Thursday, April 28, 2011

CR’s May Picks



With the month of May (very) fast approaching, I thought I’d just share a quick post and some thoughts on next month’s most-anticipated releases.

So, without further ado, read on for a breakdown of my most-anticipated novels coming in May (in no particular order).

[Warning: A couple of the synopses have spoilers of varying detail.]

Ari Marmell’s The Warlord’s Legacy (Gollancz)Marmell-WarlordsLegacyUK

Corvis Rebaine is no hero. In his trademark suit of black armour and skull-like helm, armed with a demon-forged axe and with allies that include a bloodthirsty ogre, Rebaine has twice brought death and destruction to Imphallion in pursuit of a better, more equitable and just society. If he had to kill countless innocents in order to achieve that dream, so be it. At least that was the old Rebaine. Before he slew the mad warlord Audriss. Before he banished the demon Khanda. Before he lost his wife and children, who could neither forgive nor forget his violent crimes. Now, years later, Rebaine lives in a distant city, under a false name. He’s a member of one of the Guilds he despises and trying to achieve change non-violently, from within the power structure.

But just because Corvis has changed doesn’t mean everyone else has. When Imphallion is invaded the bickering Guilds once again prove unable to respond... but someone wearing Rebaine’s trademark black armour, and bearing what appears to be his axe, does. Someone who is, if anything, even less careful of human life than Rebaine was. Worse, Rebaine’s old nemesis Baron Jassion is hunting him once more, aided by a mysterious sorcerer named Kaleb, and a young woman who hates Corvis Rebaine more than anyone else: his own daughter, Mellorin. Suddenly, Rebaine seems to have no choice. To clear his name, to protect his country, and to reconcile with his family, must he become the Terror of the East again?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Conqueror’s Shadow last Christmas (I was a little late getting to it), so I’ve been eager to see what happens next in Marmell’s fantasy world. It seems to have had a mixed reception from American reviewers, but I’m confident I’ll enjoy it just as much.

[Bonus: An Interview with Ari Marmell]

Pamela Freeman, Ember & Ash (Orbit)Untitled-1

Two peoples have been fighting over the same land for a thousand years. Invaders crushed the original inhabitants, and ancient powers have reluctantly given way to newer magics. But Ember was to change all this with a wedding to bind these warring people together – until her future goes up in flames.

Ember’s husband-to-be is murdered by a vengeful elemental god, who sees peace as a breach of faith. Set on retribution, she enlists the help of Ash, son of a seer. Together they will pit themselves against elementals of fire and ice in a last attempt to end the conflicts that have scarred their past.

They must look to the present, as old furies are waking to violence and are eager to reclaim their people.

Set in the same world as Freeman’s Castings Trilogy, this is a stand alone novel that I hope will be a good introduction to the world. I’ve not read the previous trilogy, but the premise for this novel sounded particularly interesting, so I’m eager to give this a go, and soon.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Blood Reaver (Black Library)Dembski-Bowden-BloodReaver

Driven by their hatred of the False Emperor, the Night Lords stalk the shadows of the galaxy, eternally seeking revenge for the death of their Primarch. Their dark quest leads them to a fractious alliance with the Red Corsairs, united only by a common enemy.

Together with this piratical band of renegades, they bring their ways of destruction to the fortress-monastery of the Marines Errant. Their mission: to steal the loyalist Chapter’s gene-seed, dooming them to a slow demise.

Aaron D-B is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, and Blood Reaver is his best novel to date. Luckily, I’ve already been able to read and review it, so check out my thoughts on the novel, here. (In summary: It’s bloody brilliant.)

Christian Dunn (ed), Age of Darkness (Black Library)Dunn-AgeOfDarkness

After the betrayal at Isstvan V, Horus begins his campaign against the Emperor, a galaxy-wide war that can lead only to Terra. But the road to the final confrontation between father and son is a long one – seven years filled with secrecy and silence, plans and foundations being formed across distant stars. An unknown history is about to be unveiled as light is shed on the darkest years of the Horus Heresy.

