More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Today only, you can download Miles Cameron's The Red Knight for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

This is a world dominated by The Wild.

Man lives in pockets of civilisation claimed from The Wild. Within men's walls life is civilised, the peace punctuated by tournaments, politicking, courtly love and canny business. Beyond those walls men are prey - vulnerable to the exceptionally powerful and dangerous creatures which populate the land, and even more vulnerable to those creatures schemes.

So when one of those creatures breaks out of The Wild and begins preying on people in their homes, it takes a specialist to hunt it down or drive it out . . . and even then, it's a long, difficult and extremely dangerous job.

The Black Captain and his men are one such group of specialists.

They have no idea what they're about to face . . .

Forget George and the Dragon. Forget Sir Lancelot and tales of Knightly exploits. This is dirty, bloody work. This is violent, visceral action. This is a mercenary knight as you've never seen one before.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Jacqueline Carey's Dark Currents for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload—not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres, and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.

To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.

But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon.

Extract from Mark Lawrence's RED SISTER

Here's an extract from Mark Lawrence's upcoming Red Sister, courtesy of the folks at Ace! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe. I was about to write and post my review, but I figured that you guys would prefer this teaser excerpt instead!

Here's the blurb:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…


It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

From the front of the convent you can see both the northern ice and the southern, but the finer view is out across the plateau and over the narrow lands. On a clear day the coast may be glimpsed, the Sea of Marn a suggestion in blue.

At some point in an achingly long history a people, now lost to knowledge, had built one thousand and twenty-four pillars out on the plateau: Corinthian giants thicker than a thousand-year oak, taller than a long-pine. A forest of stone without order or pattern, covering the level ground from flank to flank so that no spot upon it lay more than twenty yards from a pillar. Sister Thorn waited amid this forest, alone and seeking her centre.

Lano’s men began to spread out between the columns. Thorn could neither see nor hear her foe approach, but she knew their disposition. She had watched earlier as they snaked up the west trail from Styx Valley, three and four abreast: Pelarthi mercenaries from the ice-margins, furs of the white bear and the snow-wolf over their leathers, some with scraps of chainmail about them, ancient and dark or bright as new, depending on their luck. Many carried spears, some swords; one man in five carried a short-bow of recurved horn. Tall men in the main, fair-haired, their beards short or plaited, the women with lines of blue paint across their cheeks and foreheads like the rays of a cold sun.

Here’s a moment.

All the world and more has rushed eternity’s length to reach this beat of your heart, screaming down the years. And if you let it, the universe, without drawing breath, will press itself through this fractured second and race to the next, on into a new eternity. Everything that is, the echoes of everything that ever was, the roots of all that will ever be, must pass through this moment that you own.Your only task is to give it pause–to make it notice.

Thorn stood without motion, for only when you are truly still can you be the centre. She stood without sound, for only silent can you listen. She stood without fear, for only the fearless can understand their peril.

Hers the stillness of the forest, rooted restlessness, oak-slow, pine-quick, a seething patience. Hers the stillness of ice walls that face the sea, clear and deep, blue secrets held cold against the truth of the world, a patience of aeons stacked against a sudden fall. Hers the stillness of a sorrow-born babe unmoving in its crib. And of the mother, frozen in her discovery, fleeting and forever.

Thorn held a silence that had grown old before first she saw the world’s light. A quietude passed down generations, the peace that bids us watch the dawn, an unspoken alliance with wave and flame that lets both take all speech from tongues and sets us standing before the water’s surge and swell, or waiting to bear witness to fire’s consuming dance of joy. Hers the silence of rejection, of a child’s hurt: mute, unknowing, a scar upon the years to come. Hers the unvoiced everything of first love, tongue-tied, ineloquent, the refusal to sully so sharp and golden a feeling with anything as blunt as words.

Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave as only those who’ve already lost can be.

Voices reached her, the Pelarthi calling out to each other as they lost sight of their numbers in the broken spaces of the plateau. Cries rang across the level ground, echoing from the pillars, flashes of torchlight a multitude of footfalls, growing closer. Thorn rolled her shoulders beneath black skin armour. She tightened the fingers of each hand around the sharp weight of a throwing star, her breathing calm, heart racing.

‘In this place the dead watch me,’ she breathed. A shout broke out close at hand, figures glimpsed between two pillars, flitting across the gap. Many figures. ‘I am a weapon in service to the Ark. Those who come against me will know despair.’ Her voice rose along with the tension that always presaged a fight, a buzzing tingle across her cheekbones, a tightness in her throat, a sense of being both deep within her own body, and above and around it at the same time.

The first of the Pelarthi jogged into view, and seeing her, stumbled to a halt. A young man, beardless though hard-eyed beneath the iron of his helm. More crowded in behind him, spilling out into the killing ground.

The Red Sister tilted her head to acknowledge them.

Then it began.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Reviewers exhaust superlatives when it comes to the science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton. His complex and engaging novels, which span thousands of years–and light-years–are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally fulfilling. Now, with The Dreaming Void, the first volume in a trilogy set in the same far-future as his acclaimed Commonwealth saga, Hamilton has created his most ambitious and gripping space epic yet.

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself.

At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations. The Void has existed for untold millions of years. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin, its makers, or its purpose.

But then Inigo, an astrophysicist studying the Void, begins dreaming of human beings who live within it. Inigo’s dreams reveal a world in which thoughts become actions and dreams become reality. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, Inigo’s dreams are shared by hundreds of millions–and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes.

Suddenly there is a new wave of dreams. Dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serve as the inspiration for a massive Pilgrimage into the Void. But there is a chance that by attempting to enter the Void, the pilgrims will trigger a catastrophic expansion, an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds.

And thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and the mysterious Second Dreamer. Some seek to prevent the Pilgrimage; others to speed its progress–while within the Void, a supreme entity has turned its gaze, for the first time, outward. . . .

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Peter F. Hamilton's The Temporal Void.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For a limited time, you can get your hands on Frank Herbert's timeless classic, Dune, for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Frank Herbert’s epic masterpiece—a triumph of the imagination and the bestselling science fiction novel of all time.

