editions coming out in successive months from May (not sure why there will be such a gap, though). It would appear, though, that the series was self-published before Orbit snapped up rights (I remain skeptical of the hunger for re-publishing self-published work, but it does seem to be something a handful of publishers are embracing…). Here are the publishing & purchasing details, followed by the covers for books 2-4:

THE REMAINING  (US | UK) – Paperback – May 2014, eBook January 2014

AFTERMATH (US | UK) – Paperback – June 2014, eBook January 2014

REFUGEES  (US | UK) – Paperback – July 2014, eBook January 2014

FRACTURED (US | UK)– Paperback – August 2014, eBook January 2014

Molles-Remaining-2to4.jpeg

C.S. Friedman’s COLDFIRE TRILOGY finally available as eBooks in the UK!

FriedmanCS-ColdfireTrilogy

This is a series that people have been telling me to read for years! Sadly, it doesn’t seem readily available in the UK (and, when in the US, I could never find it in stores – even the massive Barnes & Noble in Union Square, New York, didn’t have any copies). So, now that it’s available in eBook format in the UK, I really have no excuse anymore! These will also be the first books I read by C.S. Friedman, which I’m a little ashamed about. Better late than never, though.

FriedmanCS-CF4-DominionAll three novels in the Coldfire Trilogy are available (they were apparently quietly made available at the beginning of May 2013): Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows. In addition, the Coldfire short story, Dominion, is also available in the UK (and has been for a over a year, actually).

Here’s a synopsis for the first novel in the series…

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, and 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 images from a person’s worst nightmare 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 realising 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…

‘I’ve Never Read…’ & New Jackets for GARY GIBSON (Tor)

GibsonG-Marauder-Full

A new series for the blog (although, I may have done some similar, occasional posts way back when), in which I take a look at an author I’ve never read but really want to. And perhaps should have read by now…

GARY GIBSON, author of many well-received sci-fi novels, published by Tor in the UK. And definitely an author I should have read by now… I’ve always been drawn more to fantasy than science fiction (with the exception of Star Wars and Warhammer 40k, but that’s through long years of familiarity), which probably goes some way to explaining the oversight.

I was reminded of his work today, because Gibson’s Angel Station is Tor’s eBook of the month (DRM free, don’t forget). The author’s novels have received some rather nice new covers for the earlier books (The Shoal series, and his first two stand-alones), to match the style of his latest novel, another stand-alone, Marauder (the full artwork for which graces the top of this post).

Over on the Tor blog, you can read a quick Five Question Interview with the author, which is quite interesting.

Here are the new covers and the novels’ synopses, in chronological order…

GibsonG-AngelStations2013ANGEL STATIONS

Aeons ago, a super-scientific culture known as ‘Angels’ had left incomprehensible relics all over the galaxy. Among these phenomena were the Stations, whereby human spacecraft could jump instantly from one part of the galaxy to another. And from them the brilliant Angel technology could be explored and exploited.

One of these stations orbits the planet Kaspar, where the only other known sentient species outside Earth has been meticulously allowed to continue evolving in its own world of primitive ignorance. But suddenly Kaspar’s mysterious ‘Citadel’ has become the vital key to repelling the fast-approaching threat of the stellar burster.

At what cost, though, to its native inhabitants… and to the human residents of the orbiting Angel station?

*

 

GibsonG-AgainstGravity2013AGAINST GRAVITY

It’s the late twenty-first century, and Kendrick Gallmon, survivor of an infamous research facility called the Maze, is trying to pick up the pieces of his life, even though he knows the Labrat augments inside his body are slowly killing him.

Then one day his heart stops beating, forever, and a ghost urges him to return to the source of all his nightmares, a long-abandoned military complex filled with entirely real voices of the dead.

I really like this cover. Reminds me a little of the artwork for Chris Wooding’s Fade, actually.

*

 

The Shoal Sequence:

STEALING LIGHT, NOVA WAR, and EMPIRE OF LIGHT

GibsonG-ShoalTrilogy

In the 25th century, only the Shoal possess the secret of faster-than-light travel, giving them absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy.  This gives the Shoal absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy.

Mankind has meanwhile operated within their influence for two centuries, establishing a dozen human colony worlds scattered along Shoal trade routes. Dakota Merrick, while serving as a military pilot, has witnessed atrocities for which this alien race is responsible.

But the Shoal are not yet ready to relinquish their monopoly over a technology they acquired through ancient genocide.

Marauder, below, is also set in the Shoal universe, but is a stand-alone…

*

 

Final Days Series:

FINAL DAYS and THE THOUSAND EMPERORS

Gibson-FinalDaysDuo

It’s 2235 and through the advent of wormhole technology more than a dozen interstellar colonies have been linked to Earth. But this new mode of transportation comes at a price and there are risks. Saul Dumont knows this better than anyone. He’s still trying to cope with the loss of the wormhole link to the Galileo system, which has stranded him on Earth far from his wife and child for the past several years.

Only weeks away from the link with Galileo finally being re-established, he stumbles across a conspiracy to suppress the discovery of a second, alien network of wormholes which lead billions of years in the future. A covert expedition is sent to what is named Site 17 to investigate, but when an accident occurs and one of the expedition, Mitchell Stone, disappears – they realise that they are dealing with something far beyond their understanding.

When a second expedition travels via the wormholes to Earth in the near future of 2245 they discover a devastated, lifeless solar system – all except for one man, Mitchell Stone, recovered from an experimental cryogenics facility in the ruins of a lunar city. Stone may be the only surviving witness to the coming destruction of the Earth. But why is he the only survivor – and once he’s brought back to the present, is there any way he and Saul can prevent the destruction that’s coming?

*

 

GibsonG-Marauder2013MARAUDER

Megan Jacinth has three goals, and they all seem unattainable.

First, she needs to find her oldest friend Bash, who she’d left for dead to save her own life. Then she needs Bash’s unique skill-set to locate an ancient space-faring entity. Lastly she must use this Wanderer’s knowledge to save human-occupied worlds from an alien incursion.

The odds seem impossible, but the threat is terrifyingly real. Megan finds Bash, but the person she’d known and loved is a husk of his former self. Bash is also held captive by her greatest enemy: Gregor Tarrant. Tarrant wants the Wanderer too, even more than he wants her life, with motives less pure than her own. And he’s close to finding Megan’s most closely-guarded secret. A race across space to reach the Wanderer seems Megan’s best option. But this entity is also known as the Marauder, and is far from benign. The price for its secrets may be just too high. Megan should know, as she still bears the scars from their last encounter…

I actually have a copy of Final Days, somewhere, so I think I’ll try to get that read. But I may start with Angel Stations. We’ll see.

[If you’re in the UK, Amazon are selling the eBook for less than £4, which is less than Tor, but obviously locked to your device with DRM… The same goes for Nova War and Final Days; Stealing Light and Empire of Light are under £5.]

Anyone read Gibson’s work? What did you think?