Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February 2012 Top Picks


The first half of this year alone sees a high number of highly anticipated titles coming out, and February is a particularly bumper month for the genre fan. So, here’s my top eight for this month. I doubt I’ll be able to read even half of them in February (the best laid plans, etc.), but I thought I’d offer at least a hat-tip for those I may not be able to get around to.

Ahmed-ThroneOfTheCrescentMoonSaladin Ahmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon (Daw)

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God’s justice. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time – and struggle against their own misgivings – to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

I’ve had the ARC for this for a while, now, but I forgot it in New York. I’d thought I’d be back in the US mid-January, with plenty of time to read and review this before it’s release, but sadly events have conspired to make this impossible. Therefore, this will be the first novel I read upon my return (February 9th, in case anyone’s around and fancies meeting up for drinks) – and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve heard great things from a few other reviewers whose opinion I trust, so I can’t wait to get stuck into this.


Bennett-TheTroupeRobert Jackson Bennett, The Troupe (Orbit)

George Carole ran away from home to join the Vaudeville circuit. Sixteen years old, uncommonly gifted at the piano, he falls in with a strange troupe – even for Vaudeville. Under the watchful eye of the enigmatic figure of Silenus, George comes to realise that the members of the troupe are more than they appear to be. And their travels have a purpose that runs deeper than entertainment. George must uncover the mysteries of Silenus’s company before it is too late. He is already entangled in their web of secrets and, if he doesn’t learn where they are taking him, he may never find his way out.

I really enjoyed The Company Man, despite a personal wish that it had been a bit quicker-paced. This new novel sounds pretty cool, and again I’ve heard some very good things from others. I’ve pre-ordered it for my Kindle, so with luck I’ll get to it very soon.


Flynn-KillShotUSVince Flynn, Kill Shot (Simon & Schuster)

For months, Mitch Rapp has been steadily working his way through a list of the men responsible for the slaughter of 270 civilians including his own girlfriend in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing – bullet by bullet.

His next target – a Libyan diplomat – should be easy. Prone to drink and currently in Paris without a bodyguard, Rapp quickly tracks the man down and sends a bullet into his skull while he’s sleeping. But in the split second it takes the bullet to leave the silenced pistol, everything changes. The door to the hotel room is kicked open and gunfire erupts all around Rapp.

When the news breaks that Libya’s Oil Minister has been killed along with three innocent civilians and four unidentified men, the French authorities are certain that the gunman is wounded and still on the loose in Paris. As the finger-pointing begins, Rapp’s handlers have only one choice – deny any responsibility for the incident and race to do damage control. Rapp has become a liability, and he must not be taken alive by the French authorities. But alone in Paris, on the run from the authorities and from his own employers, Mitch Rapp must prepare to fight for his life.

Flynn writes excellent international thrillers, and with Kill Shot we get the second novel focusing on Rapp’s early career. I like that Flynn hasn’t attempted to extend the series too far, and is instead going back to Rapp’s early years. This means he’s able to explore the events that shaped Rapp’s worldview and also his skills as a sanctioned assassin. I do not know, however, what this means for the protégé Rapp was grooming in the later (continuity) novels, Mike Nash. Has he been done away with? I suppose he did suffer from a bit of a breakdown, but still. Nash was a good character.


Forbeck-CarpathiaMatt Forbeck, Carpathia (Angry Robot)

All they dreamed of was rescue. And when the Carpathia steamed over the horizon, the survivors of the Titanic disaster thought their problems were over. But their rescue ship is carrying something. Something old, undying. Something hungry. The lucky ones went down with the ship, in this outrageous tale of icebergs... and vampires.

Vampires and the Titanic? Yeah, there was no way I was going to miss this one. Add to that the fact that I’m familiar with Forbeck’s writing already, and really like it, this really was very high on my to-read list ever since I heard of it. (As a side-note, Matt is also writing the new Magic: The Gathering comic strip for IDW, which is also really good.)


Marmell-ThiefsCovenantAri Marmell, The Thief’s Covenant (Pyr)

Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of Davillon’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one night a conspiracy of forces – human and other – stole it all away in a mist of blood and murder. Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had... but it’s hers. But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of forces is rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something dark and ancient is reaching out for her. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her – but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first.

