Here's an extract from Jacqueline Carey's forthcoming Miranda and Caliban, courtesy of the author! 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 is a good many days before Papa is prepared to summon the wild boy. He chides me for impatience when I can bear it no longer and ask him when he means to do so.
“Are you a magus to chart the heavens?” he asks me. There is a cutting edge to his voice that warns me I have overstepped my bounds, and something inside me shrinks at the sound of it. “Can you tell me when the stars will be favorable for this endeavor?” I shake my head no and Papa waves one hand in dismissal. “Then importune me no more.”
I swallow my impatience and hold my tongue.
Of course there is a great deal more to Papa’s art than the simple notion of like drawing like on which it is founded. I know this although I understand but the merest portion of it.
I know that God in His heaven is the highest of highs, and there are nine orders of angels that sing His praises. Between earth and heaven are the celestial spheres, and the planets whose emanations influence all that happens here on earth.
There are seven planets, which are called the Seven Governors, and they are the sun and the moon, of course, and Venus and Mercury and Mars and Saturn and Jupiter; and each of them have secret names, too. Those are the names Papa chants every morning at sunrise to draw down their influence.
I know that the planets follow a wandering path within their spheres and the fixed stars move with the turning of their sphere, and that some conjunctions are good and some are bad. Also there are things in nature which attract the planets as like draws to like, and that the good Lord God has placed everything in nature for man’s disposal.
And that is what I know.
Oh, and there are stories written in the gathering of the stars. When Papa is in a rare good humor, he tells them to me.
I think waiting would be easier if Papa would only tell me how long until the conjunction of the planets will be favorable for summoning the wild boy, but mayhap it is a more difficult tally to reckon than how many eggs a hen has laid in a week. Although that is not always easy either. Unless they are broody, hens do not always stay on their nests.
Alas, when Papa tells me at last that he means to summon the wild boy on the morrow, he tells me that one of the hens must be sacrificed in the attempt; a white hen to attract the moon’s influence.
There is only one pure white hen and that is my Bianca.
I cannot contain my tears, but Papa is gentle at first. “You’ve kept your tally well, child, but ‘tis time a new brood were hatched and ‘twere best done while summer’s warmth lingers,” he says kindly. “Think on it. In a month’s time, you’ll have chicks to console you.”
That may be, but a chick is not the same as my sweet Bianca. “Would not one of the others serve?” I plead. “Bianca is yet a better layer than Nunzia.” Papa’s expression changes. I look down to avoid his gaze. “Forgive me, Papa. It is only that she is my favorite.”
“I cannot change the laws that govern the planets and their correspondences, Miranda,” he says. “And I should hope that your devotion to your father casts a longer shadow than your fondness for a mere hen.”
Fresh tears prick my eyes at the thought that Papa should think such a thing. “Of course!”
Papa nods. “Very well then.”
I spend hours in the kitchen garden and make much of Bianca that afternoon, holding her in my lap and petting her soft white feathers. She is content to nestle against me in the hot sun. Claudio struts nearby, pecks at the dirt, and looks askance at us.
I wish that Papa’s spell called for a rooster, but that is a piece of foolishness. Were it not for Claudio, there would no chicks in the offing. Such is the way of the world.
In the small hours of the night, a storm breaks over the island. Gales of wind howl through the palace; outside its walls, jagged spears of lightning pierce the heavens as the rains lash down. The distant sea must be wave-tossed and raging, a thought that fills me with unspeakable terror.
I cower beneath my bed-linens and think about the wild boy, wondering where he takes shelter from the storm.
I wonder if he is as frightened as I am.
Outside the palace wall in the front courtyard, the spirit trapped in the pine tree begins to wail, awakened by the storm. It is a terrible sound, keening and filled with fury and anguish. Papa should like to free the spirit, for he believes it is far more powerful than any of the simple elementals, but thus far he has been unable to find the key to the curse that binds it, and I am secretly grateful for it. I huddle on my pallet, pull the linens over my head, and wait for the storm to pass.
In time it does. The wind ceases to roar and the dinning rains lessen to a patter. The spirit in the pine falls silent, and I sleep.
I awaken to Papa giving me a gentle shake in the grey darkness before the dawn. “Miranda,” he says. “It is time.”
The air smells of wet stone and dust. I suppose dust is no longer dust when it is wet, but it has the same smell, which is different from the smell of soil or mud. Papa is clad in white robes trimmed with pale blue and silver embroidery. I cannot see the color in the dim light, but the silver thread glints and I know the other is pale blue. There are pouches strung from his belt and the hilt of a dagger protrudes from it. He carries his wooden staff as well as a little silver bowl that hangs from a chain. The latter sways as he walks, smoke trickling from holes that pierce the lid so that I know the bowl contains embers.
In the garden outside the kitchen, the patchy grass is wet beneath my bare feet. When Papa bids me retrieve Bianca, I weep silently, but I do not disobey. Bianca clucks in sleepy protest, but she suffers me to wrap her in the folds of my makeshift gown and bind her wings at her sides.
Holding her fast, I follow Papa through the palace gate and into the front courtyard where the great pine stands.
Another time, it would gladden my heart to be allowed to attend Papa in the practice of his art, but I cannot be glad today. Not with Bianca cradled trusting in my arms and the memory of the storm’s fury and the pine spirit’s cries ringing in my ears. At least the spirit remains quiet as Papa turns to face the eastern sky behind the palace and chants the music of the spheres.
