Books Make the Best Gifts… (& Giveaway)

No, really. Hear me out. “Duh” is the most appropriate answer to the question “Are books the best gifts?” However, that makes for a rather short blog post. So, here are eight quick reasons why books make the best gifts (in no particular order), from the serious to the whimsical…

Passion for Reading POS

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Interview with ERIKA JOHANSEN & Giveaway!

JohansenE-AuthorPicErika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling has been getting some great press ever since WFC 2013 (at least, that’s when I heard of it). The novel finally hits shelves in the UK today, and to celebrate its release, not only do I offer the interview that follows (organised by Transworld), but I also have one copy of the novel to give away to a UK reader! Details at the end. But first, the interview…

Can you give us a brief introduction to The Queen of the Tearling?

A 19 year-old girl, Kelsea Glynn, is the heir to the throne of a degenerate kingdom. Having been raised far from the capital city, she’s not prepared to be the Queen, but she will need to learn quickly. Both the neighboring ruler and Kelsea’s own uncle would like to see her dead. Her kingdom is a mess, drowning in corruption and inequality. All Kelsea has are a strong moral compass, a lot of courage, an unwieldy temper and two hereditary sapphires which may or may not be magical in her hands.

Who are the main characters of the book?

The main characters include Kelsea, the Queen; Mace, her Captain of Guard; the Red Queen, who rules the neighboring kingdom; Javel, a guard in the Tear castle; and Father Tyler, a priest in the Tearling’s central church. Please don’t ask me to explain in a nutshell how they intersect.


UK Cover

What is the one thing you hope the reader will take away after reading the novel?

This is fairly presumptuous of me, but ideally, I would hope to instill some sense of civics, of the social contract. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but there is certainly a large and vocal contingent in my own country that believes it’s perfectly reasonable to grab whatever one can for oneself, and worry about the broader effects on society later, if at all. But I consider America’s subtle moral acceptance of this “I got mine” philosophy to be absolutely toxic to the creation of a healthy society. I’m no philosopher, and I certainly don’t have the intellectual depth to tackle this subject properly. Writing fiction is really the only way I can engage with ideas. At its most basic level, The Queen of the Tearling is about a young woman who has been raised to think about the impact of her actions, not just on herself and her nearest and dearest, but on everyone. Sometimes we simply have to take care of each other: neighbors, strangers, even enemies. This is the only way for a community to succeed. My heroine, Kelsea, is often confused about the “right” thing to do, but when she acts, she consistently tries to choose what’s right for her kingdom as a whole, rather than for herself. If even a tiny fraction of the energy that individuals currently expend on self could be redirected toward the community, I think it would be an extraordinary thing to see.

Kelsea Glynn is the novel’s protagonist – a strong, intelligent character with her own insecurities. Can you tell us a little bit more about the inspiration behind Kelsea, and what sets her aside from other protagonists in the genre?

I have grown extremely tired of reading books in which the female protagonist – even if she’s a strong character – is driven by her love life. I’m also tired of books in which the attractiveness of the heroine is a central plot point, a factor that changes the entire landscape of the novel. Such women can be good entertainment, but to my mind, many of them also make poor role models. I’ve been longing for a book in which a woman can be a strong central character without everything revolving around her looks or her romantic life. Kelsea Glynn is not good-looking, and like many teenage girls, she is tormented by all of the feelings of inadequacy that go with that realization, particularly since it seems to put the man she loves out of her reach. But Kelsea does not let her insecurities control her destiny, or even pay them much mind most of the time. She’s a Queen, and she has more important things to worry about than being pretty. This is not to say that Kelsea is unique; I’m sure there are plenty of similar heroines out there and I’ve simply been reaching for the wrong books. But many of the book’s early reviews have specifically referenced deep pleasure – not to mention surprise – that in a book with a female protagonist “there is no romance!” So I guess I’m not the only one fed up with the formula.

Who are your favourite authors? Were you inspired by them when writing The Queen of the Tearling?

My three favorite authors are Stephen King, William Faulkner and Sara Paretsky. Of the three, I can’t really say that any of them directly inspired this trilogy, except perhaps for Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon, a wonderfully plotted dark fantasy that I have always admired. The Tearling probably drew more inspiration from individual books that I love: Frank Herbert’s Dune; Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon; Richard Adams’s Watership Down; and Terry Brooks’s Heritage of Shannara series all spring to mind. And, of course, anyone who writes any fantasy, ever, should probably toss an amorphous thank-you in the direction of J.R.R. Tolkien, who showed us how it should be done.


