Quick Review: THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross (Orion)

CrossM-3-TheTimeToKillUKCarter Blake’s previous employer cleans house…

It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with top-secret government operation Winterlong. They brokered a deal at the time: he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return he’d be left alone.

But news that one of Blake’s old allies, a man who agreed the same deal, is dead means only one thing — something has changed and Winterlong is coming for him.

Emma Faraday, newly appointed head of the secret unit, is determined to tie up loose ends. And Blake is a very loose end. He’s been evading them for years, but finally they’ve picked up his trace. Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him — and kill him — it’s them.

It’s time for Carter Blake to up his game.

After two superb novels featuring Carter Blake, Cross has him clashing with the organization that helped train him to become the near-perfect, deadly operative he has become. Another fantastic novel, it shows us some key moments of Blake’s past, and also his determination and strategic genius. Continue reading

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Eight Quick Audiobook Reviews

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A quick round-up of recent audiobook ‘reads’, with thanks to Audible UK for the review credits (except for the first reviewed, which I borrow from the Toronto Public Library). I’ve kept the reviews very short on purpose. I’ll try to keep on top of these reviews in a more timely manner in the future.

Featuring: Philip Delves-Broughton, Irin Carmon, Jessi Klein, Shana Knizhnik, Antonio Garcia Martinez, Randall Munroe, Nick Offerman, Richard Porter, Amy Schumer Continue reading

Quick Review: THE KILLING SEASON and THE SAMARITAN by Mason Cross (Orion/Pegasus)

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A must-read new thriller series

The first thing you should know about me is that my name is not Carter Blake. That name no more belongs to me than the hotel room I was occupying when the call came in.

When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.

I read both of these novels back-to-back, and loved them both. The first two in a new series by British author Mason Cross, they are a wonderful blend of classic loner-hero thrillers and some fresh ideas. They’re difficult to review without spoiling, as is often the case with thrillers, but in a nutshell: Briskly paced, realistic, and gripping — what more could you ask for from a thriller? Continue reading

New Books (March)

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Featuring: Daniel Abraham, Jason Arnopp, Stephen Aryan, Madeline Ashby, Adrian Barnes, Terry Brooks, Steve Cavanagh, Catherine Cerveny, Curtis C. Chen, Jennifer Close, Brenda Cooper, John DeCure, Christopher Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Deena Goldstone, Jack Grimwood, Aidan Harte, Nathan Hill, L.S. Hilton, Roger Hobbs, Trevor Hoyle, Richard A. Knaak, Spencer Kope, Giles Kristian, Robert Kroese, Jason LaPier, Glenda Larke, James Lovegrove, Drew Magary, Gail Z. Martin, Malka Older, Melissa F. Olson, Stephanie Saulter, Jon Skovron, Sam Sykes, Laura van Den Berg, Dan Vyleta, David Wingrove, Ben H. Winters, John Wray

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Upcoming: THE CITY OF MIRRORS by Justin Cronin (Doubleday/Orion)

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The City of Mirrors is the long-awaited, highly-anticipated final book in Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic supernatural thriller. I remember when the first novel, The Passage, was released in the UK: the pre-publication publicity blitz was insane, far more widespread than anything I’d seen not related to Harry Potter. I was certainly intrigued, but also a little wary. So, I kept putting off reading it, and before I knew it The Twelve was almost out. I picked up an ARC at BEA in 2012, which I also ended up not getting around to — although, this time it was because I moved. Twice. And so, as with so many books and series of 2011-13, Cronin’s novels ultimately slipped me by. I think it’s time I rectified this. Here’s the synopsis for the third book…

In the wake of the battle against The Twelve, Amy and her friends have gone in different directions. Peter has joined the settlement at Kerrville, Texas, ascending in its ranks despite his ambivalence about its ideals. Alicia has ventured into enemy territory, half-mad and on the hunt for the viral called Zero, who speaks to her in dreams. Amy has vanished without a trace.

With The Twelve destroyed, the citizens of Kerrville are moving on with life, settling outside the city limits, certain that at last the world is safe enough. But the gates of Kerrville will soon shudder with the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, and Amy — the Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years — will once more join her friends to face down the demon who has torn their world apart… and to at last confront their destinies.

The City of Mirrors is due to be published on May 24th by Doubleday in Canada and the US; and on June 16th in the UK, by Orion. As I mentioned earlier, I have both of the already-available novels — I wonder if I’ll be able to catch up?

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Guest Post/Excerpt: HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS by Aliette de Bodard

deBodard-AuthorPicThe Great Houses war is a central part of the book, though by necessity it’s always seen in flashbacks, as it took place sixty years before the events of the novel. It’s left marks on everyone, and of course it has also devastated Paris and given rise to the city in the book, a dystopic place where people cling to the Great Houses as their only source of safety. This scene is one of the strongest reminiscences from Philippe, who actually fought in it.

