Guest Post: “Write what you know… even if that’s just being an idiot” by Tom Lloyd

Write what you know, it’s the first piece of advice a writer will get. It’s sometimes useful too. After eight years and almost a decade as a published novelist, I was starting a new series and so I asked myself what I’d learned, what I liked and what I wanted for the next few years. But this time round I wasn’t some newbie, I was a wise and skilled crafter of words who utters profound witticisms as he works the room of industry types, right?

Much to my disappointment that clearly wasn’t the case. I was pretty much the same damn fool I’ve always been. Well meaning, stubborn not the cleverest, getting on a bit with something of a food preoccupation – not without some skill but not ever likely to be one of the biggest and brightest stars in the sky. So hey, write what you know? Continue reading

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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Upcoming: STRANGER OF TEMPEST by Tom Lloyd (Gollancz)

LloydT-StrangerOfTempestUK

How cool is that cover? True, it is slightly reminiscent of the Fellowship of the Ring scene in which Gandalf faces off against the Balrog while the fellowship is making its way through the Mines of Moria. BUT! The fellow has a rifle. And it looks rather cool, and it’s by Tom Lloyd, who’s a great author. It’s unclear if this is the first book in a new series, or a standalone. Nevertheless, it sounds interesting:

It’s not easy being an honest man in a lawless world…

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent’s principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he’s not forced to rely on others or kill without cause.

Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won’t turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he’s met over the years.

So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.

Stranger of Tempest is due to be published in the UK by Gollancz, on June 16th, 2016.

Mini-Review: MOON’S ARTIFICE by Tom Lloyd (Gollancz)

LloydT-1-MoonsArtificePBThe start of an interesting new fantasy series

In a quiet corner of the Imperial City, Investigator Narin discovers the result of his first potentially lethal mistake. Minutes later he makes a second.

After an unremarkable career Narin finally has the chance of promotion to the hallowed ranks of the Lawbringers – guardians of the Emperor’s laws and bastions for justice in a world of brutal expediency. Joining that honoured body would be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but it couldn’t possibly have come at a worse time. A chance encounter drags Narin into a plot of gods and monsters, spies and assassins, accompanied by a grief-stricken young woman, an old man haunted by the ghosts of his past and an assassin with no past.

On the cusp of an industrial age that threatens the warrior caste’s rule, the Empire of a Hundred Houses awaits civil war between noble factions. Centuries of conquest has made the empire a brittle and bloated monster; constrained by tradition and crying out for change. To save his own life and those of untold thousands Narin must understand the key to it all – Moon’s Artifice, the poison that could destroy an empire.

This is the first novel by Tom Lloyd that I’ve read. I picked it up after I received Old Man’s Ghost for review and wanted to get caught up. Lloyd’s prose is very good — I’m not sure if I’ve read another author who writes so precisely. The novel starts very well, and Lloyd quickly gets us situated in the world. The characters are very well-drawn and varied. The East Asian-flavours of the world and society are well incorporated and tweaked for the author’s needs, multi-layered, rich, and don’t feel like appropriation. There’s plenty of politics and action to keep readers reading.

I had one major niggle, though, which did affect my experience with feelings for the novel: Lloyd front-loads the novel with a lot of what felt like info-dumping, over-explaining and over-describing. It’s good description and world-building, but it made the novel quite slow to begin with and I struggled to sink in to it to begin with. Perhaps this is a symptom of moving on to a whole new series after ending a larger, established five-book epic (The Twilight Reign). Those who persevere will be rewarded.

If you’re after an interesting new fantasy series set in an atypical (for Western authors) setting, then Moon’s Artifice will probably be for you. The sequel, Old Man’s Ghost is out now, too.

