Quick Review: INVOCATIONS by Various (Black Library)

WarhammerHorror-InvocationsReturn to the dark places of the worlds of Warhammer for a new anthology of sinister stories that dive into the arcane, the unexpected and the downright terrifying.

An Imperial Priest extracts a monstrous confession; a widower embarks on a doomed pilgrimage; a witch hunter returns to the place of his nightmares… Invocations is Black Library’s second Warhammer Horror anthology, featuring more short stories set in the chilling hellscape of the 41st Millennium and the arcane gloom of the Mortal Realms. From the whispering corridors of an abandoned medicae facility to the shrieking dungeons of ghostly castles, this collection of sinister stories further explores the unspeakable evil haunting in the worlds of Warhammer.

An interesting, engaging collection of horror and suspense fiction, set in the Warhammer science fiction and fantasy worlds. Atmospheric, creepy, and featuring varied protagonists, this is a solid anthology. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE DOORS OF EDEN and FIREWALKERS by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor / Solaris)

Tchaikovsky-DoorsOfEdenUKNew year = new books from Adrian Tchaikovsky!

First, we have The Doors of Eden. With this novel, the author seems to be taking on a new (sub-)genre — specifically some kind of portal fantasy, which Stephen Baxter has described as “a terrific timeslip/lost world romp”. The synopsis sounds fantastic, of course, and I’m really looking forward to reading this:

The world is stranger than they’d thought. And more dangerous than they’d feared.

Lee’s best friend went missing on Bodmin Moor, four years ago. She and Mal were chasing rumours of monsters when they found something all too real. Now Mal is back, but where has she been, and who is she working for?

When government physicist Kay Amal Khan is attacked, the security services investigate. This leads MI5’s Julian Sabreur deep into terrifying new territory, where he clashes with mysterious agents of an unknown power ­who may or may not be human. And Julian’s only clue is some grainy footage ­– showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.

Khan’s extradimensional research was purely theoretical, until she found cracks between our world and countless others… Parallel Earths where monsters live. These cracks are getting wider every day, so who knows what might creep through? Or what will happen when those walls finally come crashing down.

Easily one of my most-anticipated of 2020, The Doors of Eden is due to be published by Tor Books in the UK, on May 28th, 2020. (Some of his recent novels have been published in North America by Orbit — such as Children of Time and Children of Ruin — but at the time of writing I couldn’t find any information about a US publisher for this book.)

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Tchaikovsky-FirewalkersTchaikovsky’s other novel, also due out in May, Firewalkers, is a slimmer tale (only about 200 pages) and appears to be a dystopian tale of environmental collapse, economic inequality, and resource scarcity:

Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.

The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power?

Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below.

Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope.

The Firewalkers.

Really looking forward to reading this. Firewalkers is due to be published by Solaris Books in North America and in the UK, in mid-May 2020.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review/Second Look: THE GAMESHOUSE by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-GameshouseNovella triptych released in single, fantastic volume

Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets…

It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon — every game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favors may be invited to compete in the higher league… a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on the scale of a continent.

Among those worthy of competing in the higher league, three unusually talented contestants play for the highest stakes of all…

I first read The Gameshouse when it was released as three novella eBooks: The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. I loved the story then, and it has stuck with me ever since. The release of the omnibus edition gave me an excuse to give it a second look. This is a really good story, and just more evidence of why Claire North is a must-read author. Continue reading

Excerpt: SUN AND SERPENT by Jon Sprunk (Pyr)

SprunkJ-BotBE-SunAndSerpentToday, we have a short excerpt from Sun and Serpent by Jon Sprunk. The fourth and final book in the author’s Book of the Black Earth series, it was published by Pyr Books in December. Here’s the synopsis…

THE WAR CONTINUES, AND THE UNDEAD RAVAGE THE LAND. JIROM, HORACE, AND EMANON BEGIN TO HOPE THEY MIGHT FREE THE EMPIRE. BUT CAN THEY MANAGE TO DO SO BEFORE THE DARK KING CONQUERS THE WORLD?

Horace has come a long way from his days of slavery. Now he, Jirom, and their companions think they just might glimpse victory ahead, and the triumphant end to what began as a mere slave rebellion. But first Horace must recover from the loss of his beloved Alyra. And Jirom finds himself asking if even victory will be worth the cost–how can he be sure he and the other winners of this war will rule more justly than the Akeshians did? Meanwhile, a mysterious mass murder-suicide in a temple in Thuum hints that they have more foes than they knew of. And as they advance upon the capital, they find strange obstacles barring their way. Obstacles that suggest the barriers between worlds are growing dangerously thin…

Now, on with the excerpt…

Continue reading

Quick Review: THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE by Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

VoN-EmpressOfSaltAndFortuneA short, engaging novella about imperialism and exclusion

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

In this short novella, Vo introduces us to a handful of interesting and engaging characters, as one regales another with a story of imperialism and oppression. As the synopsis states, the world depicted is akin to imperial China, and the author has a gift for writing evocative, albeit-brief description. After meeting Rabbit, the emperor’s wife’s handmaid, Cleric Chih learns Empress In-yo’s story. Through this, we glean the larger picture of not only In-yo’s life, but also the world and culture in which all of the characters exists. Continue reading

Quick Review: PROSPER’S DEMON by K.J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-ProspersDemonAnother magnificent novella from the master of the form

In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.

The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out — he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.

Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.

I love K.J. Parker’s short fiction. In addition to his excellent prose, the author is able to pack in so much into his short stories and novellas: they are humorous, subversive, and peppered with historical allusions. Prosper’s Demon is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: GHOULSLAYER by Darius Hinks (Black Library)

HinksD-Gotrek-GhoulslayerGotrek continues his journey in the unfamiliar Age of Sigmar

In the bleak, haunted underworld of Shyish, a vengeful Slayer seeks the Lord of Undeath. Gotrek Gurnisson returns, his oaths now ashes alongside the world-that-was, his fury undiminished. Branded with the Master Rune of Grimnir, the God that betrayed him, and joined by Maleneth Witchblade, a former Daughter of Khaine turned agent of the Order of Azyr, the hunt has taken them far and wide through the Realm of Death. Will Gotrek find a path to the Undying King or will the underworlds claim him as their own?

Gotrek returns in his first new full-length novel set in the Age of Sigmar. Now in the care of author Darius Hinks (the third author to write the character since the End Times), the irascible, possibly divine dwarf slayer is determined to take down Nagash. To do that, he must venture to Shyish, the realm of the dead… A fun novel, with plenty of action and character development. Continue reading