Sunday, February 09, 2014

Recently Received… (January/February)


Think it’s rather obvious, by now, what these posts are about. So, read on for more information about the above-pictured books…

CalhounK-BlackMoonUKKenneth Calhoun, Black Moon (Hogarth)

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows. Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world. Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness. Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend. All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had.

I actually finished this earlier today. Review this coming week, though I’m not sure exactly what day, yet.


Miles Cameron, The Red Knight and The Fell Sword (Gollancz)


Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.

Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern’s jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men – or worse, a company of mercenaries – against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.

It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.

The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he’s determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it’s just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can’t deal with.

Only it’s not just a job. It’s going to be a war...

This is another of the new 2013 fantasy series that I failed to get around to. Now that I have both books one and two, I really don’t have any excuse. I intend to read at least the first novel ASAP.

Miles Cameron’s novels are published by Orbit Books in the US.


deJager-BL1-BanishedLiz de Jager, Banished (Tor)

Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

I picked up an ARC of this at WFC 2013 in Brighton (which was a great convention), but I’ve been slow about getting around to it. In fact, I’ve still not read most of the books I picked up at the convention… So many of them are now signed, though, which makes me wary of reading them lest I destroy them on my commute… I’ve heard good things about this one, though, so I do hope to get to it at some point in the not-too-distant-future.


EvansL-3-ProblemWithPromisesUKLeigh Evans, The Problem With Promises (Tor)


Robson Trowbridge, the Alpha of Creemore and my gorgeous mate, tries to protect me, Hedi Peacock, half-Fae, half-were, from all the trouble I get into. The thing is, my past is pretty messy and bad guys keep knocking down my door. Witches, thug bikers, the North American Council of Weres, dark magic Fae, and even an evil wizard are all after me. The Old Mage is the only one I really care about: He has my dear twin brother captive on the other side of the Gates of Merenwyn—not cool. So my alpha love is helping me to keep my promise to free my brother…


Unfortunately, everyone who helps me ends up in a heap of trouble too—including my Trowbridge. Now, I admit I’ve had my moments as a shivering coward, hoping he will come to my brave rescue. The whole Prince Charming thing is hard to shake. But these bad guys after me mean business and those damsel in distress days are over. You know that “last straw” metaphor? That was two straws ago. It’s now or never. Again…

This is the third novel in Evans’s urban fantasy series. I have the other two, but (as is so often the case with me) I’ve been really slow about getting around to them. I’m not sure why – I think I’ve just not been in an urban fantasy mood for a little while. Maybe this series could break this trend…?

Also on CR: Interview with Leigh Evans


KaneB-Hannibal4-CloudsOfWarBen Kane, Hannibal: Clouds of War (Preface)

As Rome’s war with Carthage continues, two friends – now on opposing sides – confront each other in one of the most brutal sieges of all time.

213 BC. Syracuse. Under the merciless Sicilian sun, a city is at war.

Outside the walls, a vast Roman army waits. Yet the city’s incredible defences, designed by Archimedes, mean that Syracuse will not be taken easily.

A veteran of the bitter war since its beginning, Quintus is ready to give his life in the service of the Republic. But dangers face him from within his own ranks as well as from the enemy – who include his former friend, the Carthaginian, Hanno.

Hanno has been sent by his general Hannibal to aid Syracuse in its fight against Rome. Pledged to bring death to all Romans, he is diverted from his mission by the discovery of Quintus’ sister Aurelia, a captive within the city.

Two friends on opposing sides. A woman caught between them. They are about to meet in one of the most brutal sieges of all time.

Who will survive?

Rather like the sound of this. Anyone else read anything by Kane?

Also on CR: Interview with Ben Kane


LeonardA-MothAndSparkUKAnne Leonard, Moth and Spark (Headline)

A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed — at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control.

Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen.

Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

I’ve already featured this before, as I was sent the ARC not so long ago. This is the final production version, which means the text is larger. In the ARC is was tiny… I’ll be reading this very soon.


