Books Received (August-September)

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Featuring: Ned Beauman, Peter V. Brett, C. Robert Cargill, Nelson DeMille, Ian Doescher, Piu Eatwell, Tom Fletcher, Vince Flynn, A.L. Gaylin, Matt Goldman, Beth Gutcheon, Joe Hill, Walter Isaacson, Holly Goddard Jones, John le Carré, Christine Mangan, Jillian Medoff, Claire Messud, Sam J. Miller, Kyle Mills, Thomas Pierce, Tom Rachman, Joshua Reynolds, Adam Roberts, Richard Russo, Lionel Shriver, Robin Sloan, Lisa Tuttle, Robert Webb, Nick Clark Windo, Anna Yen

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Cover: THE SKULL THRONE by Peter V. Brett (Voyager)

The US cover for THE SKULL THRONE, Peter V. Brett‘s fourth Demon Cycle novel, was released a while ago (at end). Today, Voyager Books finally unveiled the UK artwork (right) – Starburst Magazine had the exclusive first reveal. It’s pretty good. Here’s the book’s synopsis:

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honour and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honour refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a saviour, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them.

Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared…

The Skull Throne is published by Voyager on April 9th, 2015. It is published in the US by Del Rey on March 31st, 2015. I received an eARC from Del Rey recently, and I intend to get started on the novel in about a week or so.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Painted ManThe Desert SpearThe Daylight War, The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold and Messenger’s Legacy.

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New Books (Jan-Feb 2015)

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Featuring: Dave Bara, J.L. Bourne, Peter V. Brett, Patricia Briggs, Royce Scott Buckingham, Ally Carter, Sara B. Elfgren, Chris Evans, Neil Gaiman, Wayne Gladstone, Erika Johansen, Caitlin Kittredge, Michael Moorcock, Naomi Novik, Mats Strandberg, Mark Stay, E.J. Swift, Erika Swyler, Ian Tregillis, Ben Tripp, Will Wiles, Dick Wolf Continue reading

Second Look: THE GREAT BAZAAR and BRAYAN’S GOLD by Peter V. Brett (Tachyon)

Tachyon Publications will be releasing a new edition of Peter V. Brett‘s first two Demon Cycle novellas, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold on July 14th, 2015. Naturally, this means new cover art, too (above), so I thought I would re-post my original review from 2011. I’ve updated the review just a little, given that I have since read The Desert Spear and The Daylight War, which I hadn’t at the time. If you’ve been reading CR for a while, you’ll be familiar with the fact that I love Brett’s writing and the series is easily one of my favourites, across all genres. The series is published in the US by Del Rey and in the UK by Voyager. The fourth book in the series, The Skull Throne, is due to be published at the end of March 2015. And I really can’t wait…

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Brett-GreatBazaar&BrayansGold-US2015Two short stories set in the world of the Demon Cycle

From the dangerous world of the Demon Cycle comes the early adventures of Arlen, Peter V. Brett’s quintessential fantasy hero. These exciting origin tales follow Arlen as he learns to navigate a world where the elemental forces of evil conjure themselves from the earth each night.

Humanity has barely survived a demonic onslaught by using magical wards that protect their cities and homes. Only a handful of mercenaries and explorers risk traveling after the sun sets. Arlen, seeking adventure and fortune, is barely protected by the warded armor upon which he has inscribed intricate defensive runes. From a journey ferrying a wagonload of dynamite to a mountain stronghold, to a dangerous mission to recover desert treasures, Arlen faces friends and enemies with a strong arm and a cunning wit.

I won’t give any more synopsis before the break, as I don’t want to offer any spoilers for new readers. So, if you haven’t read The Painted Man(The Warded Man in the US), then I recommend you go an do that immediately, before diving into these.

In this eBook, we get a pair of short stories focussing on one of the main characters from The Painted Man, Arlen Bales. Both of the stories have been released previously as limited editions by Subterranean Press, and are so rare that they’re now selling for $400 in some places! Thankfully, the eBook is way more affordable, so I snapped it (and The Desert Spear) up for my Kindle as soon as I finished The Painted Man.

A superb, short foray back into the world, I really enjoyed reading about Arlen and his early adventures again. These two stories are perfect for fans who need a fix before the next book’s release. Continue reading

New Books (November-December)

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Featuring: Guy Adams, Alex Bell, Peter V. Brett, Brenda Cooper, Kate Ellis, Tess Gerritsen, Alex Gordon, Eric Kaplan, Sarah Pinborough, Daniel Polansky, Gareth L. Powell, Michael Robotham, Peter Swanson, Peter Terrin, Fred Venturini Continue reading

Review: MESSENGER’S LEGACY by Peter V. Brett (Voyager/Subterranean)

Brett-MessengersLegacyUKAn enjoyable new Demon Cycle novella

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons. Bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Briar Damaj is a boy of six in the small village of Bogton. Half-Krasian, the village children call him Mudboy for his dark skin. When tragedy strikes, Briar decides the town is better off without him, fleeing into the bog with nothing but his wits and a bit of herb lore to protect him.