It’s strange. I’ve only read one of Marmell’s novels (The Conqueror’s Shadow), which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I read none of the others despite own all of them. I just always seem to be distracted whenever I go to read one. It might be because I have them all on my Kindle, which means I sometimes forget I have them (I’ve now made a list of everything I have on my Kindle, with the intention of working my way through them all and not consigning them to electronic oblivion – or buying too many more, but that’s probably going to happen, list or no). Thief’s Covenant, however, I have as a printed ARC, so I’ll definitely be reading it pretty soon – probably after Throne of the Crescent Moon. It will also be the first YA novel I’ve read since before “YA” was a named genre, almost.


Reilly-Scarecrow&TheArmyOfThievesMatthew Reilly, Scarecrow & the Army of Thieves (Orion)

At an abandoned Soviet base in the Arctic, a battle to save all life on Earth is about to begin...

THE SECRET BASE: It is a top-secret base known only as Dragon Island. A long-forgotten relic of the Cold War, it houses a weapon of terrible destructive force, a weapon that has just been re-activated...

AN ARMY OF MURDERERS: When Dragon Island is seized by a brutal terrorist force calling itself the Army of Thieves, the fate of the world suddenly hangs in the balance. But there are no crack units close enough to get to Dragon in time to stop the Army setting off the weapon.

ONE SMALL TEAM: Except, that is, for a small equipment-testing team up in the Arctic led by a Marine captain named Schofield, call-sign SCARECROW. It’s not a strike team; just a handful of Marines and civilians. It’s not equipped to attack a fortified island held by a small army. But it will go in anyway, because someone has to.

Ah, I love Reilly’s novels. They are great fun, mixing mystery, action, adventure and occasionally some conspiracy into fast-paced, exhilarating thrillers. Like his peer James Rollins, I usually snap up a new Reilly novel as soon as I can, and I’ve pre-ordered this for my Kindle, so expect a review pretty soon after it’s released (probably towards the end of the the month, then).


Rice-WolfGiftAnne Rice, The Wolf Gift (Knopf)

The time is the present.

The place, the rugged coast of Northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.

A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer. An older woman welcoming him into her magnificent family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency. A chance encounter between two unlikely people. An idyllic night — shattered by horrific unimaginable violence, the young man inexplicably attacked — bitten — by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness. A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation, as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing what he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.

As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf” by authorities, the media, and scientists (evidence of DNA threatens to reveal his dual existence). As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there may be others like him who are watching — guardian creatures who have existed throughout time who possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge. And throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.

I’m a huge fan of the first five novels in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (which I’d like to write a review for, at some point). I’ve not read her Christ series, nor have I read her most recent Heaven-and-Hell duology, her Mayfair Witches series, or actually anything other than the tales of Lestat and company. This year, I hope to change that. As is clear from the rather long synopsis (and more-succinct title), in Wolf Gift Rice turns her attention to werewolves. I’m interested to see how she interprets this supernatural species. I really hope it doesn’t devolve too much into paranormal romance…


Tallerman-GiantThiefDavid Tallerman, The Giant Thief (Angry Robot)

Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer.

Even the wicked can’t rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland.  Damasco might get away in one piece, but he’s going to need help.

Big time.

I’ve heard some great things about Tallerman’s debut – that it’s a fun fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, most notably – so I have been looking forward to this for a while. I am, in fact, about halfway through it at the moment. It’s too early to tell what I think of it exactly, as I think there are strengths and weaknesses throughout. I’ll write a more considered review, of course, but it is proving to be a brisk and quite fun read.


So, what novels are you looking forward to in February?


  1. Throne of the Crescent Moon looks like an interesting read, and Carpathia is one I'm really excited about.

    New Vince Flynn and Matthew Reilly are always great too, although I'm a bit behind on both series.

  2. Great website - keep up the good work!


  3. I'm interested to hear what you think of Throne of the Crescent Moon, and of Giant Thief too. I've heard really good things about both.

  4. Carpathian, The Gift, and The Giant Thief all look really good. Thanks for the previews.