US Cover (Harper Collins)

Setting is hugely important in The Queen of the Tearling, what’s most interesting is how the kingdom feels very ‘Medieval’ even though it’s set in the future. Could you talk a little more on why you chose this setting?

This kingdom is essentially medieval; no electricity, little technology, a lot of superstition. But I chose to set it in the distant future for a pretty prosaic reason: because I wanted my kingdom – and my heroine in particular – to have access to earth’s history, to past nations’ mistakes. The age-old wisdom that there’s nothing new under the sun is in heavy play in the Tearling; all of the mistakes my characters make have certainly been made before. I wanted the ability to shed historical perspective, particularly since my fictional Queen was raised by a historian.

You’ve described yourself as a “Horror reader, Fantasy writer” – can you expand a little on this, and why you chose to write Fantasy and not Horror?

I can’t write good horror. I’ve tried for years; horror is by far my favorite genre to read, and I would love to be able to give any reader the kind of joy I’ve received from King and Straub and Matheson and Lovecraft and the rest. I had youthful dreams of writing a great haunted house novel, of creating an utterly damned edifice to rival Hill House or the Overlook Hotel. But all of my attempts at writing horror have been uniformly terrible, and I finally had to admit to myself that I just don’t have any talent for it. But I wasn’t willing to return to writing about the real world, so next I tried fantasy. Interestingly enough, I’m not that much of a fantasy reader, at least in terms of breadth. I like several fantasy authors quite a bit, and The Lord of the Rings is my all-time favorite book, but the vast bulk of my reading material comes from other genres. So in writing this trilogy, I’m often flying blind, not always sure of the parameters of fantasy. There’s a point at which idea becomes trope, and sometimes I fail to recognize it. Thank god I have an attentive editor, though even she can’t always save me from myself.

How much involvement have you had thus far in the film adaptation of The Queen of the Tearling?

Very little, all on the writing end. The book has been given to a screenwriter who is not only talented but – as any reader will quickly see – extremely courageous in the undertaking. This book constantly refuses to answer the reader’s questions, because I wrote it specifically for readers like myself. I love a book that doesn’t tell me everything I want to know, one that gives me sufficient information to follow the plot but still keeps me constantly questioning. But one of my first thoughts when the word “film” came up was that the book would be a nightmare to adapt for screen, precisely because so many questions will not be answered until either the first or second sequel. Readers have far more patience with this sort of multiple-installment ambiguity than viewers do. So my involvement with the film thus far has consisted of trying to help the screenwriter maintain consistency in this incredibly secretive world, while not giving away anything I want to keep secret. It’s a rough balance to strike, and should the film ever come to fruition, the screenwriter will likely deserve a medal of some sort…perhaps for artistic bravery, certainly for saintly patience with the source.


You can find an excerpt from The Queen of the Tearling over on

Giveaway Details: As I mentioned at the top, I have one copy of the novel to give away. I’ll leave this open for the weekend, and pick at random one commenter to receive the book. Just to repeat, the giveaway is UK only. (Sorry everyone else!)

International Giveaway: THE BARROW by Mark Smylie (Pyr)

SmylieM-TheBarrowToday, Pyr Books are offering two copies of Mark Smylie’s THE BARROW, with no geographical limitations at all! The novel has been racking up some impressive reviews since its release. In case you aren’t aware of the novel, however, here’s the synopsis…

Action, horror, politics, and sensuality combine in this stand-alone fantasy novel with series potential. Set in the world of the Eisner-nominated Artesia comic books.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they’ve struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.

Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin’s sister Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross-section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, brought together by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books, or get them all killed.

I’m going to keep this simple – the first two people to leave a comment saying they’d like a copy of the book, get the books. Simples. I’ll keep checking back, so if you enter, please be sure to send me your details.

Also on CR: Interview with Mark Smylie

US/Canada Giveaway: SWORN IN STEEL by Doug Hulick (Ace)

Hulick-SwornInSteelUSOne of the most-anticipated follow-up fantasy novels of the year, Ace Books has provided three copies of Doug Hulick’s SWORN IN STEEL! All you have to do to enter the competition is leave a comment or email me (at the address at the bottom of the page), and I’ll randomly select three winners on Friday evening. Competition is open to US and Canadian residents only, I’m afraid.

