Exclusive extract from Steven Erikson's FORGE OF DARKNESS

Thanks to the folks at Transworld, here's an exclusive excerpt from Steven Erikson's Forge of Darkness (Canada, USA, Europe). It features the three Sons of Darkness; Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, and Andarist!

Here's the blurb:

Forge of Darkness: Now is the time to tell the story of an ancient realm, a tragic tale that sets the stage for all the tales yet to come and all those already told...

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power… and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm, and as the rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...

Steven Erikson entered the pantheon of great fantasy writers with his debut Gardens of the Moon. Now he returns with the first novel in a trilogy that takes place millennia before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and introduces readers to Kurald Galain, the warren of Darkness. It is the epic story of a realm whose fate plays a crucial role in shaping the world of the Malazan Empire.



Even bad habits offered pleasure. In her youth, Hish Tulla had given her heart away with what others had seen as careless ease, as if it was a thing without much worth, but it had not been like that at all. She’d simply wanted it in someone else’s hands. The failing was that it was so easily won, and therefore became a thing of little worth for the recipient. Could no one see the hurt she felt, each and every time she was cast aside, sorely used, battered by rejection? Did they think she welcomed such feelings, the crushing despond of seeing the paucity of her worth? ‘Oh, she will heal quickly enough, will our dear Hish. She always does . . .’

A habit like a rose, and on the day of its blossoming, why, see how each petal revealed its own unique script, with smaller habits hiding within the larger one. Upon this petal, precise instructions on how to force out the smile, the elegant wave of the hand and the shrug. Upon another petal, lush and carmine, a host of words and impulses to resurrect her vivacious nature; to glide her across every room no matter how many or how gauging the eyes that tracked her. Oh and she held tight upon the stem of that rose, didn’t she?

The horse was quiescent beneath her; she could feel the gelding’s comforting heat against her thighs, her calves. Beneath the branches of the tree under which she had taken shelter, evading the sudden downpour, she could see, through the slanting streams, the three men standing now before the basalt gravestone, out in the clearing where crouched the crypts and tombs, as the rain poured down as if seeking to drown them all.

She had known the pleasures of two of the three brothers, and, though she was no longer inclined, the last one was now likely beyond her reach, for he was soon to be wed, and it seemed that for Andarist his love was rare enough, precious enough, that once set at the foot of one woman, never again would he look elsewhere, never again would he even so much as to glance away. That flighty, vain daughter of Jaen Enes knew not her fortune; of that Hish was certain, for she saw too much of herself in Enesdia. New to womanhood, eager to love and drunk with its power, how soon before she chafed at her bridling?

Hish Tulla was mistress to her House. She had no husband and would now take no one into her life. At her side, these days, was the desiccated remnant of her old habit, the petals almost black; the thorny stem stained and thickly smeared with something like vermilion wax. It served the role of an old friend, confidante to her confessions, ever wise in its recognition, never spurred into judgement. And these days, when she crossed a room, the eyes that tracked her . . . well, she no longer cared what they thought they saw. The woman older than her years, the spinster of many scars, the wild slave to carnal excess now returned to the earth, wisely subdued, though still ready for a moment’s bright vivacity, the flash of a smile.

The rain fell off; a curtain drifting down in sudden dissolution as the sun’s light broke through once more. Water still ran from the leaves, slicking the black branches, dripping down upon her waxed cloak like old tears. Clucking, Hish Tulla edged her mount forward. Stones crunched wetly under hoofs, and the three brothers turned at the sound.

They had ridden up from the south track, ignoring the torrent from the sky, and she concluded that they’d not seen her as they reined in before the crypt, dismounted and walked to stand before the unmarked plinth sealing the tomb. The body of their father, Nimander, lay in eternal repose within that crypt, in the hollowed-out trunk of a blackwood tree, but two years dead, and it was clear that his three sons were not yet done with the memory of him.

Witnessing the scene, Hish had recognized its privacy, the lowering of guard, and in their expressions now she thought she could see their disapproval and, perhaps, faint dismay. Raising a gloved hand as she walked her horse closer, she said, ‘I was sheltering from the rain, brothers, when you rode into sight. Forgive my intrusion, it was not intended.’

Silchas Ruin, to whom Hish had given ecstatic adoration for four months a few years ago, before he lost interest, was the first to speak. ‘Lady Hish, we knew we had an audience, but the shadows beneath the tree hid from us your identity. As you say, it was but chance, but be assured, you are always welcome in our eyes.’

Her old lovers were consistently courteous, probably because she never fought to hold on to any of them. The heart thus broken had no strength and even less will, and but crawled away with a weak smile and welling eyes. In their courtesy, she suspected, there was pity. ‘Thank you,’ she replied. ‘I thought only to identify myself, and now I shall ride on and leave you to your remembrance.’

To that, it was Anomander who said, ‘Lady Hish Tulla, you misunderstand our purpose here. We require no cenotaph to remember our beloved father. No, in truth, it was curiosity that brought us to this place.’