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

New Jacqueline Carey interview

When I started considering resuming doing interviews, I checked to see who was releasing something new in the near future and Jacqueline Carey topped the list. Miranda and Caliban came out earlier this week, so she was happy to oblige! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe.

We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will?

In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin—the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge.

Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship.

Miranda and Caliban is bestselling fantasy author Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. With hypnotic prose and a wild imagination, Carey explores the themes of twisted love and unchecked power that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, while serving up a fresh take on the play’s iconic characters. It is a dazzling novel.

It was nice to have a chance to catch up with the author and I have a feeling that fans will find a lot to love about Carey's answers to my interview questions. Just the thought that there might be a Joscelin POV at some point in the future definitely made my day! =)


- After writing alternate historical fantasy, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy series, what made you decide that your next project would be the retelling of a Shakespeare masterpiece?

It’s been in the back of my mind ever since I reread The Tempest some years ago and realized that beneath the frothy surface, there’s quite a dark subtext. The magician Prospero is an incredibly controlling figure who keeps his daughter Miranda in deliberate ignorance, and Ariel and Caliban in a state of virtual servitude. There’s a lot to unpack!

- Without giving too much away, can you give potential readers a taste of the tale that is MIRANDA AND CALIBAN?

The entire action of Shakespeare’s play takes place in a single day, yet these characters have been exiled together on a nameless island for twelve years. I wanted to explore what happened during that time. We encounter Miranda as a lonely, precocious child, and Caliban as a feral boy abandoned by his mother’s death. Friendship grows between them as she teaches him language, only to be altered by the onset of adolescence.

- How well-received has MIRANDA AND CALIBAN been thus far? Are you happy with the advance praise garnered by the novel?

Very happy! The reviews have been quite good across the board, and it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it a “brilliant deconstruction.” Those are words to warm any author’s heart!

- Will you be touring during the course of the winter/spring to promote MIRANDA AND CALIBAN? If so, are there any specific convention dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

I’m scheduled to be a Guest of Honor at a couple of upcoming conventions: HELIOsphere ( in Tarrytown, New York from March 10-12, and MarCon ( in Columbus, Ohio from May 12-14.

- If your readers could only take one thing away from having read MIRANDA AND CALIBAN (apart from enjoying the read) what would you want that thing to be?

Perhaps an inclination to consider the untold stories hidden beneath any given story.

- What are you planning on writing next?

I’m working on a stand-alone that’s a return to epic fantasy, seasoned with just a dash of pulp horror, tentatively titled The Starless. It’s a quest novel that takes place in a vast archipelago filled with strange and wondrous gods.

- What comes first for you when it comes time to consider your next novel/series: themes you wish to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you want to write about?

All of the above! It’s a pretty organic process—bits and pieces of all those elements come together gradually until I have a working concept for a book or series.

- You know I have to ask this. Are there any plans for you to return to the world of Terre d'Ange in the near future?

Not yet! As always, I reserve the right to change my mind if my Muse decides otherwise.

- KUSHIEL'S DART was originally published 15 years ago. I know it doesn't make you feel any younger, but how special is it to see the book still selling after nearly two decades? Are you surprised by your debut's longevity?

It’s awesome, though I would say I’m more delighted than surprised, because I think it’s deserving—but of course, for better or for ill, books, like people, don’t always get the fate that they deserve. So I’ll stick with delighted.

- Speaking of KUSHIEL'S DART, Tor Books have put the ebook on sale a number of times these last few months. Have you seen a growing number of new fans discovering the universe of Terre d'Ange and its unforgettable characters that are now following you online?

You know, there’s always been a steady trickle, and I can’t say that I notice a marked increase when the ebook is discounted. There’s probably a lag between the sale period and the foray into online fandom.

- Considering how important Joscelin Verreuil has been in all the Kushiel novels, I'm wondering if you have ever thought of writing something from his point of view, if only for a short story or a novella. Given how much he gave up for his love for Phèdre, I'm persuaded I'm not the only one who'd love to read something from his perspective.

Okay, so here’s the funny thing about the timing of that question! I’ve been asked before, and the answer’s always been no. The driving sense of inspiration just wasn’t there. But I was recently asked to donate some kind of unique goodies for a giveaway for The Pixel Project (, which raises awareness of violence against women, and I came up with the idea of pairing signed copies of Miranda and Caliban with an original Shakespearean-style sonnet. I polled my readers on Facebook, and a sonnet from Joscelin to Phèdre was one of the most popular requests. Writing it in the first person was the first time I’d really put myself directly inside his head, looking through his eyes, and it gave me ideas. So… maybe.

- Speaking of the Kushiel books, the sucess of TV shows like Game of Thrones have fans foaming at the mouth at the thought of seeing your signature series getting the same treatment. Has there been any interest thus far?

There’s always interest, but so far, it’s never come together in a cohesive package. Someday, maybe. Dare to dream!

- Even if this became a reality, authors seldom have any say in creative matters. But I would like you to give me your dream casting for Phèdre, Joscelin, Imriel, Hyacinthe, and Mesisande.

I’m lousy at playing the Imaginary Casting Game, I’d just want a cast of wildly talented unknown actors and actresses. I once tried to explain that I’d want the next Tatiana Maslany, who’s been such a revelation in Orphan Black, to play Phèdre, and had a chorus of fans weigh in on whether or not Tatiana Maslany was right for the part. No, I meant the next one!

- How has your interaction with fans and critics colored your choices in terms of characterization and plot? Has there ever been anything that you've changed due to such interaction in any of your novels?

No, I tend to be a Fortress of Solitude-type writer. Of course, I try to pay attention to any criticism that rings as valid to me, but I can’t think of any instances where it’s caused me to make significant changes to my work going forward—perhaps just to think more deeply about whatever issues it touched on.

- Do you have a different approach when it comes to writing alternate historical fantasy, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy novels? How about for the retelling of a classic tale like you did for MIRANDA AND CALIBAN?

Strangely enough, not really. All require a certain amount of research and observation to ground them in a sense of reality. All the magic in Miranda and Caliban is based on actual Renaissance practices, and the setting was inspired in part by visiting the Alhambra.

