Sunday, July 31, 2011

“Blood Ninja”, by Nick Lake (Corvus)


Feudal Japan. Ninjas. Vampires. Cool.

Japan, 1565. Taro has been brought up as a fisherman’s son. He will become a ninja, a silent assassin trained in the arts of death.

He will face samurai, warriors as sharply honed as the blade at their side. He will battle warlords for the title of Shogun.

But he will live in darkness, for no Blood Ninja can face the light of day.

Blood Ninja is an original take on the vampire mythology, in a setting that is all-too overlooked in Western fiction, and with a pretty awesome premise. The novel is not perfect, but the strength of the premise and the different setting make is an intriguing and entertaining read, and a great vampire novel for younger readers.

Friday, July 29, 2011

“Prince of Thorns” by Mark Lawrence (Voyager)


A dark beginning…

“Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me, I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother’s tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that’s true enough, but there’s something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.”

From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father’s castle, Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

Prince of Thorns is one of the most hotly-tipped debuts of the year, and its release has been preceded by quite a lot of online uzz. After reading it, I can see why: it’s pretty incredible. Lawrence has written a dark and engrossing tale, and one that grips from very early on.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Call for Guest Posts (Influences & Inspirations)

Recently I’ve been putting out some feelers via Twitter regarding guest posts for Civilian-Reader, and a few people have asked me about possible themes, questions or topics I had in mind. This, actually, was a problem, as I tend to be one of those people who is interested in most things and particularly keen to know what author and publishers have sloshing about in their heads at any given time – be it thoughts on the genre(s), writing, world-building, issue areas, and innumerable other potential topics.

While thinking about this yesterday, however, I was reminded of a discussion a few months back about the lack of reviews for ‘older’ novels, and how many great novels just don’t get mentioned online because they’ve been out a long time. So, I kept coming back to the subject of influences and inspirations:

Which author, series, or novel was the most influential to you as a writer, publisher, or agent (or whoever)?

It’s one of the questions I always ask authors in my interviews, but it’s also something I think could use more space.

Therefore, I extend the offer to any author, or member of the publishing industry, that if they would like to feature on Civilian-Reader, and need a topic (if you have your own, by all means go with that), I am keen to feature posts that highlight and discuss authors, series, and novels that inspired you to write.

Any takers? Email me at: civilian.reader[at]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Interview with DARIUS HINKS


It should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of Black Library fiction, which has been improving consistently over the past decade. The publisher has been putting out increasingly-good-quality fantasy and science fiction novels from a string of new and established authors.

Darius Hinks is a relatively new addition to their stable, but one who has made a clear mark on fans of Warhammer fiction with his distinct and engaging writing style, not to mention his interesting characters. His debut novel, Warrior Priest recently won the Gemmell Morningstar Award for best fantasy newcomer, and Razumov’s Tomb and Sigvald are now available. To get a little more about his novels, upcoming projects and writing, I contacted him for an interview.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Germline” by T.C. McCarthy (Orbit)


A journalist goes native in a future war, loses grip on reality…

Germline (n.) – A secret military program to develop genetically engineered super-soldiers (slang).

War is Oscar Wendell’s ticket to greatness. A reporter for the Stars and Stripes, he has a pass to the front lines of a brutal conflict over natural resources, where genetics – the germline soldiers – battle heavily armed troops deep beneath the icy, mineral-rich mountains of Kazakhstan.

But the front is nothing like Oscar imagined. The genetic soldiers are more human than he bargained for, too. Hooked on a dangerous cocktail of drugs and adrenaline, lines are beginning to blur. And if Oscar doesn’t find a way out of the chaos soon, he may never get back.

I first heard about Germline quite a while ago, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting a chance to read it. As soon as it arrived in the post, I put aside the novel I was about to start, and dove right in. I’m glad I did – Germline is an intense, bizarre, and engrossing ride along with a man who is spiralling into his own private hell amidst what can only be described as a hell on earth (yes, he’s pretty unlucky…). It’s different to any other science-fiction I’ve read, and I will certainly be following the trilogy closely and eagerly.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

“Sigvald” by Darius Hinks (Black Library)


The Decadent Host marches forth

Prince Sigvald the Magnificent has struck a pact with his Slaaneshi masters that bestows incredible power and beauty, but drives him to ever greater acts of hedonism. Despite his pre-eminence, the champion of Chaos is tricked into an impossible war with the promise of a powerful artefact to slake his dark desires. After centuries of debauchery, Sigvald rouses his army and leads them to battle against the legions of the Blood God Khorne.

Obsessed with the Brass Skull, the object of his misguided yearnings, Sigvald is unaware his enemies are closing in around him. In a hellish quest that drives him across the twisted landscape of the Chaos Wastes and culminates in an epic confrontation, he realises that the lures of Slaanesh can never be sated.

