Wanna help out???

Would you like to be a part of Worldcon: Anticipation, but cannot afford to pay the expensive membership fee? By becoming a volunteer, you could be part of the action without paying a single penny.

The con needs help in organizing divisions, working in various departments, or as local guides or on-site.

Click on this link for more information.

Look what the cat dragged in. . .

As if some of you needed another reason to hate me, guess what showed up in my mailbox today!?! Yep, a set of page proofs of Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams (Canada, USA, Europe).

Pat is happy!:-)

Ian Cameron Esslemont contest winner!

This lucky guy will get his hands on a copy of the US trade paperback edition of Ian Cameron Esslemont's Night of Knives (Canada, USA, Europe) and a UK mass market paperback edition of Return of the Crimson Guard (Canada, USA, Europe), compliments of Yours Truly!

The winner is:

- Carl Lafleur, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Thanks to all the participants!

Quote of the Day

An intellectual is usually someone who isn't exactly distinguished by his intellect. He claims that label to compensate for his inadequacies. It's as old as that saying: Tell me what you boast of and I'll tell you what you lack. Our daily bread. The incompentent always present themselves as experts, the cruel as pious, sinners as devout, usurers as benefactors, the small-minded as the patriots, the arrogant as the humble, the vulgar as elegant, and the feeble-minded as intellectual.

Ah, intellectuals. And you wanted me to sign one up. Why is it that the less one has to say the more one says it in the most pompous and pedantic way possible? Is it to fool the world or just to fool themselves?

- CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN, The Angel's Game (Canada, USA, Europe)

With these two quotes, I think the author managed to perfectly articulate my opinion of a vast majority of intellectuals. And they brought to mind one of our favorite wankers. . .

Chuck Norris is back!

Terry Goodkind, the Chuck Norris of fantasy, of course!:P The photo is a courtesy of Forevelad on Westeros. . . This is all ethically incorrect and it bogs down this blog with my eccentricities, but I couldn't resists. . .;-)

Though it's been killing me, I've resisted the urge to post something about the Yeard ever since his new so-called thriller has been announced. But with both Adam and James writing pieces on the subject, and with the first review of TG's newest being released by PW, I finally caved in!

Goodkind's latest is a supposed thriller that isn't fantasy, which ends up being fantasy. The title is The Law of Nines (Canada, USA, Europe), and here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it:

Bestseller Goodkind (Confessor) ventures into thriller territory with results sure to please fans of his fantasy fiction. In the opening pages, Alex Rahl, the book’s unwitting hero, saves the beautiful Jax from being run down on the street in Orden, Neb., by a plumbing truck flying a pirate flag. Jax, who turns out to be from an alternate reality where evildoers are attempting to seize control of her civilization, has traveled to Nebraska to seek Alex’s help in saving her people. In Jax’s world, magic takes the place of technology, but on earth she’s stripped of her powers and forced to fight armed with only her trusty dagger. The author takes his time setting all this up, but once the story gets rolling, it’s a gripping ride as the bad guys whoosh in between their world, which remains unseen, and ours. Fantasy and thriller readers alike will find themselves swept along to the final confrontation and looking forward to the next installment.

For a man who dislikes fantasy to such a degree, it's interesting to see the author return to his fantasy world millennia in the future. . . I'm persuaded that, once again, this novel will explore a panoply of human themes and will be about the tirumph of the human spirit. Yeah right!

Speaking of Cuck Norris, were you aware that in an attempt to stop burglars from hitting their bakery in Split, Croatia, the owner placed a life-sized picture of the actor in the window!?! A sign says, "This shop is under the protection of Chuck Norris." Oddly enough, they haven't been robbed since! Click here for the full story!

Excerpt from Robin Hobb's DRAGON KEEPER

Robin Hobb's Dragon Keeper will soon be released in the UK, and the author was kind enough to provide this excerpt to whet your appetite for the novel! For more information about this title: (Canada, USA, Europe).

In addition, follow this link to two versions of the Dragon Keeper video book trailer.


The River Man

It was supposed to be spring. Damn cold for spring. Damn cold to be sleeping out on the deck instead of inside the deck house. Last night, with the rum in him and a belt of distant stars twinkling through an opening in the rain forest canopy, it had seemed like a fine idea. The night hadn’t seemed so chilly, and the insects had been chirring in the tree tops and the night birds calling to one another while the bats squeaked and darted out in the open air over the river. It had seemed a fine night to lie back on the deck of his barge and look up at the wide world all around him and savor the river and the Rain Wilds and his proper place in the world. Tarman had rocked him gently and all had been right.

In the iron gray dawn, with dew settled on his skin and clothes and every joint in his body stiff, it seemed a damn-fool prank more suited to a boy of twelve than a river man of close to thirty years. He sat up slowly and blew out a long breath that steamed in the chill dawn air. He followed it with a heart-felt belch of last night’s rum. Then, grumbling under his breath, he lurched to his feet and looked around. Morning. Yes. He walked to the railing and made water over the side as he considered the day. Far above his head, in the tree tops of the forest canopy, day birds were awake and calling to one another. But under the trees at the edge of the river, dawn and daylight were tenuous things. Light seeped down, filtered by thousands of new leaves and divested of its warmth before it reached him. As the sun traveled higher, it would shine down on the open river and send fingers under the trees and through the canopy. But not yet. Not for hours.

Leftrin stretched, rolling his shoulders. His shirt was damp and it clung to his skin unpleasantly. Well, he deserved to be uncomfortable. If any of his crew had been so stupid as to fall asleep out on the deck, that’s what he would have told them. But they hadn’t been. They were snug in their overly-cozy bunks in the deck house. All eleven of his men slumbered on, in the narrow tiered bunks that lined the aft wall of the deck house. His own more spacious bunk had gone empty. Stupid.

It was too early to be awake. The fire in the galley stove was still banked; no hot water simmered for tea, no flat cakes bubbled on the grill. And yet here he was, wide awake, and of a mind to take a walk back under the trees. It was a strange impulse, one he had no conscious rationale for, and yet he recognized it for the kind of itch it was. It came, he knew, from the unremembered dreams of the night before. He reached for them, but the tattered shreds became threads of cobweb in his mind’s grasp, and then were gone. Still, he’d follow their lingering inspiration. He’d never lost out by paying attention to those impulses, and almost inevitably regretted it the few times he’d ignored them.

