More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can get your hands on the digital edition of Robin Hobb's Fool's Assassin for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Nearly twenty years ago, Robin Hobb burst upon the fantasy scene with the first of her acclaimed Farseer novels, Assassin’s Apprentice, which introduced the characters of FitzChivalry Farseer and his uncanny friend the Fool. A watershed moment in modern fantasy, this novel—and those that followed—broke exciting new ground in a beloved genre. Together with George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb helped pave the way for such talented new voices as Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Naomi Novik.

Over the years, Hobb’s imagination has soared throughout the mythic lands of the Six Duchies in such bestselling series as the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. But no matter how far she roamed, her heart always remained with Fitz. And now, at last, she has come home, with an astonishing new novel that opens a dark and gripping chapter in the Farseer saga.

FitzChivalry—royal bastard and former king’s assassin—has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past . . . and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one. . .


You can download Octavia E. Butler's Kindred for 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 20th)

In hardcover:

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Born of Vengeance debuts at number 15.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale returns at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Quote of the Day

Trade and common interests have proven, in the end, more powerful in human affairs than all the warships ever launched.

- C. J. CHERRYH, Cyteen (Canada, USA, Europe)

I'm about a third into this novel and it truly looks as though this will be one of the very best science fiction novels I have ever read. Perhaps the very best.

Myke Cole interview


As mentioned recently, when I elected to resume doing interviews after my long hiatus, I started by checking which speculative fiction authors were releasing something new in the near future. Myke Cole, whose upcoming novel won't be published until next fall, didn't meet that criteria. That goes without saying.

But there's no denying that Cole has become one of the bright new voices in the genre these last few years and one of my favorite new writers out there to boot. In addition, I've always felt kind of bad because I actually stopped doing interviews right when his debut came out in 2012. I certainly would have interviewed him back then had I not decided to stop featuring such content on the Hotlist. Hence, I've always felt that I sort of owed him one.

Which explains why there is now a Myke Cole interview on the screen before you. To tell the truth, I'm really happy to have given him this opportunity. Indeed, Cole was quite forthcoming with his answers, making this the most in-depth interview I've posted since my first one with Steven Erikson. And that's saying something!

Here are links to my reviews of all Cole titles. In case anyone of you is intrigued enough to give him a shot after reading this interview! =) You can start with either Shadow Ops: Control Point or Gemini Cell.

The Shadow Ops trilogy

- Shadow Ops: Control Point
- Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier
- Shadow Ops: Breach Zone

- Gemini Cell
- Javelin Rain

Enjoy!
------------------------

- What's the 411 on Myke Cole? Tell us a bit about your background?

A year ago, I could have just said "I'm a novelist," and left it at that. But suffice to say my life has kind of exploded in recent days. I got out of the Coast Guard and transitioned to a full time position with a major metropolitan police department, and I can now add the titles "historian" and "TV personality" to that list. So, for purposes of simplicity, here's a bulleted list:

- Military fantasy SHADOW OPS trilogy and the REAWAKENING prequel trilogy (six novels).

- THE SACRED THRONE trilogy coming from tor.com (THE ARMORED SAINT, THE QUEEN OF CROWS, THE KILLING LIGHT). This is dark stuff with a medieval setting. Think Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie or Peter V. Brett.

- I'm on CBS' new reality-TV series "Hunted," where I hunt fugitives. We just aired the 5th episode and there are two more to go in the season. I'm one of the "cyber analysts" and my primary job is phone-targeting, which is a fancy way of saying I using telephony technology to track people.

- I just signed a contract with Osprey (the military history imprint of Bloomsbury) to do my first nonfiction book. It's ancient military history, and my primary goal is to combine solid scholarship with dramatic storytelling to produce a work that's *accessible* above all to people who aren't academics or necessarily serious students. I'm super psyched about this. Been dreaming of branching off into history for a long time now.

- Without giving too much away, can you give us a taste of the Shadow Ops series?

Imagine if Harry Potter joined the Navy SEALS instead of going to Hogwarts. My books tackle serious issues, like the tradeoff between security and civil liberties and how necessary bureaucracies can also be meat-grinders, but there's plenty of awesome nerd-fodder in there too, like Hill Giants smashing helicopter gunships and goblins burning New York City to the ground.

- Are you happy with the way the two trilogies have been received thus far?