Also on CR: Interview with Tom Lloyd (2012); Catch-Up Interview (2013); Guest Post on Terry Pratchett

New Books: March #1

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Or, “Lordy, 2015 is shaping up to be an incredible year for books…”

Featuring: John Joseph Adams, Richard Beard, Paul Beatty, Patricia Briggs, Col Buchanan, John Connelly, Rjurik Davidson, Joshua Gaylord, Dave Gross, Kazuo Ishiguro, Edan Lepucki, Robert Levy, Tom Lloyd, George R.R. Martin & Gardener Dozois, Stephen Metcalfe, Kristen Painter, Alastair Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson, V.E. Schwab, Lavie Tidhar, Marc Turner Continue reading

2014: New Year’s (Reading) Resolutions…

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Last year, I resolved to read at least the first book in four fantasy series. I managed to read the first of only two of them… Thankfully, these sorts of thing are not binding, but nevertheless, I’ve decided to (belatedly) come up with another four fantasy series I would like to at least try, if not finish, in 2014. I will include the two I failed to read in 2013, and hopefully keep them high on the TBR list. So, here are the 2014 Fantasy Reading Resolutions…

Margaret AtwoodMaddAddam Trilogy

Celia FriedmanThe Coldfire Trilogy

Tom LloydTwilight Reign (from 2013)

Brandon SandersonMistborn (from 2013)

ReadingResolutions-2014-Covers

As before, and always, there are no doubt going to be tens of new fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy and horror novels series that I will want to read. Even need to read, in my weirdly-wired mind. They will probably get in the way of my fulfilling these reading resolutions (which makes you wonder if these types of posts have any value whatsoever, but there we go). It’s impossible to read all the novels I want to read. But I will do my best to read at least the first in the above series. It certainly helps that I have already bought them. I’ll use the weekend Upcoming posts to highlight stand-alone novels, and also hitherto unmentioned or unrevealed SFF series that catch my attention. In the meantime, though, here is some information about the above-mentioned series…

AtwoodM-1-Oryx&CrakeMargaret Atwood, Oryx & Crake (Virago)

Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.

I’ve never read anything by Atwood before. It’s time to address this oversight.

MaddAddam Series: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam

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FriedmanCS-CF1-BlackSunRisingCelia Friedman – Black Sun Rising (Orbit)

Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold, and the colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth images from a person’s worst nightmare or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realising that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people – Priest, Adept, Apprentice and Sorcerer – are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy.

I’ve heard so many bloggers and friends say how much they’ve loved this series, that I really think it’s time I give it a try. Friedman’s latest novel, Dreamwalker, is also on my radar.

The Coldfire Trilogy: Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, Crown of Shadows

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Lloyd-TR1-StormcallerUKTom Lloyd, Stormcaller (Gollancz/Pyr)

Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn’t to a place in the army as he’d expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan.

Lord Bahl is also a white-eye, a genetic rarity that produces men stronger, more savage and more charismatic than their normal counterparts. Their magnetic charm and brute strength both inspires and oppresses others.

Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish…

Lloyd has now completed this series, and the first novel in his new series – Moon’s Artifice – has already been published (also by Gollancz). I intend to read both Stormcaller and Moon’s Artifice this year, and hopefully more of the Twilight Reign series, too.

Twilight Reign: The Stormcaller, The Twilight Herald, The Grave Thief, The Ragged Man, The Dusk Watchman, The God Tattoo

Also on CR: Interview with Tom Lloyd

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Sanderson-1-FinalEmpireUKBrandon Sanderson – The Final Empire (Gollancz/Tor Books)

Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed.

For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.

While I failed to read The Final Empire in 2013, I did manage to read my first Sanderson novel – Steelheart. Obviously very different to this one, but I’m glad I have at least read one of his novels, now. I know this series has been hugely popular and successful on both sides of the Atlantic (and elsewhere, I assume), and I really think I need to give it a read. Sanderson continues to have a weird distinction with me: I won all of his novels, but have barely read any of them…

The Mistborn Series: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Allow of Law [there are more to come, too…]

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I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention some new series starting in 2014 that have also caught my attention. As it’s still early days, I’ll present the synopses and cover art, and keep my comments brief…

Miller-1-PathToPowerHCKaren Miller, The Path to Power (Orbit)

NOBODY IS INNOCENT. EVERY CROWN IS TARNISHED

A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father’s stolen throne.

A bastard lord, uprising against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for.

A duke’s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who’d control them both.

And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery.

All of this will come to pass, and the only certainty is that nothing will remain as it once was. As royal houses rise and fall, empires are reborn and friends become enemies, it becomes clear that much will be demanded of those who follow the path to power.

The first in Miller’s new Tarnished Crown series. I haven’t read any of Miller’s previous novels, and I think this one sounds like the book to rectify this oversight.