The second of the Chaos heroes to be featured as part of Black Library’s Warhammer Heroes line of novels, Hinks has written a fast-paced, twisted tale of avarice, hubris and betrayal. It’s good stuff, and I blitzed through it very quickly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

“Bricks” by Leon Jenner (Coronet)


A strange little book

This is the story of a bricklayer. A master of his craft, he keeps its sacred teachings secret. For him a house is the dwelling place of a soul, and a house must be built in the right spirit or the soul inside it will suffer. The building of an arch is a ritual to obtain a right relation with the earth and a connection with the truth.

The bricklayer recalls his previous life as a Druid priest. He talks about the creation of the sacred landscape of these islands; how even a simple stick lying on the ground would tell people the direction they needed to go in; how when people stared at the stars, they were staring at their own mind. The reader sees the world through the eyes of this great, magical being at the time of the Roman invasion, and learns how he tricked Julius Caesar and set in train the series of events that would lead to Caesar's assassination on the Ides of March.

But as the bricklayer continues, he worries he is losing his ancient, sacred powers. The vision begins to fray at the edges as we learn how he has recently taken violent revenge on yobs who have mocked him. Is he really connected to a once living Druid priest, or is he gradually losing himself in his own fantasies?

Despite it’s gorgeous artwork, and clearly high-level production, I just don’t know what to make of this book. Part fantasy, part historical fiction, part commentary on society, it may just be too short to really do what it wanted to do.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stunning, Knightly Artwork (Black Library)


I know I’ve been offering a lot of artwork posts, recently, but there really has been such a great slew of recently-unveiled, eye-catching pieces. And, really, who doesn’t like to look at nice artwork? Exactly.

I saw this particular cover appear rather quietly on Black Library’s website without any apparent fanfare or even announcement, but… damn it really should have. This is one of the best book covers I’ve seen in a long time, for any genre/publisher…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

“Stands a Shadow” by Col Buchanan (Tor)


Buchanan gets even better…

Still grieving the death of her son, the Holy Matriarch of Mann has ordered her troops to embark on a mission to the Mercian Free Ports. Riding at the head of her army she plans to finally conquer the city of Bar-Khos, whose walls have kept them at bay for ten long years.

Ash has other plans for her. The old Rōshun warrior is determined that he will have vengeance for the crimes she has committed. But such a course of retribution is in direct opposition to everything he has lived for – this isn’t a Rōshun vendetta – it’s personal.

While Ash battles with his conscience, Ché, the Matriarch’s personal Diplomat and assassin, is questioning his own path. Watching as the Mannian army slaughters their way across the world, he questions the beliefs he’s been taught to enforce.

As the battle for Bar-Khos intensifies, more and more lives are affected: Bahn who leaves all he loves in the city to try to protect it from the ravening Mannian empire, Bull the murderer who senses a chance to make things right, and Curl, the young prostitute who is determined to seek her own retribution on the field of battle.

When the two armies clash, all looks set to be decided. It’s not sheer force that will win this battle, but the tormented determination of one man seeking redemption...

Farlander was easily one of my favourite books of last year, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second instalment of Buchanan’s series ever since. With Stands a Shadow, Buchanan has done everything to build and improve on the first novel. This is a great series.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An interview with JONATHAN GREEN

Green-PB-UlyssesQuicksilverOmnibusSteampunk adventures, fighting fantasy, Dr Who, and science fiction… There seems to be no sub-genre Jonathan Green has not dabbled in. Currently penning the popular Pax Britannia series published by Abaddon Books, Jonathan was kind enough to answer a few questions about steampunk, writing, and more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Artwork: EXOGENE by T.C. McCarthy (Orbit)


Just another quick artwork post (there are some really nice pieces of work being released recently, so I’ve decided to take the opportunity to share them).

T.C. McCarthy’s debut novel, Germline has only just come off the presses (it’s released next month), but Orbit have pre-empted the release by showing us the artwork for the author’s second novel, Exogene (both novels are part of McCarthy’s Subterrene War series).

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Artwork: Rowena Cory Daniells’s “The Outcast Chronicles” (Solaris)


Solaris unveiled today the new artwork that will grace the covers of Rowena Cory-Daniells’ next fantasy trilogy, The Outcast Chronicles. I’ve included them below, because they’re really quite eye-catching (particularly the third, which is my favourite).

The “I Have to Move” Giveaway #2 (Fantasy)

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have to move. More to the point, I’m going to effectively be a vagrant from mid-September. So, while I am sad to have to do so, I am giving away some of my books (and replacing them with eBook editions, where and when possible).

Last time, the ‘prize’ was a bunch of Black Library releases. This week, I am offering a small bundle of top-notch Fantasy titles to one lucky winner…

Friday, July 15, 2011

“Shadow’s Lure” by Jon Sprunk (Pyr/Gollancz)

Sprunk-2-ShadowsLureUSHired Blade Caim returns, in this great new novel

The Unforgiving Northlands… In Othir, he was at the top of the food chain – an assassin beyond compare, a dark shadow in the night. But Caim left that life behind when he helped an empress claim her throne. And now his past has come calling again.

Searching for the truth behind the murder and disappearance of his parents, Caim discovers a land in thrall to the Shadow. Haunted by temptations from the Other Side, he becomes mired in a war he does not want to fight.