I'm never happy. I am blessed to have a core group of dedicated fans and to sell enough books to be able to keep getting future contracts. But I'd be lying if I said I was satisfied. I'm the restless type who moves the goal posts as soon as I reach them. First, I just wanted a book deal. Next, I just wanted to have fans. Now, I want to be on the New York Times Bestseller List.

- Like many writers, getting your first book deal took a while and at one point you felt like you would never see one of your books get published. Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel?

It took me 15 years of spending pretty much all my weekends and evenings writing. I had really incremental progress until my friend Peter V. Brett got his deal, and then I tripled down to try and catch up with him (still trying, by the way). A few things happened that I think made a difference for me. 1.) I jettisoned pretty much everything that wasn't writing. I used to be a kendo champion, was close to getting knighted in the SCA, did indoor climbing and was a member of a Hash House Harrier group. All of that had to go to make time for writing. 2.) I went to Iraq, and came back focused and with a renewed sense of how brief and precious life was. It made me determined not to waste a single moment. 3.) I began to read like a boxer watching a video of his opponent. I stopped enjoying books and started dissecting them. Somewhere in that morass, something clicked. I felt it. I knew I had made some kind of major change and that I would eventually win through.

- Your friend Peter V. Brett blurbed your debut, CONTROL POINT, claiming that it is "Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men." How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t tried your books before?

What surprises a lot of people is how dark my books are. I am heavily influenced by Pete's style, and my favorite writers are mostly from the "grimdark" subgenre. I also come out the Frank Miller era of comics. Anyone who has read his old Dark Knight, Elektra: Assassin and Ronin stuff knows how bleak that can be.

- SIEGE LINE, the final volume in the second trilogy, appears to have been postponed and will be published at the end of the year. What is the reason behind the delay?

I'm a firm believer in the doctrine "done right is better than done fast." I saw the deadline looming and I didn't think the manuscript was good enough to go to my editor. I don't like to have anyone (not my agent, not my editor, NOBODY who I need to have faith in my ability) other than my beta-readers look at my manuscripts until I am certain they are as good as I can make them. SIEGE LINE wasn't at that point, but I felt confident that I could turn it around with another few months. I've never blown a deadline before, and I was really upset about it, but I figured readers could forgive a late book. They wouldn't forgive a bad one.

- What can readers expect from this last installment?

I can't wait for you to meet Wilma "Mankiller" Plante. She's the sheriff of a frozen hamlet in the ass-end of Canada's Northwest Territory. An Afghanistan veteran, she's hard as nails and takes no shit from anyone. All she's ever wanted is peace for her people and to grow old in the town she grew up in. But the Gemini Cell has other plans, and where they go, Jim Schweitzer goes . . .

- GEMINI CELL, JAVELIN RAIN, and SIEGE LINE take place years before the events chronicled by the first trilogy, in the early days of what will come to be known as the Great Awakening. Will the third Shadow Ops series bridge the gap between the first two trilogies?

IF I can sell the third SHADOW OPS series (that is not guaranteed), it will pick up immediately after the events of BREACH ZONE, with many of the characters from the original trilogy.

- The fact that you served for years in the military and seen active duty allows you to imbue your books with a credibility regarding the realism of the use of magic in military operations and its ramifications up and down the chain of command. Do you feel that this gives you an edge compared to writers without firsthand combat experience?

Absolutely not. Joe Abercrombie who has never fired a shot in anger in his life writes some of the best battle scenes I've ever read, and captures PTSD better than many writers I know who are actually suffering from it. Naomi Novik captures military wardroom culture better than almost any other writer I know (besides Jack Campbell), and as far as I know, she's never even been in a wardroom. The military experience is deeply personal, but smart people can certainly understand it well enough to convey it on the page. I'll take skill at writing over first-hand experience any day.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the Shadow Ops series in the first place?

I was working at the Pentagon, and doing the standard "what if" scenarios that are the stock-in-trade of nerds. My "what if" was "what if there was a department of magic?" I knew right away that the military would bind it up in rules and red tape and find a way to make it boring. I also knew that these rules, while necessary, would wind up hurting people. From there, the wheels just started spinning and never stopped.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Grit. Writing is an intensely fraught occupation. There are really two types of writer: those who suffer from anxiety and depression and those who lie about suffering from anxiety and depression. I have the same low spots as everyone else, but I think one thing I do well is give myself a short period of time to rage and weep, and then dry my friggin' eyes and get my ass back in the chair and fix. The. Problem. I'm not unsympathetic to how hard this job is, but only one thing will get you to the place you want to be with a book, and that's throwing yourself at it until it breaks or you do.