MacLeodK-DescentKen MacLeod, Descent (Orbit)


Ball lightning. Weather balloons. Secret military aircraft. Ryan knows all the justifications for UFO sightings. But when something falls out of the sky on the hills near his small Scottish town, he finds his cynicism can’t identify or explain the phenomenon. And in a future where nothing is a secret, where everything is recorded on CCTV or reported online, why can he find no evidence of the UFO, nor anything to shed light on what occurred? Is it the political revolutionaries, is it the government or is it aliens themselves who are creating the cover-up? Or does the very idea of a cover-up hide the biggest secret of all?

This sounds like it could be really good. I’ll try to read it soon – it would be my first novel by MacLeod, actually. Not sure why I haven’t read his stuff before now…


McArdleM-UpsideOfDownMegan McArdle, The Upside of Down (Viking)

For readers of Drive, Outliers, and Daring Greatly, a counterintuitive, paradigm-shifting new take on what makes people and companies succeed

Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking book, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure.

McArdle has been one of our most popular business bloggers for more than a decade, covering the rise and fall of some the world’s top companies and challenging us to think differently about how we live, learn, and work. Drawing on cutting-edge research in science, psychology, economics, and business, and taking insights from turnaround experts, emergency room doctors, venture capitalists, child psychologists, bankruptcy judges, and mountaineers, McArdle argues that America is unique in its willingness to let people and companies fail, but also in its determination to let them pick up after the fall. Failure is how people and businesses learn. So how do you reinvent yourself when you are down?

Dynamic and punchy, McArdle teaches us how to recognize mistakes early to channel setbacks into future success. The Up Side of Downmarks the emergence of an author with her thumb on the pulse whose book just might change the way you lead your life.


PatrickD-BoyWithThePorcelainBladeDen Patrick, The Boy With The Porcelain Blade (Gollancz)

An ornate yet dark fantasy, with echoes of Mervyn Peake, Robin Hobb and Jon Courtenay Grimwood. An original and beautifully imagined world, populated by unforgettable characters.

Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game. Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted - but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the 'insane' women kept in the haunting Sanatoria.

Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself.

This is a highly-anticipated first fantasy novel from Mr. Patrick. Previously, he wrote the Orc, Dwarf and Elf War manuals (also published by Gollancz), which were rather fun. I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot of this novel around the SFF online community. I’m working on an interview with the author, too, so keep an eye out for that in a couple weeks or so.


Schreiber-SW-MaulLockdownJoe Schreiber, Maul: Lockdown (Century/LucasBooks)

Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object capable of obliterating the Jedi and conquering the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

I haven’t read much Star Wars fiction recently. It’s starting to pile up, though. I used to devour them as soon as I got my mitts on the latest novel in Lucas’s universe. However, after the protracted nine-book series, my enthusiasm waned a little bit. I’ll do my best to catch up, though – perhaps in March or April.


Which of these catches your eye?


  1. So many books! The Boy with the Porcelain Blade is actually on my TBR list. Looking forward to seeing what you think of it. :)

    1. I've dipped into it already, but I'm not currently in the mood for a fantasy, so I've put it to one side for a little bit.

      Great world, though the story was a little bit disjointed (flitting back-and-forth), but it looked like it was about to get really good and interesting. I also really like what he's done with the Orfano. Review will probably be in a few weeks or so. Interview hopefully up before.

  2. Which one catches my eyes? Um...all of them! :D

    Moth and Spark is the only one I've read so far, but Banished will be next on my list I think. Looking forward to your review of Boy with the Porcelain Blade, and of course I'm always a sucker for Star Wars.


    1. Haha. Moth and Spark is very high on my TBR pile (I actually have multiple TBR piles, now... Priority, Excited-But-Not-Out-For-A-While, etc.)

      I really need to catch up on my SW reading. Have APOCALYPSE still to read, before I can get to CRUCIBLE, and also have Martha Wells's and James S.A. Corey's to read... Oh, and KENOBI, which I'm really looking forward to trying.

      So. Many. Books. So. Little. Time.
      (Although, I'll have a bit more reading time from the beginning of March.)

  3. BLACK MOON sounds exactly like Adrian Barnes' NOD, an Arthur C Clarke Award nominated novel from a couple of years ago. A very enjoyable book, written lyrically with wry commentary from the doomed narrator.

    1. Ah, thanks for the, uh, nod on NOD. Will have to check it out.