Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Quick Chat with AMANDA DOWNUM


In a time when vampires and the undead populate teen fantasy and paranormal romance, I was happy to discover Amanda Downum’s debut, The Drowning City, back in 2009. (Well, I say “discover”, but really Orbit were kind enough to send me a copy, so really it took no effort on my part.) Amanda’s novels feature the undead, but with a difference.

The Bone Palace, the second novel in her series, is one of the best books featuring tye undead that I’ve read in a good long while – alongside Jon Courtenay Grimwood, she’s certainly in the top five of new undead fiction authors. With the publication of the third book, Kingdoms of Dust, later this year, I thought it an excellent opportunity to contact Amanda for an interview. Luckily she was able to squeeze in some time to answer some questions about her books, writing and the undead.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

“Atlas Infernal” by Rob Sanders (Black Library)


A new hero of the Inquisition?

Inquisitor Bronislaw Czevak is a hunted man. Escaping from the Black Library of the eldar, Czevak steals the Atlas Infernal – a living map of the Webway. With this fabled artefact and his supreme intellect, Czevak foils the predations of the Harlequins sent to apprehend him and thwarts his enemies within the Inquisition who want to kill him. Czevak’s deadliest foe, however, is Ahriman – arch-sorcerer of the Thousand Sons. He desires the knowledge within the Black Library, knowledge that can exalt him to godhood, and is willing to destroy the inquisitor to obtain it.

A desperate chase that will bend the fabric of reality ensues, where Czevak’s only hope of survival is to outwit the chosen of Tzeentch, Lord of Chaos and Architect of Fate. Failure is unconscionable, the very cost to the Imperium unimaginable.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sanders’s first novel, Redemption Corps, and ever since hearing about this novel I’ve been eager to read it. I’m a big fan of the Inquisition, and Sanders has done some interesting things with Czevak. However, I’m sad to say I struggled with this novel, and didn’t love it as I had expected to.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy eBooks

Sanderson-MistbornTrilogy-eBookJust a very quick news piece:

While perusing Amazon’s eBook recommendations, as I do quite frequently, I noticed that Tor Books have made the collected Mistborn Trilogy eBook available in the UK!

(Apparently, it’s been available since February, but I’ve not seen it up there before today.)

Priced at £12.82, I thought this was a pretty good deal for three pretty hefty novels I’ve been meaning to try out for quite a while, now. So I bought it. Hopefully I’ll get around to reading it soon. That, or I might save it for my month-long trip to LA and NYC. When I’m also supposed to be getting stuck into writing my own stuff and job-hunting. Hm. This is another example of so much to read and write, not enough hours in the day to do both. Nuts.

Friday, June 24, 2011

“The Book of Transformations” by Mark Charan Newton (Tor)

Newton-BookOfTransformationsThe Legends of the Red Sun return to Villjamur

A new and corrupt Emperor seeks to rebuild the ancient structures of Villjamur to give the people of the city hope in the face of great upheaval and an oppressing ice age. But when a stranger called Shalev arrives, empowering a militant underground movement, crime and terror become rampant.

The Inquisition is always one step behind, and military resources are limited. So Emperor Urtica calls upon cultists to help construct a group to eliminate those involved with the uprising, and calm the populace. But there’s more to The Villjamur Knights than just phenomenal skills and abilities – each has a secret that, if exposed, could destroy everything they represent.

Investigator Fulcrom of the Villjamur Inquisition is given the unenviable task of managing the Knights, but his own skills are tested when a mysterious priest, who has travelled from beyond the fringes of the Empire, seeks his help. The priest’s existence threatens the church, and his quest promises to unweave the fabric of the world. And in a distant corner of the Empire, the enigmatic cultist Dartun Súr steps back into this world, having witnessed horrors beyond his imagination. Broken, altered, he and the remnants of his cultist order are heading back to Villjamur. And all eyes turn to the Sanctuary City, for Villjamur’s ancient legends are about to be shattered...

In the third novel of his Legends of the Red Sun series, Mark Newton takes the reader back to Villjamur, and gives us an atmospheric, thought-provoking fantasy to sink our teeth into. Superb continuation of the series, which shows Newton continues to grow and improve as an author.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Eli Monpress Artwork (Orbit)

eli type mockup

In an interview last month with Civilian-Reader, Rachel Aaron mentioned that her series was going to be re-branded before the release of her fourth novel, The Spirit War. The new cover for The Legend of Eli Monpress, which collects Aaron’s first three novels – The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater – was unveiled yesterday:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



Hailing from the North of England, Elspeth Cooper is one of the latest crop of hotly-tipped debut fantasy authors of recent years. Songs of the Earth, the first in the Wild Hunt trilogy, is filled with intriguing magic and interesting characters, and is set in a rich fantasy world (one I believe has considerable potential for expansion way beyond this trilogy). The novel introduces us to Gair, an exiled and persecuted magical-wunderkind, as he attempts to find his place in a world that abhors everything he is.