Papa’s deep voice makes the air tremble, and it trembles twice over as the planets in their distant spheres pour down their emanations in response and the rising sun turns the sky to gold. It is impossible to remain unmoved at the beauty of it; but when it is over he turns to me.
“Now you must give me the hen and tend to the thurible,” he says to me, tucking his staff in the crook of his arm and putting out one hand.
I pass Bianca carefully to Papa. He tucks her against his side and gives me the hanging bowl’s chain to hold. Thurible. So that is its name. I clutch the chain tightly and look away as Bianca begins to struggle. At least her end is a swift one. Out of the corner of one eye, I see Papa drop to one knee and the silver flash of his dagger as he beheads her. He keeps her body pinned to the flagstones while it twitches in its final throes.
My breath catches in my throat and one small sob escapes me. I fight to swallow the others.
Still kneeling, Papa lifts the lid of the thurible. Reaching into the various pouches hanging from his belt, he retrieves handfuls of aromatic herbs and casts them onto the coals. Fragrant smoke arises. Replacing the lid, he rises and takes the thurible from me, swinging it gracefully on its chain. With his other hand, he holds his staff aloft. Sunlight sparks from the crystal atop it.
“May God bless you, O Moon, you who are the blessed lady, fortunate, cold and moist, equitable and lovely,” Papa intones. “You are the chief and the key of all the other planets, swift in your motion, having light that shines, lady of happiness and joy, of good words, good reputation, and fortunate realms.”
I wait quietly as he continues the invocation, my hands clasped before me. I am grateful that Papa has not dismissed me. Overhead the sky lightens to blue, the pale blue of the embroidery hemming his robe. The day will be clear after the night’s storm. Strange to see, the moon is visible in the morning sky, a ghostly white orb.
It is not quite full. I imagine that the Lady Moon turns her face away out of modesty, yet listens attentively to Papa’s prayer.
I try to keep my gaze trained upon her. I pretend to myself that this is because it is the polite thing to do, but also it is because I do not want to look down. When I blink, at the bottom edge of my gaze I see whiteness below me; white feathers stirring in the light breeze. There will be red blood splattering the rain-washed paving stones, too.
“Camar, Luna, Mehe, Zamahyl, Cerim, Celez!” Papa calls to the moon. “By all thy names I invoke thee that you hear my petition!”
He kneels once more, swinging the thurible around himself in a circle, then rises and repeats the invocation.
My feet grow sore from standing on the flagstones. I shift my weight from one foot to another.
I do not believe that it required so great a working of Papa’s art to summon Oriana the first time, but then she is a mere beast, no matter how wilful. A man is a reflection of God himself, and that is another matter.
I think the wild boy is a man, or at least a boy. I cannot be wholly sure, for I have never seen him clearly. When he spies upon me from the garden wall outside my bedchamber, he is clever about lurking in the dappled shadows. Still, I feel almost certain that he means me no harm. I cannot say that is always true of Oriana, who butts me with her bony head and the hard nubbins of her horns when she is in a foul mood.
The sun climbs overhead and the morning grows hot. I feel prickly with sweat and hollow with hunger.
Papa finishes a third recitation of his invocation, stands, and sets aside the thurible. Now he holds forth a new amulet strung around his neck on a chain. It is in the form of a silver cage wrought in a sphere, and there are strands of coarse black hair wrapped around the silver wires.
“By the strength of mine art and the very hairs of thine head, I summon thee!” Papa says in a commanding voice, thumping the metal-shod heel of his staff on the flagstones. “Come forth!”
I had not reckoned on waiting so long; but of course, that is foolish, too. The wild boy might be near or far. He is free to roam the whole of the isle, and it is almost half a league from the palace to the seashore alone.
Papa stands tall and motionless, as though an eternity might pass without his noticing, his gaze fixed on the east. His hair, which is long and iron grey, spills over his shoulders. The faint breeze stirs his hair and his beard, which is also iron grey marked with two streaks that yet remain black.
I am thirsty, too.
Our shadows grow smaller as the sun climbs. The spirit trapped in the great pine lets out a wail, unexpected and plaintive. I jump at the sound of it, but Papa only glances at the tree. “Be at peace, gentle spirit,” he murmurs. “It is my hope that this endeavor will one day bear fruit that may aid thee.”
I am not sure what he means by it, but the spirit falls silent.
And still we wait, until it seems to me that I have never done aught else save stand in this courtyard beneath the hot sun, footsore and hungry and parched. I grow so terribly weary that even a glimpse of the still body of my poor sweet Bianca no longer moves me to tears. It is merely another object with no more or less value than any other object. Only a strong desire to make Papa proud keeps me from begging to be excused. I fear that were I to do so, it would be a year or more before he would trust me to attend him in the practice of his art.
At last, there is motion in the distance; a hunched figure approaches on the horizon.
Here's an extract from L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s Recluce Tales, a collection of short stories set in the Recluce universe, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
For over a thousand years, Order and Chaos have molded the island of Recluce. The Saga of Recluce chronicles the history of this world through eighteen books, L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s most expansive and bestselling fantasy series. Recluce Tales: Stories from the World of Recluce collects seventeen new short stories and four popular reprints spanning the thousand-year history of Recluce. First-time readers will gain a glimpse of the fascinating world and its complex magic system, while longtime readers of the series will be treated to glimpses into the history of the world. Modesitt's essay “Behind the ‘Magic’ of Recluce” gives insight into his thoughts on developing the magical system that rules the Island of Recluce and its surrounding lands, while “The Vice Marshal's Trial” takes the reader back to the first colonists on Recluce. Old favorites “Black Ordermage” and “The Stranger” stand side-by-side with thrilling new stories.