But there are some things a son of the Shadow cannot ignore, and some fights from which he can’t run. In this battle, all of Caim’s strength and skill won’t be enough.

For none can resist the Shadow’s Lure.

As with Sprunk’s debut, I find myself in the position of having to review a book which I thoroughly enjoyed and not wanting to sound like a frothing fan-boy. I shall, nonetheless, do my best to properly review the novel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An interview with SEAN BLACK


Last year, I was perusing the shelves in my local bookstore, and I came across Sean Black’s debut, Lockdown. It was a great find, as I ended up reading it in just a couple of sittings, much to the annoyance of Emma, who I was visiting at the time. Very soon after, Deadlock was published and I devoured that one, too. Black’s thrillers struck me as very finely-written, quick-paced thrillers that offer a shot in the arm of action and suspense. In other words, just what I look for in a thriller.

I’ve been lucky enough to get a hold of an early copy of Gridlock, the third novel focussing on his lead character Ryan Lock, bodyguard for hire, and all-round tough guy. In advance of my review of the book, and it’s publication, Black was kind enough to answer some questions about his books, writing, and what’s to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guest Post: A Hero You Can Relate Too.

Today I bring you a first for Civilian-Reader: our first guest post by an author. Raymond Rose is the author of Better Together (UK/US) and The Fire Inside (UK/US), a super-hero novel. This is the story of how he became a comic book convert, an interest of his that spawned the idea for his novel.


So, I shall pass things over to Raymond…

Saturday, July 09, 2011

“Perfect Shadow” by Brent Weeks (Orbit)


Discover the origins of Durzo Blint in this novella set in the world of Brent Weeks’ New York Times-bestselling Night Angel Trilogy.

Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble.But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.

Brent Weeks’s Night Angel series was one of the first fantasy series I reviewed on CR, and I loved it. To return to this world a couple years later, and learn more of the master-assassin Blint is wonderful, and Weeks shows once again just how good a writer he is.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

“The Wizard’s Coming” by Juliet E. McKenna (Solaris)

McKenna-TheWizardsComingPrelude to The Hadrumal Crisis

“Captain!” Hosh’s shriek startled everyone. Up on the cliff edge, he was hopping from foot to foot, pointing out towards the distant horizon. “The wizard! The wizard’s coming!”

This was the first fiction I’ve ever read by Juliet McKenna, so I had no clue what to expect. I have a mixed opinion of this short story (offered free by Solaris), but I’m certainly intrigued to read more of these characters and this world.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Interview with CHRIS WRAIGHT


Chris Wraight is one of Black Library’s up-and-coming authors who has been penning some pretty great Warhammer fiction over the past few years (he has four novels now published). Most recently, he’s been handling some of the Warhammer Heroes series writing the stories of some of the Empires most celebrated warriors. He also wrote about the continuation of the Space Wolves-Thousand Sons feud in Battle of the Fang. As a fan of his work, I decided to contact him to see if he could tell us a little more about upcoming projects, writing and more…

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

“Razumov’s Tomb” by Darius Hinks (Black Library)


The winds of magic blow strong in the Warhammer world

As the Chaos moon of Morrslieb veers wildly off course, the Old World is wracked by a series of bizarre plagues. From a lofty spire of the Celestial College, the Empire's Grand Astromancer, Caspar Vyborg, scours the heavens for an explanation, seeking guidance in the stars. But as the Empire sinks further into madness and violence, his order is forced to search stranger places than the night sky – the investigation leads them to the grave of a long-dead sorcerer named Razumov and an ancient, half-remembered prophecy. Caspar decides that his only hope is to complete the dark rituals that killed Razumov centuries earlier, but as Morrslieb waxes full and ferocious magical storms begin to tear the very fabric of reality, Caspar learns the true, terrible nature of Razumov's tomb.

The first of three novellas set in the Warhammer world during magically-charged times, Razumov’s Tomb offers up an entertaining, twisted mystery, and was rather entertaining.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

“Leviathan Wakes” by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)

Corey-LeviathanWakesBrilliant & Addictive start to a new Sci-Fi series

Humanity has colonized the planets – interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions – the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond.

Now, when Captain Jim Holden’s ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race.

A collaborative effort between Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, Leviathan Wakes is a brilliantly readable, gripping from start to finish, and a superb start to a new series. I was hooked from very early on, and eager for more at the end.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Black Library “Storm of Magic” (e)Novellas


With the release of the new game expansion, Storm of Magic, Black Library has commissioned three novellas based on magic in the Warhammer world written by three of their best fantasy authors. Below are the details of the three stories, all three of which I will review as they become available – the first, by Darius Hinks, will probably be reviewed next week.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The “I Have To Move” GIVEAWAY #1!

As I will be effectively homeless in a couple of months, shifting from the rather stable, safe life of a postgraduate to effectively a vagrant for a couple months while I search for jobs, I find myself confronted with the unfortunate necessity of having to give away a lot of books.