He went into the deck house, past his sleeping crew and through the little galley and forward to his cabin. He exchanged his deck shoes for his shore boots. The knee boots of greased bull-hide were nearly worn through; the acidic waters of the Rain Wild River were not kind to footwear, clothing, wood or skin. But his boots would survive another trip or two ashore, and as a result, his skin would, too. He caught up his jacket from its hook and slung it about his shoulders as he walked aft to the men’s bunks. He kicked the foot of the tillerman’s bunk. Swarge’s head jolted up; the man stared at him blearily.

"I’m going ashore, going to stretch my legs. Probably be back by breakfast."

"Aye," Swarge said, the only acceptable reply and close to the full extent of Swarge’s conversational skills. Leftrin grunted an affirmation and left the deckhouse.

The evening before, they had nosed the barge up onto a marshy bank and tied it off to a big leaning tree there. Leftrin swung down from the blunt-nosed bow of the barge onto mud-coated reeds. The barge’s painted eyes stared off into the dimness under the trees. Ten days ago, a warm wind and massive rainstorms had swelled the Rain Wild River, sending the waters rushing up above their normal banks and over the low shores. In the last two days, the waters had receded, but the plant life along the river was still recovering from being underwater for several days of silt-laden flooding. The reeds were coated with muck and most of the grasses were flattened beneath their burdens of mud. Isolated pockets of water dotted the low bank. As Leftrin strode along, his feet sank and water seeped up to fill in his tracks.

He wasn’t sure where he was going or why. He let his whim guide him as he ventured away from the river bank and back into the deeper shade beneath the vine-draped trees. There, the signs of the recent flooding were even more apparent. Driftwood snags were wedged among the tree trunks. Tangles of muddy foliage and torn webs of vines were festooned about the trunks of the lesser trees and bushes. The fresh deposits of river-silt covered the deep moss and low growing plants. The gigantic trunks of the enormous trees that held up the roof of the Rain Wilds were impervious to most floods, but the brush and lesser foliage that rioted in their shade were not. In some places, the current had carved a mucky path through the underbrush; on others the slime and sludge of the flood burdened the foliage so heavily that the brush bent in muddied hummocks.

Where he could, Leftrin slogged in the paths that the river current had gouged through the brush. When the mud became too soft, he pushed through the grimy underbrush. He was soon wet and filthy. A branch he pushed aside sprang back, slapping him across the brow and spattering his face with mud. He hastily wiped the stinging stuff from his skin. Like many a river man, his arms and face had been toughened by exposure to the acidic waters of the Rain Wild River. It gave the skin of his face a leathery, weathered look, a startling contrast to his gray eyes. He privately believed that this was why he had so few of the growths and less of the scaliness that afflicted most of his Rain Wild brethren. Not that he considered himself a thing of beauty or even a handsome man. The wandering thought made him grin ruefully. He pushed it from his mind and a dangling branch away from his face and forced his way deeper into the underbrush.

There came a moment when he stopped suddenly. Some sensory clue he could not pin down, some scent on the air or some glimpse he had not consciously registered told him he was near. He stood very still and slowly scanned the area all around him. His eyes went past it and then the hair on the back of his neck stood up as he swiveled his gaze suddenly back. There. Mud laden underbrush draped it, and the river’s raging flood had coated it in muck, but a single streak of gray showed through. He pushed his way heedlessly through the brush until he stood beside it. A wizardwood log.

It was not a huge one, not as big as he had heard that they could be. Its diameter was perhaps two-thirds of his height, and he was not a tall man. But it was big enough, he thought. Big enough to make him very wealthy. He glanced back over his shoulder, but the underbrush that blocked his view of the river and his moored barge would also shield him from spying eyes. He doubted that any of his crew would be curious enough to follow him. They’d been asleep when he left, and no doubt were still abed. The secret trove was his alone.

He pushed his way through the brush until he could touch the log. It was dead. He had known that even before he had touched it. When he was a boy, he’d been down to the Crowned Rooster chamber. He’d seen Tintaglia’s log before she had hatched from it, and had known the crawly sensation it had wakened in him. The dragon in this log had died and would never hatch. It didn’t much matter to him if it had died while the log still rested on the banks of the cocooning beach, or if the tumbling it had taken in the flood had killed it. The dragon inside it was dead, the wizard wood was salvageable, and he was the only one who knew where it was. And by his great good fortune, he was one of the few who knew how best to use it.

Back in the days when the Khuprus family had made part of its vast fortune from working wizardwood, back before anyone had ever known or admitted what the ‘wood’ really was, his mother’s brothers had been wizardwood workers. He’d been just a lad, wandering in and out of the low building where his uncles’ saws bit slowly through the iron-hard stuff. He’d been nine when his father had decided he was old enough to come and work on the barge with him. He’d taken up his rightful trade as bargeman, and learned his trade from the deck up. And then, when he had just turned twenty-two, his father had died and the barge had come to him. He’d been a riverman for most of his life. But from his mother’s side, he had the tools of the wizardwood trade, and the knowledge of how to use them.

He made a circuit of the log. It was heavy going. The flood waters had wedged it between two trees. One end of it had been jammed deep into muck while the other pointed up at an angle and was wreathed in forest flood debris. He thought of tearing the stuff clear so he could have a good look at it and then decided to leave it camouflaged. He made a quick trip back to the barge, moving stealthily as he took a coil of line from the locker, and then returned hastily to secure his find. It was mucky work but when he was finished, he was satisfied that even if the river rose again, his treasure would stay put.

As he slogged back to his barge, he felt the heavy felt sock inside his boot go slowly damp. His foot began to sting. He increased his pace, cursing to himself. He’d have to buy new boots at the next stop. Parroton was one of the smallest and newest settlements on the Rain Wild River. Everything there was expensive, and bull hide boots imported from Chalced would be difficult to find. He’d be at the mercy of whoever had a pair to sell. A moment later, a sour smile twisted his mouth. Here he had discovered a log worth more than ten years of barge-work, and he was quibbling with himself over how much he was going to have to pay for a new pair of boots. Once the log was sawn into lengths and discreetly sold off, he’d never have to worry about money again.