In case you haven’t heard of the series (shame on you!), here is the synopsis for Sworn in Steel

It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and unexpectedly elevated himself into the ranks of the criminal elite.

Now, as the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s learning just how good he used to have it. With barely the beginnings of an organization to his name, Drothe is already being called out by other Gray Princes. And to make matters worse, when one dies, all signs point to Drothe as wielding the knife. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides – mostly against him – for what looks to be another impending war, Drothe is approached by a man who not only has the solution to Drothe’s most pressing problem, but an offer of redemption.

The only problem is the offer isn’t for him. Now Drothe finds himself on the way to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, with an offer to make and a price on his head. And the grains of sand in the hour glass are running out, fast…

Both Among Thieves and Sworn in Steel are out now in the US, published by Ace Books (Penguin). The novels are published in the UK by Tor, and Sworn in Steel is out tomorrow! Among Thieves was published in 2011. You can find my review here, and an interview with the author here.

Excerpt & Giveaway: WORDS OF RADIANCE by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz)


Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance is one of the most hotly-anticipated epic fantasy novels of the year. Published by Gollancz (UK) and Tor Books (US).

Thanks to Gollancz, who also provided this excerpt (Chapter 3), there is a copy of the book up for grabs! All you need to do to be in with the chance of winning it is to re-tweet this excerpt on Twitter, follow @civilianreader, and include the hashtag “#CRWoR”. Simples. If you are not on Twitter, then you can leave a comment at the end, and I’ll include you in the random draw, as well. The winner will be selected at the end of the day (9pm) – unfortunately, the giveaway is for UK only.

(See banner, below, for upcoming stops on the blog tour.)


Soldiers reported being watched from afar by an unnerving number of Parshendi scouts. Then we noticed a new pattern of their penetrating close to the camps in the night and then quickly retreating. I can only surmise that our enemies were even then preparing their stratagem to end this war.

— From the personal journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174

Research into times before the Hierocracy is frustratingly difficult, the book read. During the reign of the Hierocracy, the Vorin Church had near absolute control over eastern Roshar. The fabrications they promoted — and then perpetuated as absolute truth — became ingrained in the consciousness of society. More disturbingly, modified copies of ancient texts were made, aligning history to match Hierocratic dogma.

In her cabin, Shallan read by the glow of a goblet of spheres, wearing her nightgown. Her cramped chamber lacked a true porthole and had just a thin slit of a window running across the top of the outside wall. The only sound she could hear was the water lapping against the hull. Tonight, the ship did not have a port in which to shelter.

The church of this era was suspicious of the Knights Radiant, the book read. Yet it relied upon the authority granted Vorinism by the Heralds. Th is created a dichotomy in which the Recreance, and the betrayal of the knights, was overemphasized. At the same time, the ancient knights — the ones who had lived alongside the Heralds in the shadowdays — were celebrated.

This makes it particularly difficult to study the Radiants and the place named Shadesmar. What is fact? What records did the church, in its misguided attempt to cleanse the past of perceived contradictions, rewrite to suit its preferred narrative? Few documents from the period survive that did not pass through Vorin hands to be copied from the original parchment into modern codices.

Shallan glanced up over the top of her book. The volume was one of Jasnah’s earliest published works as a full scholar. Jasnah had not assigned Shallan to read it. Indeed, she’d been hesitant when Shallan had asked for a copy, and had needed to dig it out of one of the numerous trunks full of books she kept in the ship’s hold.

Why had she been so reluctant, when this volume dealt with the very things that Shallan was studying? Shouldn’t Jasnah have given her this right off ? It—

The pattern returned.

Shallan’s breath caught in her throat as she saw it on the cabin wall beside the bunk, just to her left. She carefully moved her eyes back to the page in front of her. The pattern was the same one that she’d seen before, the shape that had appeared on her sketchpad.

Ever since then, she’d been seeing it from the corner of her eye, appearing in the grain of wood, the cloth on the back of a sailor’s shirt, the shimmering of the water. Each time, when she looked right at it, the pattern vanished. Jasnah would say nothing more, other than to indicate it was likely harmless.

Shallan turned the page and steadied her breathing. She had experienced something like this before with the strange symbol- headed creatures who had appeared unbidden in her drawings. She allowed her eyes to slip up off the page and look at the wall — not right at the pattern, but to the side of it, as if she hadn’t noticed it.