"A Game of Capture"
There are games for pleasure, and then there are other games.
The lower limb of the white sun had barely touched the gray-green waters of the Gulf of Candar on that late harvest day when the two black engineers settled onto opposite sides of the Capture board in the rear corner of Houlart’s.
Aloryk set down his mug of dark lager, pulled a handful of coppers from his wallet and juggled them in his hand, then closed his fist and laid it on the wood bordering the inlaid lattices of the board, lattices with depressions for the polished black-and-white stones. “Odd or even?”
“Even,” replied Paitrek, brushing back his thinning black hair as he eased the chair in which he sat closer to the table, the top of which was effectively the Capture board. He took a swal- low of his golden ale, then set down his mug.
Aloryk turned his hand and unclenched his fist. Four cop- pers lay in his palm. “Even it is.”
“Black.” Paitrek picked up one of the black stones from its well-crafted box and placed it on the corner depression of a four-lattice.
Aloryk countered by placing a white stone on the corner of a three-lattice near the center of the board.
“You always do that,” offered a third voice from seeming emptiness.
Aloryk looked up to see Faynal appear, smiling at him. “It works. And I hate it when you sneak up like that.”
“Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. You need to be more unpredictable. Chaos is. And I need to practice concealments. It’s harder to avoid detection with people who know you.”
“That makes it hard on your friends.”
“You’re ignoring my point about the center opening,” said Faynal. “It’s still chaotic.”
“Tell that to the High Wizard of Fairhaven.” Aloryk noted that Paitrek had added another black stone, in a way that could either create another lattice or complete a four. He debated for an instant before adding a white next to his first, then added, “You fuzzy air mage.” He grinned.
“Spoken like an engineer.” Faynal shook his head, and made his way toward the front door, doubtless hurrying home to his consort.
Aloryk took another swallow from his mug. He was thirsty. As he set it down, he realized that a blond man seated alone at a table for two against the wall had turned to listen to the last few words of his exchange with Faynal. His jacket was the kind worn by Nordlan merchant officers, not that Aloryk had seen many, but merchanters were welcome ashore in Nordla, unlike the officers and crews of warships, and Houlart’s was close enough to the piers that some did eat there. On the other hand, warships weren’t even allowed in the harbor except by approval of the Council. Belatedly, he added a white stone to a four-lattice bordering one edge of the board.
Paitrek positioned a black stone away from his others, then lifted his mug and gestured to the board.
“Who’s the stranger?” Aloryk murmured as he looked up from the board after playing his next stone, convinced that the merchant officer was covertly studying them. He couldn’t tell from the sleeve markings whether he was a junior officer or more senior.
Paitrek looked up and frowned. “Never saw him before. He’s junior. Third mate of some sort. Concentrate on the game. I’ll have you blocked if you don’t. Then you won’t be able to complete any lattices on that side.” He reached for his mug.
Aloryk shifted his attention back to the board for the next several moves, until he realized the Nordlan had moved to ob- serve the game. Sometimes, other engineers came by and commented, but this was the first time Aloryk had seen an outsider do so.
“What is the game?” The officer spoke Temple without an accent, but perhaps a trace too precisely.
“Capture,” answered Paitrek.
“I have never seen its like before. What is the goal?”
“The black player has to build a connected set of lattices, comprising at least fifteen stones, that cannot be surrounded. The white’s goal is to keep the lattices from being connected while creating a single line from one side of the board to the op- posite side. The white player can go either the width or the length of the board.”
“Then it is a strategy game.” “Of sorts,” said Paitrek dryly.
The Nordlan studied the board for a short time, frowning, before saying, “Are you two engineers or mages?”
“Why do you ask?” Paitrek looked vaguely annoyed as he placed another black stone.
“I have not been to Nylan before. All I have heard is that mages wear black and engineers wear black, but there are no markings to tell one from the other.”
“That’s because, if you can’t tell, it shouldn’t matter,” replied Aloryk, returning his attention to the board.
“That is like saying one Nordlan is the same as another Nordlan.” The merchant officer sounded amused.
“I suppose so,” replied Paitrek disinterestedly. “Capture is all about balance,” offered Aloryk. “So is engineering. Is that why you play it?”
Aloryk suddenly realized what bothered him about the Nord- lan. Nordlans spoke more like Hamorians, and there weren’t any Temple speakers anywhere in Nordla, not that Aloryk had heard. So where had a Nordlan merchant officer learned to speak such good Temple? Also, an outland engineer wouldn’t usually equate balance with engineering, since they didn’t use mage- forged black iron.
Without looking up from the board, he studied the Nord- lan with his limited order senses, not that his abilities were anywhere close to those of Faynal. On the surface, the Nordlan seemed to be much like any other outlander, and even many on Recluce—a swirl of order around him, dotted with hints of chaos . . . except that Aloryk could sense nothing below that surface, nothing at all.
“You an engineer?” Aloryk asked as he placed a white stone on the opposite side of the Capture board from where he’d placed the last one, except the position was “lower.” He ignored Paitrek’s quizzical glance.
“I am not. I am a junior navigator.”
