In Shadowrise, Tad Williams elevated his game to a level we hadn't seen since the final volume of the Otherland series. I was pleasantly surprised and I couldn't wait to read the endgame in Shadowheart.

Here's the blurb:

Thousands of years ago the gods fought and fell in the deeps beneath what is now Southmarch Castle, then were banished into eternal sleep. Now at least one of them is stirring again, dreaming of vengeance against humankind.

Southmarch haunts the dreams of men as well as gods. Royal twins Barrick and Briony Eddon, the heirs of Southmarch’s ruling family, are hurrying back home as well: Barrick now carries the heritage of the immortal Qar inside him, and Briony has a small army at her back and a fiery determination to recover her father’s throne and revenge herself on the usurpers.

The cruel and powerful southern ruler known as the Autarch of Xis wants the power of the gods for his own, a power he can only gain if he conquers Southmarch. And nobody knows what the Qar want, only that the mysterious fairy-folk are prepared to die for it – or to kill every living thing in Southmarch Castle and in all the lands around.

It will come to an apocalyptic conclusion on Midsummer Night, when the spirits of the haunted past and the desperate struggles of the present come together in one great final battle. Many will die. Many more will be transformed out of all recognition, and the world will be forever changed

It's no surprise that the worldbuilding is once more my favorite aspect of this novel. As was the case with its predecessor, mythic resonance permeates Shadowheart, demonstrating yet again how vast in scope and vision the Shadowmarch series truly is. Revelations are made as Williams brings his myriad plotlines together, unveiling a grand tapestry which goes back through the centuries.

Though the principal protagonists understandably take center stage in this final installment, quite a few members of the supporting cast will find themselves in the middle of the action, thus influencing how the tale will play out in the end. This was a nice touch, for it showed that many of the secondary characters were not just filler material from the beginning. Tad Williams has many tricks up his sleeve, so expect a high number of unexpected twists and turns. We were aware that Barrick and Qinnitan were somehow connected, but what the author had in store for them was a real surprise. In terms of character growth, Barrick takes the cake. Though his storyline is not the only one which carries the tale in Shadowheart, he remains at the heart of what is unfolding. After growing on me in Shadowrise, I'm sad to report that I dearly wanted Briony to die in this one. You can't have your cake and eat it too, I guess.

Since this book is the second part of what was supposed to be a single-volume Shadowrise, I was expecting the pace to be akin to that of its predecessor. After all, Shadowrise quickened the rhythm and it appeared that the proverbial shit was about to hit the fan. Surprisingly, Shadowheart starts rather slowly. Not as slow as Shadowmarch and Shadowplay were, but I was puzzled by the fact that this one didn't ride the wave created in the third volume. Still, it doesn't take very long for the storylines to come together around Southmarch Castle, and soon the rhythm is no longer an issue. The endgame itself might not be as great as that of To Green Angel Tower or Sea of Silver Light turned out to be, but the finale should satisfy most SFF readers out there. After quite a few unanticipated twists, the multilayered ending closes the show with a bang.

Had it ended there or soon afterward, Shadowheart would have been as good as or better than Shadowrise. The problem is that the finale is not even close to being the ending of the novel. There follows a 120-page epilogue of sorts which thoroughly kills the momentum of the book. I understand the need to tie up loose ends when the smoke has cleared, but this was overkill. It takes so much away from the great endgame. It probably should have been limited to 20 or 30 pages to settle things between the factions and characters. By dedicating such a vast chunk of the novel to the aftermath of the series, Tad Williams' narrative lost all the awesomeness it had generated along the way.

And it's kind of a shame to end on such a low note, especially when the book hit so many high notes prior to that long epilogue. . . Still, Shadowheart brings the Shadowmarch series to an engrossing end. Don't know if the series could have been structured in a way that would have made both Shadowmarch and Shadowplay as good as the last two installments. But all in all, it's another quality read by one of the masters of epic fantasy writing today.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

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

The Hotties: 2010 Year-End Awards

Sure, we may not be as prestigious or glamorous as the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Awards, but winning a Hottie still means something, right!?! Well, maybe not but what the heck!?!

For the sake of posterity, I've also included my Top 10 SFF novels and the runner-up titles of the year in this post.

Without further ado, here are the 2010 Hotties Award!

Top 10 Speculative Fiction Titles of 2010

1- Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay [Penguin Books, Voyager]
1- (tie) The Dervish House by Ian McDonald [Pyr, Gollancz]
3- Stonewielder by Ian Cameron Esslemont [Tor, Bantam Press]
4- Geosynchron by David Louis Edelman [Pyr]
5- Prince of Storms by Kay Kenyon [Pyr]
6- The Machinery of Light by David J. Williams [Bantam Dell]
7- Shadowrise by Tad Williams [Daw, Orbit]
8- Leviathan Wept and Other Stories by Daniel Abraham [Subterranean Press]
9- Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis [Tor]
10- Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent [Pyr, Bantam Press]
11- Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson [Tor, Orbit]
12- Warriors edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois [Tor]
13- Songs of Love & Death edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois [Gallery]
14- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor [Daw]
15- Shadowheart by Tad Williams [Daw]
16- The Terminal State by Jeff Somers [Orbit]
17- Blue and Gold by K. J. Parker [Subterranean Press]
18- The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson [Tor, Gollancz]
19- City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton [Bantam Dell, Tor UK]
20- Arms-Commander by L. E. Modesitt, jr. [Tor]


- Pyr

With three Pyr titles in the Top 5 and four in the Top 10, it couldn't be any other publisher! The folks at Pyr celebrated their 5th anniversary this year. Keep up the great work! And long live! =)

- Fantasy Book Critic

It may suffer from a case of too many cooks in the kitchen at times, but it remains a terrific blog and a great speculative fiction source! Do check them out! Often!