After twenty years, Ragen Messenger has agreed to retire and pass on his route to his protégé, Arlen Bales. But for all that he’s earned the rest, he has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. When he learns Briar, the son of an old friend, is missing, Ragen is willing to risk any danger to bring him safely home.

Any new fiction from Peter V. Brett is something to celebrate. He is probably my favourite fantasy author, and his series has been riveting and addictive from the beginning. Messenger’s Legacy, the third novella in the best-selling, superb Demon Cycle world, is another good addition to the series. It focuses on a new character, Briar, and also the messenger who took in Arlen, Regan. What begins with a rather idyllic, but not easy look at the life of Briar and his family turns into tragedy pretty quickly. Briar is half-Krasian, so he and his siblings, not to mention his father, are frequent targets of local resentment and racism. I liked the way Brett wove this into the story — it doesn’t dominate, but it also offers some great commentary on contemporary Western society.

It’s a good-length novella, and I was entertained from beginning to end. The scenes at night, as Briar or Regan (or both) dealt with the corelings are superb — the author is always advancing the readers’ understanding of how these demons function in the world, and I liked the new ways Briar develops to protect himself living in the swamps. A great short story, and also a great lead-in to the fourth novel in the series, The Skull Throne — Briar will apparently feature quite centrally in that book. It’s published in March/April 2015, and I really can’t wait. I think I may have enjoyed the previous two novellas, Brayan’s Gold and The Grand Bazaar, a bit more than this one, but this was still very good.

If you haven’t tried the series yet, then I strongly urge you pick up The Painted Man (UK)/The Warded Man (US) immediately. While you’re at it, get The Desert Spear and The Daylight War at the same time, because I doubt you’ll be able to read just one. This series has my highest recommendation. A must-read.

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Messenger’s Legacy is published in the UK by Voyager, and in the US by Subterranean Press.

US Cover: THE SKULL THRONE by Peter V. Brett (Del Rey)

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Holy crap I’m excited about this novel’s release! Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle novels are easily among my all-time favourites, and knowing that the release of THE SKULL THRONE is inching ever-closer has me positively giddy with excitement and anticipation.* I found the cover over on SF Signal, but there does not appear to be a detailed synopsis available just yet. The novel will be published in the US by Del Rey, and in the UK by Voyager. No doubt, it will not take long for it to appear in translation in so very many countries.

Brett-MessengersLegacyOh, and let’s not forget Brett’s latest novella, Messenger’s Legacy, will also be out soon! Here’s the cover and synopsis…

Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons — bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Briar Damaj is a boy of six in the small village of Bogton. Half Krasian, the village children call him Mudboy for his dark skin. When tragedy strikes, Briar decides the town is better off without him, fleeing into the bog with nothing but his wits and a bit of herb lore to protect him.

After twenty years, Ragen Messenger has agreed to retire and pass on his route to his protégé, Arlen Bales. But for all that he’s earned the rest, he has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. When he learns Briar, the son of an old friend, is missing, Ragen is willing to risk any danger to bring him safely home.

I wonder what the UK cover is going to look like – or if they’re going to use the same one. Larry Rostant has done a great job again.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold, The Daylight War

* Was that too much excitement? Perhaps… But, seriously: I can’t wait.

Brett-DC4-TheSkullThroneUS-Wrap

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.)

News! Gail Simone takes on Red Sonja!

SimoneGailThe ever-awesome Gail Simone will be taking over writing duties for their fan-favourite series, RED SONJA!

Published by Dynamite Entertainment, Simone’s run will kick off with a brand-new #1 issue, to be published in July 2013. Hopefully this means it’ll be good for new readers… Interior art for the series will be provided by Walter Geovani

Red Sonja is a character I’ve been aware of for many years, and I remember watching the Red Sonja movie, many moons ago. In fact, I believe I even had a bit of crush on Brigitte Nielsen, who portrayed the titular character in that 1985 movie. It was released when I was only two years old, but I think I must have seen it around the age of eight or nine… For nostalgia’s sake, here’s the trailer:

Anyway, back to Simone and the comic. I haven’t had a lot of past reading experience of Simone’s work, and have actually only read the first nine issues of her current, storied run on DC’s New 52 Batgirl series (which is rather excellent).