- By the same token, what would be your weaknesses, or aspects of your craft you feel you need to work on?

Patience. I like to *execute*, I like to be *done*, I like to be *on time*. This is the opposite of how a writer needs to be. Again - "Done right is better than done fast." Here's another one - "If you don't have time to do it right, how will you find time to do it twice?" Good writers SLOW DOWN. Good writers are willing to miss deadlines if it means their end product will be better. Good writers understand that it takes as long as it takes.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write the Shadow Ops series?

Military members in fiction are usually portrayed with a lot of stereotypical attributes: They're all confident, they all have good judgment, they all stay cool under fire. Of course, this is total bunk. Military members are *people* and in any large group of people, there will be all types. Some are weak, some are stupid, some are evil, some are frightened. I worked hard in my my books to kill these stereotypes, and show military members in all their flawed glory.

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

Definitely Wilma "Mankiller" Plante, who you'll meet in SIEGE LINE. She was originally intended to be a side-character, and wound up almost eclipsing Jim Schweitzer as the protagonist. It's *very* rare for me to have that weird experience where the character comes to life and I'm just taking dictation, but it happened with her.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the cover that graces your book?

I think cover art is incredibly important. The number one reason people buy books is word-of-mouth and the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth. The number two reason is the cover. I've been incredibly lucky in my covers. First, I had action-heavy RPG illustrator Michael Komarck, and for the 2nd trilogy, I had iconic photo-manipulator Larry Rostant. Both are incredible artists in completely different ways. In all cases, Ace has basically allowed me to act as an art director, and I have had unprecedented levels of influence over my covers, from picking out equipment and clothing, to setting the scene. The pose Schweitzer takes on the cover of JAVELIN RAIN was my idea, because it's a book about him being beaten down. This is extremely rare for an author, and I definitely appreciate how fortunate I am to have been allowed this level of input.

- A few months back, you sold a trilogy of novellas to tor.com. The first one is titled THE FRACTURED GIRL. What can you tell us about it and when will it become available?

It's been retitled to THE ARMORED SAINT. It's a dark fantasy heavily influenced by my reading in the "grimdark" subgenre. It's set in a medieval secondary world with its own special technology. In this world, wizardry has been outlawed by a fanatic religious order who believes that it opens a doorway to hell and invites devils into the sunlit world. This order uses the danger of wizardry as an excuse for a brutal, oppressive rule. Heloise Factor, the protagonist, rebels against the Order, but just because the Order is heavy-handed, doesn't mean they are wrong . . . It will be available in 2018. I don't have an exact month yet.

- You made a name for yourself writing military fantasy novels, and I'm told that THE FRACTURED GIRL is more grimdark in style and tone. Was a different approach required when the time came to write in a different sub-genre?

There's a reason this book took me three years to sell. It is COMPLETELY outside my wheelhouse, and I almost gave up on it twice. I try to stretch myself with each book I write. I have taken enormous pride in the fact that my previous six novels are all utterly different from one another. I can be accused of many things, but not of rubber-stamping out books in the same mold. This is my biggest reach yet, and it was a doozy, but in the end, I figured it out.

- You have recently announced that you have a new history book deal. What can you tell us about this project?

Not much. The publisher has asked me to keep things vague until the summer, when they will announce details. I can tell you this: a.) It's ancient military history b.) Osprey is known for very short, almost pamphlet-sized books. This is a full-on 100k word work of history. c.) Like all Osprey books, it will be heavily illustrated, with hundreds of photographs, color plates, line drawings and maps. d.) The book will focus, first-and-foremost, on accessibility. I want ANYONE to be able to pick it up and enjoy it.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many speculative fiction authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

I read almost exclusively inside the genre (when I'm not doing research for my history book. Right now, all I read are scholarly articles, my Greek and Latin phrasebooks and mountains of primary source material). Everyone knows my main influence is Peter V. Brett, but I am also in awe of Joe Abercrombie and Pierce Brown. These are writers where I read their work and want to give up writing, because how could I ever be that good?