As Songs of the Earth is newly released, I contacted Elspeth for an interview, and she was kind enough to reply and offer more information about the series, what’s to come, and (among other things) why the fantasy genre is like ice cream.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Coming up in July from Orbit


A great selection of books arrived this week, this time from Orbit Books (a publisher I feel I’ve been neglecting somewhat of late – through no conscious intent, I should stress). One of these is on my list of highly-anticipated novels of 2011, as it is the final book in a series I very quickly became hooked on.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

“Hounded” by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey/Orbit)


The Iron Druid Chronicles Begin

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbours and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old – when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: he draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’d hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power – plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed of a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish – to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Kevin Hearne’s series has been receiving quite a bit of buzz on the internet, so I decided to order a copy of this first novel in the Iron Druid Chronicles. Just as it arrived, Orbit Books announced that it had bought the UK rights. So, does it live up to the hype? Well, yes, actually, it really does.

Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, 2010/11


Just a quick post to send congratulations to the winners of this year’s Gemmell Awards, which were announced on Friday night. I’ll keep things very basic and simple, so here they are…

Thursday, June 16, 2011



Blood Oath, the debut novel from Christopher Farnsworth, is one of the surprise debuts of the year. I checked it out on a whim, and read it in a day and a half: the plot and prose were so quick, and the novel was populated by engaging characters and an entertaining story. Already available in the US for a little while, Blood Oath will be followed next month by The President’s Vampire, which I hope to also review as soon as possible.

In order to learn more about the books and the author, I sent an interview request to Christopher, and he was kind enough to answer my questions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“Bloodforged” by Nathan Long (Black Library)


The Continuing, Adventurous Unlife of Ulrika the Vampire

Unable to adapt to Lahmian society, Ulrika seeks her own way, striking out to the Chaos-besieged city of Praag to seek old friends and glory in battle. On her arrival, she finds a devastated but defiant people and the invaders repelled. But the Ruinous Powers can take many forms, and now a more insidious threat is rising from within – a Slaaneshi cult that seeks to claim dominion in Praag.

Shunned by her Lahmian sisters, decried by the humans she seeks to protect, Ulrika treads a lonely path as she tries to find the root of this destructive plot. Caught between the will of the vampires and the insane designs of Chaos sorcerers and cultists, Ulrika must call upon all of her cunning and savagery if she is to triumph...

Ulrika is one of Black Library’s strongest long-running fictional characters, and in Bloodforged Nathan Long has not only upped the stakes, but also improved on the already-great Bloodborn on almost every level. I blitzed through this, and had a great time with it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Orbit Acquires UK Rights for Kevin Hearne Series

Some great Monday news for UK readers: Orbit have acquired the UK publishing rights for Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. The three novels – Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered – have been the subject of growing internet buzz, and from what I’ve heard and read about the series, it is rather good.


According to the press release, Orbit is hoping to publish the novels this year, in consecutive months – September, October and November (Orbit seems particularly fond of this strategy, and I’m sure readers are equally fond of it).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

“Songs of the Earth” by Elspeth Cooper (Gollancz)


A tantalising opening to the Wild Hunt series

Gair is under a death sentence.

He can hear music – music with power – and in the Holy City that means only one thing: he’s a witch, and he’s going to be burnt at the stake. Even if he could escape, the Church Knights and their witchfinder would be hot on his heels while his burgeoning power threatens to tear him apart from within.

There is no hope… None, but a secretive order, themselves persecuted almost to destruction. If Gair can escape, if he can master his own growing, dangerous abilities, if he can find the Guardians of the Veil, then maybe he will be safe.

Or maybe he’ll discover that his fight has only just begun.

Elspeth Cooper’s debut novel has been slowly garnering attention on the blogosphere, and ever since I saw it mention by GavReads, I’ve been interested in giving it a try (I was quite pleased that I won it in one of the GenreForJapan auctions). The novel, while flawed in a couple of small ways, is a tantalising opener to the series, filled with interesting and engaging characters and a plot that promises great things in the future.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Trailer: “Songs of the Earth” by Elspeth Cooper (Gollancz)

Just a quick Saturday post, as it’s on my mind.

Cooper-SongsOfTheEarthPublished on June 16th, Elspeth Cooper’s Songs of the Earth has not been receiving quite the publicity roll-out that I expected.

