Excerpt: SIGNAL TO NOISE by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Solaris)

SIGNAL TO NOISEA new literary fantasy from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Signal To Noise is a very good novel, and is a story about love (young and not), music and sorcery. Due to be published by Solaris Books in February 2015, the publisher has allowed me to share this excerpt. I’ll post my review later this week. First, here’s the synopsis:

Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. The three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…

Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, reviving memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? Is there any magic left? Continue reading

Review: TOUCH by Claire North (Redhook/Orbit)

NorthC-TouchA triumphant second novel

Your violent death usually triggers the first switch.

Just before your life ebbs away, your skin happens to touch another human being – and in an instant, your consciousness transfers completely to the person you touched.

From that moment on, you can leap from body to body with a touch of the skin. You can remain for a minute, an hour, a lifetime, and after you leave, the host has no memory of the time you were there.

My name is Kepler. I could be you.

For me, the carefree life of jumping between bodies has become a terrifying nightmare. I am being hunted. I don’t know who. I don’t know why. If you’ve read this far, our lives have already touched. Now you are part of the conspiracy too.

Get ready to run.

Claire North’s debut, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, blew me away. It has easily become one of my favourite novels. It was with great anticipation and trepidation, therefore, that I began Touch. I needn’t have worried, though. This is another fantastic novel, one that gripped me from the beginning and didn’t let go. North is my new favourite author. Continue reading

Upcoming: HISSES AND WINGS by Alex Bledsoe & Teresa Frohock

BledsoeFrohock-Hisses&WingsI haven’t read either of Alex Bledsoe’s novels set in his Tufa series — The Hum and the Shiver and The Wisp of a Thing — but they have been on my radar for a long while (so has everything else of Bledsoe’s, actually). I have, however, read most of Teresa Frohock’s excellent work. The two authors have teamed up to write a Tufa story, which will be published on December 4th, 2015 2014. What sparked this post was the cover reveal. Now, December 2015 is a long way away,* but it does mean I’ll have time to read the first two novels in the series before it comes out. Frohock is also working on a novella for the series, which will be published before the novel.

Here’s the synopsis for Hisses and Wings:

Janet, a young woman whose forebearers were a race of banished faeries, learns of a song that might allow the Tufa to return to their ancestral home. But the song is guarded by Diago, one of the Nefilim, a race descended from angels.

Diago knows only too well that the song’s power may be misused. Can Janet convince him to give up the song, and if so, does she have the wisdom to use it?

You can learn more about the series by visiting Alex Bledsoe‘s and Teresa Frohock‘s websites, and following them on Twitter. In the interest of completeness, here are the covers for the first two Tufa novels (both are published in North America by Tor Books)…


… and the synopsis for The Hum and the Shiver:

An enchanting tale of music and magic older than the hills…

No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Enigmatic and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be a mystery, there are hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.

Bronwyn Hyatt, a pure-blood Tufa, has always insisting on doing things her own way, regardless of the consequences. Even though Tufa rarely leave Cloud County, she enlisted in the Army to escape the pressures of Tufa life—her family, her obligations as a First Daughter, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But after barely surviving a devastating ambush that killed most of her fellow soldiers, Private Hyatt returns to Cloud County wounded in body and in spirit. But danger lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity.

Now Bronwyn finds the greatest battle to be right here at home, where her obligations struggle with her need for freedom, and if she makes the wrong choice, the consequences could be deadly for all the Tufa…

Bledsoe-T3-LongBlackCurlBut wait: there’s more! While collecting information for this post, I also found information for Bledsoe’s third Tufa novel, Long Black Curl, which will be published by Tor Books in March 2015. Here’s the synopsis:

In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.

Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.

The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?


Correction: Hisses and Wings is published in December 2014, not 2015. (Now reflected in piece above.)

* December 2015 will also see the release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. So, we have an embarrassment of riches to look forward to…

I Have Never Read… Graham Joyce. (But I’d really like to.)

JoyceG-SomeKindOfFairyTaleUKAuthor Graham Joyce’s latest novel, Some Kind of Fairy Tale won the British Fantasy Award for best novel this past weekend (announced during the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton). This is the sixth time Joyce has won the Best Fantasy Novel Award. Here is the synopsis:

Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a very English story. A story of woods and clearings, a story of folk tales and family histories. It is as if Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris had written a Fairy Tale together.