The Horus Heresy series of novels from Black Library is one of my favourite long-running series, and with Age of Darkness, the second collection of short-stories set in the time, we get yet another excellent addition. The stories in here are all very good, and I was surprised to find that my favourites were not from the authors I expected (there are two superb inclusions by very new authors). My review is already done and up for this book, so head over here to read my thoughts on both the book and the series as a whole.

Stephen Deas, The Order of the Scales (Gollancz)Deas-OrderOfTheScales

As the various factions fight for control of the Adamatine Palace, mankind’s nemesis approaches. The realm’s dragons are awakening from their alchemical sedation and returning to their native fury. They can remember why they were created and they now know what mankind has done to them. And their revenge will be brutal.

As hundreds of dragons threaten a fiery apocalypse, only the Adamantine Guard stand between humanity and extinction. Can Prince Jehal fight off the people who want him dead and unite their armies in one final battle for survival?

There will be flames! Mankind faces fiery ruin as the dragons fly free and furious in Stephen Deas’s epic fantasy.

Stephen Deas’s Memory of Flames series is one that I am most embarrassed and annoyed with myself for not actually reading yet. I have both of the first novels, and keep meaning to dive into it, but keep being side-tracked. This is the third in the series, and I hope to get around to reading the series this year.

[Bonus: An Interview with Stephen Deas]

Aaron Allston, Conviction (Century)SW-FOTJ-Conviction(Allston)

Chief of State Natasi Daala has been overthrown, and the Jedi Order has taken control of the Galactic Alliance. But while the new governors dismantle Daala’s draconian regime, forces still loyal to the deposed official are mobilizing a counter-strike. And even the Jedi’s new authority may not be enough to save Tahiri Veila, the former Jedi Knight and onetime Sith apprentice convicted of treason for the killing of Galactic Alliance officer Gilad Pellaeon.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ben Skywalker are relentlessly pursuing Abeloth, the powerful dark-side entity bent on ruling the galaxy. But as they corner their monstrous quarry on the planet Nam Chorios, the two lone Jedi must also face the fury of the Sith death squadron bearing down on them. And when Abeloth turns the tables with an insidious ambush, the Skywalkers’ quest threatens to become a suicide mission.

Ah, Star Wars. How I love it (Episode IV and onwards, anyway). My life-long geek pleasure, I was over the moon when my sister introduced me to the existence of Star Wars fiction (at the time, there wasn’t that much, but there was enough to keep me entertained for a very pleasant, long couple of summers). Of late, the novels haven’t been quite living up to my high standards, but they remain entertaining and interesting – that story arcs are being shared by a number of authors allows for faster production and a greater rate of publication, but at the same time can make these series a little uneven. My favourites are still those earlier novels (chronologically, at least – those by Kevin J Anderson, Timothy Zahn, to name but two), set before the vast New Jedi Order series. Conviction is the seventh book in the Fate of the Jedi series, and continues to move the franchise forward. Let’s hope it’s as good as Allston’s other contributions to the setting (he’s easily one of my favourite authors writing Star Wars fiction).

China Mieville, Embassytown (Tor)Mieville-Embassytown

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes. Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts. And that is impossible.

One of genre fiction’s most beloved and feted authors, I have had mixed thoughts about Mieville’s novels. I’ve only read three: Perdido Street Station, which I found dark and disturbing; The Scar, which is one of my favourite books of all time (I think I’ve read it three or four times); and Kraken, which didn’t click with me. There has been a lot of discussion about Embassytown, and Tor are unleashing a storm of publication (all very tastefully done, though). I’m wary of excessive pre-release praise, but after watching an interview with the author (over on Macmillan’s website), I must say that the novel is now very much of interest. I was not one of the lucky few to receive an ARC, so it might be a little while before I get a chance to read and review Embassytown, but I’m confident that I will get around to it.

[As an aside, the new covers for Mieville’s back catalogue are quite striking, and I’m tempted to buy The Scar and Iron Council just to have them sitting on my shelves.]

*     *     *

So, that’s just a quick run-down of what you can expect to find reviewed on CR over the next few weeks (as well as a couple of June releases, which I am very happy to already have in my possession, towards the second half of May). Are there any books you think I’ve missed, or neglected to mention? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll take a look.

Until next time. Happy reading.

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