Junior navigator? Just what merchant vessel could afford that kind of extra officer? “On what ship?” Aloryk forced his eyes back to the board and Paitrek’s next move.
“The Pride of Brysta.”
“Must be more profitable than most merchanters to carry two navigators.” Aloryk didn’t look at the Nordlan who likely wasn’t anything of the sort, but concentrated on the board for several moments before adding another white stone at an angle to the one he had previously played. “Of course, I’m just a ju- nior engineer.” Those words were the opening to another game. “You work on building the black ships?” The Nordlan’s tone was idle, as if he had asked about the weather.
“That’s no secret. Any engineer who wears blacks does, in some way or another.” After Paitrek placed his next stone, Alo- ryk could see the possible multiple linkages that Paitrek was setting up, and he placed a white stone to block the easiest linkage.
“There are no other engineers in Nylan?” The not-Nordlan sounded honestly surprised.
“Shipwrights, but not engineers,” replied Aloryk. “Their yards are on the south side of the harbor.”
Paitrek placed a black stone, and Aloryk placed his white next to the one he had just positioned.
“But . . . they do not use engineers?”
“All low-powered steam engines operate the same way. So do all sails.” Aloryk shrugged. “Generally speaking, anyone looking for an engineer around here either doesn’t understand, or is the sort of person that the black mages will take an interest in.”
“Are black engineers not working ordermages?”
“Oh, we can tell when there are others around who can handle chaos or order, sometimes even when they’re so good that they can shield what lies beneath the surface. But we work with engineers’ tools on very hard metal.” Aloryk placed an- other white stone, linking the three in the middle. “We leave containing chaos—except in games like Capture—to the true order-masters.”
“But your black iron confines chaos, does it not?”
“Let’s just say that it does what it’s supposed to.” Aloryk looked to Paitrek, who had just placed another black stone.
“Doesn’t Maitre Thurmin come in before he heads out to brief the patrollers?” Aloryk knew Thurmin often did, so that even if the not-Nordlan could sense his order-chaos flows, he wasn’t lying and the fact that it was a question as well should keep his personal chaos level low.
“Sometimes, he does. Sometimes not. He doesn’t like to follow a routine. That’s what I’ve heard.”
Aloryk added to his center line, blocking Paitrek from linking a three- and a four-lattice, then looked up at the merchant officer who was far more than that. “You know, don’t you, that we exile our own children if they’re chaos-wielders, or even if they’re natural ordermages who can’t gain complete control of their abilities.”
“I have heard that. I do find that hard to believe, that Recluce would waste such abilities.”
“We don’t waste them,” said Aloryk, watching as Paitrek placed another black stone. “We just let other lands benefit. Just a couple of years ago, maybe fifteen or twenty, we sent a natural ordermage to Hamor. He ended up saving the Emperor or some such. And then there was my cousin’s great-uncle. He liked gaming too much, and he ended up borrowing from a Suthyan trader. He used his access to the engineering halls to copy black ship plans so that he could give them to the Suthyan to pay off what he owed. He was found dead in the halls with the copies of the plans, frozen solid. Suthyan traders were prohibited from landing anywhere on Recluce for more than ten years. Destroyed the factor’s business, I heard.” Those two examples Aloryk knew well. He’d heard of the first for years, and he’d gotten more than a little tired of hearing about the trials experienced by Dynacia’s widowed aunt Almyra.
“Frozen solid? I do not understand.”
“Put him in a state of perfect order. Removed all the chaos from his body.” Aloryk added a white stone to the one on the left side of the board. “The maitres have such perfect control that even we can’t sense where they are.”
“Nope,” added Paitrek, “tends to keep one a bit honest.” He looked to Aloryk. “Your play.”
“You really think you can get all three of those lattices together?” Aloryk was just talking. He’d been concentrating more on the not-Nordlan than on the game, and there was only a slim chance he could even salvage a draw.
“You’ll have to see.”
“I find that hard to believe, that they are so skilled,” the not-Nordlan finally said.
While Aloryk had never been able to master a full conceal- ment, he could, for a short time, shield himself from all chaos— as could most successful engineers, those who survived. He did so, while playing another white stone, and saying, “We’re just engineers, nothing to compare to the great mages. They can do so much more. Of course, they probably wouldn’t bother some- one returning to his ship. They could certainly tell if he were telling the truth.” He looked to Paitrek. “Your turn.”
Paitrek immediately placed a white stone. “That’s a double-lattice.”
Aloryk placed a white stone to block Paitrek from immediately linking the double to a three-stone lattice, knowing he was only delaying the inevitable.
Paitrek countered by completing a three-lattice positioned either to link to the other side of the existing double or to com- plete a double on the far side.
Aloryk blocked that, but Paitrek completed the double.
In turn, Aloryk extended his center, but he could see that he was going to lose. He glanced up, but the Nordlan had left. Only a faint lingering sense of chaos remained, a sense that Aloryk hadn’t detected before.
He managed a faint smile, then lifted his mug and took a deeper swallow, before returning his full concentration to the game.
Five moves later, Paitrek linked his two groups of lattices. “You see. I won.”
Aloryk smiled. “I think we all won.” But his words were barely loud enough for Paitrek to hear.
“I think not. I’ve enough games for tonight.”
Paitrek grinned. “You played that other game pretty well.” “I thought so. We’ll have to stop and tell the guards. He might be smart enough to go back to his ship. If not . . .” He’ll experience perfect order.