It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone-call from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery.

He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she’s back, tired, dirty, disheveled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim.

But her stories don’t quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter’s parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara’s one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it’s as if she’s off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family…

Joyce’s other winning novels were: Dark Sister (1993), Requiem (1996), The Tooth Fairy (1997), Indigo (2000), Memoirs of a Master Forger (2009). In addition to these six wins, perhaps more impressive is the fact that he’s been nominated a total fourteen times.

Earlier this year, Joyce was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma cancer.  The awards ceremony was his first public appearance since his diagnosis – indeed, six months ago, his condition was extremely precarious. Accepting the award, the author stated, “Just being able to stand here today is a wonderful award, thanks to the doctors and nurses of the NHS.”

Graham Joyce’s novels have always somehow managed to escape my attention. True, in this case, the synopsis doesn’t appear to be entirely to my taste. However, given just how many people rave about his work (and irrespective of the number of awards he’s won), I am intrigued. Especially as I start forcing myself to read more outside my ‘comfort zone’, and as my general Reader’s Block continues (‘standard’ fantasy novels have started to blur into one…).

I thought I’d also pick up on something from the biography I received today from his publicist:

“In 1989 Joyce quit his job as a youth worker and went to live and write in a beachside shack on the Greek island of Lesbos. He sold his first novel after a year in Greece. Since then he has written twenty novels and numerous short stories. His novels have attracted admirers including Isabel Allende, Iain Banks, A.S. Byatt and Stephen King.”

I wish I had the courage (not to mention the talent) to do this… Too often, I feel like my life has been dictated by “safe” choices. True, I’d like to retire to a cabin in North America, but there are rather strict visa concerns to take into account…

Interview with JAMES TREADWELL


James Treadwell is the author of Advent and Anarchy, two novels that seem to have taken the UK (and perhaps the US?) by storm. In advance of my belated reading of the novels, Hodder were kind enough to hook me up with an interview with James. Read on!

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is James Treadwell?

I think he’s that tall confused-looking bloke in the back row, the one who needs a haircut. He also appears to have bad shoes.

Treadwell-AnarchyAnarchy, the sequel to Advent, was recently published by Hodder. How would you introduce the series and novel to a potential reader?

I’m very bad at these “elevator pitches” … I suppose one way I might do it is by asking someone if they’ve ever wondered what it would be like – what it would really, really be like – if something impossible happened to them.

But if I was trying to give a more general thumbnail description of the books, I’d probably say that they’re about the return of magic to the world. To our world, that is, the real world we live in; the one in which we all know there isn’t actually any magic.

What inspired you to write the novels? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

Advent is based on something that’s been in my thoughts for years and years, long before I ever thought there’d be a time when I could try making a book out of it. As far as I can remember it started with an image of a boy walking alone in a wood and meeting something inexplicable on the way. Why that particular image felt like it had a story in it I don’t know, but apparently it did.

Treadwell-AdventIt often seems to start with a small thing like that: a scene, or a particular character, or an event, which somehow feels like it has extra weight. But I don’t really know where stories come from. Philip Pullman once compared it to fishing from a small boat on a big lake. You just sit there, and – if you’re lucky – something eventually grabs the hook, down in that enormous and entirely invisible space beneath you. You can’t make it happen, though. All you can do is concentrate and be patient.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

Good question. I wish I could remember. One of the very first things I remember reading – some kind of school reading book, I’d have been six or seven years old – must have been a version of the Nibelungenlied, because I remember the name Kriemhild, and a vague but powerful sense of being excited by dragons and heroes and strange quests. I definitely remember being addicted to a lovely paperback retelling of the Norse myths, a few years later, and I loved Narnia as soon as I discovered it. I can’t remember a time when I wouldn’t have chosen those kind of stories over any other. I’ve always wanted to be enchanted, I suppose.