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

Hands down an NYT bestseller. Nobody, apart from a tiny cabal of insiders and SMOFs, cares about the Hugos or the WFA. Winning them does help expand your audience and sell more books, but if you hit the list that means you already ARE selling more books. I come out of fandom, and consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, but I want to write for the largest audience possible, and you can only hit the list if you're selling *outside* the traditional and limited genre audience. Added to this, both sets of awards, but moreso the Hugos, have been so mired in petty controversy that I'm not sure I want to be associated with them anymore.

- You are now part of the reality TV show Hunted on CBS. Tell us a bit more about the show and how you became part of the hunters' team.

Hunted is the most elaborate game of hide-n-seek ever made. It pits 9 teams of ordinary Americans against 34 professional investigators, all of us drawn from the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities, each of us with an average of 20+ years experience. We have state of the art equipment and full powers of law enforcement. Any one of the teams that can evade us in 100,000 square miles of the southeastern US for 28 days wins $250,000.

Most folks know that I worked in intelligence for many years, but most don't know that my specific discipline was as an SSO-T (Special Skills Officer - Targeter) in the Counterterrorism field. Counterterrorism Targeting is just a fancy way of saying "manhunting" and I guess I built a reputation, because when CBS started making inquiries, my name came up as a go-to guy, and I got a random call out of the blue asking me if I wanted to be on TV.

It was (and is, because the show is running now) and amazing experience. I'm most pleased that it's a window into who we are and how we work for the general public. Police relations with the public always benefit from visibility, and I think this show is a great move in that direction.

- I'm aware that the 3-size too short T-shirt you wear on the show has earned you the nickname "Totally jacked cellphone tracker guy." But why not wear the fox shirt that Sam Sykes so kindly offered you a few years ago? This was probably the only time you could have made a fashion statement on national television and you blew it!

It was a Doge shirt, actually, and there's no way CBS would let me. They had specific people whose whole job was to "Greek" the set, which means they scour every inch of the clothing, the furniture and remove any proprietary art or company logos that could potentially cause a rights issue. But yeah, it would have been super cool. I asked them repeatedly to let me wear my Captain America belt buckle, or my Star Wars Spec Ops TIE Fighter t-shirt, and I never got more than a sad shaking of the head.

- 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 wish I could say no, but it wouldn't be true. Remember how above I said I was looking to break military stereotypes? I did that with Oscar Britton in CONTROL POINT. I made him wavering and dumb, and sort of had him blunder his way to heroism, just like real people do. There was a uniformly negative reaction from readers who felt that, while maybe this was realistic, it made him too unlikable, and turned them off the book. This horrified me. I'm thrilled to have succeeded artistically, but never at the cost of readers. Further characters are still human, but you will never see one as wavering as Britton.

- 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 would give anything to go back and rewrite Britton. I also feel like JAVELIN RAIN didn't quite hit the tone I wanted. The book is definitely my Empire Strikes Back, and I certainly intended it as a dark middle book, but I do sometimes wonder if I overdid that.

- 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 am an UBER architect. I usually write 80-120 pages of outline before I write a single word of prose. My fear is of painting myself into a corner and having to throw out a whole book (or most of a book) just weeks before deadline. The irony is, this sometimes happens anyway. I wound up throwing out something like 20,000 words of FORTRESS FRONTIER and rewriting it about 2 weeks before I handed it in.

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

The scene in GEMINI CELL where Steve Chang and Sarah Schweitzer are comforting one another? I actually cried reading that. It was amazing and terrifying at the same time.

- 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 would never presume to describe fantasy's function for anyone. The truth is that literature is as complicated and varied as the people who read it, and I continue to be amazed that two people reading the same book can have entirely different and conflicting reactions. I do strongly believe one thing: Once I write the book and put it out there, I no longer own the reading experience. It now belongs to the reader and I have no choice but to accept their reactions. If someone feels that somehow CONTROL POINT is an "erotic marxist" novel, then that's what it is for them. There's no "you're reading it wrong."

- 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?

FORTRESS FRONTIER continues to be my favorite book of mine, both to write and to read. I think GEMINI CELL is probably a better book, but FF will always be my favorite.

- 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 the Shadow Ops series was a drink, which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?

It's probably a 16 oz. can of red bull. The kind with extra sugar.

- In your opinion, what lost you more readers/followers on social media? Your political posts, or your ancient military history jokes?