The two engineers replaced the stones in their respective boxes, then stood and walked toward the door.
You can now download L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s The Magic of Recluce for only 2.99$ here!
And here's the blurb for The Magic of Recluce:
With The Magic of Recluce, L.E. Modesitt made his impressive hardcover debut, breaking out in wide scope and grand scale with a novel in the great tradition of the war between good and evil in a wonderful fantasy world. Modesitt had been producing fast-paced, slickly-written novels of SF adventure, often compared to the work of Keith Laumer and Gordon R. Dickson. Then, in his biggest and best book yet, he broadened his canvas and turned to fantasy and magic, stepping immediately into the front rank of contemporary fantasy writers. The Magic of Recluce is a carefully-plotted fantasy novel of character about the growth and education of a young magician. In it, Modesitt confronts real moral issues with gripping force, builds atmosphere slowly and convincingly and gives his central character, Lerris, real intellectual challenges. This is the kind of highly-rationalized fantasy that Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson write when they write fantasy, colorful and detailed. He is given the standard two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. He chooses dangergeld. Though magic is rarely discussed openly in Recluce, it becomes clear, when Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, that he has a natural talent for it during his weapons lessons. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. He must learn to use his powers in an orderly way or fall prey to Chaos. Lerris may resent order, but he has no difficulty choosing good over evil. As he begins his lonely journey, he falls into the company of a gray magician, once of Recluce, who tutors him in the use of magic and shows him some of the devastation caused by the Chaos Wizards in the great wars between Chaos and Order of past times. Lerris pursues a quest for knowledge and power that leads him across strange lands, through the ghostly ruins of the old capitol of Chaos, down the white roads of the Chaos Wizards to a final battle with the archenemy of Order, discovering in the end true control of magic, true love, and the beginning of true wisdom. An epic adventure, The Magic of Recluce0, is a triumph of fantasy. The Magic of Recluce is the first book of the saga of Recluce.
You can get your hands on the digital edition of Paul Kearney's excellent The Wolf in the Attic for only 0.99$ here. One of the best fantasy titles of 2016, no question!
Here's the blurb:
1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien... and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them. Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea. But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is. That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.
Tad Williams' modern classic The Dragonbone Chair is available for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
With The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams introduced readers to the incredible fantasy world of Osten Ard. His beloved, internationally bestselling series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn inspired a generation of modern fantasy writers, including George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini, and defined Tad Williams as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time. This edition features a brand-new introduction from Tad Williams' editor as well as the original introduction from Williams himself! BOOK ONE: THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard. Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die. After the landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, the epic saga of Osten Ard continues with the brand-new novel, The Heart of What Was Lost. Then don’t miss the upcoming trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, beginning with The Witchwood Crown!
Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
Don't know for how long, but you can now download Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
WINNER OF THE 2015 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL #1 New York Times bestseller! In a high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. “Mr. Mercedes is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses” (The Washington Post). The stolen Mercedes emerges from the pre-dawn fog and plows through a crowd of men and women on line for a job fair in a distressed American city. Then the lone driver backs up, charges again, and speeds off, leaving eight dead and more wounded. The case goes unsolved and ex-cop Bill Hodges is out of hope when he gets a letter from a man who loved the feel of death under the Mercedes’s wheels… Brady Hartsfield wants that rush again, but this time he’s going big, with an attack that would take down thousands—unless Hodges and two new unusual allies he picks up along the way can throw a wrench in Hartsfield’s diabolical plans. Stephen King takes off on a “nerve-shredding, pulse-pounding race against time” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) with this acclaimed #1 bestselling thriller.
You can now get your hands on the digital edition of The Living Dead, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth!" From White Zombie to Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil to World War Z, zombies have invaded popular culture, becoming the monsters that best express the fears and anxieties of the modern west. Gathering together the best zombie literature of the last three decades from many of today's most renowned authors of fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror, including Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, George R. R. Martin, Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Joe R. Lansdale, The Living Dead covers the broad spectrum of zombie fiction.
Today only, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Joe Hill's The Fireman for only 3.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman. The fireman is coming. Stay cool. No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe. Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child. Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged. In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.
You can now download Robert McCammon's Swan Song for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
McCammon’s epic bestselling novel about a girl psychic struggling to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. Something flashes in nine-year-old Swan’s brain, telling her that trouble is coming. Maybe it’s her mother, fed up with her current boyfriend and ready to abandon their dismal trailer park and seek a new home. But something far worse is on the horizon. Death falls from the sky—nuclear bombs which annihilate American civilization. Though Swan survives the blast, this young psychic’s war is just beginning. As the survivors try to make new lives in the wasteland, an evil army forms, intent on murdering all those tainted with the diseases brought by fallout. When Swan finds a mysterious amulet that could hold the key to humankind’s salvation, she draws the attention of a man more dangerous than any nuclear bomb. To rescue mankind, this little girl will have to grow up fast.
Right off the bat, let me tell you just how great it was to finally return to the world of Osten Ard! I read To Green Angel Tower when it initially came out in 1993, so I've been waiting for over two decades to discover what happens next. Many thanks to Tad Williams and his wife Deborah for sending me a set of page proofs of The Heart of What Was Lost a couple of months ago so I could have an early read of one of my most eagerly anticipated speculative fiction titles of 2017! I knew that bottle of wine I supplied for a dinner a few years back would pay off one day!