Yes, it was there. Raised, like an embossing, it had a complex pattern with a haunting symmetry. Its tiny lines twisted and turned through its mass, somehow lifting the surface of the wood, like iron scrollwork under a taut tablecloth.

It was one of those things. The symbolheads. This pattern was similar to their strange heads. She looked back at the page, but did not read. The ship swayed, and the glowing white spheres in her goblet clinked as they shifted. She took a deep breath.

Then looked directly at the pattern.

Immediately, it began to fade, the ridges sinking. Before it did, she got a clear look at it, and she took a Memory.

“Not this time,” she muttered as it vanished. “This time I have you.” She threw away her book, scrambling to get out her charcoal pencil and a sheet of sketching paper. She huddled down beside her light, red hair tumbling around her shoulders.

She worked furiously, possessed by a frantic need to have this drawing done. Her fingers moved on their own, her unclothed safehand holding the sketchpad toward the goblet, which sprinkled the paper with shards of light.

She tossed aside the pencil. She needed something crisper, capable of sharper lines. Ink. Pencil was wonderful for drawing the soft shades of life, but this thing she drew was not life. It was something else, something unreal. She dug a pen and inkwell from her supplies, then went back to her drawing, replicating the tiny, intricate lines.

She did not think as she drew. The art consumed her, and creationspren popped into existence all around. Dozens of tiny shapes soon crowded the small table beside her cot and the floor of the cabin near where she knelt. The spren shifted and spun, each no larger than the bowl of a spoon, becoming shapes they’d recently encountered. She mostly ignored them, though she’d never seen so many at once.

Faster and faster they shifted forms as she drew, intent. The pattern seemed impossible to capture. Its complex repetitions twisted down into infinity. No, a pen could never capture this thing perfectly, but she was close. She drew it spiraling out of a center point, then re- created each branch off the center, which had its own swirl of tiny lines. It was like a maze created to drive its captive insane.

When she finished the last line, she found herself breathing hard, as if she’d run a great distance. She blinked, again noticing the creationspren around her — there were hundreds. They lingered before fading away one by one. Shallan set the pen down beside her vial of ink, which she’d stuck to the tabletop with wax to keep it from sliding as the ship swayed. She picked up the page, waiting for the last lines of ink to dry, and felt as if she’d accomplished something significant — though she knew not what.

As the last line dried, the pattern rose before her. She heard a distinct sigh from the paper, as if in relief.

She jumped, dropping the paper and scrambling onto her bed. Unlike the other times, the embossing didn’t vanish, though it left the paper — budding from her matching drawing — and moved onto the floor.

She could describe it in no other way. The pattern somehow moved from paper to floor. It came to the leg of her cot and wrapped around it, climbing upward and onto the blanket. It didn’t look like something moving beneath the blanket; that was simply a crude approximation. The lines were too precise for that, and there was no stretching. Something beneath the blanket would have been just an indistinct lump, but this was exact. It drew closer. It didn’t look dangerous, but she still found herself trembling. This pattern was different from the symbolheads in her drawings, but it was also somehow the same. A flattened-out version, without torso or limbs. It was an abstraction of one of them, just as a circle with a few lines in it could represent a human’s face on the page.

Those things had terrified her, haunted her dreams, made her worry she was going insane. So as this one approached, she scuttled from her bed and went as far from it in the small cabin as she could. Then, heart thumping in her chest, she pulled open the door to go for Jasnah.

She found Jasnah herself just outside, reaching toward the doorknob, her left hand cupped before her. A small figure made of inky blackness — shaped like a man in a smart, fashionable suit with a long coat — stood in her palm. He melted away into shadow as he saw Shallan. Jasnah looked to Shallan, then glanced toward the fl oor of the cabin, where the pattern was crossing the wood.

“Put on some clothing, child,” Jasnah said. “We have matters to discuss.”


Sanderson-SA2-WordsOfRadianceUK-Banner“I had originally hoped that we would have the same type of spren,” Jasnah said, sitting on a stool in Shallan’s cabin. The pattern remained on the floor between her and Shallan, who lay prone on the cot, properly clothed with a robe over the nightgown and a thin white glove on her left hand. “But of course, that would be too easy. I have suspected since Kharbranth that we would be of different orders.”

“Orders, Brightness?” Shallan asked, timidly using a pencil to prod at the pattern on the floor. It shied away, like an animal that had been poked. Shallan was fascinated by how it raised the surface of the floor, though a part of her did not want to have anything to do with it and its unnatural, eye- twisting geometries.

