Excerpt: A LITTLE BIT OF LOVING by Jane Yolen (Tachyon) – From THE SCARLET CIRCUS

YolenJ-ScarletCircusToday we have an excerpt from The Scarlet Circus, a new short story collection by Jane Yolen. Specifically, it’s an excerpt from “A Little Bit of Loving”. Due to be published by Tachyon Publications in February 2023, here’s the synopsis for the collection:

A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men.

From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity — beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.

This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

Now, read on for a taste of A Little Bit of Loving

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Quick Review: THE TYRANNY OF FAITH by Richard Swan (Orbit)

SwanR-EotW2-TyrannyOfFaithIncreased stakes, increased danger, an Empire in peril… but a little less focus?

A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped – and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.

Richard Swan’s The Justice of Kings was one of my favourite reads last year, and certainly one of my favourite new fantasy books of a few yeast (joining Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead as a best debut in a few years). The Justice of Kings was a great blend of mystery and fantasy, focusing on a conspiracy in a regional town, far from the politics and action of an imperial capital. Swan’s story was character-focused, interesting, and well-paced. The Tyranny of Kings was, therefore, one of my most-anticipated novels of 2023. I’m happy to report that I quite enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: UNDER MY SKIN by K. J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-UnderMySkinAny day you learn about a new K. J. Parker book is a great day. This morning, the latest Subterranean Press newsletter dropped into my inbox, announcing the author’s latest collection: Under My Skin! I’m sure I’m becoming a broken record, when it comes to stating how much of a fan I am of Parker’s short fiction (and writing in general), but he really is an awesome talent. This new collection is over 700 pages, and is anchored by a new full-length tale, Relics. Here’s the synopsis:

These stories are everything readers have come to expect from Parker, populated by con men and kings, magicians who don’t do magic and messiahs who don’t offer redemption, by holy men and holy fools. But be warned, not only is all perhaps not what it seems, all can usually be counted on to not be what it seems. Parker’s unruly and unreliable narrators, who sometimes fool themselves even more than they fool us, stride along muddy paths through lonely hills or across marble floors in grand palaces, always finding trapdoors opening beneath them.

In “The Thought That Counts,” for example, a man who claims to have been magically granted the wisdom of the world finds that he’s not wise enough to recognize a figure from his past who may prove that wisdom isn’t enough in every situation. In My Beautiful Life, a man who starts life as the son of a village prostitute rises as high in his world as anyone can, only to find that tumbling from such a height makes for a long, long fall. And in the epistolary novel Relics, readers are offered not just one unreliable narrator but two, as an archduke and a relic hunter describe their highs and lows to one another in a series of missives that even the writers don’t necessarily fully believe, much less the recipients.

This is the third Parker collection published by Subterranean Press. The previous two — Academic Exercises and The Father of Lies — are also very highly recommended. Under My Skin is expected to go on sale on March 30th, 2023. Can’t wait!

Also on CR: Reviews of The Devil You Know, The Last Witness, Downfall of the Gods, My Beautiful Life, Prosper’s Demons, Academic Exercises, The Big Score, The Long Game, and Pulling the Wings Off Angels

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Upcoming: MARCH’S END by Daniel Polansky (Angry Robot Books)

PolanskyD-MarchsEndNext year, Angry Robot Books are due to published the anticipated new novel by Daniel Polansky: March’s End. I’ve been a fan of Polansky’s work ever since his debut, Straight Razor Cure (Low Town in North America). This new novel is a “multi-generational portal fantasy of strange magics, epic warfare, and deadly intrigue, in which the personality conflicts and toxic struggles of the Harrow family are reflected in the fantasy world they’ve sworn to protect”. Here’s the synopsis:

The Harrows are a typical suburban family who, since time immemorial, have borne a sacred and terrible charge. In the daylight they are teachers, doctors, bartenders and vagrants, but at night they are the rulers and protectors of the March, a fantastical secondary world populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen, a panorama of the impossible where cities are carried on the backs of giant snails, and thunderstorms can be subdued with song.

But beneath this dreamlike exterior lie dark secrets, and for generation after generation the Harrows have defended the March from the perils that wait outside its borders – when they are not consumed in their own bitter internecine quarrels.

In the modern day the Harrow clan are composed of Sophia, the High Queen of the March, a brilliant, calculating matriarch, and her three children – noble Constance, visionary, rebellious Mary Ann, and clever, amoral Will. Moving back and forth between their youth, adolescence, and adulthood, we watch as this family fractures, then reconciles in the face of a conflict endangering not only the existence of the March, but of the ‘real world’ itself.

THE MARCH’S END is a book about growing up, in which the familial struggles of the Harrows are threaded through the mythic history of the fantastical land they protect. It is a story of failure and redemption, in which the power of love is tested against forces that seek to break it, and the necessity of each generation to recreate itself is asserted.

Daniel Polansky’s March’s End is due to be published by Angry Robot Books in North America and in the UK, on May 9th, 2023.

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Polansky (2011); Reviews of Straight Razor Cure, Tomorrow the Killing, She Who Waits, The Builders, and The Seventh Perfection

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Quick Review: PULLING THE WINGS OFF ANGELS by K. J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-PullingTheWingsOffAngelsAnother quirky, engaging, and twisty novella from Parker

Long ago, a wealthy man stole an angel and hid her in a chapel, where she remains imprisoned to this day.