One thing about the cover blurb before I begin this review, though. Williams mentioned that this tale was meant to be a novella which ultimately grew in size and became a short novel. With the blurb stating that The Heart of What Was Lost is the perfect introduction for new readers, I was afraid that the story would have been padded with material meant to refresh readers' memories and provide newbies with enough information to understand what is going on. Thankfully (or not), for Williams fans at least, absolutely no effort is made to reacquaint readers with the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn storylines. The page proofs I read contained no "what has gone before" section, but here's to hoping that the final version will. As it was, I had to go back and reread the notes I took when I first read the series back in the 90s.
Hence, I must stress out the fact that this book is not meant for anyone not familiar with the characters and plotlines of the original trilogy. If you have yet to visit Osten Ard, then The Heart of What Was Lost is definitely not for you. Read The Dragonbone Chair and its sequels. This one is a vignette of sorts focusing on the aftermath of the fall of Ineluki and the events which will come to be known as the Siege of Nakkiga. Without any context, it would likely make for a lackluster read. But for fans who have been waiting for years for exactly this, this book is a doozy!
Here's the blurb:
New York Times-bestselling Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle! • Perfect beginning for new readers! The perfect introduction to the epic fantasy world of Osten Ard, The Heart of What Was Lost is Tad Williams’ follow-up to his internationally bestselling landmark trilogy. Osten Ard inspired a generation of modern fantasy writers, including George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini, and defined Tad Williams as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time.
A NOVEL OF OSTEN ARD At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi. In the wake of the Storm King’s fall, Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, dark cousins to the Sithi, choose to flee the lands of men and retreat north to Nakkiga, their ancient citadel within the hollow heart of the mountain called Stormspike. But as the defeated Norns make their way to this last haven, the mortal Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur leads an army in pursuit, determined to end the Norns’ attacks and defeat their ageless Queen Utuk’ku for all time. Two southern soldiers, Porto and Endri, joined the mortal army to help achieve this ambitious goal—though as they venture farther and farther into the frozen north, braving the fierce resistance and deadly magics of the retreating Norns, they cannot help but wonder what they are doing so very far from home. Meanwhile, the Norns must now confront the prospect of extinction at the hands of Isgrimnur and his mortal army. Viyeki, a leader of the Norns’ military engineers, the Order of Builders, desperately seeks a way to help his people reach their mountain—and then stave off the destruction of their race. For the two armies will finally clash in a battle to be remembered as the Siege of Nakkiga; a battle so strange and deadly, so wracked with dark enchantment, that it threatens to destroy not just one side but quite possibly all. Trapped inside the mountain as the mortals batter at Nakkiga’s gates, Viyeki the Builder will discover disturbing secrets about his own people, mysteries both present and past, represented by the priceless gem known as The Heart of What Was Lost.
In terms of worldbuilding, I was aware that the format of this book would probably preclude much depth. Surprisingly, Tad Williams nevertheless managed to imbue this one with lots of layers. True, most of the groundwork has been laid out in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. But this one focuses on new players for the most part, so I was pleasantly surprised that The Heart of What Was Lost could pack such a powerful punch as far as worldbuilding is concerned. This is mostly due to the fact that we get a Norn point of view, which was great. The Sithi and the Norn are not your typical elf-like race, and for some reason Williams is the only fantasy author who can bring out the darker nature of the fairy folk in such a fashion. To finally get the opportunity to discover more about the inner workings of the Norn society was doubtless the most fascinating aspect of this novel. As far as geography is concerned, the tale occurs in the far north. It begins on the Frostmarch Road as Duke Isgrimnur's army is pursuing what is left of the Norn troops fleeing back to Nakkiga, where a brutal siege will take place. The duke and his men will soon find out that, cornered with nowhere else to go, the Hikeda'ya will sell their lives dearly. Sadly, this book features the same old map from the original trilogy. Let's hope that The Witchwood Crown will sport a new, more detailed map of Osten Ard.
The characterization was a bit uneven. It was a pleasure to have Duke Isgrimnur back as a POV protagonist. His storyline creates a continuity between The Heart of What Was Lost and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, so it was nice to have him back. The story takes place a few weeks following the events chronicled in To Green Angel Tower, so the man is the same character we have come to love in the first series. Porto's point of view, however, was often a bit extraneous. I understand that both he and Endri are meant to convey the rank and file's perspective and allow us to witness events through the eyes of someone other than the duke. And yet, as the plot moved forward, I found that Porto's sections occasionally got in the way of the important stuff. Also, as far as striking a balance between the various perspectives, I felt that it might have worked better with only Isgrimnur and Viyeki had been POV protagonists. Speaking of the Builder, his point of view is by far the most interesting, for it offers readers a wealth of information regarding the Norn and Nakkiga. Problem is, although intelligent and talented, Viyeki is a brown-nosing sycophant. And even if he grows a backbone before the end, it's hard to root for him. Especially given that the book features a number of captivating Hideka'ya, chief among them Yaarike, High Magister of the Order of Builders, General Suno'ku, and Akhenabi, Lord of Song. The same goes of Ayaminu, the mysterious Sitha-woman observer sent to accompany the duke's army.
There are a few slow-moving parts here and there, but the pace is never really an issue. Given the length of this one, I expected no less. But it will be interesting to see if Tad Williams has learned from his errors of the past and if he'll keep the rhythm more or less fluid in what will certainly be the doorstopper installments of The Last King of Osten Ard. He proved that he could do so in the Bobby Dollar books, so here's to hoping that he'll manage to dodge the bullet that prevented many a reader from enjoying The Dragonbone Chair and the subsequent volumes of the first trilogy.
