New Books (January)

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The year’s flood of interesting new and upcoming releases continues! Most of these are high on my must-read (mental) list. Some of these are also not out for a very long time, so reviews won’t appear for a few months. Nevertheless, worth mentioning to whet others’ appetites for the year ahead’s biblio-offerings…

Featuring: Jami Attenberg, Paul Auster, David Bishop, JoAnn Chaney, Andy Clark, John Connolly, Liv Constantine, Ben Counter, Paul Crilley, Rene Denfeld, Alice Feeney, Neil Gaiman, Max Gladstone, L.J. Goulding, Jean Hanff Korelitz, Anthony Horowitz, Danya Kukafka, Victor LaValle, Mark Lawrence, Norman Ohler, B.A. Paris, Sarah Pinborough, Alastair Reynolds, Michael Rubens, Kieran Shea, Jon Skovron, Brian Staveley, James Swallow, Martha Wells

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Upcoming in 2017… Harper Voyager

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Tricky to find information about Voyager UK titles, unless they’re already established authors (Mark Lawrence, Richard Kadrey, etc.). So, this post features predominantly titles published in both North America and the UK.

Featuring: Christopher Brown, Becky Chambers, Nicky Drayden, Patrick Hemstreet, Richard Kadrey, Mark Lawrence, Wesley Snipes

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New Books (September-October)

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Featuring: André Alexis, Federico Axat, Adam Baker, James Benmore, Hayley Campbell, Peter Ames Carlin, Lincoln Child, Greg Cox, Bryan Cranston, Sady Doyle, Dave Duncan, Ruthanna Emrys, Valentina Giambanco, Peter Heller, Brian Jay Jones, Richard Kadrey, Helen Keen, Stephen King, Ellen Klages, Mark Lawrence, Tom Lloyd, David Mark, Joe M. McDermott, Peter McLean, Kate Moretti, Mike Myers, Trevor Noah, Joyce Carol Oates, Douglas Preston, Jason Rekulak, Simon Reynolds, Anne Rice, Tony Robinson, Jonathan Safran Foer, Chris Sharp, J.P. Smythe, Bruce Springsteen, Marc Turner, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Jess Walter, Sam Wilson, Lidia Yuknavitch

Above image: The Hunt #3 by Joana Lafuente & Colin Lorimer (Image)

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New Books (May-June)

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Featuring: Judy Blume, Nick Brown, Jack Campbell, Lincoln Child, Ernest Cline, Nathan Garrison, Mat Johnson, Stephen King, Jessica Knoll, Douglas Lain, Mark Lawrence, Aidan Levy, Jason Matthews, Naomi Novik, Matthew Palmer, Ron Perlman, Alexandra Petri, Loren Rhoads, Christopher Robinson, Neal Stephenson, Corey Taylor Continue reading

Review: PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence (Voyager/Ace Books)

LawrenceM-RQW1-PrinceOfFoolsUKA new trilogy and hero, and still just as good…

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other.

Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north.

In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

Experience does not lend Jalan wisdom; but here and there he unearths a corner of the truth. He discovers that they are all pieces on a board, pieces that may be being played in the long, secret war the Red Queen has waged throughout her reign, against the powers that stand behind thrones and nations, and for higher stakes than land or gold.

Mark Lawrence returns with the first in a great new trilogy set in the same world as his critically-acclaimed Broken Empire trilogy. As long-time readers of the blog will know, I really enjoyed Lawrence’s debut, Prince of Thorns. He is without doubt one of the best new fantasy authors, and if you like your fantasy dark, twisty, and very well-written, then you really do need to give his work a try. Prince of Fools introduces us to a new pair of heroes – Prince Jalan and his Viking companion, Snorri. I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

A Quick Comment on the Gemmell Award Shortlists, and One of the Nominees. Sort of…

This post is a bit of a break from the norm for me. I’m also not really sure what it’s meant to do. It’s a bit waffley, for which I apologise only slightly, and in not entirely a heartfelt manner. Fiction awards mean very little to me, being neither author, editor, publisher, nor agent. (At least, not yet…) This means I have never (to my recollection) written a post of any worth/note about shortlists or winners.

Brett-DaylightWarUKAward lists tend to pass me by without comment or thought. Invariably, this is because there aren’t any books featured that I’ve read – or, if there is, it is one that didn’t leave much of an impression one way or another. This year has been a bit different, however. For example, Kameron Hurley’s God’s War has been cropping up on a few shortlists, and it’s a book I rather enjoyed. So that made a nice change.

The shortlists for the Gemmell Awards were announced today at Eastercon. In a real break from the norm, the shortlist for the Legend Award (best fantasy) features not only five authors I have read, but also a book I feel particularly strongly about. So I thought I’d write a quick blog post about it. The book in question is Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War, the third in his Demon Cycle series.

[Before I continue, let me just state that my focus on this book is not an indictment of the other authors nominated for the award. I just feel particularly strongly about this one. The other Legend nominees – Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Brandon Sanderson – are great authors, too, whose works I have enjoyed very much. I just haven’t read their nominated novels.]