My political posts. I tried very hard to stay apolitical in my early career, because I didn't want to color reader impressions, but more because I was commanding a military unit, and my troops had the right to know that their commander was politically neutral and would lead them to the best of his ability, and take care of them, no matter what they personally believed. Once I got out of the military, these shackles came off, and then Trump got elected, which I view as an absolutely national crisis that demands constant and dedicated response. I know that many conservatives are fans of military fiction, and that I am likely upsetting them with my strident political positions. This genuinely pains me. I really don't want to lose readers for any reason, but I also have to get up every morning and look in the mirror. Whatever damage the Trump administration does, it's important for me to be able to look at myself and know that I did what I could to stop it. If that costs me readers, well . . . that sucks, I'm not going to lie . . . but this is something I have to do so that I can live with myself. I imagine other writers who have taken controversial positions that cost them readers, like Orson Scott Card, feel the same way. I am a person who separates artist from art. Ender's Game is one of the GREAT novels, and I will read it and recommend it no matter what horrible things Card says. Ditto for Mists of Avalon. If you are not a reader who can make the same separation, what can I do but say "that sucks" and accept it?

- During the course of answering those interview questions, how many times did you spill coffee on yourself?

Actually, once. But it was bourbon, not coffee.

- Anything else you wish to share with us?

I want to encourage everyone to play Fantasy Flight's Star Wars games. I'm currently heavy into X-Wing, Armada and Imperial Assault, and I want to increase the percent likelihood that any random person I run into will be willing to play with me. Thanks.

Kushiel's Justice


In my humble opinion, Jacqueline Carey's first Kushiel trilogy was one of the most awesome speculative fiction series of all time. Hence, Kushiel's Scion, the first volume in the second trilogy, had very big shoes to fill. Which, in retrospect, was probably unfair as far as expectations go. Kushiel's Avatar, which garnered a perfect score here on the Hotlist, was the culmination of a panoply of convoluted plotlines that had been built over the course of three memorable installments. With that novel being such a grand slam, it raised the bar quite high and created lofty expectations that could not possibly be met by whatever would come next. In the end, though it was a great read in its own right, Kushiel's Scion was a transition book bridging the gap between the two Kushiel series and an introduction setting the stage for what would take place in the two subsequent volumes.

But with Kushiel's Justice, Carey truly knocked it out of the park. With most of the groundwork laid out within the pages of its predecessor, the set-up phase is almost non-existent and the author immediately takes us on a number of unforgettable journeys that will change Imriel forever.

Here's the blurb:

From Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of Kushiel's Scion, comes the second adventure in the Imriel trilogy.

Imriel de la Courcel's blood parents are history's most reviled traitors, while his adoptive parents, Phèdre and Joscelin, are Terre d'Ange's greatest champions. Stolen, tortured, and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood, third in line for the throne in a land that revels in beauty, art, and desire.

After a year abroad to study at university, Imriel returns from his adventures a little older and somewhat wiser. But perhaps not wise enough. What was once a mere spark of interest between himself and his cousin Sidonie now ignites into a white-hot blaze. But from commoner to peer, the whole realm would recoil from any alliance between Sidonie, heir to the throne, and Imriel, who bears the stigma of his mother's misdeeds and betrayals. Praying that their passion will peak and fade, Imriel and Sidonie embark on an intense, secret affair.

Blessed Elua founded Terre d'Ange and bestowed one simple precept to guide his people: Love as thou wilt. When duty calls, Imriel honors his role as a member of the royal family by leaving to marry a lovely, if merely sweet, Alban princess. By choosing duty over love, Imriel and Sidonie may have unwittingly trespassed against Elua's law. But when dark powers in Alba, who fear an invasion by Terre d'Ange, seek to use the lovers' passion to bind Imriel, the gods themselves take notice.

Before the end, Kushiel's justice will be felt in heaven and on earth.