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Jemisin-FifthSeasonN.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Orbit)

The Fifth Season is set in a world which has suffered frequent, repeated Extinction Level Events for millions of years, and all life (and magic) in this world has adapted to it. Hundreds of years might pass between these events — easy, plentiful years in which great cities rise, and people have the leisure for art and science and rapid advancement — but then, again and again, the cities fall. The world is littered with the detritus of these times of plenty, and this cover hints at them: past ages of decadence, now decaying; stone that endures beneath flaking gilt.

The above synopsis is from Goodreads, who found it on the author’s website. (I do wonder when there will be an official description.) I really enjoyed Jemisin’s first fantasy series (Inheritance), and also the first novel in the Dreamblood duology that followed (not sure why I didn’t get around to finishing it, though…). This is the first in the author’s new The Broken Earth series, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

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What series have I missed? What new series are you looking forward to this year, or ‘old’ series are you hoping to finally try out?

Books Received (November 2013)

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Another impressive book-haul, this month. Also rather varied, too, which is always nice. As per usual, I can’t read them all instantaneously, so here is an initial, first-look at the books that are coming soon to the blog and to bookstores/-shelves near you.

Anon-SagaOfTheVolsungsAnonymous & James L. Byock (trans,), The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin)

Legends from the Ancient North: Five classics of Norse literature that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic vision in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Legendary fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating, and teaching the ancient tales of northern Europe at Oxford and drew on them for his own writing. These epic stories, with their wizards and knights, dragons and trolls, cursed rings and magic swords, are as fascinating today as they were thousands of year ago. Reading them brings us as close as we will ever get to the magical worlds of the Vikings and the origins of their twentieth-century counterpart: Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland,The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama in telling of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin’s Valkyries. Yet the saga is set in a very human world, incorporating oral memories of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun and other warriors fought on the northern frontiers of the Roman empire. In his illuminating introduction Jesse L. Byock links the historical Huns, Burgundians, and Goths with the extraordinary events of this Icelandic saga. With its ill-fated Rhinegold, the sword reforged, and the magic ring of power, the saga resembles the Nibelungenlied and has been a primary source for such fantasy writers as J.R.R. Tolkien and for Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle.

Viking mythology? Love it. Really looking forward to reading this ASAP.

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CarverW-DeadSetWill Carver, Dead Set (Arrow)

Following on from Girl 4 and The Two, Det. Inspector January David is back in a fantastic new thriller.

Detective Inspector January David doesn’t love me.

He loves his missing sister. He loves his job.

But he doesn’t love me. Not in the way he should.

I am his wife. I am still his wife.

And I will do anything for him.

No matter what I have to sacrifice.

A British crime series’ latest instalment heads to New York. I haven’t read the previous books in the series, but I am rather intrigued. I do have a tendency to prefer US-based Thrillers (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned on here many times), so something that straddles both the US and UK? Well, this could be interesting.

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Crilley-T&N2-TheOsirisCursePaul Crilley, The Osiris Curse (Pyr)

Steampunk Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files with a dash of romantic tension and a large dose of adventure.

When Nikola Tesla is murdered and blueprints for his super weapons are stolen, Tweed and Nightingale are drawn into a global cat and mouse chase with his killers. What’s more, it seems that the people who shot Nikola Tesla are the same people responsible for Octavia’s mother’s disappearance. As the two cases intertwine, Tweed and Nightingale’s investigations lead them to a murdered archeologist and a secret society called The Hermetic Order of Set. Fleeing the cult’s wrath, they go undercover on the luxury airship, The Albion, setting out on her maiden voyage to Tutankhamen’s View, a five star hotel built in the hollowed-out and refurbished Great Pyramid of Giza.

In Egypt, the duo begin to unravel the terrible truth behind Tesla’s death, a secret so earth-shattering that if revealed it would mean rewriting the entire history of the world. But if the cult’s plans aren’t stopped, Britain may lose the future.

The second Tweed & Nightingale Adventure. I haven’t been swept up by the steampunk revival. From my (admittedly brief) look at synopses, they do seem to be rather same-y. True, a lot of fantasy and sci-fi novels are also striking me as similar/derivative. I do, however, really like Egyptian mythology and history, so maybe a steampunk-ification of same might be enough to get me hooked? We’ll see.