The ARC does, after all, boldly state “This is the Fantasy Debut of 2011”, and yet I’ve only seen much about it on Speculative Scotsman (in a great, exhaustive two-part interview with Elspeth), and I know of the feature that will appear in Living North magazine (written by some-time Civilian-Reader reviewer, Emma). As a transplant to the North of England (10 years off-and-on at Durham University), I feel I should do more to promote Northern authors who don’t get enough attention. (If anyone knows any more, please let me know in the comments thread.)

So, in advance of my review (which should come on Monday), and to do what little I can to generate some interest, here’s the rather nifty book trailer:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

An Interview with COL BUCHANAN


In 2009, Tor UK sent out a newsletter that mentioned a then-upcoming fantasy novel from debut author Col Buchanan. After a quick Googling, I learned some more about the novel, and my interest was well and truly piqued. When I was eventually able to read it, I was quickly engrossed by the world, characters, and story-telling – addicted from the opening chapter right until the surprising ending, and have been eagerly awaiting Stands a Shadow ever since. With the publication date of Buchanan’s second novel fast approaching, I contacted the author to see if he would share some thoughts on his novels, inspirations, and writing.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

“Conviction” by Aaron Allston (Century)

SW-FOTJ-Conviction(Allston)The Fate of the Jedi series continues, takes things up a notch

As this is book seven in the series, I’ve structured the review a little differently. There are some spoilers, below, so if you haven’t read the first six books in the series and don’t want any surprises, you may want to proceed cautiously.

Allston has written a solid addition to the series and franchise (the second half was particularly great, after a bit of a slow start), and Conviction starts the final three-book mini-story-arc within the series quite well. The nine-book approach is still not my favourite format, but Fate of the Jedi continues to offer up enough action, amusement and great Star Wars fun to keep fans coming back for more.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Damn, These Are Nice (Yes, More Artwork)


I’m sorry to be putting up a more-than-usual number of Artwork posts, but these are pretty striking covers. (I’ve had a bit of a bad day, so don’t get as much reading done as I’d hoped, and don’t really feel like finishing the current review I’ve got in the works – I will get it done for tomorrow, though.)

These pieces do adhere to some conventions of the genre (UF/PR), but there’s something about them that I really like, and caught my eye. They remind me of gothic versions of the picture mirrors you used to be able to buy in the 1970s and ’80s.

The three covers are for Kristen Painter’s upcoming House of Comarré series (published by Orbit). I’m not at all familiar with her work, but I think I will certainly give Blood Rights (book one) a try.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Interesting Upcoming Novels (Artwork Excuse)

I know some other sites have featured these covers in the not-too-distant past, but I decided I was going to get over my damn-I’ve-been-scooped again issues, and share them anyway, because I think they’re damned great.

Friday, June 03, 2011

“Far To Go” by Alison Pick (Headline)

Pick-FarToGoReviewed by Alyssa

A compelling and thought-provoking novel

The story of one family’s epic journey to flee the Nazi occupation of their homeland in 1939, and above all to save the life of a six-year-old boy.

Pavel and Anneliese Bauer are affluent, secular Jews, whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the German forces in Czechoslovakia. Desperate to avoid deportation, the Bauers flee to Prague with their six-year-old son, Pepik, and his beloved nanny, Marta. When the family try to flee without her to Paris, Marta betrays them to her Nazi boyfriend. But it is through Marta’s determination that Pepik secures a place on a Kindertransport, though he never sees his parents or Marta again.

Far to Go is inspired by the author’s own grandparents who fled their native Czechoslovakia for Canada during the Second World War.

In Far to Go, Pick has created a complex and compelling work. The novel alternates between the historical narrative following the Bauer family, and the frame of a present-day first person narrator grappling (personally and academically) with the legacy of the Kindertransports. At first, the relationship between these two narratives is not apparent, but as the novel progresses, we begin to see more and more clearly how they are connected. While the historical portions are stronger than the frame narrative, Far to Go is nonetheless an impressive novel.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Introducing… T.C. McCARTHY


A little while ago, I wrote a post about military sci-fi novels with journalists at the centre of the story. In the very short piece, I mentioned Dan Abnett’s Embedded and also T.C. McCarthy’s Germline. At the time, I didn’t know anything beyond the short synopsis I’d seen on Orbit’s website. As we draw closer to Germline’s August publication date, however, I thought it would be a great time to interview the author, and see if we can find out a little more about the book and the series it is a part of.

After receiving a PhD from the University of Georgia, McCarthy embarked on a varied career that gave him a keen perspective on warfare and foreign policy. He’s worked as a patent examiner in complex biotechnology, and also worked at the CIA as an analyst through 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. (Which is pretty cool.)

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to military sci-fi author T.C. McCarthy…