Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recent Acquisitions (January)


I’ve been very slow about reading and reviewing. Partly, this is because I was busy over the Christmas and New Year period, but also because I kept coming across novels that I ended up not being able to finish. Nevertheless, books have been dribbling in over the weeks, and I wanted to shine a light on the ones that have arrived, in advance of any reviews. I shall resist my usual urge to write “I’ll be reading this soon”, as I always seem to break this promise to myself…

So, keeping it simple, here are the novels’ covers and synopses. Where I have some initial pre-reading thoughts, I’ve shared them, but because there are so many, I’ve decided to keep my mutterings to a minimum.

ClinesP-4-ExPurgatoryUKPeter Clines, Ex-Purgatory (Del Rey UK)

George Bailey is an ordinary guy, working the nine to five as a handyman and trying to make the best of the little he’s got. But when he sleeps, he dreams of fire and flying, of zombies and superheroes.

When the two realities start to merge, George begins to question if he’s gone mad. That, or something has gone terribly wrong...

Hmm… I really didn’t get much from the first in the series, so I can’t imagine I’ll be getting around to the fourth book any time soon. Crazier things have happened, of course, but nobody should hold their breath.


Cole-BreachZone-ProofMyke Cole, Breach Zone (Headline)

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers — summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil…

I’ve actually finished this already. I will have a review up relatively soon. It was good, certainly, but I also had a couple of slightly strange take-aways.

Also on CR: Interview with Myke Cole, Guest Post (Influences & Inspirations), Reviews of Control Point and Fortress Frontier


deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeSebastien de Castell, Traitor’s Blade (Jo Fletcher Books)

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…

Reading this at the moment (about 60% in, now) and really enjoying it. More to come.


FordR-SH2-ShatteredCrownRichard Ford, The Shattered Crown (Headline)

Heroes must rise...

The King is dead. His daughter, untested and alone, now wears the Steel Crown. And a vast horde is steadily carving a bloody road south, hell-bent on razing Steelhaven to the ground... or the city will fall.

Before the city faces the terror that approaches, it must crush the danger already lurking within its walls. But will the cost of victory be as devastating as that of defeat?

Another fantasy series that kicked off last year that I’ve not been able to get around to reading. It sounds pretty good, though, and a number of people seem to have taken to it rather well.

Also on CR: Interview with Richard Ford


Harris&Golden-CemeteryGirl1-PretendersCharlaine Harris & Christopher Golden, Cemetery Girl: The Pretenders (Jo Fletcher Books)

She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill — names taken from the grim surroundings where she awoke, bruised and bloody, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.

She has made the cemetery her home, living in a crypt and avoiding human contact. But Calexa can’t hide from the dead — and because she can see spirits, they can’t hide from her.

Then one night, Calexa spies a group of teenagers vandalizing a grave — and watches in horror as they commit murder. As the victim’s spirit rises from her body, it flows into Calexa, overwhelming her mind with visions and memories not her own.

Now Calexa must make a decision: continue to hide to protect herself — or come forward to bring justice to the sad spirit who has reached out to her for help...

Another book I’ve already finished reading. It’s the first in a trilogy, and it does have a definite First Part feel to it, but it is still a strong story, well-visualised.

Also on CR: Interview with Christopher Golden


HarrisonASA-TheSilentWifeUKPBA.S.A. Harrison, The Silent Wife (Headline)

Todd Gilbert and Jodie Brett are in a bad place in their relationship. They’ve been together for twenty-eight years, and with no children to worry about there has been little to disrupt their affluent Chicago lifestyle. But there has also been little to hold it together, and beneath the surface lie ever-widening cracks. HE is a committed cheater. SHE lives and breathes denial. HE exists in dual worlds. SHE likes to settle scores. HE decides to play for keeps. SHE has nothing left to lose. When it becomes clear that their precarious world could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows she stands to lose everything. It’s only now she will discover just how much she’s truly capable of...

Read and reviewed this already. Disappointed.