“Yes,” Jasnah said. The inklike spren that had accompanied her before had not reappeared. “Each order reportedly had access to two of the Surges, with overlap between them. We call the powers Surgebinding. Soulcasting was one, and is what we share, though our orders are different.”

Shallan nodded. Surgebinding. Soulcasting. These were talents of the Lost Radiants, the abilities — supposedly just legend — that had been their blessing or their curse, depending upon which reports you read. Or so she’d learned from the books Jasnah had given her to read during their trip.

“I’m not one of the Radiants,” Shallan said.

“Of course you aren’t,” Jasnah said, “and neither am I. The orders of knights were a construct, just as all society is a construct, used by men to define and explain. Not every man who wields a spear is a soldier, and not every woman who makes bread is a baker. And yet weapons, or baking, become the hallmarks of certain professions.”

“So you’re saying that what we can do . . .”

Was once the definition of what initiated one into the Knights Radiant,” Jasnah said.

“But we’re women!”

“Yes,” Jasnah said lightly. “Spren don’t suffer from human society’s prejudices. Refreshing, wouldn’t you say?”

Shallan looked up from poking at the pattern spren. “There were women among the Knights Radiant?”

“A statistically appropriate number,” Jasnah said. “But don’t fear that you will soon find yourself swinging a sword, child. The archetype of Radiants on the battlefield is an exaggeration. From what I’ve read — though records are, unfortunately, untrustworthy — for every Radiant dedicated to battle, there were another three who spent their time on diplomacy, scholarship, or other ways to aid society.”

“Oh.” Why was Shallan disappointed by that?

Fool. A memory rose unbidden. A silvery sword. A pattern of light. Truths she could not face. She banished them, squeezing her eyes shut.

Ten heartbeats.

“I have been looking into the spren you told me about,” Jasnah said. “The creatures with the symbol heads.”

Shallan took a deep breath and opened her eyes. “This is one of them,” she said, pointing her pencil at the pattern, which had approached her trunk and was moving up onto it and off it — like a child jumping on a sofa. Instead of threatening, it seemed innocent, even playful — and hardly intelligent at all. She had been frightened of this thing?

“Yes, I suspect that it is,” Jasnah said. “Most spren manifest differently here than they do in Shadesmar. What you drew before was their form there.”

“Th is one is not very impressive.”

“Yes. I will admit that I’m disappointed. I feel that we’re missing something important about this, Shallan, and I find it annoying. The Cryptics have a fearful reputation, and yet this one — the first specimen I’ve ever seen — seems . . .”

It climbed up the wall, then slipped down, then climbed back up, then slipped down again.

“Imbecilic?” Shallan asked.

“Perhaps it simply needs more time,” Jasnah said. “When I first bonded with Ivory—” She stopped abruptly.

“What?” Shallan said.

“I’m sorry. He does not like me to speak of him. It makes him anxious. The knights’ breaking of their oaths was very painful to the spren. Many spren died; I’m certain of it. Though Ivory won’t speak of it, I gather that what he’s done is regarded as a betrayal by the others of his kind.”


“No more of that,” Jasnah said. “I’m sorry.”

“Fine. You mentioned the Cryptics?”

“Yes,” Jasnah said, reaching into the sleeve that hid her safehand and slipping out a folded piece of paper — one of Shallan’s drawings of the symbolheads. “That is their own name for themselves, though we would probably name them liespren. They don’t like the term. Regardless, the Cryptics rule one of the greater cities in Shadesmar. Think of them as the lighteyes of the Cognitive Realm.”

“So this thing,” Shallan said, nodding to the pattern, which was spinning in circles in the center of the cabin, “is like . . . a prince, on their side?”

“Something like that. There is a complex sort of conflict between them and the honorspren. Spren politics are not something I’ve been able to devote much time to. This spren will be your companion — and will grant you the ability to Soulcast, among other things.”

“Other things?”

“We will have to see,” Jasnah said. “It comes down to the nature of spren. What has your research revealed?”

With Jasnah, everything seemed to be a test of scholarship. Shallan smothered a sigh. This was why she had come with Jasnah, rather than returning to her home. Still, she did wish that sometimes Jasnah would just tell her answers rather than making her work so hard to find them. “Alai says that the spren are fragments of the powers of creation. A lot of the scholars I read agreed with that.”

“It is one opinion. What does it mean?”