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Fultz-SevenSorcerersJohn R. Fultz, Seven Sorcerers (Orbit)

The Almighty Zyung drives his massive armies across the world to invade the Land of the Five Cities. So begins the final struggle between freedom and tyranny.

The Southern Kings D’zan and Undutu lead a fleet of warships to meet Zyung’s aerial armada. Vireon the Slayer and Tyro the Sword King lead Men and Giants to defend the free world. So begins the great slaughter of the age…

lardu the Shaper and Sharadza Vodsdaughter must awaken the Old Breed to face Zyung’s legion of sorcerers. So begins a desperate quest beyond the material world into strange realms of magic and mystery.

Yet already it may be too late…

This is the third novel in Fultz’s epic fantasy series, one I have sadly not been able to get around to. Part of this is because I heard very mixed things when the first book (Seven Princes) came out. I am, nevertheless, somewhat interested in giving this a try. I’ll have to dig out my copy of the first book.

Also on CR: Interview with John R. Fultz

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HartC-CastleRock-2014Carolyn Hart, Castle Rock (Seventh Street)

A young woman is convinced she’s living with a murderer among family members, lodgers, and ranch hands in New Mexico.

Serena Mallory came to the huge New Mexico ranch of Castle Rock as a twelve-year-old orphan. She grew up as the ward of owner Dan McIntire. Now in her early twenties, Serena watches the ranch’s idyllic summer charm disappear when Dan dies in a riding accident. The night before his accident, she overheard him arguing with someone, and since his death, a series of strange accidents has plagued the ranch. Convinced that Dan’s accident was anything but, Serena sets out to find the guilty party.

The latest re-issue from Seventh Street Books. Hart’s novels are all well-crafted, enjoyable, and pretty quick reads. Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus (who also own Pyr), have been doing a wonderful job of re-issuing classic crime and thriller novels, alongside a roster of new authors as well. If you haven’t checked any of their books out yet, I would strongly recommend you do.

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HelmreichWB-NewYorkNobodyKnowsWilliam B. Helmreich, The New York Nobody Knows (Princeton University Press)

As a kid growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father they called “Last Stop.” They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs–an astonishing 6,000 miles. His epic journey lasted four years and took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and from every walk of life, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Edward Koch. Their stories and his are the subject of this captivating and highly original book.

We meet the Guyanese immigrant who grows beautiful flowers outside his modest Queens residence in order to always remember the homeland he left behind, the Brooklyn-raised grandchild of Italian immigrants who illuminates a window of his brownstone with the family’s old neon grocery-store sign, and many, many others. Helmreich draws on firsthand insights to examine essential aspects of urban social life such as ethnicity, gentrification, and the use of space. He finds that to be a New Yorker is to struggle to understand the place and to make a life that is as highly local as it is dynamically cosmopolitan.

It’s no secret how much I love New York City. I have lived there three times, and I wish I could move there semi-permanently. After reading (and loving) Sudhir Venkatesh’s Floating City, I was really interested in reading more books about the city. Luckily, Princeton University Press offered this one. I’ll be starting it as soon as I finish The Bully Pulpit (another superb history book from Doris Kearns Goodwin).

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Tanya Huff, Valour’s Choice & The Better Part of Valour (Titan Books)

HuffT-Confederation1&2

VC: In the distant future, humans and several other races have been granted membership in the Confederation – at a price. They must act as soldier/protectors of the far more civilized races who have long since turned away from war…

BPoV: Best known for her Quarters series and vampire novels, Tanya Huff stunned critics and fans with Valour’s Choice, her first military science fiction novel. This thrilling sequel follows the Confederation’s investigation of a seemingly abandoned alien spaceship.

I’ve only recently mentioned these two novels on the blog (in Upcoming posts). They look, on the surface, like great, fun military sci-fi novels – must-reads for fans of Jack Campbell, Rachel Bach and many others. I do like that the genre is starting to get more attention in the UK, and Titan Books in particular have been releasing some of the best available. Hopefully, other publishers will get in on the act, too, and bring some more of the great authors writing in the sub-genre to our shores.