- When asked what you felt was your strength as a writer/storyteller in a previous interview, you replied that it was versatility. That you love all aspects of the writing process -- character development, plotting, world-building and handling language. You believed that it allowed you to write with the depth and richness you crave as a reader, while still telling a compelling story.

So what would be your weaknesses, or aspects of your craft you feel you need to work on?

Tough question! Coming out of the gate with Kushiel’s Dart featuring such a wholly unique protagonist, I set the bar kind of high for myself. I do—she said in all modesty—think I’m a pretty well-rounded writer with a solid grasp of my craft, but maybe the next project I tackle ought to be one that really, truly challenges me and pushes me to grow as a writer.

- Some authors mention that they're never fully satisfied with any of their books, that there is always the idea of the book one attempts to write versus the book that one actually managed to create. Looking back, give us an example of something that didn't quite work out the way you envisioned it. Given the chance, is there anything you would change in any of your novels?

I get that—I struggled with it in the visual arts, in which I dabbled extensively in my youth. I could never execute actual physical artwork that fulfilled my vision. Writing was a medium I found I could bend to my will, and I’m quite satisfied with all the books I’ve written; though given the chance, I would probably go back and edit out some of the semicolons. See, I didn’t even realize there was a semicolon in that last sentence!

- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects, who write novels based on detailed outlines, or gardeners, who have a general idea of where the storylines are going but prefer to watch things grow as they go along. Which type of writer are you and why do you prefer that approach?

Although I don’t outline on paper, I’m an architect. I think about novels in structural form. I’m not even sure if it’s a question of preference, it’s just an innate part of my process.

- You seem to derive a whole lot of pleasure from putting your readers through the wringer with heartwrenching scenes in basically all of the Kushiel novels. Why must you make your characters suffer so?

Oh, you know it hurts so good! But seriously, when you’re writing in the first person POV, barring any literary sleight-of-hand, it’s kind of a given that your protagonist will survive. To make the stakes feel real, there have to be sacrifices; there has to be genuine pain and loss. Otherwise, why should the reader care?

- Have you ever written a scene, only to be stunned by your own reaction after reading it?

There have been a few, and I think it speaks to the previous question, because they tend to center around grief and the unexpected ways it manifests. A good example is Imriel’s final confrontation with Berlik in Kushiel’s Justice. This long-awaited encounter, which one expects to be a moment of righteous retribution, becomes something more profound and achingly poignant. Even though I wrote it, it took me by surprise.

- Some writers admit having a favorite book among those they've written previously, others say that their favorite is their current work in progress, and others still say it's always the next book that hasn't been written yet. How about you?

All of the above at any given time! But Kushiel’s Dart will always have a special place in my heart. It was my breakthrough novel, both in creative and professional terms.

- You have been writing novels for nearly two decades. What has changed the most in the speculative fiction genre since you began your career? How about you as a writer?

Probably the biggest change is how mainstream it’s become. That struck me recently when I saw a clip of Tony Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth singing an operatic acapella version of the Game of Thrones theme song on a talk show, and I thought to myself, “It’s official, we’re all geeks now!” After nearly twenty years of interacting with fans, as a writer, I think I’m more mindful of the potential impact of what I write. It’s always a bit shocking to hear from readers who encountered the Kushiel’s Legacy series at a young age.

- If you could go back in time and offer some advice to Jacqueline Carey at the start of her career, what would it be?

I would advise her to stay atop all aspects of her professional career, including publicity and marketing. To trust her instincts, and not rely on others to do the best possible job of promoting her work. There have been a few times I failed to speak out and regretted it. Also, I would tell her to appreciate her youthful metabolism, because it won’t last forever!

- Neil Gaiman said of Lord Dunsany’s THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER, “...It’s a rich red wine, which may come as a shock if all one has had so far has been cola.” If MIRANDA AND CALIBAN was a drink, which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?

I’d say it’s a honey mead that tastes sweet on the tongue, but with an underlying note of bitterness that leaves the reader with an ache at the back of their throat, and I would definitely recommend sipping it slowly.

- Anything else you wish to share with us?

Just to say thanks for reading!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can still download the first volume of Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Lays of Anuskaya, the excellent The Winds of Khalakovo, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada and £1.59 in the UK. This is a great series, so you guys should definitely check it out!

Here's the blurb:

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.

When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo. . .

The second installment, The Straits of Galahesh, is also available for 4.95$ here (It's 4.99$ in Canada and £2.39 in the UK), as is the third volume, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh here. It's 5.47$ in Canada and £2.39 in the UK.

In addition, you can also download Beaulieu's collection of short fiction, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten, for only 3.99$ here. It's 5.22$ in Canada and £2.34 in the UK.

Here's the blurb:

With The Winds of Khalakovo, Bradley P. Beaulieu established himself as a talented new voice in epic fantasy.

With his premiere short story collection, Beaulieu demonstrates his ability to weave tales that explore other worlds in ways that are at once bold, imaginative, and touching.

Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten and Other Stories contains 17 stories that range from the epic to the heroic, some in print for the first time.

Quote of the Day

There's nothing like stories on a windy night when folks have found a warm place in a cold world.

- STEPHEN KING, The Wind Through the Keyhole (Canada, USA, Europe)

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

This book contains the first three Dunk and Egg novellas that have been published thus far. I originally read the first one, The Hedge Knight, in 1998. It was part of the Legends anthology edited by Robert Silverberg, which to this day remains what is possibly the very best fantasy anthology ever put together. Oddly enough, George R. R. Martin wasn't a big name back then. There was a buzz surrounding the release of A Game of Thrones, but the author was more renowned for his short fiction than for his novel length material. As hard as it is to believe nearly two decades later, I actually read The Hedge Knight before A Game of Thrones. The second novella, The Sworn Sword, appeared in the Legends II anthology, also edited by Robert Silverberg in 2004. I don't recall exactly why, but even though this one contained short stories from many of my favorite authors, I never bought or read that anthology. The last novella, The Mystery Knight, appeared in Warriors, an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin in 2010, and yes I read that one.