HughesA-ConvictionsOfJohnDelahuntAndrew Hughes, The Convictions of John Delahunt (Transworld)

On a cold December morning, a small boy is enticed away from his mother and his throat savagely cut. This could be just one more small, sad death in a city riven by poverty, inequality and political unrest, but this killing causes a public outcry. For it appears the culprit – a feckless student named John Delahunt – is also an informant and in the pay of the authorities at Dublin Castle. And strangely, this young man seems neither to regret what he did nor fear his punishment. Indeed, as he awaits the hangman in his cell in Kilmainham Gaol, John Delahunt decides to tell his story in this, his final, deeply unsettling statement...

Set amidst Dublin’s taverns, tenements, courtrooms and alleyways and with a rich, Dickensian cast of characters – carousing students, unscrupulous lowlifes, dissectionists, phrenologists, blackmailers and the sinister agents of Dublin Castle – The Convictions of John Delahunt is based on true events that convulsed Victorian Ireland.

Beautifully observed, seductive and laced with dark humour, this gripping historical thriller about a man who betrays his family, his friends and, ultimately, himself marks the debut of an exciting and assured new literary voice.


KatsuA-I3-DescentUKAlma Katsu, The Descent (Arrow)

Lanore McIlvrae has been on the run from Adair for hundreds of years, dismayed by his mysterious powers and afraid of his temper. She betrayed Adair’s trust and imprisoned him behind a stone wall to save Jonathan, the love of her life. When Adair was freed 200 years later, she was sure that he would find her and make her existence a living hell. But things turned out far different than she’d imagined.

Four years later, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home, where he has been living in self-imposed exile, to ask for a favor. She wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so she may beg the Queen of the Underworld to release Jonathan, whom she has been keeping as her consort. Will Lanore honor her promise to Adair to return? Or is her intention to reunite with Jonathan at any cost?

Of all the forces of the universe, the most mysterious, confounding, and humbling is the power of love. The epic story of love and loss, magic and destiny that began with The Taker and sparked a chase around the world in The Reckoning comes to a surprising conclusion with The Descent.

Also on CR: Interview with Alma Katsu


Kent-DQ4-ThePeoplesWillJasper Kent, The People’s Will (Bantam)

Turkmenistan 1881: Beneath the citadel of Geok Tepe sits a prisoner. He hasn’t moved from his chair for two years, hasn’t felt the sun on his face in more than fifty, but he is thankful for that. The city is besieged by Russian troops and soon falls. But one Russian officer has his own reason to be here. Colonel Otrepyev marches into the underground gaol. But for the prisoner it does not mean freedom, simply a new gaoler; an old friend, now an enemy. They return to Russia to meet an older enemy still.

In Saint Petersburg, the great vampire Zmyeevich waits as he has always waited. He knows he will never wield power over Tsar Aleksandr II, but the tsarevich will be a different matter. When Otrepyev delivers the prisoner into his hands, Zmyeevich will have everything he needs. Then all that need happen is for the tsar to die.

But it is not only the Otrepyev and his captive who have returned from Geok Tepe. Another soldier has followed them, one who cares nothing for the fate of the tsar, nor for Zmyeevich, nor for Otrepyev. He has only one thing on his mind revenge. And it's not just Zmyeevich who seeks the death of the tsar.

Aleksandr’s faltering steps towards liberty have only made the people hungry for more, and for some the final liberty will come only with the death of the dictator. They have tried and failed before, but the tsar's luck must desert him one day. Soon he will fall victim to a group that has vowed to bring the Romanov dynasty to a violent end – a group that calls itself The People’s Will.

This is the fourth in a series I’ve wanted to read in so very long (the Danilov Quintet). I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t got around to it, yet. I have the first novel on my Kindle, too, so I really have no excuse.

Also on CR: Jasper Kent Guest Post on Influences & Inspirations


LeGuinUK-LeftHandOfDarkness1992Ursula le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (Orbit)

A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

This was sent to me as part of the Hodderscape review project. I have been remiss to not read it already. I will force myself to bump it up the TBR mountain, though, and hopefully catch up. (I’ve wanted to read this for years, so I don’t know why I didn’t get my arse in gear and seize the opportunity ASAP.)