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HuffT-TheSilveredTanya Huff, The Silvered (Titan Books)

The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen — she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader — to save them. Together the two set out on the kidnappers’ trail, racing into the heart of enemy territory. But with every step the odds against their survival, let alone their success, grow steeper…

Fantasy, Werewolves, and a dash of Steampunk? That sounds pretty cool… True, as I mentioned above, I’m not the largest steampunk fan. But, given how well-received this novel has been, not to mention how great Huff is as an author, I’m really looking forward to diving into this one.

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Lloyd-1-MoonsArtificeTom Lloyd, Moon’s Artifice (Gollancz)

In a quiet corner of the Imperial City, Investigator Narin discovers the result of his first potentially lethal mistake. Minutes later he makes a second.

After an unremarkable career Narin finally has the chance of promotion to the hallowed ranks of the Lawbringers – guardians of the Emperor’s laws and bastions for justice in a world of brutal expediency. Joining that honoured body would be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but it couldn’t possibly have come at a worse time. A chance encounter drags Narin into a plot of gods and monsters, spies and assassins, accompanied by a grief-stricken young woman, an old man haunted by the ghosts of his past and an assassin with no past.

On the cusp of an industrial age that threatens the warrior caste’s rule, the Empire of a Hundred Houses awaits civil war between noble factions. Centuries of conquest has made the empire a brittle and bloated monster; constrained by tradition and crying out for change. To save his own life and those of untold thousands Narin must understand the key to it all – Moon’s Artifice, the poison that could destroy an empire.

Tom Lloyd. The fantasy author who hasn’t received nearly as much attention on CR as he deserves. With the start of this new series, though, I really have no excuse not to get in early. Hopefully very soon. (Oh, I’ve said that a lot, recently…)

Also on CR: Interview with Tom Lloyd, Catch-Up Interview,
Guest Post (on Terry Pratchett)

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untitledDavid Logan, The League of Sharks (Quercus)

In a world where humans have disappeared, sharkmen are the ultimate predators.

Junk’s sister has been stolen.

Snatched from her bed in the dead of night, Ambeline doesn’t stand a chance. No one believes Junk saw a monster take his sister. No one believes he’s not to blame.

So begins Junk’s quest to find Ambeline’s kidnapper. His journey will take him to a future world where animal species have evolved, and where the cult of the League of Sharks – the cult that stole Junk’s sister – is etched into folklore…

The publisher offered this to me, and I was rather confused by the premise. So I said sure, I’ll take a look. Still not 100% sure what to expect from it, but it’s a YA novel that isn’t too long, so I may read this in between Big Book Fantasies, or if I need a genre-palette-cleanser. The publicity materials make a big deal about his previous novel, but I must admit I’d never heard of him before this came onto my radar.

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Olson-AdventureTimeEncyclopaediaMartin Olson, The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia (Titan Books)

Written by the Lord of Evil Himself, Hunson Abadeer (a.k.a. Marceline the Vampire Queen’s dad), to instruct and confound the demonic citizenry of the Nightosphere, The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is perhaps the most dangerous book in history. Although seemingly a guidebook to the Land of Ooo and its postapocalyptic inhabitants, it is in fact an amusing nightmare of literary pitfalls, bombastic brain-boggles, and ancient texts designed to drive the reader mad.

Complete with secret lore and wizard spells, fun places you should visit and places where you will probably die, advice on whom to marry and whom not to marry, and how to make friends and destroy your enemies, this volume includes hand-written marginalia by Finn, Jake, and Marceline.

Arguably the greatest encyclopaedia ever written since the beginning of the cosmos, it is also an indispensable companion to humans and demons who know what time it is: Adventure Time!

I must admit, the Adventure Time craze took me completely by surprise. I’ve had access to review copies of the comic since before it was released by Boom Studios. But… it never clicked for me. Maybe I should give it another go. This book, which I have already dipped into, is rather fun. Recommended for your Christmas lists!

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Pratchett-40-RaisingSteamTerry Pratchett, Raising Steam (Doubleday)

To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital… but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse…

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails…

Does Terry Pratchett really need an introduction? He’s my favourite author. I have read and re-read all of the Discworld novels at least twice, and some (Vimes novels) four or five times. I really enjoyed Going Postal and Making Money (ah, that’s one I’ve only read once, actually…), so it’ll be nice to be re-united with Moist. That being said, I struggled with Snuff, so I hope this is a return to form.

