Mini-Review: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown)

LepuckiE-CaliforniaUKPBAn interesting, different dystopian novel

The sunshine state lies in darkness.

Los Angeles is in ruins, left to the angels now.

And the world Cal and Frida have always known is gone.

Cal and Frida have left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can’t reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realise this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

Edan Lepucki’s debut rocketed to the top of bestseller lists when it received the Colbert Bump — in the midst of the Hachette-Amazon feud, Stephen Colbert mentioned the novel as a debut that people should check out, but one that was not available to pre-order (very important for debuts) because of the ongoing battle between the retailer and publisher. As a fan of dystopian fiction, I was naturally intrigued. It’s taken me a while to get around to reading it, though. It’s an interesting take on the sub-genre, with some interesting things to say, too. Continue reading

Review: CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books/Crown Publishing)

BennettRJ-CityOfStairsUKAnother superb novel from RJB

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself — first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it — stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem — and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

City of Stairs is a superb novel, offering imaginative new takes on classic fantasy ideas and themes, populated by diverse and well-realised characters, and presented in excellent prose. This was one of my most-anticipated novels of 2014, and it exceeded by expectations. Continue reading

CITY OF STAIRS Competition from Jo Fletcher Books!

BennettRJ-CityOfStairsUKRobert Jackson Bennett’s CITY OF STAIRS is absolutely one of my Most Anticipated novels of 2014. I have a copy of the book, now, so it will mostly likely be my next or next-but-one read. To celebrate the upcoming release in the UK, Jo Fletcher Books have five copies of the book to give away, plus one lucky winner will receive a £100 Red Letter Day experience. Here are the instructions:

All people have to do for a chance to win is let us know on our blog, Facebook page or Twitter – with #CityOfStairs – what tangible miraculous object they would create if you were a god of Bulikov.  A door which takes you to the past and a knotted cord that brings rain when untied are just some of the miracles the gods brought to Bulikov, but we want to know what other people would add to them. The competition is open until October 30th for your chance to win.

CITY OF STAIRS is published in the UK on Thursday (October 2nd). It is published in the US by Crown Publishing. Here’s the synopsis:

You’ve got to be careful when you’re chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.

The murder of Dr. Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent’s past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth – but it is likely to cost her everything.

Sebastian de Castell’s THE TRAITOR’S BLADE out in Paperback tomorrow! (Jo Fletcher Books)

deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeEarlier this year (January), an advanced review copy of The Traitor’s Blade dropped through my mailbox. The debut fantasy novel by Sebastian de Castell, I was intrigued by the premise, which promised a mixture of swashbuckling action and adventure, sword-fights aplenty, and some intrigue and good storytelling. I was not at all disappointed. I blitzed through the novel. Here’s the main take-away from my review

“An all-round brilliant fantasy debut, and one of the best I’ve read in a decade… Every so often, a debut novel comes along that knocks your expectations out of the park. Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamorra is one of those novels. Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man is another. Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade needs to be added to that list. I loved this.”

Tomorrow, The Traitor’s Blade is published in paperback in the UK, and I highly recommend you pick it up, if you haven’t already. Here’s the synopsis…

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.

But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

And, finally, you can read an interview with Sebastian de Castell, here. I really can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Long may Falcio et al find their adventures in print!

An Interview with EDWARD COX

CoxE-RG1-RelicGuild2014

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Edward Cox?

EdwardCox-AuthorPicI am a woefully undereducated village idiot, with gladness for blood and nothing but sunshine in my head. Every day I try – really hard – to be a cool and moody writer, but every day I fail. I have eternal faith in the human race, which some might say comes from naivety, but I do not care; I refuse to give up on us. Outside of my obsession for writing, I simply don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m always the last to understand what’s going on. I am also a husband and a father to two ladies who I love beyond measure.

However… If I ever do discover the secret to cool and moody, I will change my name to Thundermaster Volcanofists, and all shall fear me.

I thought we’d start with your fiction: Your debut novel, The Relic Guild, will be published by Gollancz in September 2014. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

A balls out fantasy adventure! Or, to be more professional, I like to think of The Relic Guild as a story about people doing the right thing even when they’ve been given every reason not to. Also, I’ve been trying to refine a pitch for the book, and this is what I’m currently down to:

At the centre of a gigantic labyrinth, in a sprawling city trapped behind walls one hundred feet high, young Clara is about to become the unwitting participant in the machinations of higher magic. It falls to her to reunite the last of a secret band of magickers called the Relic Guild. Together they must find a way to save one million humans from an age old menace that is about to return. Continue reading

Upcoming: “Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes (Harper)

Beukes-BrokenMonstersUKI’m a latecomer to the excellence that is Lauren Beukes’s work. Last year, I was quickly sucked into The Shining Girls, and since then I’ve been eagerly awaiting her next novel. Now, BROKEN MONSTERS is on the horizon! Published in the UK on July 31st by Harper.

In the city that’s become a symbol for the death of the American dream, a nightmare killer is unravelling reality…

Broken city, broken dreams

In Detroit, violent death – along with foreclosure and despair – is a regular occurrence. But the part-human, part-animal corpses that have started appearing are more disturbing than anything Detective Gabriella Versado has ever seen.

As Gabriella works the case, her teenage daughter Layla embarks on a secret crime-fighting project of her own – hunting down online paedophiles – but it all goes horribly wrong…

TK has learned how to make being homeless work for him and his friends, but something evil is threatening the fragile world he’s constructed on the streets…

Ambitious blogger Jonno is getting desperate. The big four-oh isn’t that far away, and he’s still struggling to make his mark. But then he stumbles across some unusual and macabre art, which might just be the break he needs to go viral…

Broken Monsters lays bare the decaying corpse of the American Dream, and asks what we’d be prepared to do for fifteen minutes of fame, especially in an online world.

Can’t wait to read this! Broken Monsters is published by Mulholland Books in the US, and Umuzi in South Africa. Here are the other two covers…

Beukes-BrokenMonstersSA&US

Review: THE INCORRUPTIBLES by John Hornor Jacobs (Gollancz)

JacobsJH-1-IncorruptiblesUKAn intriguing, well-executed fantasy with a difference

In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way upstream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it – from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.

In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.

For Fisk and Shoe – two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other – their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky. And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.

I’ve been looking forward to this novel for a good while. So, when it arrived last week, I knew I had to dive right into it. And so I did. And devoured it in just over a day. The novel starts off with quite a blizzard of new terminology and an unusual world, but I quickly settled into it. This is a very good fantasy story with a difference. Continue reading