LeonardA-MothAndSparkAnne Leonard, Moth and Spark (Headline)

He’s cursed with an impossible task. She’s blessed with magical visions.

Together they can save a divided Empire.

Prince Corin has been given the task of freeing the dragons from their bondage to the Empire. However, it seems that that not even the dragonriders themselves know how these terrifying beasts are kept under control.

When Tam, a doctor’s daughter, arrives in the capital she makes an amazing discovery: she is a Seer, gifted with visions.

Sparks fly when Corin and Tam meet ... but it’s not all happily ever after. Not only is the prince forbidden to marry a commoner, but war is coming to Caithen. Torn between love and duty, they must work together to uncover the secret that threatens to destroy their country.

I really want to read this. It’s been described as “Princess Bride meets Game of Thrones … with a dash of Pride and Prejudice”. Which is certainly an intriguing mixture. The text in the ARC is rather tiny, though, it could take a while and a magnifying glass to read…


PatrickS-ReviverUKPBSeth Patrick, Reviver (Macmillan)

Revivers. Able to wake the recently dead, and let them bear witness to their own demise. Twelve years after the first reviver came to light, they have become accepted by an uneasy public. The testimony of the dead is permitted in courtrooms across the world. Forensic revival is a routine part of police investigation. In the United States, that responsibility falls to the Forensic Revival Service. Despite his troubled past, Jonah Miller is one of their best. But while reviving the victim of a brutal murder, he encounters a terrifying presence. Something is watching. Waiting. His superiors tell him it was only in his mind, a product of stress. Jonah is not so certain. Then Daniel Harker, the first journalist to bring revival to public attention, is murdered, and Jonah finds himself getting dragged into the hunt for answers. Working with Harker's daughter Annabel, he becomes determined to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Soon they uncover long-hidden truths that call into doubt everything Jonah stands for, and reveal a threat that if not stopped in time, will put all of humanity in danger...

Should have got around to this sooner. No idea why I haven’t. I will! I must! It sounds so cool…

Also on CR: Interview with Seth Patrick


StevensT-InformationistUKTaylor Stevens, The Informationist (Arrow)

Vanessa Munroe deals in information – covert information. With an extraordinary intellect, a physique that allows her to pass as either male or female, and ruthless martial arts skills, she offers a unique service to anyone – government or individual - who'll pay her.

Now a Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter, who vanished in Africa four years earlier. Where international investigators have tried and failed, Munroe follows a cold trail far into the lawless lands of central Africa.

And then things spin out of control.

Pulled deep into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself cut off from civilisation and left for dead. Her only hope of discovering the truth – and of getting out of Africa alive – is to face up to the violent past that she's fought so hard to forget.

I have an interview coming up with Taylor Stevens. Hopefully up next week. Watch this space…


Jo Walton, Farthing, Ha’Penny and Half A Crown (Corsair)


First published in 2006, Jo Walton’s Farthing was hailed as a masterpiece, a darkly romantic thriller set in an alternate postwar England sliding into fascism.

Eight years after they overthrew Churchill and led Britain into a separate peace with Hitler, the upper-crust families of the “Farthing set” are gathered for a weekend retreat. Among them is estranged Farthing scion Lucy Kahn, who can’t understand why her and her husband David’s presence was so forcefully requested. Then the country-house idyll is interrupted when the eminent Sir James Thirkie is found murdered—with a yellow Star of David pinned to his chest.

Lucy begins to realize that her Jewish husband is about to be framed for the crime—an outcome that would be convenient for altogether too many of the various political machinations underway in Parliament in the coming week. But whoever’s behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn’t reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts and underdogs—and prone to look beyond the obvious as a result.

As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out—a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.

Alyssa blitzed through these in just under four days. That’s a pretty good endorsement to me… Expect me to read at least Farthing soon (it’s at the top of my TBR mountain, so…).