Shallan tried not to let herself be distracted by the spren on the floor. “There are ten fundamental Surges — forces —by which the world works. Gravitation, pressure, transformation. That sort of thing. You told me spren are fragments of the Cognitive Realm that have somehow gained sentience because of human attention. Well, it stands to reason that they were something before. Like . . . like a painting was a canvas before being given life.”

“Life?” Jasnah said, raising her eyebrow.

“Of course,” Shallan said. Paintings lived. Not lived like a person or a spren, but . . . well, it was obvious to her, at least. “So, before the spren were alive, they were something. Power. Energy. Zen-daughter-Vath sketched tiny spren she found sometimes around heavy objects. Gravitationspren — fragments of the power or force that causes us to fall. It stands to reason that every spren was a power before it was a spren. Really, you can divide spren into two general groups. Those that respond to emotions and those that respond to forces like fi re or wind pressure.”

“So you believe Namar’s theory on spren categorization?”


“Good,” Jasnah said. “As do I. I suspect, personally, that these groupings of spren — emotion spren versus nature spren — are where the ideas of mankind’s primeval ‘gods’ came from. Honor, who became Vorinism’s Almighty, was created by men who wanted a representation of ideal human emotions as they saw in emotion spren. Cultivation, the god worshipped in the West, is a female deity that is an embodiment of nature and nature spren. The various Voidspren, with their unseen lord — whose name changes depending on which culture we’re speaking of — evoke an enemy or antagonist. The Stormfather, of course, is a strange off shoot of this, his theoretical nature changing depending on which era of Vorinism is doing the talking. . . .”

She trailed off . Shallan blushed, realizing she’d looked away and had begun tracing a glyphward on her blanket against the evil in Jasnah’s words.

“That was a tangent,” Jasnah said. “I apologize.”

“You’re so sure he isn’t real,” Shallan said. “The Almighty.”

“I have no more proof of him than I do of the Th aylen Passions, Nu Ralik of the Purelake, or any other religion.”

“And the Heralds? You don’t think they existed?”

“I don’t know,” Jasnah said. “There are many things in this world that I don’t understand. For example, there is some slight proof that both the Stormfather and the Almighty are real creatures — simply powerful spren, such as the Nightwatcher.”

“Th en he would be real.”

“I never claimed he was not,” Jasnah said. “I merely claimed that I do not accept him as God, nor do I feel any inclination to worship him. But this is, again, a tangent.” Jasnah stood. “You are relieved of other duties of study. For the next few days, you have only one focus for your scholarship.” She pointed toward the floor.

“The pattern?” Shallan asked.

“You are the only person in centuries to have the chance to interact with a Cryptic,” Jasnah said. “Study it and record your experiences — in detail. This will likely be your first writing of signifi cance, and could be of utmost importance to our future.”

Shallan regarded the pattern, which had moved over and bumped into her foot — she could feel it only faintly — and was now bumping into it time and time again.

“Great,” Shallan said.


The story continues in Words of Radiance…


Giveaway! THE NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan (UK Only)

BrennanM-NaturalHistoryOfDragonsUSA quick and cheerful post. I have one copy of The Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan to give away to some lucky reader in the UK. It’s the US Hardcover edition (published by Tor Books), but you should also know that it is going to be published soon in the UK by Titan Books, so if you don’t win, you will be able to get hold of the book easily in the near future.

Here’s what it’s about…

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart — no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments — even at the risk of one’s life — is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten…

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Leave a comment or email if you’re interested in winning the book. That’s really all you need to do. I’ll select someone at random in one week (December 3rd, at midnight).

GIVEAWAY! Brandon Sanderson’s THE RITHMATIST (UK Only)


I have an extra copy of the UK edition of Brandon Sanderson’s first YA novel to hit shelves, THE RITHMATIST. Being the sharing fellow that I am, I’ve decided to give it away!

Usual rules/guidelines apply – leave a comment (with some form of contact detail), or email me at civilian[dot]reader[at]

I’ll pick the winner on Monday (27th May), in the evening.

Here’s the synopsis for the novel…

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist.

Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Video & Giveaway – Leigh Evans

EvansL-M1-TroubleWithFateSomething a little different for the blog today. Instead of an interview, here area a couple of video clips in which author Leigh Evans discusses her new novel, The Trouble With Fate. Here’s the synopsis for the first novel in Evans’ Mystwalker series:


Hedi looks normal. Yet that’s taken effort. Her fellow Starbucks baristas don’t see her pointed ears, fae amulet or her dark past, and normal is hard for a half-fae, half-werewolf on the run. Hedi’s life changed ten years ago, when her parents were murdered by unknown assassins. She’s been in hiding with her loopy aunt Lou since, as whatever they wanted she’s determined they won’t get it. Things change when wolves capture Lou, forcing Hedi to steal to free her – for if she can offer up a fae amulet like her own they may trade. But it belongs to a rogue werewolf named Robson Trowbridge, who betrayed Hedi on the night of her greatest need. Over forty-eight hours, Hedi will face the weres of Creemore, discover the extent of her fae powers and possibly break her own heart in the process.

First up, a clip of Leigh Evans discussing the characters in her novel:

And secondly, a clip in which Leigh discusses the setting of her novel:

But wait, there’s more!

To celebrate the release of The Trouble With Fate, Macmillan have offered a couple of copies of the book for a giveaway.

Just leave your entry in the comments thread, or email me at the usual email address.

James Rollins’s BLOODLINE Giveaway

Rollins-BloodlineUS-MMPBAnother giveaway (having a lot of them, these days), this time for James Rollins’s latest Sigma Force novel, Bloodline. Quite simple to enter, all you have to do is go:


And then, just fill out the nice, easy form.

Here’s some info about the book:

Galilee, 1025. Infiltrating an ancient citadel, a Templar knight uncovers a holy treasure long hidden within the fortress’s labyrinth: the Bachal Isu — the staff of Jesus Christ — a priceless icon that holds a mysterious and terrifying power that promises to change humankind forever.

A millennium later, Somali pirates hijack a yacht off the coast of the Horn of Africa, kidnapping a young pregnant American woman. Commander Gray Pierce is enlisted for a covert rescue mission into the African jungle. The woman is no rich tourist: she’s Amanda Gant-Bennett, daughter of the U.S. president.

Suspicious that the kidnapping masks a far more nefarious plot, Gray must confront a shadowy cabal which has been manipulating events throughout history…and now challenges the current presidency.

For this unique mission, SIGMA is aided by a pair of special operatives with unique talents: former Army Ranger Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane. But what should be a straightforward rescue turns into a fiery ambush and a deadly act of betrayal, as Gray and his team discover that the hostage is a pawn in a shattering act of terrorism with dark repercussions. And the danger is only beginning…

Halfway around the world, a firebombing at a fertility clinic in South Carolina exposes a conspiracy that goes back centuries…a scheme that lies within our genetic code. With time against them, SIGMA must race to save an innocent unborn baby whose very existence raises questions about the nature of humanity, asking:

Could you live forever?

Would you live forever?

Guest Post: “Libraries and Civilization” by Jo Walton (& Giveaway!)

Walton-AmongOthersUKIn 2004, I went to the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, and after the con I went with some friends to see the Mary Baker Eddy Library and its amazing Mapparium, It’s a globe made entirely of stained glass which you can walk inside – it has room for maybe a dozen people. It has amazing acoustics, which the guide encouraged us to test. People were doing various things, and I did my standard thing I do when asked to “say something”, Keats “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”. I’ve been using it for mic tests for years. Inside the globe it sounded wonderful, even more wonderful than usual, because of the acoustics and because of being surrounded by the glowing glass world. It’s a sonnet about the amazing wonderful power of reading. In it, Keats is all excited about having read Chapman’s translation of Homer. He compares reading it to finding a new planet and even to discovering the Pacific.

Walton-AmongOthersThat’s how I feel about reading too, reading opens up marvellous exciting new vistas, reading can take you to other worlds and give you experiences you couldn’t ever have imagined.

And it’s also how I feel about libraries. Libraries are where they keep all the books, where you can find books even if you don’t have any money, where you can have new worlds open up to you even if you’re a kid whose parents don’t care about books. Fund your libraries for a better tomorrow.

Among Others is a fantasy novel about the power of reading science fiction, and the power of finding other people to talk to about the books you care about. It’s about a young science fiction reader who has fantasy problems – she has to deal with magic and witches and fairies with their own agenda… but she has books and libraries, so she knows everything will be all right.


GIVEAWAY! (Worldwide!)

Pretty simple, really – there are three copies of Among Others up for grabs. All you have to do is email your name and address to:


I will select the winners on Monday 25th March, 2013, and contact them via email and also in the comments thread, below.