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

I love being a writer, for all sorts of reasons. The publishing industry is an entirely different matter. Not in a bad way – I have a wonderful agent and editor, and whenever I go into my publishers’ office I’m astonished (and delighted) by how cheerful they all seem to be. But I know nothing at all about the whole business of printing, marketing and selling books. I do writing: anything beyond that is up to someone else.

Everyone has work habits, don’t they? What can I think of that might be a little unusual? I write using pen and paper, which probably counts as a quirk. I always leave the house. I treat first drafts as raw material rather than anything approximating a final product.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I suppose I’ve always liked the idea of trying to tell stories, but the prospect of actually being an author never seemed realistic until a quite unexpected combination of circumstances came about when I was in my mid-thirties.

I did write a sort of sprawling second-hand fantasy epic in my teens. It was inexcusably terrible last time I looked, so much so that I haven’t dared look again for a very long time. But I do have happy memories of the process itself: staying up late(-ish) in my bedroom, letting the imagination work and ignoring everything else.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

By “the genre” we mean fantasy, yes? That’s a big and interesting question.

I’m intrigued by the prevailing unseriousness of fantasy these days. A lot of the best work has a kind of knowing, sardonic cool in it somewhere, as if it’s written by a generation hugely influenced by Douglas Adams. I’m thinking of someone like Terry Pratchett, whose version of fantasy is openly satirical. But I’m also thinking of someone like Joe Abercrombie, where you have fairly conventional fantasy material, but treated in a highly ironic manner (like with the title of The Heroes). Even with Neil Gaiman – who I think is an authentic genius, one of the best writers alive – there’s a shimmer of witty brilliance over everything, a sort of dark sparkle. You see much less of the gentle earnest solemnity of Tolkien or Le Guin, these days. Another way of putting it: think about the difference between Frodo Baggins and Tyrion Lannister as fantasy protagonists. Or, think of how much more wisecracking and cheeky Dr. Who has become.


Part of the reason this intrigues me is that I’m pretty sure my own writing entirely lacks this quality. But I don’t really want to talk about where I fit or don’t fit into a genre: that’s for others to discuss, if they want to. Besides, thinking about my work in relation to Gaiman’s or Le Guin’s is just going to make me sad.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

I know what I’m going to do once the Advent trilogy is finished (which will be in a few months). It’s a project that has come about in an utterly extraordinary way, so extraordinary that I really can’t say very much about it. Sorry.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’ve just finished Gossip From the Forest, Sara Maitland’s book about fairy tales, which is wonderful. I’m working my way through M John Harrison’s LightNova SwingEmpty Space trilogy, also very remarkable. I particularly like the fact that it features suburbs and streets and train stations from my patch of West London. I’ll never look at the roundabout in Mortlake quite the same way.


What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m too chicken to read H.P. Lovecraft. It’s true. He gives me nightmares. Quite a few people have told me that my books are rather “dark”, but I’m a total literary coward. I can’t handle any sort of horror.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Probably watching the Winter Olympics on the BBC. Biathlon! Curling! It would be different if it was all the time, but when it’s once every four years you have to grab the opportunity with both fists. Carpe curling, as Horace might have said.


James Treadwell’s Advent series is published by Atria in the US (artwork below). Advent and Anarchy are available now. Here’s the synopsis for Advent (from Goodreads):

“A drowning, a magician’s curse, and a centuries-old secret.”

1537. A man hurries through city streets in a gathering snowstorm, clutching a box in one hand. He is Johann Faust, the greatest magician of his age. The box he carries contains a mirror safeguarding a portion of his soul and a small ring containing all the magic in the world. Together, they comprise something unimaginably dangerous.

London, the present day. Fifteen-year-old Gavin Stokes is boarding a train to the countryside to live with his aunt. His school and his parents can’t cope with him and the things he sees, things they tell him don’t really exist. At Pendurra, Gavin finds people who are like him, who see things too. They all make the same strange claim: magic exists, it’s leaking back into our world, and it’s bringing something terrible with it.

First in an astonishingly imaginative fantasy trilogy, Advent describes how magic was lost to humanity, and how a fifteen-year-old boy discovers that its return is his inheritance. It begins in a world recognizably our own, and ends an extraordinarily long way from where it started – somewhere much bigger, stranger, and richer.


US Covers