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

Quick Review: BLACKWING by Ed McDonald (Gollancz/Ace)

A promising debut grimdark fantasy

You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet…

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery — a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Blackwing is one of the most hotly-anticipated debut fantasy novels of the year. Social media and the blogosphere have been filled with glowing reviews, squees and other evidence that suggests the hype has been entirely justified. There’s a lot in here that will certainly appeal to plenty of fantasy fans. However, I ultimately came away from this novel underwhelmed. Continue reading

Interview with ED McDONALD

McDonaldE-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Ed McDonald?

Hello! That would be me. I’m an author, swordsman, medieval historian, lecturer, husband, reader, and gamer.

Your debut novel, Blackwing, will be published by Gollancz. It’s been getting quite a bit of pre-publication buzz. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Blackwing is the first part of The Raven’s Mark series. It’s epic fantasy in scope, but with a tight focus on a single character and the individual part he plays in a wider conflict. The pace is more like a thriller than the usual wander through a fantasy landscape, so I’d say that if you like your fantasy fast paced, character driven, hard hitting, free from gender bias and set on the edge of a post-apocalyptic magical wasteland, then it’s probably for you. Continue reading

Interview with ANNA SMITH SPARK

anna-smith-spark-author-photo-1Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Anna Smith Spark?

I tweet as QueenofGrimdark, I’m an ex-fetish model, and I have a PhD in Victorian occultism.

No, honestly.

I’m a fantasy novelist from London, UK.  I have a background in history and literature: I studied Classical History for my BA, Cultural History for my MA and English Literature for my PhD. Which really was about Victorian occultism, looking at the way it intersected with the physical sciences and with politics. My only real interests in life are history, mythology and literature. I spent several years as an obsessive D&D player, but sadly no longer play. I’m obsessed with Warhammer miniatures as well (Chaos Warriors … oh. Oh oh oh), but don’t actually play Warhammer either. Continue reading