He picked up his pace as his foot began to sting more insistently. His mind was busy with logistics. Sooner or later, he’d have to decide who he would trust to share his secret. He’d need someone else on the other end of the crosscut saw, and men to help carry the heavy planks from the log to the barge. His cousins? Most likely. Blood was thicker than water, even the silty water of the Rain Wild River.

Could they be that discreet? He thought so. They’d have to be careful. There was no mistaking fresh-cut wizard wood; it had a silvery sheen to it, and an unmistakable scent. When the Rain Wild Traders had first discovered it, they had valued it solely for its ability to resist the acid water of the river. His own vessel, the Tarman, had been one of the first wizardwood ships built. The hull of his barge was sheathed with wizardwood planks. Little had the Rain Wild builders suspected the magical properties the wood possessed. They had merely been using what seemed to be a trove of well aged timber from the buried city they had discovered.

It was only when they had built large and elaborate ships, ships that could ply not just the river but the salt waters of the coast, that they had discovered the full powers of the stuff. The figureheads of those ships had startled everyone when, generations after the ships had been built, they had begun to come to life. The speaking and moving figureheads were a wonder to all. There were not many liveships, and they were jealously guarded possessions. None of them were ever sold outside the Traders’ alliance. Only a Bingtown Trader could buy a liveship, and only liveships could travel safely up the Rain Wild River. The hulls of ordinary ships gave way quickly to the acid waters of the river. What better way could exist to protect the secret cities of the Rain Wild and their inhabitants?

Then had come the far more recent discovery of exactly what wizardwood was. The immense logs in the Crowned Rooster chamber had not been wood; rather they had been the protective cocoons of dragons, dragged into the shelter of the city to preserve them during an ancient volcanic eruption. No one liked to speak of what that truth fully meant. Tintaglia the dragon had emerged alive from her cocoon. Of those other ‘logs’ that had been sawed into lumber for ships, how many had contained viable dragons? No one spoke of that. Not even the liveships willingly discussed the dragons that they might have been. On that topic, even the dragon Tintaglia had been silent. Nonetheless, Leftrin suspected that if anyone learned of the log he had found, it would be confiscated. So, he would do all that he could to keep the discovery private.

It galled him that a treasure that he once could have auctioned to the highest bidder must now be disposed of quietly and privately. He didn’t want it to become common knowledge in Trehaug or Bingtown, and Sa save him if the dragon herself heard of it. Nonetheless, there were markets for it. Good markets. In a place as competitive as Bingtown, there were always traders who were willing to buy goods quietly without being too curious as to the source. Certainly he could find a Bingtown buyer for it, if he wished to be content to sell it to a go-between. There would be some aspiring Trader willing to barter in illegal goods for the chance to win favor with the Satrap of Jamaillia.

But the real money, the best offers would come from Chalcedean traders. The uneasy peace between Bingtown and Chalced was still very young. Small treaties had been signed, but major decisions regarding boundaries and trades and tariffs and rights of passage were still being negotiated. The ruler of Chalced, it was rumored, was failing in his health. Chalcedean emissaries had already attempted to book passage up the Rain Wild River. They had been turned back, but all knew what their mission had been. They wished to buy dragon parts; dragon blood for elixirs, dragon flesh for rejuvenation, dragon teeth for daggers, dragon scales for light and flexible armor, dragon’s pizzle for virility. Every old wife’s tale about the medicinal and magical powers of dragon parts seemed to have reached the ears of the Chalcedean nobility. And each noble seemed more eager than the last to win his duke’s favor by supplying him with an antidote to whatever debilitating disease was slowly whittling the old Duke away. They had no way of knowing that Tintaglia had hatched from the last wizardwood log the Rain Wilders possessed; there were no embryonic dragons to be slaughtered and shipped off to Chalced. Just as well. Personally, Leftrin shared the opinion of most Traders: that the sooner the Duke of Chalced was in his grave, the better for trade and humanity. But he also shared the pragmatic view that, until then, one might as well make a profit off the diseased old war-monger.

If he chose that path, he need do no more than find a way to get the ponderously heavy log intact to Chalced. Surely the remains of the half-formed dragon inside it would fetch an amazing price there. Just get the cocoon to Chalced. If he said it quickly, it almost sounded simple, as if it would not involve hoists and pulleys just to move it from where it was wedged and load it on his barge. To say nothing of keeping such a cargo secret, and also arranging secret transport from the mouth of the Rain Wild River north to Chalced. His river barge could never make such a trip. But if he could arrange it, and if he was neither robbed nor murdered on the trip north or on his way home, then he could emerge from his adventure as a very wealthy man.

He limped faster. The stinging inside his boot has become a burning. A few blisters he could live with; an open wound would quickly ulcerate and hobble him for weeks.

As he emerged from the underbrush and into the relatively open space alongside the river, he smelled the smoke of the galley stove, and heard the voices of his crew. He could smell flatcakes cooking and coffee brewing. Time to be aboard and away before any of them wondered what their captain had been up to on his morning stroll. Some thoughtful soul had tossed a rope ladder down the bow for him. Probably Swarge. The tillerman always was two thoughts ahead of the rest of the crew. On the bow, silent, hulking Eider was perched on the railing, smoking his morning pipe. He nodded to his captain and blew a smoke ring by way of greeting. If he was curious as to where Leftrin had been or why, he gave no sign.

Leftrin was still pondering the best way to convert the wizardwood log into wealth as he set his mucky foot on the first rung of the ladder. The painted gaze of the Tarman’s gleaming black eyes met his own, and he froze, one foot on the ladder. A radical new thought was born in his mind. Keep it. Keep it, and use it for myself and my ship. For several long moments, as he paused on the ladder; the possibilities unfolding in his mind like flowers opening to the early dawn light.

He patted the side of his barge. "I might, old man. I just might." Then he climbed the rest of the way up to his deck, pulled off his leaking boot and flung it back into the river for it to devour.

For the record. . .

Checked the giveaway inbox this morning to randomly select a winner for one of the contests, when I discovered that I had received quite a few emails asking why I hadn't yet replied or when I was planning to post my response to what I guess is the latest teacup tempest in the Blogosphere.

I've been on vacation for the last week, so I have to plead ignorance here. I have absolutely no idea what you guys are talking about. So I can't really comment on anything, as this just might be something that's been taken out of context.