As I mentioned earlier, The Heart of What Was Lost is nothing more than a vignette, a brief episode focusing on the Siege of Nakkiga. And though it's a satisfying read, it doesn't capture the imagination the way Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn did. What it does, however, is set the stage perfectly for The Witchwood Crown and its sequels. Viyeki's point of view, especially, unveils so much information about the Hideka'ya factions and their plans of vengeance against the mortals. The Storm King is no more and Queen Utuk'ku has yet to regain consciousness, but it is obvious that the Norn will not go quietly into the night. I can't wait to find out what happens next!
So much so that if George R. R. Martin's The Winds of Winter and Tad Williams' The Witchwood Crown came out on the same day (not going to happen, but just for the sake of argument), right now I'd probably read the latter first.
In the end, The Heart of What Was Lost is the perfect companion book for anyone who loved Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and the perfect setup book for The Last King of Osten Ard. Read it and try to contain your excitement as we wait for The Witchwood Crown to be published. God knows I can't!
As an aside, I'm wondering if Williams still plans to release A Chronicle in Stone, a collection of short stories set in Osten Ard, now that he is hard at work on the second series. Haven't heard anything about it for years, so I figure that this project has been postponed for the immediate future.
You can once again get your hands on N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, recent Hugo award winner, for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS... FOR THE LAST TIME. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Alex Marshall's A Crown For Cold Silver for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
"It was all going so nicely, right up until the massacre." Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history. Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner. FIVE VILLAINS. ONE LEGENDARY GENERAL. A FINAL QUEST FOR VENGEANCE.
Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, I have two copies of Brandon Sanderson's Arcanum Unbounded for you to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
An all-new Stormlight Archive novella, "Edgedancer," will be the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first book of short fiction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. The collection will include nine works in all. The first eight are: “The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris) “The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn) “The Emperor's Soul” (Elantris) “Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn) “White Sand" (excerpt; Taldain) "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody) “Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun) “Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn) These wonderful works, originally published on Tor.com and elsewhere individually, convey the expanse of the Cosmere and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect, including the Hugo Award-winning novella, “The Emperor's Soul” and an excerpt from the graphic novel "White Sand." Arcanum Unbounded will also contain the Stormlight Archive novella "Edgedancer," which will appear in this book for the first time anywhere. It is a story of Lift, taking place between Words of Radiance and the forthcoming Oathbringer. Finally, this collection includes essays and illustrations for the various planetary systems in which the stories are set.
The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "ARCANUM." 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.
You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Gregory Maguire's After Alice for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
From the multi-million-copy bestselling author of Wicked comes a magical new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis’s Carroll’s beloved classic. When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance? In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself. Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”
I have a copy of Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Saga Press. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders. Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results. But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.
The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "STORMS." 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!
And here's an extract from the book for you to enjoy!
Mother and Daughter
Pan: The Fourth Month in the Ninth Year of the Reign of Four Placid Seas.
“The emperor agrees with me that adding more biography to our curriculum is a good idea,” said Zato Ruthi.
A spring breeze wafted through the instruction hall, bringing with it the fragrance of early-blooming flowers.
“As the sons and daughters of the emperor, it is my hope that the great deeds of important historical figures will inspire you to greater virtue and that the patterns of the past will warn you of pitfalls for the future. I want each of you to spend the next month focusing on a figure of your choice from the recent past. You will study that person’s life in detail and explain his rise and fall, connecting that experience with the broader patterns of history.
“Fara, why don’t we begin with you? Who do you want to study?”
“I want to hear stories about Lady Mira,” said seven-year-old Fara. Three years had passed since the first Grand Examination of the Reign of Four Placid Seas. Though she had lost the baby fat that had once charmed the Lords of Dara, her eyes remained full of mischief and insuppressible delight.
“The Hegemon’s consort?” Ruthi pondered this request and then nodded approvingly. “Lady Mira tried to mitigate the Hegemon’s more volatile tendencies, and in the end she died to demonstrate her faith to her beloved husband. She was a paragon of virtuous womanhood, and a fit choice for a young lady to study. Now, Prince Timu, who is your favorite?”
Timu, now sixteen years of age, knelt up very properly, placed his hands together one behind the other, and slid them up the opposite forearms so that the owing sleeves covered both—this was a formal gesture he had learned from reading old books, as it showed respect for the teacher by not sullying the teacher’s eyes with leftover wax and stray ink on the student’s fingers. He bowed his handsome face.
“Master, I would like to study the deeds of King Jizu.” Phyro rolled his eyes. Fara giggled and covered her mouth.
“Ah.” Ruthi’s eyes glowed with pleasure. “That is an admirable choice. Of all the Tiro kings during the rebellion, Jizu was certainly one of the most virtuous. He loved the people more than life itself, and his sacrifice is rightfully celebrated by poets and wandering story- tellers alike. Designating him as a model for emulation speaks well of your character. What about you, Prince Phyro?”
“I want to hear all about the Hegemon and Queen Gin,” said the stocky twelve-year-old, who had grown much taller and more muscular in the last three years.
Ruthi hesitated. “The Hegemon did have nobility of character—a fact that the emperor recognized in his eulogy; I can understand the appeal. But why Queen Gin?”