I’ve been experiencing a phase of fantasy disenchantment, lately. In fact, looking back over the past year or so, I’ve read far less (epic) fantasy than I would have expected. I have picked up and discarded more fantasy novels than I usually do, too. I just can’t get into anything, nor can I rustle up the enthusiasm to sit through hefty tomes.

Brett-DaylightWarUSThere is one clear exception to that, though, and that’s Brett’s series. Every time I think about reading a fantasy novel, I find myself wistfully wishing that the next novel in the Demon Cycle was already available. This is because there are very few authors who do it better. That’s not to say other fantasists writing today aren’t good, or are lacking in talent – far from it. But, really, I think the only epic fantasy series I would happily drop everything to read the next book in, is the Demon Cycle. Everything about the novels just works for me – the story, prose, characters… everything. I don’t think, across the three novels published so far, I’ve come across anything that gave me pause. I read the first, The Painted Man, in three sittings – the final sitting a 300-page marathon, which I finished at 4am. I read the second and third novels back-to-back (something I rarely do), eschewing everything else – true, I was unemployed at the time, and had little else to do; but nevertheless, all I wanted to do was read the books.

I haven’t experienced that level of Reading Insistence since I read Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora – the book that got me back into reading fantasy in the first place (as I think I’ve mentioned ad infinitum on the blog). In the case of Lynch’s series, I went straight out and bought Red Seas Under Red Skies when I was only two-thirds of the way through the first book – I even didn’t mind that it was the (frankly ghastly) shiny red-covered edition. Since then, and given the understandable delay before the third book came out, I have been almost afraid to go back and re-read the series to catch up.

Oh actually, that’s not entirely true – I was also incredibly impatient about getting hold of Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy. I must have pestered the Orbit publicist to the point of irritation, requesting the final two books… I was also really late to Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, and I do consider Before They Are Hanged to be one of my favourite novels.

Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is that very few epic fantasy novels have really grabbed hold of my imagination and attention. And, I think, none more so than Brett’s Demon Cycle.

So, to bring this ramble back around to the topic at hand, I really hope The Daylight War wins the Legend Award.

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The David Gemmell Awards ceremony will take place at London’s Magic Circle on June 13th, 2014.

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Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War is published in the UK by Voyager, and in the US by Del Rey. The first two volumes in the series – The Painted Man (UK)/The Warded Man (US) and The Desert Spear are published by the same publishers. Two novellas have also been collected into a single volume: The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold. If you haven’t read them yet, and have any interest in fantasy, then I could not recommend them enough. You won’t regret reading them, I’m sure.

My reviews of the books: The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War and The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold.

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Regarding the Other Shortlists…

For the Morning Star category (best debut), I really enjoyed Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood – it is also the only novel on the shortlist I’ve read.

In the Ravenheart category (best artwork), I actually like them all, and quite a lot. But I don’t understand why any of the covers for Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky fantasy trilogy didn’t make it onto the final list… (I haven’t read any of the novels, but I want to, and those covers are frankly stunning.)

Book Haul, End of June 2013…

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A final Books Received post for June, and it’s an absolute doozy. Four of these are among my Most Anticipated for 2013. Read on for some more info about these books…

Allston-XWing-MercyKillAaron Allston, Star Wars – X-Wing: Mercy Kill (Arrow)

The intrepid spies, pilots, and sharpshooters of Wraith Squadron are back in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which transpires just after the events of the Fate of the Jedi series!

Three decades have passed since Wraith Squadron carried out its last mission. Taking on the most dangerous and daring operations, the rogues and misfits of the elite X-Wing unit became legends of the Rebellion and the Second Galactic Civil War, before breaking up and going their separate ways. Now their singular skills are back in vital demand — for a tailor-made Wraith Squadron mission.

A powerful general in the Galactic Alliance Army, once renowned for his valor, is suspected of participating in the infamous Lecersen Conspiracy, which nearly toppled the Alliance back into the merciless hands of the Empire. With orders to expose and apprehend the traitor—and license to do so by any and all means—the Wraiths will become thieves, pirates, impostors, forgers… and targets, as they put their guts, their guns, and their riskiest game plan to the test against the most lethal of adversaries.

Ah, Star Wars. My all-time favourite franchise, probably. I’ve read pretty much every book/novella/short story set after Episode IV, and a handful set before (I’m not a fan of the prequel-trilogy fiction, really). That being said, for some reason I’ve not yet finished the latest nine-book story-arc, Fate of the Jedi. I only have the final book, Apocalypse, to read – it was one of the books I had to leave back in New York, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get it read. I’ll have a look in the local library, I suppose. I bring this up because Mercy Kill is set after Apocalypse (and before Crucible, which I already have as an eARC via NetGalley). Really have to get on with it. This may, actually, be the longest break since 2007 when I haven’t read a Star Wars novel… Weird.