I'm told that Larry, Jonathan McCalmont, and Aidan have been kind of talking shit about me and pissing on the Hotlist for hosting giveaways, etc. Needless to say our vision of what blogging should be about has always differed, and there's nothing wrong with that. Now I have no idea if these posts contain what can be construed as personal attacks against me and my little virtual sandbox or not, so there's no point in my "striking back" so to speak.

Ethics are supposed to be in question, as is the fact that I prefer to be the most popular SFF blogger around instead of a decent reviewer. Well, according to some, any chances I ever had of becoming a decent book reviewer went down the crapper ages ago, so I guess I have no choice but go for popularity.;-) But again, since I don't know what was said or implied about me, I can't make assumptions. So I will refrain from commenting on this. . .

Don't even have the links so you can read for yourselves what this is all about, though I figure that some of you will post them quickly enough. Interestingly enough, for the last year or so the Hotlist has been the target of a lot of negative criticism. And yet, the traffic never stopped to increase, so I figure that even a dumbass like me is doing something right.

As much as I'd like to expound on this, I have to split. Got a babysitting gig with my goddaughter today. And there you thought that running a popular SFF blog was all glamorous!:P

Seriously, once again this appears to be just another case of too much navel-gazing and a misguided sense of self-importance. SFF blogging, in this house at least, is supposed to be fun for the blogger and the readers.

People have to stop taking themselves so seriously. . .

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 23rd)

In hardcover:

Laurell K. Hamilton's Skin Trade is down five positions, ending its second week at number 6.

Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone is down five spots, finishing its sixth week on the charts at number 2.

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down two positions, ending the week at number 13.

Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan's The Strain is down eight spots, finishing its second week on the NYT list at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker debuts at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

MaryJanice Davidson's Undead and Unwelcome is down twenty positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 34.

In paperback:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is up one spot, finishing its eleventh week on the prestigious list at number 4.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Blood Noir is down fourteen positions, ending its third week on the charts at number 33.

Yasmine Galenorn's Demon Mistress is down eighteen spots, finishing its second week on the NYT list at number 34.

Charlaine Harris has seven novels on the paperback bestseller list, ranking from number 2 to number 26.

Fall of Thanes

Brian Ruckley's dark, gritty, and unforgiving style may not be to everyone's liking, but I quite enjoyed both Winterbirth and Bloodheir. As a matter of fact, I've been eagerly looking forward to read the final chapter in The Godless World trilogy for months. The ending of the second volume set the stage for what promised to be a great finale, and the author doesn't disappoint!

The True Bloods have been humbled by the inexorable advance of the armies of the Black Road. Their forces have been crushed, and it seems that nothing can stop the invaders from marching south toward Vaymouth. However, now under the control of Aeglyss the na'kyrim, the merciless armies of the Black Road are in total disarray. As Aeglyss falls deeper and deeper into madness, the taint he leaves upon the Shared spreads chaos and mindless violence throughout the land. This despondent pall gradually unravels the fabric of society, and it starts to look as though the entire world is in the throes of insanity. Now Aeglyss' creature, the Shadowhand returns to Vaymouth to plant seeds of betrayal and destruction in the city of the Thane of Thanes himself. Filled with a passionate desire to avenge the death of his sister, Kanin of the Horin-Gyre Blood plots a desperate strike against the mad half-breed whose corruption could well annihilate their world. And Orisian, fallen Thane, along with a handful of companions, embarks on a journey that will lead him toward a confrontation with the na'kyrim before it's too late.

Although its two predecessors were by no means upbeat and joyful affairs, Fall of Thanes is by far Ruckley's darkest work to date. Aeglyss' fall into insanity and the ripples it causes in every single storyline creates an ever-present disconsolate pall overshadowing every aspect of this tale, which at times make for a depressing read. Never dull or boring, mind you, just sombre and filled with melancholy throughout. Readers who like to see the forces of good overcoming mighty odds to triumph at the end of the day should look elsewhere. Happy endings are clearly not Brian Ruckley's forte.

The pace moves a bit more briskly in this final volume. The build-up created by the first two volumes now complete, Ruckley weaves the various plotlines together, letting the tension escalate as the disparate protagonists are moving toward the finale.

Once more, I found that the characterization was the author's most improved aspect of Fall of Thanes. I particularly enjoyed Ruckley's depiction of both Kanin and Orisian's downward spiral into despair. The same can be said of the Inkallim struggle against Ragnor oc Gyre in the lands of the Black Road. Theor and Nyve turned out to be much more interesting than I ever thought they would be. In the lands of the True Bloods, the Inkallim Cannek and especially Eska played bigger roles than anticipated. A nut job through and through, Aeglyss is more unpredictable than ever before, and his madness touches everyone he comes in contact with. Sadly, this means that Shraeve lost most of the appeal that made her such a fascinating character in the previous novels. Ditto for Mordyn Jerain, the Shadowhand. On the other hand, there were some surprising developments with Yvane, Ess'yr, and Varryn.

I'm always amazed by how ruthless Brian Ruckley can be. We all know that the author is not averse to killing major characters. But the body count in this one would even give George R. R. Martin pause.

Dark, bloody, depressing, uncompromising, with a poignant ending that should satisfy most fans and characters that stay true to themselves till the very end, Fall of Thanes is an impressive conclusion to what is definitely one of the best fantasy series of the new millennium.

The final verdict: 8.75/10

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

Win a copy of Joel Shepherd's KILLSWITCH

Thanks to the kind folks at Pyr, I have five copies of the final volume in Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov series, Killswitch, for you to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Two years after the unhatching of Callayan President Neiland’s plot to make the capital city of Tanusha the center of the Federation, Callay is under siege. So begins the third installment of this gripping trilogy from an exciting new sci-fi author.

A powerful faction of conservative Fleet captains has surrounded Callay, at Earth’s behest, and is threatening a blockade – or worse. A fearful Earth does not wish to lose direct control of its precious war machine, and there are fears of civil war.

All that Callay has to oppose the warships of the Fleet is the Callayan Defense Force (CDF) – a newly formed group of raw recruits led by a politically hamstrung general. However, the CDF is largely trained and organized by Major Vanessa Rice and her best friend, Callay’s combat-android, Commander Cassandra Kresnov. But when Cassandra’s lover, Special Agent Ari Ruben, discovers a plot to kill her using a killswitch, which her old masters in the League built into her brainstem, Sandy is forced to go underground to stay alive.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "KILLSWITCH." 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!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

As a fan of the animated series of the 80s and since I enjoyed the first one, I was really excited about this movie. Then the advance critics ripped it to shreds.