- Ian Cameron Esslemont, Malazan co-creator and author of Stonewielder (Canada, USA, Europe). There were still a number of kinks to iron out following Return of the Crimson Guard. But now I feel that Esslemont truly found his voice.

Honorable mention: Mark Charan Newton, author of City of Ruin (Canada, USA, Europe).



Honorable mention:

Can't go wrong with either of these two, though discussions can get a bit livelier on Westeros. Don't have time to visit countless SFF websites and blogs. A quick visit to the forums of these two message boards will keep you apprised of everything that has to do with speculative fiction.


- Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Still don't understand how this one turned out to be so popular earlier this year. . .

Honorable mention: Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings (Canada, USA, Europe, AbeBooks)

It was good, sure. But not the best thing since sliced bread as many made it out to be. . .


- Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death (Canada, USA, Europe)

It garnered rave reviews, but still it looks as though this novel flew under everyone's radar. A shame. . .


- Stephen Martiniere cover art for Kay Kenyon's Prince of Storms.


- A tie between two visual turds: The French edition of Blake Charlton's Spellwright and Manly Wade Wellman's Battle in the Dawn.

Must see! Makes you long for Baen covers! I kid you not! Click on the two links if you don't believe me. . .


- The two Brandon Sanderson interviews I did with my WoT pals, Larry, Ken, and Adam. The first one was in May, while the second Q&A came in September. Good stuff!


- Daniel Abraham's Leviathan Wept and Other Stories (Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress).

Read this book! Nuff said!

Finished this one lying on one of the outside beds at The Garden Bar & Lounge in Zadar, Croatia. A great book, the sun, the Adriatic Sea, and the perfect setting. It doesn't get much better than this! ;-)


- Naomi Novik's Tongues of Serpents (Canada, USA, Europe)

I felt that the Temeraire series had been losing steam in the last two installments. I'm a big fan of the series, but this one relegated future volumes to the "Maybe" pile. . .


- Ian Tregillis, author of Bitter Seeds.

Can't wait for The Coldest War!


- Terry Goodkind returns to fantasy in 2011 (he'll vehemently deny this, of course), so I'm expecting unforgettable quotes from him in the near future. But for 2010, the award goes to all those stupid e-Book readers who leave 1-star reviews on Amazon when titles are not available in electronic format. As punishment, authors slighted in such a manner should have the right to punch the culprits in the mouth till they draw blood. The guilty would, of course, be sentenced to buying a copy of said work, in hardback no less.


- Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Canada, USA, Europe)

The crème de la crème of SFF debuts this year!


- Lou Anders

Yes, two years in a row! Last year I said that as the heart and soul behind the Pyr imprint, this man is pretty damn close to being a genius. Scratch that! He is a genius! Though he doesn't have the means of the genre powerhouses at his disposal, Lou Anders nevertheless manages to work wonders year in and year out. To the powers that be at Prometheus Books: Give this man a raise! God knows he deserves it!

Another positive review!

The Speculative Horizons anthology garnered another positive review, this time from Roland's Codex.

Here's an excerpt:

In the end, Speculative Horizons offers a broad variety in its five stories, and although that could lead to some disconnection from the collection, I am sure everyone could find something of worth there. Personally, I fell in love with Duncan's story (see what I did there), as well as with Buckel's, which made me look for other works of the guy. Also, the book is made for a good cause and that adds to its worth. I would definitely recommend it if you can afford the steep price.

If you want to help raise funds for cancer research, or if you are just curious and wish to give the anthology a shot, it's now available for pre-order via the Subterranean Press website. Otherwise, if you want to get it at a discount, it's also available on various Amazon sites: Canada, USA, Europe.

You can read an extract from C. S. Friedman's short story here, and one from Hal Duncan's short story here.

*** Please remember that anything purchased via the Amazon links (used or new) throughout December will help raise funds for Breast Cancer Research.

New George R. R. Martin podcasts

While you await the eagerly anticipated A Dance With Dragons (Canada, USA, Europe), there are two new podcasts featuring George R. R. Martin you can listen to. =)

The first one is at The Bear Swarm!

The other is at Television Zombies.


US cover art for China Miéville's EMBASSYTOWN and Mark Charan Newton's CITY OF RUIN

- Embassytown by China Miéville (Canada, USA, Europe)

- City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton (Canada, USA, Europe)

Excerpt from M. L. N. Hanover's VICIOUS GRACE

SFF author Daniel Abraham writes urban fantasy under the pen name M. L. N. Hanover, and he's just released the third installment in The Black Sun's Daughter series. Vicious Grace (Canada, USA, Europe) is the sequel to Unclean Spirits (Canada, USA, Europe) and Darker Angels (Canada, USA, Europe).

Here's the blurb:

When you're staring evil in the eye, don't forget to watch your back. . .

For the first time in forever, JaynÉ Heller's life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them. At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it's straining to be free. JaynÉ is primed to take on whatever's about to be let loose. Yet the greatest danger now may not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along—taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul. . .