I never reread The Hedge Knight or The Mystery Knight. Over the years, Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire became one of bestselling fantasy series of all time. But back in 1998, there was no indication that the first novella featured two protagonists who would become such important historical figures. Nor did we realize that the period during which those tales take place, in the aftermath of the first Blackfyre Rebellion, would have such grave repercussions on the Targaryen line.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms gave me the opportunity to read/reread those novellas in one go. Having read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance With Dragons, as well as The World of Ice and Fire, allowed me to delve deeper into the story and catch all the nuances that I had missed in the past. It also gave me a new appreciation for Martin's short fiction work and made me realize just how brilliant he can be. Not only do these novellas chronicle the adventures of a poor hedge knight and his noble squire, but they also reveal historical details that link the series with its not-so-distant past.

Here's the blurb:

Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.

Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name (hidden from all he and Dunk encounter) is Aegon Targaryen. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two… as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

Featuring more than 160 all-new illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn’t dead—yet.

The main protagonists are Ser Duncan the Tall, known as Dunk, and Egg, a scrawny squire who is in truth Prince Aegon Targaryen. The boy earned his nickname because he shaves his head to hide the gold-and-silver hair that would reveal his origins. At the beginning of The Hedge Knight, Dunk is burying Ser Arlan of Pennytree, an old hedge knight who had taken him on as a squire. Although this gentle giant's heart is in the right place, Dunk is not the sharpest tool in the shed. "Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall," or so it is said. The young man travels to Ashford to compete in the tourney as a hedge knight, hoping to make a name for himself. On the road, he encounters a diminutive boy at an inn who wants to squire for him. Though Dunk refuses, Egg proves to be hard-headed and follows him anyway. At Ashford, Dunk strikes down a nobleman who is beating up a puppeteer girl he liked, only to realize that he just struck down Prince Aerion Targaryen. Egg, the prince's brother, has no choice but to reveal his identity. Dunk wants a trial by combat, but the prince demands a Trial of Seven, the first of its kind in over a century. What will follow will change the course of history for the Targaryen line and all of Westeros.

The Sworn Sword takes place over a year later, during a great summer drought all over the Reach. The novella focuses on the difficult path of chivalry, as Dunk has sworn his sword to a local lord. He will learn the hard way that honor has its price and that things are not always as they seem. In The Mystery Knight, Dunk and Egg are traveling north to take up service with Lord Beron Stark, who has sent a call for men to help fend off the Greyjoy raids that plague the coast. On their way, they encounter a party of knights traveling to Whitewalls for a wedding. Since there will also be a tourney there, Dunk and his squire decide to attend the wedding. Of course, our improbable duo find themselves in a heap of trouble when, without realizing it, they end up in the middle of what could become another Blackfyre Rebellion. This novella also feature Brynden Rivers, the Hand of the King known as Lord Bloodraven, one of the most fearsome figures in the history of the Seven Kingdoms.

George R. R. Martin claims that there are six to twelve Dunk and Egg novellas planned. God knows how many of them will actually see the light, but I for one will be happy to read as many as Martin can write. The fourth installment bears the working title The She-Wolves of Winterfell. Many more travels await the pair, as Martin claimed that they would journey from Dorne to the Wall, and across the length and breadth of the Seven Kingdoms. Even across the narrow sea to the Disputed Lands and the cities of Essos. Years later, Ser Duncan the Tall's rise will take him all the way to the rank of Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. As for Egg, he will become King Aegon V, the fifteenth Targaryen to sit the Iron Throne. Known as Aegon the Unlikely, for as a fourth son he was so far down the line of succession, he will ultimately perish with Ser Duncan the Tall during the tragedy of Summerhall.

As mentioned, the historical backdrop for these novellas is the aftermath of the first Blackfyre Rebellion. I'm not going to elaborate in too many details, for doing so would end up being longer than the review itself. Suffice to say that, as always, everything involving the Targaryen line is convoluted. And though the seeds of rebellion were sown over the course of more than two decades, the conflict erupted following the death of King Aegon IV Targaryen. What came to be known as the Blackfyre Rebellion was a civil war fought between the loyalist forces of King Daeron II Targaryen and the rebel troops of his half-brother. Things came to a head when Daemon, a bastard son of the late king, claimed the throne of his older, true born brother, King Daeron II.

Years before, King Aegon IV had knighted his bastard son, Daemon Waters, following the boy's victory at a squire's tourney. The king publicly bestowed Blackfyre, the Valyrian steel sword which belonged to Aegon the Conqueror, and which had been passed on from king to king ever since, on the boy and finally acknowledged him. Following the acquisition of the sword, Daemon took the name "Blackfyre" for himself, and the king's public gift of the legendary sword would eventually engender the first whispers that Daemon should be the next king after the death of his father. Daeron II, the rightful sovereign, was a cultured and scholary man. In an attempt to clear his court of the corruption that characterized Aegon IV's reign, he deprived his lords of several privileges and positions. Understandably, it was something that did not sit well with many people across the realm. In the meantime, Daemon Blackfyre had become a great warrior and according to some he had come to resemble Aegon the Conqueror himself. As discontent grew at court, more and more councillors and supporters urged him to rebel, and many warriors started to seek him out.

When the Blackfyre Rebellion finally broke out, it lasted for almost a year. Daemon reversed the colors of House Targaryen, taking for his own sigil a black dragon on a red field. He came to be known as the "black dragon" and the rightful king was the "red dragon." The final battle which sealed the fate of the first Blackfyre Rebellion became known as the Battle of the Redgrass Field. The casualities were high, with ten thousand men dying, and many more injured during the battle. Daemon Blackfyre was slain, as was his heir Aegon and his twin brother Aemon. King Daeron's punishment of the rebels included the loss of lands, titles or wealth, and all were forced to give hostages. Aegor Rivers managed to recover the sword Blackfyre from the battlefield and he escaped to the Free Cities with Daemon's widow and remaining children. During their years in exile, Daemon Blackfyre's descendants maintained their struggle for the Iron Throne. There would be four more rebellions and one peacefull attempt to claim the throne during the Great Council. Daemon's last male descendant, Maelys, was finally killed during the War of the Ninepenny Kings by Ser Barristan Selmy, thus ending the Blackfyre threat forever. As you can see, using those turbulent times as the historical and political backdrop means that Dunk and Egg's adventures and misadventures are far from over. For those who would like to know more about the Blackfyre Rebellion, follow this link to the Wiki of Ice and Fire.