My expectations could not be lower when I entered the theatre yesterday. And still, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sucked more than I thought it would. Michael Bay, what have you done??? This flick was crap, pure and simple. Take away the special effects and you're left with a movie with a plot so thin that porn features have more depth.

With Terminator: Salvation ending up being nothing to write home about, that's now two of this summer's mega-blockbusters going down the crapper. . .:-(

How can these guys fuck up two franchises so bad???

Dan Abnett contest winners!

Our five winners will get their hands on autographed copies of Dan Abnett's Ravenor: The Omnibus, which contains the novels Ravenor, Ravenor Returned, Ravenor Rogue, as well as two short stories and a special intro by the author, courtesy of the folks at The Black Library. For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Félix Tiévant, from Bordeaux, France

- Jean-Francois Santerre, from Ste-Thérèse, Québec, Canada

- Fabio Tola, from São Paulo, Brazil

- Vladimir Novy, from Zatec, Czech Republic

- Mac Brookman, from Hilversum, the Netherlands

Thanks to all the participants!

Provisional Top 5 of 2009

Can't quite believe that half the year is already gone. . .

So if you are looking for great books to read this summer, here's my provisonal Top 5 of 2009. But with a few heavyweights coming out before the year is out, this may change come December. As always, feel free to disagree!;-)

TOP 5 of 2009

1- The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker (Canada, USA, Europe)

2- Wings of Wrath by C. S. Friedman (Canada, USA, Europe)

3- Twelve by Jasper Kent (Canada, USA, Europe)

4- Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (Canada, USA, Europe)

5- Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald (Canada, USA, Europe)

Although I have yet to write my review, I just wanted to point out that Brian Ruckley's Fall of Thanes ( Canada, USA, Europe) will trump every title but the first two on this list. Also, I'm about 100 pages into Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Angel's Game (Canada, USA, Europe), and it looks as though it will be right up there!

Signed limited edition of Joe Abercrombie's THE BLADE ITSELF

This from the Subterranean Press website:

Just an early head’s up — we’ve just reached agreement with Pyr books to publish a signed limited edition of Joe Abercrombie’s so good it’s off the charts epic fantasy debut, The Blade Itself. We’ll be talking to Joe soon about an illustrator, and announce ordering details as soon as everything is in place.

Abercrombie's latest is Best Served Cold (Canada, USA, Europe)

Another lucrative book deal; this time for Brandon Sanderson

From SFScope:

Brandon Sanderson sold four books to Moshe Feder at Tor Books, via agent Joshua Bilmes at JABberwocky. The books represent the first four volumes of a new epic fantasy series to be called The Way of Kings, with the first expected to appear in the second half of 2010. Agent Bilmes writes that "the books are planned to alternate with the three books by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson that will conclude Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Per book advances [for the new series] are in the six figures, and with performance-based bonuses possible total advances on the deal could exceed $2.5 million."

I wonder what kind of deals authors like Gaiman, GRRM, and Pratchett will get when they get to negotiate new advances. . .

Brandon Sanderson's latest novel is the just-released Warbreaker (Canada, USA, Europe).

Win a copy of Ian McDonald's DESOLATION ROAD

I have five copies of Ian McDonald's Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee Desolation Road up for grabs, compliments of the nice folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

It all began thirty years ago on Mars, with a greenperson. But by the time it all finished, the town of Desolation Road had experienced every conceivable abnormality from Adam Black's Wonderful Travelling Chautauqua and Educational ‘Stravaganza (complete with its very own captive angel) to the Astounding Tatterdemalion Air Bazaar. Its inhabitants ranged from Dr. Alimantando, the town’s founder and resident genius, to the Babooshka, a barren grandmother who just wants her own child—grown in a fruit jar; from Rajendra Das, mechanical hobo who has a mystical way with machines to the Gallacelli brothers, identical triplets who fell in love with—and married—the same woman.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "DESOLATION." 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!

Las Vegas pictures

Click on this link to see a sample of my Las Vegas photos on Facebook.


Slowly but surely. . .

Some encouraging news regarding A Dance with Dragons (Canada, USA, Europe) on George R. R. Martin's Not A Blog:

I almost hate to say anything here, for fear of jinxing it... but for what it's worth, the last six weeks or so have been the most productive period I've had on A DANCE WITH DRAGONS in... well... a year at least, maybe several. In the last three days I've completed three new chapters. Not from scratch, mind you, these were all chapters that had been partially written, and in some cases rewritten, for months if not years. But they're finally done, and I've just reread them, and I'm almost convinced that they're Not Crap.

We'll see how I feel tomorrow.

Anyway, I know I don't talk about DANCE frequently here, and that's not going to change. Sorry, but I'm never going to be one of these writers who blogs daily about how many words they produced today. I don't like to talk about the good days for fear of jinxing myself (all writers are superstitious at heart, just like baseball players), and I don't like to talk about the bad days... well, just because. Writing is like sausage making in my view; you'll all be happier in the end if you just eat the final product without knowing what's gone into it.

But I am making a small exception now because... well, I'm feeling rather jazzed right now, and for the first time in a very long while, I think I can see a glimmering that might just be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Now if I can only slash through the Meereenese knot that I've been worrying at since 2005, I may actually start to get excited.

Music to my ears!:-)

Let's stop sneering at fantasy readers

They might be the zit-ridden little brothers of science fiction geeks, but fantasy readers still deserve our respect.

This article was posted by Sam Jordison on The Guardian books blog. You can read the entire piece here.

Here's an excerpt:

As has often been noted on this site in the past, it's not always easy being a science fiction fan. Even though the genre has produced some of the most forward-thinking, influential and linguistically advanced literature of the past century, most people still regard it as the preserve of lonely men who know a little bit too much about computers and not quite enough about personal hygiene.

But even SF fans have it easy compared to followers of fantasy. These are the people Red Dwarf fans sneer at for being nerdy. They are the zit-ridden little brothers of the SF geeks, whose even-less-healthy obsessions include trolls, giving Anglo-Saxon names to phallic weapons, and maidens with magical powers.