The author provided this extract for your reading pleasure.


Two hours with a strong cup of morning coffee, Google, and Wikipedia yielded this:

When it was built in 1921, Grace Memorial was the second largest hospital in a city that was thick with them. Cook County Hospital was only a mile away, and Grace’s red brick towers and colonnaded walks, cathedral-style entrance and massive network of wards and offices were a response to the older hospital's preeminence. But the original buildings changed fast; almost as soon as Grace opened for business, the construction crews came in.

In 1929, the Bureau of Prohibition raided the hospital, recovering enough gin, rum, and beer to feed Chicago's speakeasies for a week. The men responsible for building the network of smuggler's tunnels and secret warehouses fled or were arrested, and the hospital itself almost didn't survive the scandal. All through the 1930s, Grace Memorial had a reputation as Chicago's hospital of last resort. A prostitution ring ran out of it from 1936 to 1939. One whole wing was demolished as structurally unsound.

The Manhattan Project came to its rescue in 1942. While Fermi conducted the first controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago, the Army Corps of Engineers quietly took control of Grace Memorial, retooling it for research on the effect of radiation. When, in 1946, that project ended, a new group stepped up with the stated intention of making Grace Memorial a functioning hospital again. President Truman himself signed the documents that transferred control of the buildings away from the army. Over the next half-decade, Grace Memorial became a cause celebré among the highest ranks of Chicagoan society. Mies van der Rohe and Declan Souder -- the two great lights of Chicago architecture -- competed for the chance to redesign it with van der Rohe dropping out at the last minute to go work on Farnsworth House.
In the 1970s, it entered into partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago -- one of the largest medical schools in the nation -- and became a teaching and research hospital with the joint missions of serving the poor and supporting cutting-edge medical research. If that particular pairing sounded a little ominous to me, no one else seemed to blink. The worst scandal it had been involved with since then was a 1998 report about failures to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Nothing online mentioned ominous dreams or boxes in dark earth. None of the graphics were of weirdly staring eyes or improbably-jointed hands. I hadn't really expected the Internet to deliver all the answers, but there was nothing there to give me traction. My little spate of research did give me enough background to understand what I was looking at when, after a half-hour drive through the rain-scrubbed streets, we got there.

"Wow," I said. "Ugly."

Ex craned his neck as Aubrey drove us all past.

"It looks like ten other buildings that got in a car wreck," he said.

"It's worse inside," Kim said. "When I was interviewing for the job here, they asked how well I read maps. I thought it was a joke."

She was understating the case. After we stuck Kim's permit to the window and found a space in faculty parking, she led us to her office. The public areas of the hospital were pleasant enough -- well-lit, with living plants and relatively humane paint jobs -- but as soon as Kim used her key card to get us past the wide metal Authorized Personnel Only doors, things got weird. We passed through two long, looping hallways to an elevator that said we were on the second floor even though we were still at street level. Then up three levels to floor 5-East (as opposed to 5-West which was actually the floor below). Kim led us through two more sets of locked doors with bright orange biohazard markers on them, and we stepped into a cramped area wider than a hallway but too narrow to be a room where three desks huddled together. A black man with thinning white hair nodded to us as we passed.

"This has got to be a joke," I said as Kim unlocked the final door. "Who designed this place, and where'd they put my cheese?"

"All hospitals are like this to some degree," Aubrey said. "My postgrad research was a collaboration with some MDs at the University of New Mexico. I always had to meet people at the front of the place and guide them in."

"I remember that," Kim said. "Grace is worse."

The office was too small for all of us to fit comfortably. There wasn't even space to put down the backpack I used as a purse. A thin window had wedged itself in one corner, daylight spilling across one wall. Kim’s computer hummed and whirred, a screen saver cycling through images that I assumed fit in with her work: x-rays of skulls, bright pink-and-white pictures of what might have been flesh, drawings of complex microorganisms with joke labels on them like "extra cheese" and "On the Internet, no one knows you're infectious." The air smelled of oil and old carpet.

"We do our actual lab workups down in Pathology or over on the UIC campus," Kim said as she dug through a small metal filing cabinet, "but the paperwork's all here."

"Who are you working with?" Aubrey asked.

"Alepski and Namkung," she said. Aubrey crossed his arms and leaned against one wall.

"Didn't expect to hear those names again," he said.

"Namkung's the official lead, but she came here because Alepski and I were willing to sign on if the study was based out of Grace. They ask about you sometimes."

"And what do you tell them?" he said with a laugh in his voice.

"That you're traveling the world," Kim said. "They're comfortable with that. It's a good team. One of the nice things about working with them is that sometimes the residents will actually consult with me."

"Why wouldn't they?" Ex asked.

"I've got a Ph. Alepski and Namkung both went on to get MDs, and so I'm respectable by association," Kim said, as if that explained everything. When she stood up, she had a card in her hand. I caught a glimpse of an old picture of Aubrey on it and a silver magnetic strip. "I got guest researcher access for Aubrey on the strength of the papers we did together. It won't get you on the medical wards, but if you need to get in there, you can use it to sweet-talk the nursing staff."

"And the rest of us?" Chogyi Jake asked.

"Are limited to public areas or else going chaperoned," Kim said. "Or you can get a white coat, carry a clipboard, and scowl a lot. That's usually enough to keep anyone from bothering you."