This edition of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is beautifully illustrated by Gary Gianni. With over 160 black-and-white illustrations, Gianni's artwork makes the novellas come alive in a magical way. I've included a few samples in this review to give you a taste of the man's talent. Needless to say, this gorgeous book is a must for all ASOIAF fans!

Alas, this is not the eagerly anticipated The Winds of Winter. But for those of you who were not able to track down those aforementioned anthologies, this is a welcome return to Westeros. Within the pages of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, you'll find the same superb characterization, amazing worldbuilding, and back-stabbing political intrigue that have made A Song of Ice and Fire such an unforgettable read. And for those who, like me, were already familiar with this unlikely duo, rereading such a beautiful edition comprised of past tales of Dunk and Egg makes for an enjoyable reading experience.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8.25/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles-until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires?

And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend

New Mark Lawrence interview

As you know, I recently contacted a number of speculative fiction authors to inquire about the possibility of interviewing them. Mark Lawrence, whose Red Sister (Canada, USA, Europe) will be released in just a few short weeks, was the first to step up to the plate.

I last interviewed him back in 2011, right around the time Prince of Thorns was about to hit the shelves, and since then the man who came to be known as That Thorn Guy became one of my favorite SFF authors out there. So it was nice to have a chance to chat and catch up with him.


- Without giving anything away, can you give potential readers a taste of the tale that is RED SISTER and The Ancestor series?

The most recent blog review said:

“The book feels like the spiritual sibling to Name of the Wind and Blood Song, but might surpass them both for me.”

I’ve read and very much liked both of those books. I’ll put the “surpass” down to kindly hyperbole, but I’m pleased with the comparison.

- Are you happy with the advance praise garnered by RED SISTER thus far?

I am! The blog reviews have all come from people who have read my previous books and quite a few of them have called it my best work yet, as did both my editors. You can’t really complain when people say you’re continuing to improve.

- This marks the beginning of your third fantasy series. Is the release of a new book, especially the first instalment in a trilogy, always stressful, or does the feeling fades to a lesser extent now that you have gained a wider readership?

It’s always exciting and interesting. There’s some stress too, I guess. But I’ve always felt I was ahead in the game just by being published, and I have never had any expectations of great success, so I’m not wringing my hands or ready to be thrown into the pits of despair if someone doesn’t like the new book. The whole thing is an adventure.

- I'm aware that the spark which generated the idea to write The Ancestor series was the illustration of a young badass female figher. A female version of Jorg, if I remember correctly. But beyond that illustration, how did the storylines come together? What comes first for you when it comes time to consider your next novel/series: themes you wish to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you want to write about?

Always character first for me. And generally that’s the extent of my planning. Come up with a character that interests me and then throw stuff at them and see what happens. There was a little more planning with these books. I take my youngest daughter out for long walks quite often, and while I’m pushing her wheelchair through the neighbourhood my mind rambles through storylines. I tend not to write much of it down but the general ideas guide me later. The best ideas drop into an empty mind, I find.

- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequels? Any tentative titles and release dates? - You are one of the extremely rare authors who had finished writing all three of your trilogies before the first volume of each series was even published. Since The Ancestor series is done, what can you tell us about your next writing endeavor?

You should see Grey Sister about the same time in 2018 and Holy Sister in 2019.

Since finishing Holy Sister I’ve written a very different sort of book that looks as if it will be published under a different name before this trilogy is all on the shelves. I’ve also started three other books. One follows a character from the Broken Empire stories across the Atlantis Ocean to the New World, another is a whole new fantasy driven by a cool idea for a type of magic, and the last one is a modern day thriller. I don’t have a contract on me or any deadlines so I thought I would experiment and have some fun.

- How has your interaction with fans and critics colored your choices in terms of characterization and plot? Has there ever been anything that you've changed due to such interaction in any of your novels?

I don’t think it’s had any impact at all. So no.

- The PC police and the online SFF feminist clique have not always been kind to you, especially regarding Jorg Ancrath. Are you curious to see how they'll react to Nona, a young girl, as the main protagonist in RED SISTER?

Not particularly. We’re talking about a very small number of individuals here, some who troll for sport and some whose hot topics distort all interactions.

The polarising of politics makes a depressing number of people online desperate to identify everyone as ally or enemy. My small number of strident critics would likely be horrified to discover that I actually agree with many of their views, just less dogmatically.

Equality, diversity, and feminism are, in my view, fine things. When I write a story I’m not preaching or fighting a political corner. Just as I refused to apologise to a tiny number of people complaining that Prince of Thorns had too few women, I will refuse to apologise to anyone who complains that Red Sister has too few men.

- Speaking of Nona, as a nine-year-old girl at the beginning of RED SISTER, was it more challenging to write from the perspective of such a young protagonist than it was from that of Jorg or Jalan? Did you have to do anything differently to get her voice "right"?

I’m going to say no. I’ve been nine. I knew a lot of nine year olds at the time, and I’ve had four children go through nine. I never sweat the voice of a character. I have a strong idea of who they are in my mind and I write down the things I think they would say and do. People vary widely. I just have to show the reader *a* person. They don’t have to be typical, or like someone they know … just interesting and consistent.

(SPOILER WARNING: The answer to this question is not a spoiler per se, but it does have to do with an interesting worldbuilding plot device. Lawrence felt that some readers might not want to learn about this before reading the book, hence the warning. . .)

- In terms of worldbuilding, The Ancestor series features a dying sun and a planet left with only a 50-mile wide corridor running along the length of its surface heated by a focus moon that allows mankind to survive from the encroaching ice that covers the globe throughout both hemispheres. What was the inspiration behind that concept?

I have no idea!

In story telling the fundamental rule is “put your character/s under pressure”. Nobody wants to read about the twenty-five years that Jim went to the office every day and everything was fine. They want to read about the day it wasn’t fine because of aliens/terrorists/office romance/heart attack. A geographical equivalent of tightening the vise, and a driver for the action on a global scale.