There are probably good reasons for pillorying fantasy as the genre of eternal greasy adolescence. It's also been easy to patronise the writing because of its literal lack of years. Although fantasy can lay claim to being the oldest style of writing, with a lineage right back to Gilgamesh and Homer, we now generally think of it as the creation of the baby-boomers, of writers who read Tolkien in the 1960s and never quite came back from Middle-Earth.

Follow the link to read the rest. . .

Speculative Horizons: Update

I've been receiving a lot of messages from people wanting to know what's happening with Speculative Horizons, the anthology I'm putting together and editing for Subterranean Press. The lack of updates was not due to the fact that we want to keep everything secret. It's just that there wasn't much to report since L. E. Modesitt, jr. turned in his Recluce short story "The Stranger."

Brian Ruckley turned in his piece titled "Flint" a little while ago. The author wanted to write something completely different from the dark and uncompromising trilogy of The Godless World, and this tale of shamans is exactly that. The editorial notes were sent to him, and Ruckley should get me the revised version in the near future.

Just received Tobias S. Buckell's "The Eve of the Fall of Habesh." I want to read it a few times before getting back to him with my thoughts.

C. S. Friedman's dark fantasy/vampirical short story is due to be turned in next week, and I'm really curious about that one.

So if all goes well, all the authors will have met the June 30th deadline, and the folks at Subterranean Press will be able to get this anthology into the production stage later this summer. As for me, it's been a pretty cool experience thus far.:-)

Many of you have been asking about the cover art. Bill wanted to wait till we got all the stories before deciding on a scene/theme for the cover. And I'm still gunning for Michael Komarck to be the cover artist, if we can get him. As things stand, unless something really special comes along and if I have any say in the matter, the cover art would have to be about Hal Duncan's "The Death of a Love," which is truly fucked up!

Stay tuned for more. . .

SFF authors' favorite real-life fantasy/scifi cities

In promotion of Wofford College's "Shared Worlds" youth writing camp, author Jeff VanderMeer interviewed Ursula LeGuin, Michael Moorcock, China Mieville and several other authors about their favorite real life "fantastic" cities. You can read their answers here.

Now in its second year, Shared Worlds is a two-week unique summer camp for teens ages 13 to 18, held at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This year the camp runs from July 19 to August 2, with registration still open to the end of June. Creative and fun, Shared Worlds emphasizes writing fiction, game development, and creating art—all in a safe and structured environment with award-winning faculty. Participants in this “teen think tank” meet like-minded students and learn how to work together and be proactive on their own. The first week, the students form teams and create their own worlds; the second week, they create in them. Faculty for 2009 will include Holly Black, co-creator of the Spiderwick Chronicles, Hugo Nominee Tobias Buckell, White Wolf game developer Will Hindmarch, World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer, Weird Tales fiction editor Ann VanderMeer, and more.

Alastair Reynolds signs a million-pound book deal!

Space opera bestselling author Alastair Reynolds just signed a ten-book deal with Gollancz worth a million pounds.

Follow this link for the full article. Here's a brief extract:

Space opera supremo Alastair Reynolds scores unprecedented ten-year, ten-book deal from Gollancz for his 'mean line in alien cultures and technology'

As banks struggle and businesses collapse, the science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds is making his own contribution to the flagging UK economy, signing an unprecedented ten-book deal with Gollancz worth £1m.

Reynolds, who has published eight novels with the Orion imprint Gollancz since his 2000 debut, Revelation Space, said he was "amazed and thrilled" to commit himself to the same publisher for the next decade. "It gives me a huge amount of security for the next ten years," he said, "and writers don't have a lot of security. Even at the best of times you're worrying about the next deadline, the next contract. To have that in place is fantastic for me."

He has always struggled to write when his future has been uncertain, he continued, so he's delighted to be able to start "thinking strategically ... not just thinking one book ahead, but 'where do I want to be in four books?'"

Got quite a few of his books on my shelves, but I've only read the novella The Six Directions of Space thus far. I'll have to remedy that sooner than later, methinks!

His first novel is Revelation Space (Canada, USA, Europe)

Win a copy of Kevin J. Anderson's THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Since I received both the US and the UK editions of this title, I'll be giving away a copy of Kevin J. Anderson's The Edge of the World to one lucky winner! It even comes with a music CD titled Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon by Roswell Six. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

War has raged for twenty years between the Broekari and the Aidenists. Divided by their worship of different gods - each sons of the Creator, Ondun - it seems likely that the war will never end. But then the Aidenists make a startling discovery. A merchant ship, sailing the very edge of the world, hauls aboard a large sea turtle. Inscribed upon its shell is an ancient map - a map that seems to show the way to paradise: the lost kingdom of Holy Joron, the third son of Ondun. Across the world, an ancient parchment is unearthed by the Broekari. This parchment also shows a map - a map that points the way to the Key of Creation, and thus to the kingdom of Holy Joron. And so the race is joined. Will the children of the sons of Ondun finally find peace in the fabled lost kingdom? Or will they take the hatred and death of two decades at war to paradise...?

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "TERRA INCOGNITA." 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!

The David Gemmell Legend Award

The ceremony took place last Friday in London, England. The award went to Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski.

The novel was originally published in Poland in 1994, but the English translation became available in 2008 in the UK and this spring in North America. Congrats to the winner!

Here's the blurb:

Watch for the signs! What signs these shall be, I say unto you: first the earth will flow with the blood of Aen Seidhe, the Blood of Elves...

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world - for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt's responsibility to protect them all - and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

Following The Last Wish, BLOOD OF ELVES is the new novel starring Geralt of Rivia, the inspiration for the critically-acclaimed videogame The Witcher.

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

Quote of the Day

There's always choice. We seldom understand our every reason for doing what we do, but somewhere, hidden or not, made or unmade, there's always a choice. We each choose our own battles, as I said.

- BRIAN RUCKLEY, Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe)

Win a copy of Daniel Abraham's THE PRICE OF SPRING

Thanks to Daniel Abraham, I have five copies of his latest, The Price of Spring, for you to win! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Fifteen years have passed since the devastating war between the Galt Empire and the cities of the Khaiem in which the Khaiem's poets and their magical power known as 'andat' were destroyed, leaving the women of the Khaiem and the men of Galt infertile.

The emperor of the Khaiem tries to form a marriage alliance between his son and the daughter of a Galtic lord, hoping the Khaiem men and Galtic women will produce a new generation to help create a peaceful future.