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ReillyM-TheTournamentMatthew Reilly, The Tournament (Orion)

The year is 1546.

Europe lives in fear of the powerful Islamic empire to the East. Under its charismatic Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, it is an empire on the rise. It has defeated Christian fleets. It has conquered Christian cities.

Then the Sultan sends out an invitation to every king in Europe: send forth your champion to compete in a tournament unlike any other.

We follow the English delegation, selected by King Henry VIII himself, to the glittering city of Constantinople, where the most amazing tournament ever staged will take place.

But when the stakes are this high, not everyone plays fair, and for our team of plucky English heroes, winning may not be the primary goal. As a series of barbaric murders take place, a more immediate goal might simply be staying alive…

I am a big fan of Reilly’s novels. I’ve read a number of the Scarecrow novels, and all three Shane West novels (so much fun). With The Tournament, he seems to be doing something a little different – a wholly historical novel, rather than a contemporary adventure rooted in history. I’m really looking forward to reading this, so expect this on the blog very soon. Having lived in Istanbul, too, it’ll be interesting to see how the author realises the historical city on the page. It’s a fascinating city, with such a turbulent history. This is very promising. Before Christmas, hopefully.

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ResnickM-DoctorAndTheDinosaursMike Resnick, The Doctor and the Dinosaurs (Pyr)

Welcome to a Steampunk wild west starring Doc Holliday, with zombies, dinosaurs, robots, and cowboys.

The time is April, 1885. Doc Holliday lies in bed in a sanitarium in Leadville, Colorado, expecting never to leave his room again. But the medicine man and great chief Geronimo needs him for one last adventure. Renegade Comanche medicine men object to the newly-signed treaty with Theodore Roosevelt. They are venting their displeasure on two white men who are desecrating tribal territory in Wyoming. Geronimo must protect the men or renege on his agreement with Roosevelt. He offers Doc one year of restored health in exchange for taking on this mission.

Welcome to the birth of American paleontology, spearheaded by two brilliant men, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, two men whose genius is only exceeded by their hatred for each other’s guts.

Now, with the aid of Theodore Roosevelt, Cole Younger, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday must save Cope and Marsh not only from the Comanches, not only from living, breathing dinosaurs, but from each other. And that won’t be easy.

I am woefully behind on this series. I’ve read the first book, The Buntline Special, which I found rather fun, but then I’ve just been unable to keep up-to-date. This sounds fun, too, though. I’ll endeavour to get caught up.

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RichardJ-SuicideExhibitionJustin Richards, The Suicide Exhibition (Del Rey UK)

A groundbreaking alternate history World War 2 thriller.

The threat is not new. The aliens have been here before – if indeed they are aliens. Obsessed with the Occult, Hitler and other senior Nazis believed they were destined to inherit the Earth. To this end, they are determined to recover ‘their’ ancient artifacts – the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny. When Dunkirk veteran and Foreign Office trouble-shooter Major Guy Pentecross stumbles across a seemingly unbelievable conspiracy, he, together with pilot and American spy Sarah Diamond and SOE operative Leo Davenport, enter the shadow world of Section Z. All three have major roles to play as they uncover the Nazis’ insidious plot to use the alien Vril’s technology to win the war… at any cost.

This is The Thirty-Nine Steps crossed with Indiana Jones and Quatermass. Justin Richards has an extremely credible grasp of the period’s history and has transformed it into a groundbreaking alternate reality thriller.

This sounds pretty cool. I love alternate history, and Secret History. Having recently read and adored Lavie Tidhar’s The Violent Century and Ian Tregillis’s three Milkweed novels, I’m rather hoping this is another great addition to the sub-genre. I hadn’t heard of Richards before this arrived, but as it turns out, he is another alumnus of the Dr. Who novel-writing stable. I’m looking forward to this.

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WareD-EckoBurningDanie Ware, Ecko Burning (Titan Books)

Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control of Fhaveon city, and is using her forces to bring the grasslands under his command. His last opponent is an elderly scribe who’s lost his best friend and wants only to do the right thing.