- In style and tone, all three of your series have been quite different. Did you have a different approach for each?

I think The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War are not dissimilar in style, we just view the story through the eyes of two very different characters. This leads to a difference in tone while the actual world is the same and the events overlapping.

Technically they are both written in the first person and spend a lot of time in the protagonist’s head. Both use flashbacks and other techniques to generate additional viewpoints.

With Red Sister there’s a change to third person and while I still only use one point of view the third person is less claustrophobic. Things are described with less of the character’s interpretation and musing. And of course Nona is very different to Jalan or Jorg, which gives a different tone again. Nona is a lot less selfish and self-focused than Jalan or Jorg and this leads to more interesting friendships and more development of the characters around her.

- You have recently been a prolific short fiction writer and in late 2015 you released a collection of short fiction set in the Broken Empire universe titled ROAD BROTHERS. Can you tell us a bit more about how that project came together? Do you have any short stories/novellas coming up in 2017?

Most of the stories in Road Brothers had appeared first in anthologies and were written because someone that had been supportive asked me to. Many anthologies get a small readership and vanish from view quite swiftly. I felt I wanted to give the stories that concerned Jorg and other characters from The Broken Empire trilogy a more easily located home and a new lease of life. So I collected them together.

I haven’t written many short stories recently. The only one I can think of is a story about Prince Jalan that’s due in Unbound II (Grim Oak Press) sometime soon.

Voyager are planning to put out an updated version of Road Brothers later this year in hardback and ebook. That will be 50% longer than my version and have three new stories in it.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

All three of my main characters have been pretty impulsive, but Jorg was the most impulsive and the least predictable. I generally had no idea how he would get out of the situations the story landed him in.

- How special is it to see your novels/series be released as beautiful collector's editions? How involved are you in the creative process behind the production?

It’s pretty good! It’s a very nice way to cap off writing a set of books, to be able to hold the whole trilogy in a fat leather-bound edition full of great artwork and design.

I was as involved as I wanted to be in the process. I canvassed readers to select the scenes from each book for Jason Chan to illustrate. I gave my thoughts on the graphic design and cover choices. I talked about font and page count.

I’ve never felt myself to be a great judge of visual aesthetics so I made sure to let the artists and designers carry the load. And the end result is hugely pleasing!

- Jorg Ancrath has been one of the most divisive fantasy protagonists in recent years. Were you surprised by the intensity of the love/hate relationship associated with him? In retrospect, would you do anything differently as far as his characterization is concerned?

Well, when I wrote the first book I didn’t have any audience in mind or any expectation of it being widely read, so the reader reaction was never something that I spent time considering. Which means I didn’t have any strong expectations regarding reader reaction.

I have been a fantasy reader for decades but I was never part of the online side of things until I got published, which meant I had no idea how politicised certain aspects were in some subdivisions of social media. So yes, I was surprised to find quite prominent elements of the blogosphere dissecting books in terms of the social message they were (wrongly) seen as championing.

And no, I wouldn’t change any of Jorg’s characterisation.

- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects, who write novels based on detailed outlines, or gardeners, who have a general idea of where the storylines are going but prefer to watch things grow as they go along. Which type of writer are you and why do you prefer that approach?

I’m definitely a gardener, and I prefer that approach as I like the story to surprise and entertain me as I write it. Having it all planned out and writing it as an exercise in padding out the framework would be very dull for me.

- Have you ever written a scene, only to be stunned by your own reaction after reading it?

I don’t tend to get a different reaction reading something I’ve written to the reaction I have when I am actually writing it. But certainly writing a powerful scene can have a powerful effect on me. I guess if it didn’t I would consider it not to be working.

- You're the brain behind the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, an effort dedicated to raising awareness about good self-published works. Can you tell us a bit more about why you initially got involved and how things turned out?

I have always felt that there is a lot of luck involved in getting published. Some authors maintain that hard work and skill will guarantee success if you keep at it. I am unconvinced. So I’ve always felt a little … guilty(?) about my success. The SPFBO is a mechanism to explore these issues and to give other authors a second roll of the dice that came up so well for me. You still have to be skilful, hardworking, and lucky though!

We’re nearing the end of the 2nd year of the exercise and will have considered around six hundred books, selecting twenty finalists, and two winners.

For me the exercise has been a great success since it has put before me a new author who has written two of my favourite books ever! With the further vindication that the author had struggled without finding an audience for years and was on the very brink of giving up. The last six months however have seen him sell thousands of books and restored his confidence.

- Some writers admit having a favorite book among those they've written previously, others say that their favorite is their current work in progress, and others still say it's always the next book that hasn't been written yet. How about you?

Very tough. I’m not good a choosing favorites in any context. I hope that one day I will write a book that is better than any of the ones I’ve written to date. I recognise that might not be true. It’s certainly my most recent books that occupy most space in my head.

- There are a number of different perspectives as to the function secondary-world or epic fantasy carries out for readers. Le Guin once wrote that such fantasy deepened and intensified the mysteries of life, while R. Scott Bakker has put forward that humanity is neurologically ill-equipped for a modern, rationalist world and this leads some to seek access to a pre-modern worldview (or the fiction of one) where reality conforms to the mind's irrational, evolutionarily hardwired expectations. Others have denigrated it as mere escapism, an alternative opiate for the masses. 

What is your view as to fantasy's function?

I see no reason why it can’t have lots of functions, thereby supporting what Le Guin, Bakker, and many others say. I reject the “should” part of what anyone has to say about what fantasy should do. Fantasy as a genre caters to intellectuals and to the masses. It’s different things to different people. Clearly to some it’s a political vehicle, to others entertainment. I don’t disagree with any of the views you paraphrase, except perhaps for the use of “mere” to describe escapism.

- Some authors mention that they're never fully satisfied with any of their books, that there is always the idea of the book one attempts to write versus the book that one actually managed to create. Looking back, give us an example of something that didn't quite work out the way you envisioned it. Given the chance, is there anything you would change in any of your novels?