But Maati, a poet who has been in hiding for years, driven by guilt over his part in the disastrous end of the war, defies tradition and begins training female poets. With Eiah, the emperor's daughter, helping him, he intends to create andat, to restore the world as it was before the war.

Vanjit, a woman haunted by her family's death in the war, creates a new andat. But hope turns to ashes as her creation unleashes a power that cripples all she touches.

As the prospect of peace dims under the lash of Vanjit's creation, Maati and Eiah try to end her reign of terror. But time is running out for both the Galts and the Khaiem.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "PRICE." 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!


The Dabel Brothers' graphic adaptation of Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World is about to be released, and you can find a preview comprised of a number of pages here.

The novel was adapted by Chuck Dixon and Chase Conley.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 16th)

In hardcover:

Laurell K. Hamilton's Skin Trade debuts at number 1.

Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone is down one spot, finishing its fifth week on the charts at number 7.

Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan's The Strain debuts at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephenie Meyer's The Host is down two positions, ending the week at number 11.

MaryJanice Davidson's Undead and Unwelcome debuts at number 14.

In paperback:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is down one spot, finishing its tenth week on the bestseller list at number 5.

Yasmine Galenorn's Demon Mistress debuts at number 16.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Blood Noir is down three positions, ending its second week on the NYT list at number 19.

Charlaine Harris has six novels on the paperback bestseller list, ranking from number 11 to number 35.

Brandon Sanderson video interview

The author discusses his new stand-alone novel, Warbreaker (Canada, USA, Europe), as well as other projects.

Check it out!

Pathetic. . .

Say howdy to Robert Stanek, the genius who photoshopped himself into a picture with bestselling YA fantasy author Brian Jacques but forgot to include his legs in the pic. This master storyteller of the genre is supposedly huge in literary powerhouse countries such as Vietnam, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Suriname. Other than this resounding commercial success, Stanek's biggest claim to faim was the fact that he got caught posting glowing reviews of his self-published works using countless alternate identities on Amazon, and using those same fake accounts to get negative reviews of his books removed from the site. As David Louis Edelman pointed out, this sleazebucket is known for his tireless deceptive acts of self-promotion.

A pillar of wisdom, Robert Stanek also threatened legal action by forwarding a fake lawsuit to David Langford using a hotmail account. As a Law Grad, I can assure you that the best universities teach us that hotmail accounts are the way to go if you want your practice to be taken seriously. You can read the whole story here.

Anyway, thanks to Adam (Werthead) for bringing this new episode in the Robert Stanek pathetic saga to my attention. Last week, Patrick Rothfuss made a comment on Facebook about the fact that The Name of the Wind had been getting a rash of one-star reviews on amazon.com lately. Then things heated up a bit on the forums with the "Rothfuss is a fraud" thread.

As Adam pointed out:

But what was odd was that all of these one-star reviews were written one after another in a very similar tone by newly-created profiles and all seemed to be making the same, highly questionable, claims that the book was 'objectively bad' and that all of the 500+ positive reviews on Amazon had been written by Pat himself, his friends or family. They ignored the fact that the book has been an international bestseller, is published in multiple languages by reputable publishers, and just continued making questionable claims about the author's moral character. It was very weird. They then tried to get the Rothfuss' Wikipedia page eliminated and also made a very half-hearted effort to level similar complaints against Abercrombie, although I get the impression this was solely to make it look like they weren't just picking on Rothfuss.

All of this smelled like a rat, most notably when one of the reviewers started saying that Pat Rothfuss should go to Iraq to get the 'moral character' that only comes from serving in the armed forces. This was VERY familiar. Then I remembered that the legendary self-published lunatic Robert Stanek kept making a huge fuss about how serving in the armed forces had been an important character-building exercise.

Then today one of the other commentators following the situation on Amazon pointed out that almost all of these suspect reviewers had started 'tagging' Robert Stanek's books (you could see this on their profiles). By the time I checked them out, only three had them left, the rest having apparently removed them when they realised they were rumbled.

Hmm, don't know just how character-building an exercise joining the army turns out to be. But in Stanek's case, it sure didn't do much about his limited intellect, his common sense, and his writing abilities. Though I get the feeling that this failure might be the product of Robert Stanek not being the strongest of lightbulbs instead of being attributed to any shortcoming in the US military training.

Any doubt that lingered sort of got swept away when one of the alternate reviewers began to write negative reviews of Jim C. Hines and David Louis Edelman books. Both authors have written blog entries on Robert Stanek and his self-promotion in the past. You can read the articles here and here.

This whole thing would be a bit disturbing if it wasn't so pathetic. There is no concrete evidence, but everything hints at the fact that Robert Stanek did not particularly enjoy Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. Fair enough. He's not the only reader who feels that Rothfuss' debut doesn't live up to the hype. But why go through this widespread mug-slinging campaign against an author who's been nothing but a class act ever since his debut was published?

I can understand that a self-published author can feel frustration and resentment when he realizes that his skills are a world away from Rothfuss' own and that he can never, even in his wildest dreams, aspire to ever become this good, or even half as good. Such resentment can understandably engender anger and fury. If that's the case, why not take up yoga or tai chi? With all the money a bestselling author makes, I'm sure Stanek can afford it. And if not, well masturbating more often might help him release some of the pent-up stress. The suppression of such impulses and emotions can't be good, yet this guy obviously needs a more adequate outlet for such feelings of rage than writing false reviews under false names on Amazon.

This is definitely one of the weirdest stories we've encountered in SFF recently. Whoever is responsible for this should acquire a bit of maturity and move on. Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind surpassed Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule and George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones to become the bestselling fantasy debut of all time in hardcover. The books has been translated in I don't know how many languages and sells well everywhere. Rothfuss won a Quill Award, so I don't think anyone can doubt that he has earned his success. To say that the positive reviews and the units sold all came from the author, his family, and his friends is ludicrous.

The fact that someone did not enjoy The Name of the Wind doesn't make Patrick Rothfuss a fraud. Like it or not, this guy is now one of the biggest names in the genre. Be that as it may, if it's any consolation, Stanek is still big in Vietnam. Can Rothfuss claim the same???

Oh man. . .


The third Black Company omnibus will be published by Tor Books in September! Here's the blurb:

“Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive. . . .

