Quick Review: WE ARE THE DEAD by Mike Shackle (Gollancz)

ShackleM-LW1-WeAreTheDeadUKOne of the best fantasy debuts in years

The war is over. The enemy won.

Jia’s people learned the hard way that there are no second chances. The Egril, their ancient enemy, struck with magic so devastating that Jia’s armies were wiped out. Now terror reigns in the streets, and friend turns on friend just to live another day.

Somehow Tinnstra – a deserter, a failure, nothing but a coward – survived. She wants no more than to hide from the chaos.

But dragged into a desperate plot to retake Jia, surrounded by people willing to do anything to win the fight, this time Tinnstra will need to do more than hide.

If Jia is to get a second chance after all, this time she will need to be a hero.

It took me longer than I would have liked to get around to reading Mike Shackle’s debut, We Are the Dead. Long-time readers may know how I’ve struggled a bit with the fantasy genre of late. This novel, however, sounded really interesting, so I decided to dive in. And I wasn’t disappointed! This is a gripping, excellently-written (grimdark) fantasy novel. Continue reading

Interview with MIKE SHACKLE

ShackleM-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Mike Shackle?

I’m a Brit who’s lived and worked all over the world but has settled in the wonderful city of Vancouver with my family. In my time, I’ve sold washing machines, cooked for the Queen, designed a few logos and made a lot of ads for some of the biggest brands in the world. But I’ve always been a dreamer and I’m happiest disappearing into made-up worlds, full of dark and interesting characters, whether that’s in my own writing or enjoying our people’s novels.

Your debut novel, We Are The Dead, is due to be published by Gollancz in August (one of my most-anticipated debuts of the year). How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

We Are the Dead is the first book in the Last War trilogy. As per the blurb, it’s a story full of crunching revolutionary action, twisted magic, and hard choices in dark times. It’s about what happens when the bad guy wins and there are no heroes left to come and save the day. It’s a tale about a coward, a teenage psychopath, a single mother and a crippled soldier forced to stand up and fight when it matters most. It’s grim and it’s dark but, at its heart, it’s a story about families and hope. Continue reading

Interview with PETER McLEAN

McLeanP-AuthorPicWelcome back to CR! For new readers, let’s begin with a quick introduction: Who is Peter McLean?

Hi, thanks for having me back! I’m a British fantasy author based in Norwich, England, which is a small city a couple of hours from London on the east coast of the UK. I wrote the Burned Man urban fantasy series a few years ago, but am now mostly known for last year’s Priest of Bones which came out October 2018 from Ace in the US and Jo Fletcher Books in the UK. I’m married to Diane and, like most authors, am owned by a cat.

Since we last spoke, you’ve started a new fantasy series that is generating a lot of great interest and reviews. How would you introduce the series to a new reader?

When my agent and I were first shopping Priest of Bones to editors we pitched it as “The Godfather with swords”, and I still think that’s a pretty accurate representation. It’s a gangster story set in a quasi-Tudor world, told in the first person narration of crime lord turned soldier turned priest Tomas Piety. In the tradition of mafia family epics, it’s a story of power and corruption, intrigue and revenge. Continue reading

Interview with JUSTIN CALL

CallJ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Justin Call?

Justin Call – creator, storyteller, teacher, and analyst.

Actually, I’m not an analyst, but I spend more time analyzing things in a typical day than most analysts probably do in a week. I can’t help it. I analyze people, places, stories, games, social situations, and anything else that strikes my fancy. As a professional, I also write books, design and publish board games, and teach English to kids in China. I’m also a stay-at-home dad, and juggling the aforementioned jobs while watching my kiddos can be difficult (but rewarding).

Your debut novel, Master of Sorrows, is due to be published by Gollancz in February 2019. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It is interesting. Master of Sorrows is the first book in a tetralogy called The Silent Gods. The premise of the series is best phrased in the form of a rhetorical question (which, incidentally, is how I usually pitch the book to folks): ‘What if the prophesied hero were actually the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world… or destroy it?’ If readers think long enough about that question, they’ll discover a lot of interesting themes that keep reappearing in the series such as ‘the nature of evil’ and the concept of the ‘monstrous other.’ Continue reading

Guest Post: “Grimdark or Grimheart?” by Peter McLean

McLeanP-AuthorPicHi Stefan, thanks for having me back on Civilian Reader!

Last time I was here I was talking with you about my Urban Fantasy books and you asked what might be next, and I said,

“The majority of what I actually read for pleasure is secondary world fantasy, and I’ve always wanted to write a brutal Conan-esque Grimdark swords-and-swearing adventure story so that may see the light of day eventually.”

Well, it sort of did see the light of day.

And yet, at the same time, it sort of didn’t. I did write a brutal secondary world fantasy novel, and that’s Priest of Bones which is out on October 2nd from Ace. But it’s not quite what I had in mind when I originally answered that question three years ago. Continue reading

Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of RAVENCRY by Ed McDonald (Gollancz/Ace)

McDonaldE-AuthorPicWhen I was asked to provide a first chapter critique of my own book, I thought that this was an excellent way to explain the way that my own writing craft works, and to point out the level of complexity that comes into play through many rounds of editing.

I think that I have to stress that the first chapter did not look like this at the end of the first draft. So many of the details, the events, even the character of Levan Ost, all changed multiple times during the editing process. These were the details and events that remained when the dust settled.

Throughout this text I’ve interrupted the narrative to point out why I made particular decisions. Everything in this chapter is a conscious choice, and hopefully I’ve been able to explain why I made some of them. Writing is a deeply personal and individual craft and no two people’s are the same. These were the right choices for me.

It should be noted that although there are no direct spoilers in my commentary, if you’ve not read RAVENCRY yet, then I will be pointing out particular details that are specifically of interest later in the book.

Continue reading

Review: BEST SERVED COLD by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz/Orbit)

Abercrombie-BestServedColdUKAbercrombie expands the World of the First Law

Springtime in Styria. And that means war. Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular — a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy is one of my favourites: a great story, fantastic characters, superb prose. For some reason, it took me a while to get around to reading Best Served Cold (originally published in 2008). I finally read it after taking a glance at the first pages, and being quickly drawn in by not only the author’s great prose, but also his gift for characterization. Unfortunately, though, I finished the novel with a very different feeling to that I had after finishing Last Argument of KingsContinue reading