Seeking weapons, Ecko and his companions follow a trail of myth and rumour to a ruined city where both nightmare and shocking truth lie in wait.

When all of these things come together, the world will change beyond recognition.

Back in London, the Bard is offered the opportunity to realise everything he has ever wanted – if he will give up his soul.

A series that I have sadly not read, yet. It sounds great, and the premise makes it sound pretty original, too. I must make time to give this a try.

Also on CR: Interview with Danie Ware

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WilliamsJ-CopperPromiseJen Williams, The Copper Promise (Headline)

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him… and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

A debut, and another one I hadn’t heard of before it turned up in the mail. Sounds pretty interesting. I’ll hopefully get to it ASAP. (I recently got a copy of Headline’s new catalogue – there are some really interesting titles coming from them in the near future! Watch this space for more information…)

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WilliamsM-3TowerBrokenMazarkis Williams, The Tower Broken (Jo Fletcher Books)

The world is at breaking point. The nothing, a terrible darkness caused by the festering wounds of a god, bleeds out the very essence of all, of stone, silk – and souls. Emperor Sarmin thought he had stopped it, but it is spreading towards his city, Cerana – and he is powerless to halt the destruction. Even as Cerana fills with refugees, the Yrkmen armies arrive with conquest in mind, but they offer to spare Sarmin’s people if they will convert to the Mogyrk faith. Time is running out for Sarmin and his wife, Mesema: the Mage’s Tower is cracked; the last mage, sent to find a mysterious pattern-worker in the desert, has vanished; and Sarmin believes his kidnapped brother Daveed still has a part to play. The walls are crumbling around them…

The first novel in this series, The Emperor’s Knife, was pretty interesting. It started incredibly strong, but some of the steam was lost as the novel went on. Then, when the second novel was released, I ended up moving, and it got lost in the mix. (I do still have Knife Sworn, though, which will make it easier to catch up.)

Also on CR: Interview with Mazarkis Williams

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ZuckermanG-TheFrackersGregory Zuckerman, The Frackers (Portfolio/Penguin)

Everyone knew it was crazy to try to extract oil and natural gas buried in shale rock deep below the ground. Everyone, that is, except a few reckless wildcatters – who risked their careers to prove the world wrong.

Things looked grim for American energy in 2006. Oil production was in steep decline and natural gas was hard to find. The Iraq War threatened the nation’s already tenuous relations with the Middle East. China was rapidly industrializing and competing for resources. Major oil companies had just about given up on new discoveries on U.S. soil, and a new energy crisis seemed likely.

But a handful of men believed everything was about to change.

Far from the limelight, Aubrey McClendon, Harold Hamm, Mark Papa, and other wildcatters were determined to tap massive deposits of oil and gas that Exxon, Chevron, and other giants had dismissed as a waste of time. By experimenting with hydraulic fracturing through extremely dense shale — a process now known as fracking — the wildcatters started a revolution. In just a few years, they solved America’s dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy — and made and lost astonishing fortunes.

No one understands these men — their ambitions, personalities, methods, and foibles — better than the award-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman. His exclusive access enabled him to get close to the frackers and chronicle the untold story of how they transformed the nation and the world. The result is a dramatic narrative tracking a brutal competition among headstrong drillers. It stretches from the barren fields of North Dakota and the rolling hills of northeastern Pennsylvania to cluttered pickup trucks in Texas and tense Wall Street boardrooms.

Activists argue that the same methods that are creating so much new energy are also harming our water supply and threatening environmental chaos. The Frackers tells the story of the angry opposition unleashed by this revolution and explores just how dangerous fracking really is.

The frackers have already transformed the economic, environmental, and geopolitical course of history. Now, like the Rockefellers and the Gettys before them, they’re using their wealth and power to influence politics, education, entertainment, sports, and many other fields. Their story is one of the most important of our time.

That’s quite the epic-length synopsis… An issue that has fascinated me for years, I’m very glad I was able to get a review copy of this book. Hopefully get to it very soon.

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Michael Crichton’s Pulp Novels (Hard Case Crime)

There are just too many to write about them individually, so I’ll just say – these are a lot of fun. Slightly dated, but in an amusing way. I have four of them to give away, too, so keep an eye open for that giveaway post coming up next week.