Some writers are perfectionists, endlessly tinkering until the thing is literally torn from their hands. Or, in some cases, never finishing.

I’m not like that. Also, because I’m a ‘gardener’ I don’t have a strong concept of the book I’m trying to write, and thus I’m not disappointed by any discrepancy between that concept and the book I produce.

I could be disappointed if the book I write doesn’t please me, but I’m lucky that so far I have been pleased with the end result in all cases.

The only thing I would like to change is in Emperor of Thorns where the editor felt that the end twist came too out of the blue and convinced me to foreshadow it more. I now read many reviews where the readers says “I saw that coming a mile off.” Now, it’s entirely possible that the way I had it was too obscure and it did need some extra foreshadowing. But I clearly did it with rather too heavy a hand and so I would wish to undo (at least partially) the changes I made to the original text in that regard. I think rather than being “an” example this is “the” example. I can’t think of any others.

- If your readers could only take one thing away from having read RED SISTER (apart from enjoying the read) what would you want that thing to be?

I guess that the desire to buy and read book 2 is a variant on “enjoying the read”.

But really the only things I want readers to take away from my books are variants on “enjoying the read”. There’s no message.

- Neil Gaiman said of Lord Dunsany’s THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER, “...It’s a rich red wine, which may come as a shock if all one has had so far has been cola.” If RED SISTER was a drink, which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?

Perhaps a good ale that should be drunk at a moderate pace. Consuming any book in too many small portions is likely to make it feel disjointed and to obscure the overarching elements of plot and character. And downing a book in one go is apt to blind you to any subtleties and to the strength of the prose.

- With six published novels under your belt and another one about to be released, one short story collection, and over a million of copies sold, do you feel that you have grown as an author compared to the man I interviewed back in 2011 around the time PRINCE OF THORNS was released?

It may well be true, but I don’t feel it, no.

I’ve written a million more words, and practice is generally held to make you get better at something. But when we say that we are mostly talking about activities where the ground truth is easily accessible. Put in another thousand hours of practice and your golf handicap will likely improve, you will get better at sinking the basketball etc. But with writing how to do tell if you’re getting better? There’s no objective measure. And success is a fickle thing guided by currents that are often beyond your control or influence.

In the days when I went skiing I felt myself to be getting better each year. With writing I’ve always felt that I was getting my imagination successfully onto the page. I guess you have to be outside the process to form a judgement.

- Caring for your disabled daughter prevents you from doing promo tours and attending most conventions. And yet, you are quite active on social media and on genre-related websites and online communities like Reddit. Do you believe that such interactions with fans and potential readers have something to do with the commercial success you have enjoyed over the years? How important is it for you to engage with your fans on a regular basis?

I suspect that being active on social media has a rather minor impact on book sales. I know of several authors who have twitter followings or blog following that are significantly larger than mine but whose books don’t sell very well. I think the main driver for book sellers is one reader convincing another to read that book. And that happens because of the book. On the internet we see reflections of the currents out in the wider world (though often distorted by the demographic of a particular platform) but that if we think the internet is driving those sales we may well be mistaking the windsock for the wind.

I spend time interacting with readers because I enjoy it. If I didn’t, I would stop.

- Anything else you wish to share with us?

Just that it’s nice to be asked back for an interview after 6 years, thanks. Things come and go pretty quickly in the blogosphere and in publishing. The Hotlist appears to be one of the constants. Long may it endure!

Win an autographed copy of Jacqueline Carey's MIRANDA AND CALIBAN

I have a signed copy of Jacqueline Carey's Miranda and Caliban, courtesy of the folks at Tor Books! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe.

We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will?

In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin—the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge.

Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship.

Miranda and Caliban is bestselling fantasy author Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. With hypnotic prose and a wild imagination, Carey explores the themes of twisted love and unchecked power that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, while serving up a fresh take on the play’s iconic characters. It is a dazzling novel.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "MIRANDA." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

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."

Once 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's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or 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.

New Ghost in the Shell trailer

Looking good! Hopefully the movie won't suck. . .

Quote of the Day

We live, we heal, we endure. We mourn the dead and treasure the living. We bear our scars.

Some of us more than others.

- JACQUELINE CAREY, Kushiel's Justice (Canada, USA, Europe)

Kitty Rocks the House

I've often claimed that Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville book sequence has become one of the best urban fantasy series on the market today. Nearly as good as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, all things considered. From the beginning, I've been going on and on about how I love the fact that Carrie Vaughn takes her characters and storylines along unexpected paths, keeping this series fresh and very entertaining. And while the early books were more episodic in style and tone, in the last few volumes the author has continued to unveil various hints and offered lots of glimpses of a much bigger and more ambitious overall story arc.

Urban fantasy is often characterized by short works which are episodic in nature and don't always allow the plotlines to progress overmuch. Up until this point, Vaughn had always managed to dodge the bullet and keep things moving, making you eager to read the next installment to find out what occurs next. The last one, Kitty Steals the Show, the eleventh volume, brought the series to another, even more multilayered, level. The previous book, Kitty's Big Trouble, had marked the beginning of Kitty's involvement in a more complex and dangerous game, and this seemed to bode well for the rest of the series.

I reckon it was bound to happen at some point, and sadly Kitty Rocks the House turned out to be the one in which Carrie Vaughn failed to live up to expectations. I'm not sure there was enough material to sustain a full novel and it shows. A lot of filler and not much killer, this one felt like some sort of interlude and didn't have a whole lot going for it. For the first time ever, a Kitty Norville novel was a disappointment for me.

Here's the blurb:

In Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Rocks the House, on the heels of Kitty's return from London, a new werewolf shows up in Denver, one who threatens to split the pack by challenging Kitty's authority at every turn. The timing could not be worse; Kitty needs all the allies she can muster to go against the ancient vampire, Roman, if she's to have any hope of defeating his Long Game. But there's more to this intruder than there seems, and Kitty must uncover the truth, fast.

Meanwhile, Cormac pursues an unknown entity wreaking havoc across Denver; and a vampire from the Order of St. Lazaurus tempts Rick with the means to transform his life forever.

