Guest Post: “On Theon Greyjoy…” by Mark Alder

AlderM-AuthorPicTheon Greyjoy – do you like him now? Did you ever like him? Will you ever like him?

As a writer, I find Theon by far the most interesting character in Game of Thrones. He illustrates a lot about how to make a character disliked. He also, in his long redemption, illustrates the techniques novelists and screenwriters use to build sympathy in a character.

Theon has had many of these sympathy building techniques applied to him in the course of his redemption, but here’s the thing – up until the very last scenes of the last series of  the Game of Thrones TV series, they simply have not worked.

He’s particularly interesting when compared to another GoT character who has undergone his own redemption – Jaime Lannister.

[Please Note: Spoilers for Game of Thrones!] Continue reading

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Upcoming in 2017… Gollancz & Orion

upcoming2017-orion

A selection of anticipated novels from Orion Books (and imprints).

Featuring: Joe Abercrombie, Dan Abnett, Mark Alder, Brad Beaulieu, Ezekiel Boone, C. Robert Cargill, Steve Cavanagh, Mason Cross, Aliette de Bodard, R.J. Ellory, Emily Fridlund, John Hornor Jacobs, Ursula K. le Guin, Ian McDonald, Andrew Pyper, Alastair Reynolds, Simon Wroe

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Upcoming: SON OF THE MORNING by Mark Alder (Pegasus)

AlderM-SonOfTheMorningUSMark Alder‘s Son of the Morning was first published a couple of years ago in the UK by Gollancz, but I just spotted that it is finally coming to North America, too — it is due to be published by Pegasus Books in February 2016. The cover is to the right, and the synopsis is as follows:

In an epic novel that reimagines the Hundred Years War — in a world where angels and demons choose sides on the battlefield — England and France find themselves locked in a holy war, but which country has God’s favor?

England, 1337: Edward III is beset on all sides, plagued by debt and surrounded by doubters. He refuses to pay homage to the newly crowned Philip Valois of France and seeks to secure his French holdings, but he’s outmanned. Philip can put 50,000 men in the field, but he is having his own problems: he has summoned the angels themselves to fight for France, but the angels refuse to fight. Both kings send priests far and wide, seeking holy relics and heavenly beings to take up the cause of their country, but God remains stubbornly silent, refusing to grant favor to either side.

Meanwhile, among the poor and downtrodden, heretical whispers are taking hold: what if God — who has never been seen to do anything for them — is not the rightful leader of the heavens after all? And as Edward’s situation becomes increasingly desperate, even his counselors begin to believe that if God won’t listen, perhaps they can find a savior not from Heaven, but from Hell.

In a sweeping tale packed with courtiers and kings, knights and priests, and devils and angels, Mark Alder breathes fresh and imaginative life into the Hundred Years War in this unique historical epic.

The sequel for Son of the Morning appears to be Son of the Night, which Amazon UK has listed for a November 2016 release, although this is possibly subject to change. No cover art as yet.

Mark Alder is a pseudonym, and the author also writes as M.D. Lachlan, whose Wolfsangel series is also published in the UK by Gollancz. The cover for the UK market is below:

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Quick Catch-Up with M.D. LACHLAN

The Valkyrie’s Song is the fourth novel in your Wolfsangel Cycle series. How does it feel to have it got this far? Are there more books to come?

Amazing, really. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the Norse world — or at least my version of it. There are more novels to come but there may be a big leap in time period for the next one. I’m thinking of setting it in WWII.

LachlanMD-W4-ValkyriesSong

What drew you to the werewolf myth, and the particular periods of history you’ve chosen for your novels?

I don’t know — it just hopped out of me fully formed on the page. I like the werewolf because of the lack of control, the  idea of the ancient animal heart beating beneath the civilised surface, ready to run amok in our lives. Big teeth, too — everyone loves big teeth. Continue reading

New Books (February #1)

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Featuring: Joe Abercrombie, Mark Alder, Michel Bussi, Michael Christie, John Clarkson, Toby Clements, Myke Cole, Rowena Cory Daniells, William Dietz, Cecilia Ekbäck, Christopher Fowler, John French, Steven Harper, Lee Kelly, Jean Hanff Korelitz, Ursula le Guin, Stephen Marche, Marshall Ryan Maresca, George R.R. Martin, Paul McAuley, Ben Mezrich, Michael Moorcock, Michael Alan Nelson, Peter Orullian, Den Patrick, Justina Robson, Andrzej Sapkowski, Joe Schreiber, Harry Turtledove, Nicolle Wallace Continue reading

Books Received (Easter Week & a Bit)

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Featuring: Mark Alder, Charles Cumming, Stella Gemmell, Terry Hayes, Sarah Pinborough, Justin Richards, Marcus Sakey, Tom Rob Smith

AlderM-SonOfTheMorningMark Alder, Son of the Morning (Gollancz)

Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying.

Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French?

But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France…

This has been creating quite the buzz around the UK SFF community. It took me a little while to discover that “Mark Alder” is a pseudonym for “M.D. Lachlan” (which, incidentally, is also a pseudonym…). I really enjoyed Wolfsangel and Fenrir, but have yet to catch up with the rest of Lachlan’s werewolf series. Soon, hopefully. You can read an excerpt from the novel, here.

Also on CR: Interview with M.D. Lachlan, Catch-Up Interview

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Cumming-AColderWarUKCharles Cumming, A Colder War (Harper)

A top-ranking Iranian military official is blown up while trying to defect to the West. An investigative journalist is arrested and imprisoned for writing an article critical of the Turkish government. An Iranian nuclear scientist is assassinated on the streets of Tehran. These three incidents, seemingly unrelated, have one crucial link. Each of the three had been recently recruited by Western intelligence, before being removed or killed.

Then Paul Wallinger, MI6’s most senior agent in Turkey, dies in a puzzling plane crash. Fearing the worst, MI6 bypasses the usual protocol and brings disgraced agent Tom Kell in from the cold to investigate. Kell soon discovers what Wallinger had already begun to suspect – that there’s a mole somewhere in the Western intelligence, a traitor who has been systematically sabotaging scores of joint intelligence operations in the Middle East.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite authors – not just of thrillers, but of any genre. I’ve fallen behind a bit, but I’m really looking forward to jumping into this novel. A Foreign Country, the first in this series, is one of the books I haven’t read, so I’ll be reading that in a few days, before starting in on this one.

Also on CR: Reviews of Typhoon and The Trinity Six

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GemmellS-CityUKPBStella Gemmell, The City (Corgi)

The City is ancient and vast and has been waging almost constant war for centuries. At its heart resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime – and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a few have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to halt the emperor’s unslakeable thirst for war is to end his unnaturally long life.

From the crumbling catacombs beneath the City where the poor struggle to stay alive to the blood-soaked fields of battle where so few heroes survive, these rebels emerge. Their hopes rest on one man. A man who was once the emperor’s foremost general – a revered soldier who could lead an uprising and liberate a city, a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and is now believed to be dead…

The paperback release of this novel arrives. I received the large, trade-paperback last year. I started reading it when I was really not in the mood for fantasy. It was very well-written, and the world was really well-realised. But at the time I found it rather slow, and a bit too heavy on the world-building over the story-telling. I’ll give it another go, hopefully, some time later this year.

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Hayes-IAmPilgrimTerry Hayes, I Am Pilgrim (Corgi)

Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

Another novel I’ve heard great things about, but for some reason haven’t got around to reading. It’s a biggie, but I’m really interested in reading it.

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PinboroughS-LT2-MurderSarah Pinborough, Murder (Jo Fletcher Books)

Dr. Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, is still recovering from the event of the previous year when Jack the Ripper haunted the streets of London – and a more malign enemy hid in his shadow. Bond and the others who worked on the gruesome case are still stalked by its legacies, both psychological and tangible.

But now the bodies of children are being pulled from the Thames… and Bond is about to become inextricably linked with an uncanny, undying enemy.

This is the next in Pinborough’s historical London crime novels (with a hint of the supernatural). I’m currently reading the first, Mayhem, and really enjoying it. Review pretty soon, hopefully.

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RichardsJ-SuicideExhibitionUKPBJustin Richards, Suicide Exhibition (Del Rey UK)

WEWELSBURG CASTLE, 1940.

The German war machine has woken an ancient threat – the alien Vril and their Ubermensch have returned. Ultimate Victory in the war for Europe is now within the Nazis’ grasp.

ENGLAND, 1941

Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy beyond his imagining – a secret war being waged in the shadows against a terrible enemy.

The battle for Europe has just become the war for humanity.

Another paperback release, and another novel I’ve been so slow about getting around to reading. I do like the sound of it, I’ve just been distracted constantly whenever I think about reading it. Maybe now I’ll get my act together.

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Sakey-B2-ABetterWorldMarcus Sakey, A Better World (Thomas & Mercer)

The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional… and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose – because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

This is the sequel to Brilliance, which I have but have not yet got around to reading. (That is a bit of theme for this post…) I’ve never read anything by Sakey, but I’ve heard lots of very good things.

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SmithTR-TheFarmUSTom Rob Smith, The Farm (Grand Central)

If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

Your mother… she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

Tom Rob Smith’s previous novels have been huge, international hits. Which, as with so many in an ever-busier publishing environment, I haven’t managed to try, yet. After seeing it on NetGalley, and my request being accepted, I’m hoping to get around to this very soon. Especially since I seem to have developed a real taste for international thrillers, lately.

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Which of these catches your eye? Have you been waiting for any of them?