Upcoming: WRATH OF EMPIRE by Brian McClellan (Orbit)

McClellanB-GoB&P2-WrathOfEmpireUSThis week, Brian McClellan unveiled the cover for his next novel: Wrath of Empire. The second novel in his Gods of Blood & Powder fantasy series, and follow-up to Sins of Empire, I’m really looking forward to reading it. (I’ll need to get caught up, first, of course — I’ve still got to read The Autumn Republic and Sins of Empire before diving into this one.) Due to be published by Orbit Books in March 2018 in the US and UK, here’s the synopsis:

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.

Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michael may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.

Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.

Also on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan (2013); Guest Posts on “My Favourite Novel” and “Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy”; Excerpt from The Autumn Republic; Reviews of Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Review: GUNS OF THE DAWN by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)

TchaikovskyA-GunsOfTheDawnAn excellent stand-alone novel about war, family and sacrifice

Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbour. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne’s brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland.

Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.

In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor’s Club; the swamp’s own natives hiding from the conflict.

As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne’s cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.

This is a superb novel. I haven’t read nearly as much of Tchaikovsky’s work as I would like, but this is a fantastic place to start. A fantasy war novel, but one that is focused on the impact of war more than battle itself. After a slightly slow start, this really grabbed hold of my attention and didn’t let up until the very end. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC by Brian McClellan (Orbit)

McClellanB-PM3-AutumnRepublicIf you’ve been reading Civilian Reader for the past couple of years, you’ll have noticed that I’m a big fan of Brian McClellan‘s Powder Mage series – the novels and novellas have all been great. The third and (possibly?) final novel – The Autumn Republic – will be published by Orbit Books on February 10th, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the story ends. Orbit US have provided me with the second chapter to share with you all. You can read the first chapter over on Orbit’s blog, here.

Before we get to the excerpt, however, here’s the synopsis:

The capital has fallen…

Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.

An army divided…

With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.

All hope rests with one…

And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed…

If you’d like to read more, here’s what else is on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan, Guest posts on Favourite Novel and Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy; Reviews of Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign

Now, on to the excerpt…! Continue reading

Upcoming: COLD IRON by Stina Leicht (Saga)

LeichtS-ColdIronUSCold Iron is the next novel by Stina Leicht, author of the Fey and the Fallen duology. This is a brand new flintlock fantasy, to be published by Saga Press, and I must say it looks rather interesting:

Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.

Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.

Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.

Cold Iron is due to be published in June 2015. I’m rather looking forward to it.

Also on CR: Interview with Stina Leicht (2012)

Review: MURDER AT THE KINNEN HOTEL by Brian McClellan

McClellanB-PM-MurderAtTheKinnenHotelAnother very good Powder Mage short story

Special Detective Constable Adamat may be the most capable young investigator in all of Adopest. He’s sharp, thoughtful, and his particular sorcery gives him a flawless memory. A transfer to the First Precinct seems like the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities and advance his career.

But things work differently in the First Precinct. The murder of a businessman’s mistress quickly pulls Adamat into an unexpected world of conspiracy and politics where he’s forced to use all his wits to stay one step ahead of unseen enemies and keep his friends — and himself — from the guillotine.

Set twenty-two years before the events in Promise of Blood, this is a great introduction to Adamat — dogged, honest investigator in a system that is corrupt and nepotistic. In that respect, this may seem like a typical crime story, only with fantasy elements. And that’s what it is, really, which is a good thing. I enjoyed the investigation, seeing Adamat use his “knack” (perfect memory) to figure out what really happened at the hotel, while navigating the dangerous waters that make up the Adopest police force. There’s some political machinations, economics, magic, and mild character peril. Everything a short story needs.

I really like that McClellan is writing so many short stories set in his Powder Mage series: thus far, they have all been well-written and enjoyable. They add flavour and colour to the world and characters in the novels (the third of which, The Autumn Republic, is due out early 2015 from Orbit Books). While others of the short stories have focused mostly on powder mages, I welcomed the added background for Adamat and the fact that this meant the story was rather different.

You can buy Murder at the Kinnen Hotel from a number of places — check the author’s website for details.

Also on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan; Guest Posts on My Favourite Novel and Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy; Reviews of Promise of BloodThe Crimson Campaign (novels), The Girl of Hrusch Avenue, Hope’s Way, Forsworn, Face in the Window (short stories)

Review: THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN by Brian McClellan (Orbit)

McClellanB-PM2-CrimsonCampaignAn excellent middle book – slightly shaky start, but awesome second half & ending

“The hounds at our heels will soon know we are lions.”

Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god.

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly.

With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing army. Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.

I really enjoyed McClellan’s debut novel, Promise of Blood, and also the short stories he has released set in the same world. I was, therefore, extremely happy to get my hands on an ARC of The Crimson Campaign. Perhaps as a result of reading the handful of short stories (all of which were expertly crafted), I found this novel a bit slow going to begin with. However, after the story settled in, I blitzed through it, and read it well into the wee hours of the morning, unable to put it down. McClellan, I believe, is going to have a long, successful career. 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!