It also contains what is possibly my favourite lines in the book: the “magicians turned into soldiers… our best men turned into corpses”, which was one of those gifts from the muse: it came straight into the first draft and hasn’t really moved since.

The war. Philippe thought of the clamor of explosions; of huddling in the doorways of ruined buildings, peering at the sky to judge the best moment to rush out; of his lieutenant in House colors, urging them to lay down their lives for the good of the city; of his squad mates buried in nameless graves, on the edge of Place de la République. Ai Linh, who had had a laughter like a donkey, and always shared her biscuits with everyone else; Hoang, who liked to gamble too much; Phuong, who told hair-raising stories in the barracks after all lights had been turned off. “I don’t know what the war was like, inside the Houses,” he said, and it was almost the truth. Continue reading

Upcoming from Gollancz/Orion

Continuing my recently-reinstated series of Upcoming posts, here are a selection of the (many) interesting and anticipated upcoming releases from Gollancz and Orion. (This is just a selection, of course, as Gollancz and Orion publish so very many excellent novels. For more, check our their website.)

BeaulieuB-1-TwelveKingsUKBradley Beaulieu, TWELVE KINGS (September 3rd)

An epic new fantasy series of mystery, prophecy and death within the ancient walled city of the Twelve Kings . . .

In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she’s never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It’s the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother.

As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools-they’ve ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she’s ready to face them once and for all.

I read and enjoyed Beaulieu’s debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo in 2011 — for some reason, I never got around to finishing the series, but I think it was partly because I read the first book just before my year of living as something of a vagabond nomad… I’ll have to catch up at some point soon. Twelve Kinds is published in the US by DAW Books, on September 1st, 2015, as Twelve Kings in Sharakai.

Also on CR: Interview with Bradley Beaulieu (2011); Guest Post with Stephen Gaskell on “Co-Authoring Strata

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deBodardA-1-HouseOfShatteredWingsUKAliette de Bodard, THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS (August 20th)

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out — literally — of a war in heaven

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

I’ve featured this a few times, but any excuse to highlight it again… I have an ARC already, so expect a review soon. Published in the US by Roc Books, on August 18th, 2015.

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CoxE-RG2-CathedralOfKnownThingsUK smEdward Cox, THE CATHEDRAL OF KNOWN THINGS (Date)

In the end, all things are known. Return to the world of THE RELIC GUILD with this remarkable fantasy novel

Divided, hunted and short on resources, the surviving members of the Relic Guild are in real trouble. Their old enemy, the Genii, and their resurrected master have infiltrated Labrys Town and taken over the police force. 

So the Relic Guild must flee their home, and set off on a dangerous journey across the worlds of the Aelfir. One that will lead them to a weapon which might destroy the Genii. Or the whole universe…

And forty years before all this, the war which led to the fall of the Genii continues. And what happens to the Relic Guild during that conflict will change the course of their desperate flight.

I really enjoyed The Relic Guild, so I’m eager to get my mitts on a copy of the follow-up.

Also on CR: Interview with Edward Cox; Guest Post on “Writes and Wrongs

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GrassT-TwistUKPBTom Grass, TWIST (August 27th, PB)

Packed with action, love and betrayal, Tom Grass’s electrifying heist thriller is a gripping reinvention of the Dickens classic, OLIVER TWIST.

Eighteen-year-old Twist doesn’t have much. No money, no home and no family. All he has is his reputation as one of the most daring street artists in London — whose unique skills are matched only by his infamous talent as a climber and freerunner.

But when he finds himself on the run from the police, he knows that he could be about to lose the last thing he has left – his freedom. Until he is saved by the mysterious Dodge. When Dodge introduces him to con artist and art ‘collector’ Cornelius Faginescu, Twist realises that he finally has the chance to be part of something. All that he has to do is put aside his moral objections and learn to steal…

When this came out in hardcover, I don’t think I saw a single review or even mention on the various blogs I frequent or Twitter feeds I follow. Which is strange, as it sounds rather good. Maybe the paperback will get some more attention?

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JaconsJH-2-ForeignDevilsUKJohn Hornor Jacobs, FOREIGN DEVILS (Date)

Sequel to the critically acclaimed THE INCORRUPTIBLES — new lands, new wars, new dangers.

The world is on the brink of war. 

Fisk and Shoe — mercenaries, very much not wanting to get caught in the middle of a political whirlwind — must deliver a very important message, and find a very dangerous man. They have caught the eye of the powerful men of the world, and now the stakes are higher than they like.