That’s the legend, anyway.

A clerical student who’s racked up gambling debts to a local gangster is given an ultimatum — deliver the angel his grandfather kidnapped, or forfeit various body parts in payment.

And so begins a whirlwind theological paradox — with the student at its center — in which the stakes are the necessity of God, the existence of destiny — and the nature of angels.

It should come as no surprise to long-time readers of CR that I am a huge fan of K. J. Parker’s novellas and short fiction. As soon as I read the synopsis for Pulling the Wings Off Angels, I was eager to read it. I was lucky enough to get a DRC a while ago, and read it right away. I’m very happy to report that it is classic Parker; I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNTETHERED SKY by Fonda Lee (Tor.com)

LeeF-UntetheredSkyAn excellent stand-alone novella from the award-winning author of the Green Bone saga

Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and baby brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and a single, overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family.

Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated rukhers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love. The terrifying partnership between woman and roc leads Ester not only on the empire’s most dangerous manticore hunt, but on a journey of perseverance and acceptance.

Untethered Sky is a stand-alone fantasy novella about ambition and falconry. And massive eagles (rocs). While never losing sight of the human story to be told, this is nevertheless a novella that packs more of a punch than its slim length might suggest. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: WITCH KING by Martha Wells (Tor.com)

WellsM-WitchKingUSHCWitch King was announced quite some time ago, but with the newly-unveiled cover hitting the internet a couple days ago (maybe yesterday?), I wanted to feature it on CR. Martha Wells is the author, of among other excellent books and stories, the acclaimed Murderbot Diaries (also published by Tor.com). Witch King, the author’s first new fantasy novel since 2017’s The Harbors of the Sun, it is the first in an entirely new setting. Here’s the synopsis:

“I didn’t know you were a… demon.”
“You idiot. I’m the demon.”

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

Witch King is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on May 30th, 2023. I really can’t wait to read this.

Also on CR: Reviews of All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, Network Effect, and Fugitive Telemetry

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Annotated Excerpt: NOTORIOUS SORCERER by Davinia Evans (Orbit)

EvansD-NotoriousSorcererThis evening, we have an annotated excerpt from Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans. The novel is due out tomorrow, to be published by Orbit. Here’s the synopsis:

In a city filled with dangerous yet heavily regulated alchemical magic, a man from the slums discovers he may be its only hope to survive certain destruction in this wickedly entertaining fantasy. 

Welcome to Bezim, where sword-slinging bravi race through the night and rich and idle alchemists make magic out of mixing and measuring the four planes of reality.

Siyon Velo, Dockside brat turned petty alchemist, scrapes a living hopping between the planes to harvest ingredients for the city’s alchemists. But when Siyon accidentally commits an act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight — which is a bad place to be when the planes start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send Bezim into the sea.

It will take a miracle to save the city. Good thing Siyon has pulled off the impossible before. Now he just has to master it.

A dazzling fantasy bursting with wild magic, chaotic sword-fighting street gangs, brazen flirting, malevolent harpies, and one defiant alchemist.

Now, over to the author…!

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Excerpt: THE FIRST BINDING by R. R. Virdi (Gollancz/Tor)

VirdiRR-ToT1-FirstBindingUKHCR. R. Virdi‘s The First Binding, book one in the author’s Tales of Tremaine epic fantasy series, generated a lot of great pre-publication buzz. It’s a hefty beast (clocking in at over 800 pages), but one that promises a deep, gripping, and immersive read. The novel is now available in the UK (Gollancz) and North America (Tor Books).

As part of the book tour celebrating the novel’s release, Gollancz has provided an excerpt for me to share with you today. Before we get to that, though, here’s the official synopsis:

All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.

My name is Ari.

And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

Thus begins the tale of a storyteller and a singer on the run and hoping to find obscurity in a tavern bar. But the sins of their past aren’t forgotten, and neither are their enemies. Their old lives are catching up swiftly and it could cost them the entire world. No one can escape their pasts and all stories must have an ending.

This excerpt follows directly on from the previous stop on the blog tour, at Stephen’s Bookish Life. So, if you missed that one, go read the excerpt there before continuing below.

For those who are caught up… on with the excerpt!

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Upcoming: GODKILLER by Hannah Kaner (Harper Voyager)

KanerH-1-GodkillerUKHCI hadn’t heard of Hannah Kaner‘s new novel before I spotted it on NetGalley this morning (unsurprising, given that it’s a debut). That cover, though, really grabbed my attention and piqued my interest. The first novel in a new series, I’m really looking forward to giving Godkiller a try. Here’s the synopsis:

You are not welcome here, godkiller

Kissen’s family were killed by zealots of a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing gods, and enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a god of white lies, has somehow bound himself to a young noble, and they are both on the run from unknown assassins.

Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, they must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favour.

Pursued by demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning – something is rotting at the heart of their world, and only they can be the ones to stop it.

Hannah Kaner’s Godkiller is due to be published by Harper Voyager in the UK, on January 19th, 2023. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a North American publisher.)

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