Perhaps my disappointment stems from the fact that Kitty Steals the Show raised the bar to new heights. The conference in London allowed Kitty to come in contact with a lot of supernatural creatures, most of them centuries old. We were introduced to yet more players in the Long Game, and once again it became obvious that the endgame was approaching. The unanticipated side-story fleshing out the Cormac/Amelia storyline was an surprising bonus that added another layer to the plot. Hence, to have Kitty return to Denver and have her deal with a rogue werewolf and her own sister's odd behavior was kind of lackluster and at times bit boring. Rick and the Order of St. Lazarus' storyline was by far the most interesting plotline, but in and of itself it couldn't carry an entire novel on its shoulders. In the end, we are left with a plot that could likely have been part of another Kitty installment and the series would have been better for it.

As always, the novel is told in the first-person narrative of the endearing werewolf radio host. And witnessing events unfold through Kitty Norville's perspective continues to be one of the highlights of this series. With her supernatural knack for attracting trouble and the fact she's not always be the sharpest tool in the shed, there is seldom a dull moment in Kitty's life. And yet, with the odds stacked against her and the stakes always getting higher, her stubbornness does put herself and her loved ones in mortal danger and that doesn't always sit well with me. Kitty is definitely changing with each new book. Although her heart remains in the right place, I think that Ben and Cormac need to have a serious talk with her. Especially Ben, who needs to start acting like a true man and not just a pillar on which she can lean on.

Kitty's Big Trouble and Kitty Steals the Show were both transition books linking past plotlines and weaving them into the tapestry of threads that will lead us to the series' finale. More revelations were made about Roman and his Long Game. New players were introduced and Kitty made yet more enemies and a few more friends. As is usually her wont, Kitty managed to stir up a lot of troubles during her stay in the British capital, something that a number of ancient vampires are not pleased with. Some have named her Regina Lopurum, the queen of werewolves, and would like to see her removed from the game board. The stage was set for another thrilling read, but Kitty Rocks the House was more of an intermission than anything else. Here's to hoping that the next installment, Kitty in the Underworld , will be a return to form for Carrie Vaughn.

In terms of rhythm, this one was poorly paced compared to the rest of the series. Then again, as the book focuses on a number of disparate and discordant storylines, it was probably inevitable. Thankfully, Vaughn has been laying out a lot of groundwork over the course of the last couple of books, and the endgame is approaching. For that reason, I'm more than willing to overlook a disappointing and somewhat uninspired novel if the subsequent books live up to the hype generated by what came before.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download John Scalzi's Old Man's War for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.

So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What's known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine-and what he will become is far stranger.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

All the subsequent volumes in the Old Man's War series are also 2.99$ each.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 6th)

In hardcover:

Terry Goodkind’s Death’s Mistress debuts at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

New interviews coming up!

If you've been hanging around these parts for a while, you probably recall that interviews used to be a regular feature on the Hotlist. Every month or so, there was at least one or two.

But in 2012, with the time I could spend blogging on the decline and the fact that doing interviews can be time-consuming, I finally decided to forgo them altogether. I was also growing tired of having the usual clique of brown-nosing cry-baby bloggers that hate me always criticizing my choice of questions and everything else in between.

I thought that these bloggers would pick up the slack and take over, that from now on they would be posting interviews with speculative fiction authors on their own online venues. Oddly enough, they didn't. Haters are going to hate, I know. Maybe I overestimated them, but it seemed that not a single soul in that bunch had any desire to go through the back-and-forth process of conducting an interview. Not surprisingly, as it's much easier to bitch about something than putting together an interesting Q&A.

Since I elected to stop, not a week goes by without a publicist, editor, or author asking me if I'd be willing to do an interview with this or that SFF writer on the Hotlist. They deplore the fact that few high-profile speculative fiction online venues feature frequent in-depth interviews. I've never thought that the world was a poorer place without mine, but I did feel bad because no one else appeared to be giving debut authors an opportunity to introduce themselves to a vast number of potential readers.

Since 2012, there have been a few interviews posted here, yet they are few and far between. I almost resumed doing so more regularly last year, but time constraints once more prevented me from doing so.

Having cut down my hours at work until mid-March, I recently found myself with more free time than I've had in many a year. The timing seemed perfect for doing a few interviews and I contacted a number of authors who were about to release a novel or had just published something to see if they were interested in answering some questions I had for them. The replies were positive and quick in coming, and I suddenly had a few interviews lined up.

Coming soon, you guys will be getting interviews with Tad Williams, Jacqueline Carey, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Mark Lawrence, Myke Cole, and Peter V. Brett. I'm still waiting to hear back from a few others, so more authors might join this group.

Depending on how everything goes, interviews might return as a semi-regular feature on the Hotlist. We'll have to wait and see. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download The Novels of the Jaran omnibus by Kate Elliott for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In Jaran, the Earth of the future is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system. Struggling to find her place in the world, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya—who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own—Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother.

In An Earthly Crown, the nomadic tribes of the jaran are uniting the settled cities of their homeland one by one. Their charismatic leader, Ilya Bakhtiian, has his loyal wife by his side, but there is something about her he doesn’t know: Tess Soerensen is a human. Back home, her brother, Charles, led an unsuccessful revolt against the all-powerful Chapalii empire. Charles’s insistence that Tess join him is as strong as Ilya’s reluctance to part with his beloved wife—and neither considers that Tess may have her own plans for the future. As three fiercely independent spirits struggle for a solution, the fates of both the human race and the jaran hang in the balance.

In His Conquering Sword, the jaran have been taking over towns and bending all non-jaran to the law of their rule. With Ilya Bakhtiian in charge, the nomadic fighters are now preparing an assault on the royal city of Karkand. But within the campaign, another struggle looms. Charles, the brother of Ilya’s wife, Tess, is still driven by thoughts of revolt. Charles travels to Rhui for key information about the past, hoping to bring back his sister—his only heir.

And in The Law of Becoming, Charles Soerensen’s revolutionary inclinations have been reignited. In this final book, the story of Tess, Ilya, and Charles comes to its stunning conclusion as new generations get involved in the intrigue, Earth’s exiled jaran people resurface, and the Chapalii overlords make one last, unexpected move.