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In the recent past she has also worked on DC’s pre-New 52 Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Welcome to Tranquility and Wonder Woman. Simone got her start in comics writing for Bongo Comics, home of The Simpsons, after which she worked on a run on Marvel Comics’ Deadpool, and later, Agent X.

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Covers for the new Red Sonja series will be drawn by some of the top female artists in comics today, including: Nicola Scott, Colleen Doran, Jenny Frison, Stephanie Buscema, and one of my personal favourite artists, Fiona Staples (of Saga fame) – with more high-profile female cover artists yet to be announced, apparently.

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Fiona Staples’s Cover Art

To help kick off the celebration of Gail’s take on “The She-Devil with a Sword”, which coincides with Emerald City Comic Con, Dynamite will be giving away limited edition premium prints featuring art from an upcoming Nicola Scott cover (possibly there will be a selection of variants? The press release was a little unclear), which Simone will be present to sign.

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Colleen Doran’s Cover Art for #1 (above) & #2 (below)

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Here’s what Gail had to say about the series:

“It’s like this… even most of the best female heroines when I was a kid were pretty polite. What I love about Sonja is that she isn’t polite, she says what she means and if you give her any lip about it, hello, sword in the gut. She’s smart, she has a heart, she has some compassion. But when it’s go time, she’s a hellraiser, a mad general, she’s a sword-edge virtuosa, she’s death on wheels.* She is the woman you never want to mess with. I can relate, Sonja. No offense to all her guy writers, but THIS Red Sonja is about sex and swords! It’s everything you love about Red Sonja, except with more monsters getting stabbed in the eye.”

* Points for not saying “in heels”…

Nick Barrucci, CEO & Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment, was effusive in his praise for Simone, stating that the new Red Sonja is “a character [Gail] was born to work on.” There was even a smiley-face emoticon in the press release, which was… Different. Barrucci continues, in an ebullient manner:

“I have wanted to work with Gail for years, and it’s incredibly exciting that her first choice in working with us is Sonja. A strong-willed female with fiery red hair writing about a strong-willed female with fiery red hair – AND A SWORD! It is a dream come true that this project has finally come to fruition! Gail and Sonja’s will be the blades that cut the deepest to her enemies chagrin!”

I’m still exploring Dynamite Comics’ titles and back-catalogue, working my way through select established series and new titles as-and-when I can afford them (or just when I get the chance). I haven’t yet managed to find one that has completely hooked me as much as some of Marvel’s or DC’s (well, really, Vertigo’s), or even as much as certain Image (Skullkickers, No Place Like Home, Witchblade & The Darkness), or newly-discovered-by-me Oni Press (The Sixth Gun). But then, I still have a lot to try. What I have read has been high quality (in terms of content and production), though – The Spider and Pathfinder (written by Skullkickers’ Jim Zub) have been particularly good.

Fans of the SFF side of CR’s focus should also know that bestselling fantasy author Peter V. Brett has also dabbled in writing for Red Sonja, with first the one-shot Red Sonja Blue [review link], and currently the four-part Red Sonja Unchained.

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Brett’s Red Sonja Blue and Red Sonja Unchained #1 & #2

(The first three of Brett’s superb Demon Cycle series are currently available: The Painted Man, The Desert Spear and The Daylight War; as well as a pair of novellas, The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold.)

So, consider yourself informed. Roll on July, I can’t wait to give Simone’s Red Sonja series a read.

Review: THE DAYLIGHT WAR by Peter V. Brett (Voyager/Del Rey)

BrettPV-DC3-DaylightWarUKThe long-awaited third book in The Demon Cycle

On the night of a new moon all shadows deepen.

Humanity has thirty days to prepare for the next demon attack, but one month is scarcely enough time to train a village to defend themselves, let alone an entire continent caught in the throes of civil war.

Arlen Bales understands the coreling threat better than anyone. Born ordinary, the demon plague has shaped him into a weapon so powerful he has been given the unwanted title of saviour, and attracted the attention of deadly enemies both above and below ground.

Unlike Arlen, Ahmann Jardir embraces the title of Deliverer. His strength resides not only in the legendary relics he carries, but also in the magic wielded by his first wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose allegiance even Jardir cannot be certain of.

Once Arlen and Jardir were like brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies prepare, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all: those that lurk in the human heart.

After finishing The Desert Spear, it was not long before I had to dive into The Daylight War. I’d come late to the series, so I hadn’t been champing at the bit quite as much as other fans, but after finishing book two, I could certainly see why people were so very eager. The third book in the series continues to build on the excellent foundations of The Painted Man and The Desert Spear, as the story moves ever forward. This is an addictive, immersive and excellent fantasy novel. Continue reading