"Security would be difficult with this many people," Chogyi Jake said.

"More than people, it's the different systems," Kim said. "On any given ward, you've got the nurses and technicians who work there, and the doctors who come in and out. And then the therapists. And the social work staff. And security and the physical plant guys. Janitorial. Kitchen staff. Compliance inspectors from the state and the fed. And the researchers like me. And the patients. And the families. And everyone answers to a different set of management, if they answer to anyone at all. Everyone has different methods for interacting with everyone else. It's a complex tissue. By and large, if you aren't keeping someone from doing their job, they don't much care whether you're there or not."

"So don't piss off the security guys," Aubrey said as he clipped his new ID card to his belt. It was just a little square of plastic, but it made him look like he belonged there. It was such a small thing to be a disguise.

"That should be all right," I said. "We're just getting the lay of the land, right? Basic recon."

"Fair enough," Kim said. "Where did you want to start?"

"I assume there's a chaplain," Ex said. "Resident priest might have more of an idea of the spiritual state of play than the other staff."

"And is there a mental health service?" Chogyi Jake asked with his customary smile. "Possession can be mistaken for mental illness."

"There are three, actually,” Kim said. “Adult, pediatric, and geriatric, but the psych wards are high privacy. They're strict about keeping patient information away from anyone but physicians and family. If we get someone specifically that we want to look at, I can try to talk to the attending. But even then it'll be tough."

"Maybe just the commissary, then," Chogyi Jake said. "Where the nurses and technicians would be likely to eat."

"Is there something you're looking for?" I asked.

He spread his hands in a gesture I took to mean anything interesting.

"I'd like to see Oonishi's lab," I said. "Dreamland. If that's where this thing is showing up, that seems like a good place to start."

"I'm fine with any of it," Aubrey said. "How do you want to do this? All stick together, or split up the party?"

The last questions were directed at me. All gazes shifted. While it was true that I was responsible for signing all the checks, I still hadn't quite gotten my head around being the boss. Moments like this one left me squirming inside, but I put my brave face on.

"Let's split up," I said. "Cover some ground. I figure the chaplain is going to be someone you can get to without going through restricted access areas. The staff commissary, maybe not. So how about Ex tackles the priest, Aubrey and Chogyi Jake can go schmooze with the locals, and Kim can introduce me to Oonishi. It's eight-thirty now, so find out what you can, and we'll plan to meet up for lunch and compare notes."

"I think we have a plan," Aubrey said.

"We should set a solid meeting place and time," Kim said. "Cell phones are kind of tricky in the buildings."

"Right," I said.

We settled on half past twelve in the main lobby. Kim wrote detailed maps to get Ex, Chogyi Jake, and Aubrey where they were going, and then we headed off. It didn't take long before we were in the public parts of the hospital again. We passed a waiting room where an oversized television was blasting SpongeBob SquarePants to a shell-shocked, unsmiling family. In the hallway, a guy who was just about my age hunched over his cell phone, saying something about lab results and trying not to cry. The air smelled like cleaning solution. Outside the windows, blue sky and fluffy white clouds hung high above the buildings pretending there had never been a storm. The Sears Tower -- now officially the Willis Tower -- peeked out from behind smaller, closer structures, and I tried to pay more attention to it than the thousand small human dramas we were walking past. It seemed polite.

"What a difference a year makes," Kim said. Her voice sounded tight. Clipped.

"You think?" It hung halfway between question and agreement, and it got a hint of a smile. She didn't elaborate, and I didn't press.

Thinking about it as Kim led me confidently down the corridors and wards, there was something to what she said. It wasn't that the others wouldn't have listened to me before -- well, except Ex, and that was more about his own weird paternalistic streak. But when Kim had first met me, I'd been younger. And it was more than just the months and weeks. It was the mileage.

Being Eric -- taking over the work he’d left behind -- had put me in harm’s way more than once, but it had also given me chances to figure out who I was. To try being the sort of person I wanted to become. I was more confident than I’d been the first time she met me, more in control of myself and or the people around me. I wondered if my parents would have recognized me as the same girl who’d hurried through the kitchen on her way to school and church, or if I’d become someone so alien to my own past that I’d be a stranger to them. I wasn’t sure if the idea left me sad or proud.

I was still lost in thought when it happened.

We passed through a set of automated swinging doors, a blue-and-white sign above them announcing the rooms within as the Cardiac Care Unit. The hallway marched out before us, the glass walls of patients' rooms arrayed around a wide, high nurses' station, the same panopticon architecture as a prison. Half a dozen men and women in hospital uniform and almost that many in civilian clothes stood behind the desk or before it, engaged in at least three separate conversations. I didn't see the man until I bumped into him. It was like stumbling against a wall.

"Sorry," I said.

"You," he said, and then "What the hell is your problem?"

He was red haired and freckled, his jaw wide and starting to sag a little at the jowls. He stood a head and a half taller than me, which put him on the large side, even for a guy. His scrubs were powder blue, and an ID tag much like Kim's hung from his neck. The rage in his eyes unsettled me.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I was thinking about some-"

He moved in front of me, blocking my way with an out-thrust chest. A red flush was climbing up his neck.

"You were thinking?" he said. "You've got to be shitting me. That's you thinking?"