And the Emperor has decreed that Livia Cornelius, pregnant with Fisk’s child, must travel to the far lands of the Autumn Lords on a diplomatic mission. It will mean crossing half the world, and facing new dangers. And in the end, she will uncover the shocking truth at the heart of the Autumn Lords’ Empire.

A truth which will make the petty politics of war and peace unimportant, and will change the world.

I quite enjoyed The Incorruptibles — the writing and world-building were very well done, and I’m very eager to read this sequel.

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LeGuinU-AlwaysComingHomeUK2015Ursula Le Guin, ALWAYS COMING HOME (October 8th)

An unsung masterpiece from one of fantastic literature’s greatest writers.

A long, long time from now, in the valleys of what will no longer be called Northern California, might be going to have lived a people called the Kesh.

But Always Coming Home is not the story of the Kesh. Rather it is the stories of the Kesh — stories, poems, songs, recipes — Always Coming Home is no less than an anthropological account of a community that does not yet exist, a tour de force of imaginative fiction by one of modern literature’s great voices.

I have not read enough of Le Guin’s novels. I’m glad Gollancz are re-releasing so many of them.

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LynchS-GB4-ThornOfEmberlainUK-SmScott Lynch, THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN (October 15th)

Locke and Jean find themselves sucked into the horror of war. Will things ever be the same again?

With 50,000 copies sold of The Republic of Thieves and with praise from the likes of Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin the saga of the Gentleman Bastard has become a favourite and key part of the fantasy landscape. And now Locke Lamora, thief, con-man, pirate, political deceiver must become a soldier.

A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames. 

And all the while Locke must try to deal with the disturbing rumours about his past revealed in The Republic of Thieves. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of right and wrong is one thing. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of yourself is quite another. Particularly when you’ve never been that good with a sword anyway…

I’m not sure there are many fantasy fans who aren’t eagerly awaiting this novel… I should probably get my skates on and read The Republic of Thieves ASAP — although, I would like to refresh on the first two… So many pages to get through before October… The first three novels in the series were published in the US by Del Rey, but their website doesn’t list this one, so not sure if this one’s theirs too.

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McDonaldI-Luna1-NewMoonUKIan McDonald, LUNA: NEW MOON (September 17th)

The new novel from a multi-award-winning writer: a corporate SF thriller and the deepest evocation yet of the terrors and rigours of life on the moon.

Having woven intricate and gripping plots around thought provoking looks at the future of countries like India, Brazil and Turkey, Ian McDonald now turns his attention to the moon. Luna is a gripping thriller about five corporate families caught in a bitter battle for supremacy in the harsh environment of the moon. It’s very easy to die on the moon but with its vast mineral wealth its also easy to make your fortune. This is SF that will be perfect for fans of Kim Stanley Robinson and Ken Macleod alike.

Told over two volumes this will do for the moon what the award winning River of Gods did for India, the award-winning Brasyl for Brazil and the award winning The Dervish House for Turkey – it will give it a vibrant, extraordinary and believable future.

Published in the US by Tor Books, on September 22nd, 2015.

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OliverN-MasterOfShadowsUKNeil Oliver, MASTER OF SHADOWS (September 10th)

From the lawless borderlands of Scotland to the crumbling majesty of Constantinople, the first novel from TV historian Neil Oliver is a sweeping, epic adventure and the story of a man all but forgotten by history.

In fifteenth-century Constantinople, Prince Constantine saves the life of a broken-hearted girl. But the price of his valour is high.

John Grant is a young man on the edge of the world. His unique abilities carry him from his home in Scotland to the heart of the Byzantine Empire in search of a girl and the chance to fulfil a death-bed promise.

Lena has remained hidden from the men who have been searching for her for many years. When she’s hunted down, at last she knows what she must do.

With an army amassing beyond the city’s ancient walls, the fates of these three will intertwine. As the Siege of Constantinople reaches its climax, each must make a choice between head and heart, duty and destiny.

The cover caught my attention, and the synopsis convinced me that I’d like to read this. (Also, I’m Scottish, and I lived in Istanbul — so… that’s another, weird, reason to be interested…)

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SheehanA-SpinningThornsUKAnna Sheehan, SPINNING THORNS (December 10th)

A superb new fairytale inspired novel from an award winning author. Once the fairy tale is told and the spell has been broken . . . what happens next . . . ?

Sleeping Beauty has woken.

The world has been renewed.

Everyone is living happily ever after . . .

Almost.

Sharp, blood-seeking thorns still surround the castle. A feud remains between those who wield magic and those who were subjected to it. And while the kingdom is divided against itself, nothing can thrive.

A rebellion may be needed — and that’s where Sleeping Beauty’s daughter comes in . . .

Don’t know anything about this novel save from the synopsis. And the cover, which is what drew my attention in the first place. There’s something akin to Into the Woods about the description, too, which could bode well.

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