“I am Murgen, Standardbearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these Annals because Croaker is dead, One–Eye won’t, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end....”

This omnibus is comprised of Bleak Seasons and She is the Darkness. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

China Miéville contest winner!

Our winner will get his hands on the limited edition of China Miéville's The City & the City, courtesy of the cool folks at Subterranean Press. For more info about this title, check out http://www.subterraneanpress.com/.

The winner is:

- John Valesano, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Cover art for Steven Erikson's BEAUCHELAIN AND KORBAL BROACH

For those of you who have been bemoaning the fact that Steven Erikson's novellas were only available as expensive limited edition collector's items, you'll be pleased to learn that Tor Books will soon release a trade paperback omnibus containing Blood Follows, The Lees of Laughter's End, and The Healthy Dead. The omnibus is titled Beauchelain and Korbal Broach and it will be published in September.

For more info about this title: USA, Europe.

5 Reasons Tolkien Rocks

Considering that China Miéville has never been known for singing the praise of J. R. R. Tolkien, I found this article quite interesting.

Here's an excerpt:

The Author of the Century, of course, needs no help from anyone (least of all a speck like me). No force on earth could undermine either the juggernaut implacability of his sales, nor the world-historic scale of his influence, nor the truly enormous weight of his achievement. The man puts the 'epic' in 'epic win'. However--or, more accurately, because of that--every few years, certain as tides, someone will write a splenetic screed against the Professor, explaining why he's the devil/ worst things to happen to fantasy/voice of reaction/zomg most boring writer EVER /etc. The Oedipal Resentment motivating many of these attacks may be trivially obvious, especially in those from within fantastic fiction, but it doesn't follow that the substance of all the criticism is baseless. There are perfectly reasonable arguments to be had about the impact, nature, scale and success of Tolkien's work. The sheer religious zealotry with which some Tolkienistas defend the master, when it ignores those grounds for debate and refuses to countenance a flaw anywhere in the MiddleEarthian edifice, doesn't, then, help matters. Even more nuanced pro-Hobbit partisans sometimes--and acknowledging that there are always debates on this--choose what look to some of us to be questionable grounds for defence. Because there are arguments not only about what is regrettable in Tolkien, but about what is indispensible. Accordingly, what follows is a list of some Perhaps In Some Cases Somewhat Insufficiently Stressed Reasons We Should All Be Terribly Grateful To Tolkien. It may be redundant strictly qua defence, this defence of a corpus that is thriving, but perhaps it's not pointless anyway.

Follow this link to read the entire piece. For more information about China Miéville's latest novel, The City & the City: Canada, USA, Europe.

San Francisco pictures

Here's a link to my Facebook album containing some of the pics I took during my stay in San Francisco.


R. A. Salvatore contest winners!

This lucky guy will receive an Advance Reading Copy of R. A. Salvatore's latest, The Dame, compliments of Yours Truly! For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

Cody Simms, from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Thanks to all the participants!

Fire Raiser

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I quite enjoyed Melanie Rawn's Spellbinder a few years back, for paranormal romance and urban fantasy are by no means my favorite subgenres. But there was something about how the whole novel came together that really appealed to me. So I was curious to see where the author would take the story in this sequel.

The events chronicled in Fire Raiser take place a few years following Spellbinder. Holly McClure and Evan Lachlan have left NYC to raise their children in Holly's ancestral home in Pocahontas County, Virginia. Evan is now the county sheriff, and he is investigating a series of unexplained church fire. To his dismay, from basically each act of arson emanates the taint of magic. As the investigation progresses, Evan and Holly will stumble upon evidence which suggests that the fires are linked to a network of international human trafficking. It appears that small town politics could conceal cases of flesh trade and prostitution. Soon, it will dawn upon them that they have stumbled upon a far more complex mystery than they ever envisioned.

Fire Raiser features a compelling and multilayered story, but it takes quite a while for the tale to unfold. Indeed, it takes well over a hundred pages for the story to finally kick in, which some readers might find offputting. Especially since that portion of the book, though it lays some of the groundwork for what is to come and acts as a bridge between Spellbinder and its sequel, appears more or less dedicated to expound of various Leftist/liberal issues and gay rights. These matters do have something to do with the plot, mind you, yet I have a feeling that Rawn kind of went overboard with that particular aspect of the book.

As fun as the romance between Evan and Holly was in Spellbinder, they are way too much into each other in this one. Unfortunately, they seem to have become the sort of insufferable couple you just want to smack because they can be so annoying. Each of their POV narrative is filled with how much Evan is a hunk/stud/stallion/gorgeous, or how Holly is all that, yada yada yada. They're in love -- we get it. All the more irritating was the fact that all this stuff got in the way of a good story. Oddly enough, Holly doesn't do much in Fire Raiser. Other than trying to manipulate other characters, that is. After playing such an important part in the previous book, it felt weird to have her there simply to get on people's nerves at times. Still, I think that Melanie Rawn did a remarkable job establishing and explaining the dynamics of this eccentric family, as well as the politics of this old South county.

The supporting cast plays an enormous role in this novel. Familiar faces from Spellbinder make unexpected appearances, while new ones shape the storylines and to a certain extent even take over Evan and Holly's spotlight. Cam and Jamey, in particular, have interesting backstories and a number of plotlines revolve around them. But I fear that the gay thing was more than a little overdone. Which, in the end, diminishes the impact of what the author was attempting to convey. Although all too brief, I really enjoyed Natasha's POV, which allows us to see the other side of the story.

When the story does kick in, it's obvious that Fire Raiser is much more convoluted than it appears at face value. Moreover, I believe that this novel is somewhat of a prelude to a bigger and more complex tale. There are a lot of unanswered questions at that end which hint at many things to come.

As everything escalates, we witness to spells and rituals, and many things begin to make sense. But after such a slow start, I felt that the ending was rushed. All in all, the rhythm throughout is decidedly uneven. Though necessary to a degree, I feel that the novel often got bogged down by going a bit over-the-top with those liberal issues and gay themes, all to the detriment of what is essentially a very good story.

The human trafficking, the genetic manipulation, the roles Holly and her family have played in the past and will play in the future, and more, all hint at bigger and better things to come. The ending opens the door for many possiblities. Hence, though Fire Raiser suffers from a few shortcomings, I'm looking forward to what comes next.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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