I looked at Kim looking back at me. I had hoped -- expected, even -- outrage and maybe an echo of my own sudden fear. Instead, she was considering me like I was an interesting bug. Everyone at the nurses' station had turned toward us. All the conversation had stopped. A nervous glance over my shoulder, and I saw the patients in the fishbowl rooms staring at me too. I lifted my hands and took a step back.

"Look, I said I was sorry. I just bumped-"

"You piece of shit."

His voice was low and shaking with rage. I felt the cold electricity of adrenaline hitting my bloodstream. Kim didn't say anything.

"You piece of shit," he said again.

The fear didn't leave me -- nothing simple as that -- but an answering rage started to bubble up along side it.

"Hey!" I said. "I don't know what your problem is, but I've had about as much--"

The red-haired man drew in a long, rough breath.

And so did everyone else.

Each nurse at the station. Each patient watching us through the open doorways of their rooms. Breath is a small thing, a subtle thing, until its coordinated, and then it's devastating. A moment ago, I'd been having a surreal encounter with the poster boy for steroid rage. Now, that soft, vast sound made me something very small in the middle of an unexpected battleground. I felt myself go suddenly, dangerously calm. It wasn't quite the I'm-not-driving experience of being in a fight, but I could feel myself leaning in toward that. The man's breath quickened, and the other people matched it. I took a step back. His hands were balled in huge fists.

"Kim?" I said, but her breath was keeping time with the sharp panting that rose up all around me. Whatever this was, it had taken her too. I licked my lips and pulled my qi -- the vital energy that fuels magic and life -- up from my belly and into my throat.

"Kim," I said, pushing the power out into my voice. "Wake up."

I didn't take my eyes off the red-haired man, but in my peripheral vision, I saw her fall out of the pattern. She put a hand to her head and looked around. The red-haired man was trembling now, shaking with barely-restrained violence. Two of the nurses behind their station put down long gray folders and stepped out into the hallway behind him. A blond woman in a business suit came out of one of the patient care rooms, her hands at her sides like claws. King Mob, closing ranks. Their synchronized breath filled the space: a single, huge, animal sound.

"Jayné?" Kim said.

"Just stay cool, and when I tell you to run, run," I said. And then, "Okay. Run!"

Subterranean Press accepting pre-orders for the limited edition of Steven Erikson's DEADHOUSE GATES

This from the Subpress website:

This book has been in the works for years. We had the interior designed and proofread in late 2008, and are pleased to announce that J. K. Drummond has taken the art reins from Michael Komarck, whose schedule didn’t allow him to continue with the series. Steven Erikson has termed Jae’s preliminary work on the second volume in the series, Deadhouse Gates, to be “terrific”, and we couldn’t agree more.


Please note that only those who own a copy of Gardens of the Moon may order Deadhouse Gates at this time. Those who own a numbered or lettered copy of Gardens of the Moon have the right of first refusal on other titles in the series, meaning you can build a matched set of numbers.

Those who have purchased their copy of the limited edition of Gardens of the Moon can pre-order their copy of Deadhouse Gates here.

Quote of the Day

Magic realism is fantasy written by people who speak Spanish.


Got to love this one. . . ;-)

Top 10 Speculative Fiction Titles of 2010

Well, 2010 wasn't exactly the year we all expected. Indeed, eagerly anticipated books from authors such as George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and Joe Abercrombie were postponed, leaving fans grumbling in frustration.

Looking back, however, I feel that this unfortunate turn of events allowed new authors to be in the spotlight. As much as I would have liked to read A Dance With Dragons or The Crippled God, when I look at my Top 10 I realize that it was nevertheless a very good year for speculative fiction.

So here are my favorite reads of this last year, including both my Top 10 and the runner-up titles!

Top 10 Speculative Fiction Titles of 2010

1- Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay [Penguin Books, Voyager]
1- (tie) The Dervish House by Ian McDonald [Pyr, Gollancz]
3- Stonewielder by Ian Cameron Esslemont [Tor, Bantam Press]
4- Geosynchron by David Louis Edelman [Pyr]
5- Prince of Storms by Kay Kenyon [Pyr]
6- The Machinery of Light by David J. Williams [Bantam Dell]
7- Shadowrise by Tad Williams [Daw, Orbit]
8- Leviathan Wept and Other Stories by Daniel Abraham [Subterranean Press]
9- Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis [Tor]
10- Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent [Pyr, Bantam Press]
11- Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson [Tor, Orbit]
12- Warriors edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois [Tor]
13- Songs of Love & Death edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois [Gallery]
14- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor [Daw]
15- Shadowheart by Tad Williams [Daw]
16- The Terminal State by Jeff Somers [Orbit]
17- Blue and Gold by K. J. Parker [Subterranean Press]
18- The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson [Tor, Gollancz]
19- City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton [Bantam Dell, Tor UK]
20- Arms-Commander by L. E. Modesitt, jr. [Tor]

The Hotties, my year-end awards, are coming soon. So stay tuned! ;-)

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!!!

Hey guys!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays! =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 21st)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars is down three spots, finishing the week at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Towers of Midnight is down four positions, ending the week at number 15. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Anne Rice's Of Love and Evil is down seven positions, ending the week at number 29. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Jim Butcher's Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files maintains its position at number 35. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's Under the Dome is up nine positions, ending the week at number 19 (trade paperback).

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's The Gathering Storm is up three spots, finishing the week at number 29.

Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Wars is down six positions, ending the week at number 31 (trade paperback).

Jim Butcher's First Lord's Fury is down ten positions, finishing the week at number 32.

The White-Luck Warrior

As was the case with The Judging Eye (Canada, USA, Europe) two years ago, I would like to thank R. Scott Bakker for giving me the opportunity to be the first reviewer to get a crack at The White-Luck Warrior. Usually, I refuse to read books on my computer screen because it makes my eyes bleed. But for the second installment in The Aspect-Emperor trilogy, I was happy to oblige!

Here's the blurb:

As Anasûrimbor Kellhus and his Great Ordeal march ever farther into the perilous wastes of the Ancient North, Esmenet finds herself at war with not only the Gods, but her own family as well. Achamian, meanwhile, leads his own ragtag expedition to the legendary ruins of Sauglish, and to a truth he can scarce survive, let alone comprehend. Into this tumult walks the White-Luck Warrior, assassin and messiah both, executing a mission as old as the World’s making …

The White-Luck Warrior is a story filled with heart-stopping action, devious treachery, grand passion and meticulous detail. It is both a classic quest tale and a high fantasy war story.

Given that The Judging Eye had all the hallmarks which made the first trilogy such a great reading experience, minus what many considered its shortcomings, I felt that it featured a Bakker writing at the top of his game. Still, many opined that the philosophical aspects and the inner musings were what essentially made the Prince of Nothing stand out from the rest of the SFF pack, and were thus a bit disappointed by the first volume in The Aspect-Emperor. So where does The White-Luck Warrior fit in in terms of style and tone? I would say that it is somewhat in between the Prince of Nothing and The Judging Eye. The absence of interior action, as Bakker put it, made for a much better paced novel in The Judging Eye. Hence, the return of that particular facet does affect the rhythm of The White-Luck Warrior, especially in the portions of the book dealing with Achamian and Mimara's POVs. Overall, I would say that that, in format and pace, this novel reads much like The Warrior-Prophet did.

The worldbuilding is once again top notch. Bakker's narrative is richly detailed, creating an imagery that leaps off the page. The Middle Eastern setting of the western Three Seas remains a welcome change from the habitual medieval environments found in most fantasy sagas. But the author takes us to various unexplored locales in The White-Luck Warrior, which makes this one even more interesting. The evocative depiction of the wastes of the Istyuli Plains, the primeval forest known as the Mop, the ruined remains of Kûniüri, where the first Ordeal set out against Golgotterath, continue to make the universe of Eärwa resound with depth. Add to that the fact that the narrative and certain events shine some light on the kingdom of Zeüm and its traditions, as well as that of the Nonmen kingdom of Injor-Niyas and its mysterious capital of Ishterebinth, and you have proof that Bakker's creation is head and shoulder above most SFF settings on the market today.

As I mentioned above, the pace is an issue in certain portions of the tale. The White-Luck Warrior features three principal story arcs: the Great Ordeal, the expedition to Sauglish, and the New Empire. I found the New Empire story arc, which focuses on the events occurring in Momemn and the western Three Seas, to be much better paced than the other two. The rhythm is crip throughout the chapters dedicated to those storylines. The other two arcs are fundamentally travelogues meant to get the protagonists in position for what is shaping up to be one grand finale. Nowhere does The White-Luck Warrior suffers more from the middle book syndrome than in these two story arcs. Though I must admit that it doesn't take anything away from every plotline associated with the Great Ordeal. The narrative may drag a bit in certain parts of the story, but all in all, even if the pace is indeed slower, everything that has to do with the Great Ordeal was pretty much awesome. It is the Sauglish story lines which truly drags for the better part of the book. After taking center stage in The Judging Eye, the aftermath of Cil-Aujas doesn't quite capture the imagination the way Achamian, Mimara, and the Skin Eaters' arc did in the first volume. Regardless of that setback, true to form, Bakker closes the show of that particular arc with a bang. Still, taken as a whole, the Sauglish expedition suffers from a decidedly sluggish rhythm compared to the other two main story arcs.

The philosophical aspects and the inner musings may slow down the pace of the novel, yet it does improve the characterization by fleshing out the various protagonists more. The New Empire arc features the POVs of Esmenet, Kelmomas, the White-Luck Warrior, and a new character: Malowebi, Emissary of High Holy Zeüm. The departure of the Aspect-Emperor has left the empire vulnerable, and Zeüm is considering supporting Fanayal, the Bandit Padirajah, in his quest to destroy Kellhus.

One thing about House Anasûrimbor: it's one crazy family. If you thought the Osbournes were dysfunctional, wait till you get a load of the Anasûrimbors! One good thing about The White-Luck Warrior is the fact that all the living children are part of the narrative. Hence, although only Kelmomas is a POV character, you do get to know Moënghus, Kayûtas, mad Inrilatas, Serwa, Grandmistress of the Swayal Sisterhood, and Thelipoa. An unexpected turn of events means that we'll also get to see some of them even more in the final volume, which should be interesting.