“The Hegemon was the greatest warrior of Dara, yet Queen Gin defeated him—what tales of daring must lie behind that fact! Uncle Yemu and Duke Kimo often reminisce about the time they fought with her, but I’m sure there are stories they won’t tell me. Please, Master Ruthi, you have to satisfy my thirst for knowledge!”
Ruthi sighed. “I shall do my best, but you have to do the reading! I may begin by assigning you my essay on her conquest of Rima. . . . Remember, not all the rumors you’ve heard are true.”
Théra and Phyro exchanged knowing smiles. Ruthi turned to the last student. “Princess Théra, what about you?” The fourteen-year-old princess, whose face combined the beauty of her mother with a hint of her father’s impish looks in youth, hesitated only for a moment before replying, “I want to study Princess Kikomi.”
Ruthi frowned. “Théra, Kikomi chose to betray the rebellion out of her foolish devotion to Kindo Marana, Marshal of Xana. She played upon the affections of the Hegemon and the Hegemon’s uncle, seducing both with her wiles. She was fickle of character and unwise in her actions—a most unsuitable choice.”
Théra’s eyes ashed. She took a deep breath. “I respectfully disagree, Master. I believe Kikomi was misunderstood, and I intend to rehabilitate her name.”
“Oh? How do you mean?”
“The charge that she was motivated by love for Kindo Marana is based only upon the words she uttered before her death. There is no hint in any of the records of Kindo Marana that such a romance existed between the two.”
“We know that she took him to bed after the fall of Arulugi—this was attested in the trusted memoirs of palace of officials in Amu.”
Théra shook her head. “She was his captive by then. Her actions might have been an attempt to seduce him to save Amu. Müning fell but wasn’t sacked, which suggests she accomplished the same feat as Jizu: a deal with the conqueror to save the city.”
“Then what of her manipulation of the Hegemon and Phin Zyndu?”
“Could the ploy not have been the price exacted from her by Marana in exchange for sparing Amu? Marana was known to press every advantage to divide and conquer his enemies.”
“But she proclaimed her love for Marana even unto death!”
“She had to! If her plot were revealed, the Hegemon would have sought vengeance upon Amu. Her dying words could be an attempt to divert the Hegemon’s rage toward Marana.”
“This is a bold theory . . . but . . .”
“It’s no bolder than the ploy of Tututika, who during the Diaspora Wars played a similar game of seduction to save Amu from the wrath of Iluthan’s armies.”
“But you’re talking about a goddess—”
“Who is also the patron of Amu. She would have served as a natural inspiration for the princess.”
“You have no evidence—”
“I have read everything I could find concerning Kikomi not written by scholars and historians: memoirs by her adoptive family as well as by mere acquaintances; everything she wrote and was said to have written; gossip, legend, and lore. Practically all these sources agree that she was devoted to her people and ambitious, and I found her essays to be full of insights on the nature of power and the path of history. Her character simply does not match that of the foolish caricature drawn by court historians.”
“Yet history is full of examples of women who have done worse for love—”
Théra shook her head. “That’s just it, Master. If Kikomi were a man, would you have been so convinced that she betrayed her people for a misguided romance?”
“Men can certainly fall prey to the same disease. Indeed, Phin Zyndu was entrapped by Kikomi’s feminine wiles.”
“But you also speak of Phin Zyndu’s bravery and long-suffering preparation for vengeance, and the Hegemon’s courtship of Kikomi is but a single episode in the storytellers’ expansive repertoire based on his life. On the other hand, the women of history are defined by the men they loved. We never hear anything about Lady Mira except that she killed herself out of love for the Hegemon—Fara, did you know that Lady Mira’s art was once desired by all the nobles of Çaruza?— and we never talk about Kikomi except as a seductress blinded by love, though she was one of the most important leaders of the rebel- lion. Talent can wear a dress as well as a robe. Why the discrepancy?”
“Hmmm . . .” Zato Ruthi was at a loss for words.
“You see the patterns you expect to see, Master, and I believe Kikomi took advantage of that tendency—not just in you, but in the soldiers who rushed into Phin Zyndu’s bedroom. To accomplish her goals, she chose to sacrifice her own good name.”
“That is an act of great courage and wisdom to attribute to a woman. . . .”
“Master, you once misjudged a woman’s ability to fight a war, and you lost your throne. I say this not as an insult, but as a reminder that the lessons of history are not always easy to see. I can never prove to the satisfaction of all that my theory is right, but I choose to believe my version because it’s more interesting.”
She sat back in mipa rari, fully expecting to be berated by her teacher for bringing up a painful episode in his life.
After a long silence, Ruthi bowed down to Théra. Surprised, Théra bowed back.
“The proudest moment in a teacher’s life,” said Ruthi, “is when he learns something new from his student.”
You can now download Wastelands, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams featuring short fiction by a cast of all-star SFF writers, for only 1.99$ here!
Here's the blurb:
Famine, Death, War, and Pestilence: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the harbingers of Armageddon — these are our guides through the Wastelands... From the Book of Revelations to The Road Warrior; from A Canticle for Leibowitz to The Road, storytellers have long imagined the end of the world, weaving tales of catastrophe, chaos, and calamity. Gathering together the best post-apocalyptic literature of the last two decades from many of today’s most renowned authors of speculative fiction, including George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Orson Scott Card, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Octavia E. Butler, and Stephen King, Wastelands explores the scientific, psychological, and philosophical questions of what it means to remain human in the wake of Armageddon.