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JamesH-WhatMaisieKnewHenry James, What Maisie Knew (Penguin)

After her parents’ bitter divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled between her selfish mother and vain father, who value her only as a means for provoking each other. Maisie – solitary, observant, and wise beyond her years – is drawn into an increasingly entangled adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal until she is finally compelled to choose her own future.

Published in 1897 as Henry James was experimenting with narrative technique and fascinated by the idea of the child’s-eye view, What Maisie Knew is a subtle yet devastating portrayal of an innocent adrift in a corrupt society.

Don’t know much about the novel, but I know a bit about the author. So, when this arrived in the mail, I was rather intrigued. It’s a slim volume, so I’m hoping to squeeze it into my reading schedule in the not-to-distant-future.

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Grimwood-LastBanquetJonathan Grimwood, The Last Banquet (Canongate)

Jean-Marie Charles d’Aumout is many things. Orphan, soldier, diplomat, spy, lover. And chef.

This is his story.

We meet Jean-Marie d’Aumout as a penniless orphan eating beetles by the side of a road. His fate is changed after an unlikely encounter finds him patronage and he is sent to military academy. Despite his frugal roots, and thanks to it and courage in great measure, he grows up to become a diplomat and spy.

Rising through the ranks of eighteenth-century French society, he feasts with lords, ladies and eventually kings, at the Palace of Versailles itself.

Passionate love, political intrigue and international adventure abound in Jean-Marie’s life, but his drive stems from a single obsession: the pursuit of the perfect taste. Three-Snake Bouillabaisse, Pickled Wolf’s Heart and Flamingo Tongue are just some of the delicacies he devours on his journey toward the ultimate feast.

But beyond the palace walls, revolution is in the air and the country is clamouring with hunger of a different kind.

SFF fans will also know Jonathan Grimwood as Jon Courtenay Grimwood – author of superb science fiction and an excellent historical vampire trilogy (The Assassini). I managed to miss a lot of the press surrounding this novel (it’s not SFF, so it’s perhaps not surprising that it didn’t get much attention). Nevertheless, I really like the way Grimwood writes, so I’m looking forward to reading this.

Incidentally, it’s interesting that this has a food-related premise. I’ve been noticing a few of those popping up in submissions at work, and also seen mention online from a couple of other aspiring authors. Has there been something in the water…? Needless to say, I imagine Grimwood’s will be the best, and I’m eager to get to it.

Also on CR: Interview with Jonathan Grimwood, Guest Post

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Lawrence-EmperorOfThornsMark Lawrence, Emperor of Thorns (Voyager)

The path to the throne is broken – only the broken may walk it.

To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.

Does this really need an explanation or introduction? The final part of Lawrence’s debut fantasy trilogy, there are a lot of expectations. I’ve been told Mark manages to pull it all off, so I have very high hopes indeed. Watch this space…

Also on CR: Interview with Mark Lawrence

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NewtonMC-DrakenfeldMark Charan Newton, Drakenfeld (Tor)

“I am Lucan Drakenfeld, second son of Calludian, Officer of the Sun Chamber and peace keeper. Although sometimes it seems I am the only person who wishes to keep it …”

The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive.

Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered – her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power.

Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.

Long-time readers of CR will know that I am a big fan of Newton’s novels – the four Legends of the Red Sun books were superb. As a result, I’ve been eager to read Drakenfeld ever since Mark announced it on his website a few months ago (I forget the actual date). Really looking forward to reading this. Hopefully very soon.

Also on CR: Interview with Mark Charan Newton, Follow-Up Interview

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Stenson-FiendUKPeter Stenson, Fiend (Random House)

When Chase sees the little girl in umbrella socks savaging the Rottweiler, he’s not too concerned. As someone who’s been smoking meth every day for as long as he can remember, he’s no stranger to such horrifying, drug-fueled hallucinations. But as he and his fellow junkies discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived. And with Chase’s life already destroyed beyond all hope of redemption, armageddon might actually be an opportunity — a last chance to hit restart and become the person he once dreamed of being. Soon Chase is fighting to reconnect with his lost love and dreaming of becoming her hero among the ruins. But is salvation just another pipe dream?

Propelled by a blistering first-person voice and featuring a powerfully compelling anti-hero, Fiend is at once a brilliant portrait of addiction, a pitch-black comedy, and the darkest, most twisted love story you’ve ever read — not to mention one hell of a zombie novel.

I have a guest post upcoming from Stenson, telling the story of how he came to write the novel. It’s a good piece, and I’m eager to share it with people. (It goes live on July 4th.) This sounds like a really interesting spin on the zombie apocalypse genre.

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Wexler-ThousandNamesUKDjango Wexler, The Thousand Names (Del Rey UK)

Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel—but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic….

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

This is one of my most-anticipated debuts of 2013, and I’ve been itching to get to it. I’ll probably be reading this very soon (I have some time with minimal commutes coming up, so no fear of the HC getting beaten to hell in my bag).

Also on CR: Interview with Django Wexler, Guest Post