The Great Ordeal features the POVs of Nersei Proyas and Varalt Sorweel. Some portions of the narrative, especially those dealing with the march and the battles are written through the eye of a neutral narrator. Sadly, Proyas' point of view appears to be present only to be a lens through which we try to figure out Kellhus. Once more, the Aspect-Emperor is not a POV character. Essentially, most of what has to do with the Great Ordeal is seen through the eyes of Sorweel. I have to admit that I wasn't too fond of the kid in The Judging Eye, but he did evolve into a major power player in this second volume. It was evident that Bakker had a lot in store for him (why else make Sorweel a POV character?), and we now see that he will have a major role to play in the outcome of the Great Ordeal. His many discussions with Zsoronga ut Nganka’kull also help him grow as a protagonist and it gives the Successor-Prince of Zeüm more depth.

The Sauglish expedition features the POVs of Achamian, Mimara, and another character which must remain anonymous for now. Mimara's point of view allows the reader to learn more about her past and how the Judging Eye works. Unfortunately, Achamian isn't as fascinating in the early stages of The White-Luck Warrior as he habitually is. After the incredible escape from Cil-Aujas, perhaps I was expecting too much out of his narrative. But their harrowing ordeal took a lot out of all of them, and the crossing of the Mop and the rest of the journey to Sauglish will take the entire party to the brink of death. Fear not, however, for in the end, Achamian's awesomeness returns to close the show with style. Seswatha's Dream also changes during the course of their journey, baffling Achamian with strange visions he cannot puzzle out.

Even if at times the rhythm can be a factor, I thoroughly enjoyed The White-Luck Warrior. My only complaint would have to be that I expected the Consult to play a much bigger role in this second installment. Their nefarious influence can be felt behind the scenes, true, but I was expecting them to play a more direct role in the events chronicled in this book. Another matter would have to be the White-Luck Warrior himself. The original title was supposed to be The Shortest Path. The title change made me believe that the White-Luck Warrior would be an important player in this one, while you only see him sporadically for brief periods of time. So I feel that changing the title created expectations that some readers might find off-putting.

Other than that, I think that The White-Luck Warrior is everything Bakker fans could hope for. Revelations about the Consult and the Dread Ark, the Nonmen, Kellhus' plans, Incariol's identity, the White-Luck Warrior, tantalizing hints about the Black Heavens, Fanayal's schemes, etc, will keep you begging for more! Regardless of the fact that the finale and its aftermath raise as many questions as it provides answers.

The coming year could well be one of the best in speculative fiction history. With authors such as George R. R. Martin, Steven Erikson, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, and a bunch of others all releasing a new novel next year, trying to guess which title will top the list is impossible. But one thing's for sure: R. Scott Bakker's The White-Luck Warrior will be one of the fantasy books to read in 2011!

Bring on The Unholy Consult!

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

Paul Cornell on e-Books and illegal downloading

Thanks to John Picacio for sharing this on Facebook!

SFF author Paul Cornell wrote an excellent blog post regarding e-Books and illegal downloading. I feel that his piece will interest many of you. Here's an excerpt:

5: It's hard, these days, to tell people they've done a minor wrong. Because one is now either a saint (or whatever the atheist version of that is) or a paedophile. Illegal download sites look perfectly normal, and ominous orchestral tones don't strike up when you visit one. 'Everybody' does it, and people who do are often quite surprised at the thought that they're doing something wrong. But they are. A small thing. They're each stealing small sums of money from creators. But put those minor wrongs together, and they become an enormous problem. Villifying these people rather than educating or preventing them will just convince them that their minor wrong is cool and rebellious. A lot of them tell themselves that already. They're sticking it to the man. The trouble is, the man in question is me. And those like me.

6: If everybody did illegally download, it couldn't continue as a practice, because no further music or movies could be made. (Except by those willing, through existing wealth or poetic poverty, not to make a living.) Illegal downloaders rely, parasitically, on an honest mainstream who purchase this stuff. The 'alternative revenue sources' that might fund every creator who's not already rich enough not to care simply haven't appeared for the vast majority. And it's hard to see where they'll ever come from when illegal downloading can simply put an end to a market.

Follow this link to read the full article.

Game of Thrones: The Artisans

Simon Brindle, the supervisor of the costume armor department, talks about the process of creating the various armor suits for the TV series.

Books for Christmas???

Kid Hates Books For Christmas - Watch more Funny Videos

If you hang around these parts, I have a feeling that you've often received books for Christmas and your Birthday.

But not everyone likes books. And this kid ain't happy!

Thanks to Stego for sharing this on Facebook. ;-)

Clay and Susan Griffith contest winners!

Our winners will receive a copy of Clay and Susan Griffith's Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar, compliments of the nice folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Sara Chamama, from New York City, New York, USA

- Noe Caro, from Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

- Cathy Thibodeau, from Chesterfield, Michigan, USA

Survivor: Redemption Island

It's true. I admit it. I'm a total Survivor nut.

Since the spring of 2000, when the very first episode aired, I've watched every single second of Survivor. I've tried to audition for the show several times, but Canadians cannot qualify (stupid fucking dumbass rule!). Heck, I've even started watching the French version called Koh-Lanta (because the first season was shot in Thailand). And now I must find sites where I can watch previous seasons in streaming, for the French play the game in a totally different way. Can you imagine Survivor castaways voting based on merit!?! But that's mostly how it goes in France, which is extremely fascinating to me. Used as I am to backstabbing, lying, manipulating, etc; everything that makes strategy in Survivor so much fun to watch.

And now, twenty-one seasons later, coming off the least appealing and often boring season ever, they've added a new twist that will change the face of the game.