WaltonJ-WhatMakesThisBookSoGreatJo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great? (Corsair)

As any reader of Jo Walton’s Among Others might guess, Walton is both an inveterate reader of SF and fantasy, and a chronic re-reader of books. In 2008, then-new science-fiction mega-site asked Walton to blog regularly about her re-reading — about all kinds of older fantasy and SF, ranging from acknowledged classics, to guilty pleasures, to forgotten oddities and gems. These posts have consistently been among the most popular features of Now this volumes presents a selection of the best of them, ranging from short essays to long reassessments of some of the field's most ambitious series.

Among Walton's many subjects here are the Zones of Thought novels of Vernor Vinge; the question of what genre readers mean by “mainstream”; the underappreciated SF adventures of C. J. Cherryh; the field’s many approaches to time travel; the masterful science fiction of Samuel R. Delany; Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children; the early Hainish novels of Ursula K. Le Guin; and a Robert A. Heinlein novel you have most certainly never read.

Over 130 essays in all, What Makes This Book So Great is an immensely readable, engaging collection of provocative, opinionated thoughts about past and present-day fantasy and science fiction, from one of our best writers.

I don’t like reading reviews of books I want to read. So how does one review a book of reviews and essays on books you want to read? This is a pickle I am going to be presented with, when I start this…


Wells-SW-RazorsEdgeMartha Wells, Razor’s Edge (Century)

Times are desperate for the Rebel Alliance. Harassment by the Empire and a shortage of vital supplies are hindering completion of a new secret base on the ice planet Hoth. So when Mid Rim merchants offer much-needed materials for sale, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo lead an Alliance delegation to negotiate a deal.

But when treachery forces the rebel ship to flee into territory controlled by pirates, Leia makes a shocking discovery: the fierce marauders come from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star. These refugees have turned to pillaging and plundering to survive — and they are in debt to a pirate armada, which will gladly ransom the princess to the vengeful Empire... if they find out her true identity.

Struggling with intense feelings of guilt, loyalty, and betrayal, Leia is determined to help her wayward kinspeople, even as Imperial forces are closing in on her own crippled ship. Trapped between lethal cutthroats and brutal oppressors, Leia and Han, along with Luke, Chewbacca, and a battle-ready crew, must defy death — or embrace it — to keep the rebellion alive.

It’s been too long since I last read a Star Wars novel. I started to feel Nine Book Story-Arc Fatigue, but given that this is set in the classic movie-era… It could fix my franchise funk. We’ll see.


WolfD-InterceptUKDick Wolf, The Intercept (Sphere)

The first novel from the creator of Law & Order and the first in a series featuring NYPD Special Agent Jeremy Fisk.

Four days before the dedication of the new Freedom Tower at ground zero in New York City, five passengers and a flight attendant bravely foil the hijacking of a commercial jet en route to the city. Thrust into the national spotlight, “The Six” become instant celebrities, hailed for their bravery. But iconoclastic New York Police investigator Jeremy Fisk believes there's more to this than a simple open-and-shut terrorism case. Fisk – from the department’s Intelligence Division – suspects that in reality this is an early warning signal that another potentially more devastating attack is imminent.

Fisk and his team spring into action, but as each promising new lead fizzles to nothing they realise that their opponents are smarter and more dangerous than anyone they’ve faced before. The seemingly invisible enemy is able to exploit every security weakness, anticipating Fisk’s every move. And time is running out until ground zero day…


Zahn-Scoundrels(SW)Timothy Zahn, Scoundrels (Arrow)

To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks.

But even he can’t do this job solo.

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head – and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba – and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers... or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both – including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike – and pull off the heist of the century – it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

Really want to read this, and soon. Zahn wrote some of my favourite early Star Wars novels, and I enjoyed the prequel short story for this tale. Hopefully soon.


Which of these catches your eye?


  1. I saw Traitor's Blade a few days ago and really liked the description. It sounded like a novel I usually enjoy, so I will be eager to hear your thoughts on it.

    1. Finished it this morning - a lot of fun, and a great start to a new series. Definitely recommend it.