As is usually her wont, Jacqueline Carey's worldbuilding was absolutely amazing. For the backdrop of her fantasy universe, she eschewed the traditional European medieval environment and created something that is more akin to the Renaissance era and which is set in an alternate version of Western Europe. And although Kushiel's Scion turned out to be another textured and sophisticated novel that basically delivered on all fronts, the book was not as dense and sprawling as its predecessors and the action was limited to Terre d'Ange (France) and Tiberium (Rome) and its surroundings. With Kushiel's Justice, I was hoping that Carey would take us on additional fabulous journeys that would enable us to discover more about her universe and I wasn't disappointed. Beyond Terre d'Ange, other countries such as England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Russia are explored and play a big role as Imriel's tale moves forward. Richly detailed and imagined in terms of cultures, traditions, religions, folklore, and politics, Carey has imbued every place with magic and a life of its own. I was particularly happy to finally discover where the Yeshuite pilgrims have been journeying all these years to create a new kingdom in the frozen north. As always, the web of murder and political intrigue woven by the author is as impressive and unanticipated as the politicking of such masters as George R. R. Martin and Katherine Kurtz. Believe you me: Kushiel's Justice is almost impossible to put down!

Terre d'Ange was founded by Elua and his Companions, all of them fallen angels. Elua's motto was "Love as thou wilt." Which means that love and physical pleasure are important facets of D'Angeline society. As a matter of course, sexuality once again lies at the heart of this story, and service to the angel Naamah continues to be one of the most important religious institutions of Terre d'Ange. Imriel is a child of Elua, but he is also a child of Kushiel, whose justice can be as brutal as it is uncompromising. And as ancient powers seek to bind Imriel against his will, both Elua and Kushiel will take notice.

Jacqueline Carey continues to write with an elegance that reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay at his best. Her lyrical prose is something special and I have a feeling that it could well be the very best in the genre today. Even the darkest and more shocking scenes are written with a distinctive literary grace that makes them even more powerful than they would be in the hands of a less gifted author. Once more in Kushiel's Justice, her spellbinding prose creates an imagery filled with wonder and beauty that never fails to fascinate. Like Robin Hobb, Carey also possesses a subtle human touch which imbues some scenes with even more emotional impact. And God knows there are more than a few of those! And damn her, again à la Hobb, Carey makes her characters suffer like no other genre authors. Given the dark and disturbing events that Imriel was forced to live through in Kushiel's Avatar and Kushiel's Scion, you would think that the poor guy deserves a break. But no, far from it. Just when you thought that he had finally found a bit of happiness, he gets the rug pulled from under him. This book contains one of the most heartwrenching moments of the series thus far.

I have to admit that I still miss the first person narrative of Phèdre nó Delaunay. As a deeply flawed character, her strengths and weaknesses made her genuine and her perspective, that of an older woman relating the tale of her past, misled readers on several occasions by playing with their expectations. I liked how Phèdre's strenghts often became her weaknesses and vice versa. But Imriel is deeply flawed himself and his point of view, though it took some getting used to in the first volume, now works nearly as well as that of his foster mother. Jacqueline Carey has a knack for creating engaging and memorable secondary characters, and once again the cast is amazing. Indeed, beyond the presence of Phèdre, Joscelin, and their entourage, this one would never have been such a satisfying read without the presence of such characters as Sidonie, Alais, Dorelei, Urist, and many more. The reunion with Hyacinthe and Sibeal was short but touching, and I have a feeling that Phèdre and Joscelin's quest will have repercussions in the final installment. As was the case with every Kushiel book to date, à la Mark Lawrence, Robin Hobb, and L. E. Modessit, jr., Carey refuses to follow the path of least resistance and her characters remain true to themselves till the very end. For good or ill.

In terms of rhythm, this one was paced much better than its predecessor. Kushiel's Justice is another doorstopper of a book, yet for the most part it's a real page-turner. The author has a knack for coming up with plot twists that suck you in and won't let go. No doubt about it, this one makes for compulsive reading! Simply put, Kushiel's Justice is another sophisticated and convoluted read full of wonder and sensuality. Written on an epic scale and with an elegance seldom seen in this subgenre, Jacqueline Carey did it again. Kushiel's Justice is as complex and rewarding as any of the best works of fantasy out there.

These two series deserve the highest possible recommendation.

The final verdict: 9/10

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

Quote of the Day

Some things never changed: No one gave a shit what we were up to. It was none of their business if someone else got robbed, or killed, or worse. The greatest invisibility tech that had ever been invented was simple apathy.

- JEFF SOMERS, Avery Cates: The Bey (Canada, USA, Europe)

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…

Enjoy!
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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! =)

Enjoy!
------------------------

- 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 (http://www.heliosphereny.org/) in Tarrytown, New York from March 10-12, and MarCon (http://marcon.org/) 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 (http://www.thepixelproject.net/), 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.


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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.

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