And I'm pretty excited!!!

Okay. . . Sorry about that. . . We now return to our scheduled programming. =)

Win a copy of the limited edition of K. J. Parker's BLUE AND GOLD

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Subterranean Press, I have a copy of the limited edition of K. J. Parker's Blue and Gold up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, Subterranean Press.

Here's the blurb:

“Well, let me see,” I said, as the innkeeper poured me a beer. “In the morning I discovered the secret of changing base metal into gold. In the afternoon, I murdered my wife.”

For a man as remarkable as the philosopher Saloninus, just another day.

Of course, we only have his word for it, and Saloninus has been known to be creative with the truth. Little white lies are inevitable expedients when you’re one jump ahead of the secret police and on the brink of one of the greatest discoveries in the history of alchemy. But why would a scientist with the world’s most generous, forgiving patron be so desperate to run away? And what, if anything, has blue got to do with gold?

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

*** Please remember that anything purchased via the Amazon links (used or new) throughout December will help raise funds for Breast Cancer Research.

Book trailer for Joe Abercrombie's THE HEROES

I'm sure the book will be great!

Not so sure about this trailer, though...

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

*** Please remember that anything purchased via the Amazon links (used or new) throughout December will help raise funds for Breast Cancer Research.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón contest winner!

Our winner will get his hands on an ARC of the limited edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Angel's Game, courtesy of the folks at Subterranean Press. For more information, check out the Subpress website.

The winner is:

- Victor DiGiovanni, from Humble, Texas, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Cover art and blurb for L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s LADY-PROTECTOR

Here's the blurb:

A new novel of Mykella, the young woman introduced inThe Lord-Protector’s Daughter. Though a bloody coup has made Mykella ruler of her land, it has left her and her two sisters bereft of family and uncertain of their friends. Worse, an examination of the nation’s accounts reveals that their country is almost destitute. Plus, there are rumblings of war along the borders. With no money and few allies, Mykella is faced with the difficult prospect of rebuilding her nation while trying to hold off a potentially devastating invasion.

Fortunately for Mykella, an old magic has awakened in her; a power that gives her the ability to read the emotions of others and to spy on the movements of her enemies. But the resurgence of this power might herald the return of an ancient enemy, one that Mykella isn’t sure how to face.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the world of The Corean Chronicles with a novel filled with politics, adventure, magic, and romance

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

Roger Taylor

Let me tell you something. When you're an avid reader and have a great collection of books, moving is a major pain in the ass. I'm now into well over fifty boxes of books, with more to go. The locker at my new apartment is filled to the brim with boxes full of novels.

Anyway, while packing away those books a few days back, I came across my Roger Taylor books. The man is a British fantasy author whose novels used to be published by Headline during the late 80s and early 90s. The books sported very nice covers, and I was a big fan of the author for many years. Sadly, Roger Taylor completely disappeared in the late 90s.

Does anyone know what happened to him? I don't believe he was ever published in the USA, but his novels were widely available in the UK and the Commonwealth. Anybody else have fond memories of Taylor's books? Now that I've discovered that his novels are available in eBook and paperback formats from Mushroom eBooks, I might give some of them another go to see if they have aged well.

Here's a list of Roger Taylor's novels, including links to extracts for each work:

The Chronicles of Hawklan

- The Call of the Sword (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt
- The Fall of Fyorlund (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt
- The Waking of Orthlund (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt
- Into Narsindal (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Dream Finder (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Farnor (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Valderen (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Whistler (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Ibryen (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Arash-Felloren (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Caddoran (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

The Return of the Sword (Canada, USA, Europe) Excerpt

Musical Interlude

The rampant anti-americanism of the last decade or so, I feel that this song is entirely apropos. Especially since the hate mostly comes from demagog soft-Leftist elements of social-democrat countries such as my own. Makes me want to puke sometimes. . .

I've now traveled to 38 different countries, so I consider that I've been around. And every time I hear the same old tirades, here and abroad, I always find it kind of hilarious that my interlocutor has almost always never set foot in the United States, nor do they know any Americans. So all they have to go by is the anti-USA propaganda going around.

The majority of the best friends I've made while traveling abroad are Americans. Most of them are intelligent, open-minded, fun-loving people. Yes, they like to drink and talk rather loudly when they're drunk. So what? It's the same with Aussies, Germans, Spanish, Italians, etc. To think that every single American citizen is a warmongering, ignorant, religious inbred fuckwit from the Bible Belt just shows how people know nothing about the USA.

Too many American travelers feel the need to make excuses about being American. That's bullshit! They should be proud of who they are. Though the USA aren't perfect in any shape or form, it's still a much better country than most.

And this song is a great example of that. I'm told they teach the lyrics in history classes. Wish we had something similar in Canada. . . Oh wait. . . That's true, we ain't got nothing that warrants a song.

That's a shitter. . . =(

Win a full set of of Michael Moorcock's Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Del Rey, I have a set of all six volumes of Michael Moorcock's Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné up for grabs! I gave Moorcock's Elric stories a shot when I was a teenager hooked on Salvatore and Weis & Hickman, and needless to say I wasn't ready for them. Now, with this collection, I'm seriously thinking about revisiting them.

The prize pack is comprised of:

- Elric: The Stealers of Souls (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Duke Elric (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Elric: In the Dream Realms (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Elric: Swords and Roses (Canada, USA, Europe)

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