‘Curiosity,’ agreed Silchas Ruin, ‘and determination.’

Hish frowned. ‘Lords, I am afraid I do not understand.’

She saw Andarist look away, as if he would claim no part in any of this. She knew he meant her no disrespect, but then, he had no reason to pity her and so cared little for courtesy.

These three brothers had a way of standing apart, even when they stood together. All were tall, and each shared something both magnetic and vulnerable. They could pull entire worlds around their selves, yet not once yield to pride, or arrogance.

White-skinned, red-eyed, Silchas Ruin waved a long-fingered hand, directing her attention to the basalt plinth. ‘By our father’s own command,’ he said, ‘the words carved upon his gravestone hide on the other side, facing in. They were intended for him alone, though he has no eyes with which to see, and no thoughts left to consider.’

‘That is . . . unusual.’

Anomander’s sun-burnished face, the colour of pale gold, now smiled at her. ‘Lady, your touch is no less soft for the years between us.’ Hish felt her eyes widen at those words, though, upon a moment’s reflection, perhaps more at the open affection in his tone. She met his gaze, searchingly, but saw nothing ironic or cruel. Anomander had been the first man she had taken as lover. They had been very young. She remembered times of laughter, and tenderness, and the innocence of the unsure. Why had it ended? Oh, yes. He went to war.

‘We are of a mind to prise loose this stone,’ said Silchas.

At that Andarist turned to his brother. ‘You are, Silchas. Because of your need to know everything. But the words will be Azathanai. To you they will mean nothing, and that is as it should be. They were never meant for us, and to the bite of our eyes they will answer with bitter curse.’

Silchas Ruin’s laughter was soft. ‘These are your days of superstition, Andarist. Understandably.’ So dismissing his brother, he said, ‘Lady Hish, from here we ride on to the building site of Andarist’s new house. And awaiting us there is a stone-carver of the Azathanai, who has arrived with the hearthstone Anomander has commissioned as a wedding gift.’ He gestured again, in that careless way she remembered from years past. ‘This was but a minor detour, an impulse, in fact. Perhaps we will force the stone, perhaps not.’

Impulsive was not a behaviour Hish would associate with SilchasRuin; indeed, not with any of these brothers. If their father chose to gift those words to darkness, it was in honour of the woman he had served all his life. She met Anomander’s eyes again. ‘Upon opening a crypt, you will all draw the breath of a dead man’s air, and that is truth, not superstition. What follows upon that, curse or ill, will be for seers to glean.’ She gathered up her reins. ‘Pray, withhold yourselves for a moment and grant me the time to depart this yard.’

‘You are riding to Kharkanas?’ Silchas asked.

‘I am.’ If he thought she would explain further, he was mistaken. She nudged her mount forward, directing it towards the track that cut over the hump of the hill. The crypts on all sides of this ancient burial ground seemed to crouch, as if awaiting the pounding of yet more rain, and the moss draped over many of them was so verdant it startled the eye.

Hish Tulla felt their regard following her as she rode on; wondered, briefly, at what words they might now pass among them, faintly amused perhaps, or derisive, as old recollections – at least from Anomander and Silchas – awakened, if not regret, then chagrin. But they would laugh, to break free of the discomfort, and shrug away their own impetuous years, now well behind them.

And then, in all likelihood, Silchas would exhort his muscles to prise loose the gravestone, to look well upon the hidden words etched into the black, dusty basalt. He would, of course, be unable to read them, but he might recognize a hieroglyph here, another there. He might glean something of his father’s message to Mother Dark, like catching a fragment of conversation one was not meant to hear.

In the dead man’s breath there would come guilt, bitter and stale, for the three men to taste, and Andarist would know fury – for that taste was not something to bring into a new home for himself and his wife to be, was it? He had every right to be superstitious – omens ever marked great changes in life.

A smell bitter and stale, a smell of guilt. Little different, in fact, from that of a dead rose.

* * *

‘To this day,’ Anomander muttered, ‘my heart swells at the sight of her.’

‘Just your heart then, brother?’

‘Silchas, will you ever listen well to what I say? I choose my words with precision. Perhaps, in truth, you speak only of yourself.’

‘It seems that I do, then. She remains lovely to my eyes, I admit, and if I find myself desiring her even now, there is no shame in admitting it. Even now, I think, we but spin in her wake, like leaves from a fallen tree.’

Andarist had listened in silence to this, unable to share in any tender memories of the beautiful woman who had ridden out from the shadows beneath the tree. Yet, in that moment, he saw an opportunity to draw out his brothers, in particular Silchas – and perhaps it would be enough to dissuade him from his intentions. So he faced Silchas and said, ‘Brother, why did you end it with her?’

Silchas Ruin’s white face bore droplets and streaks of rain as would a visage carved in alabaster. He preceded his reply with a sigh, and then said, ‘Andarist, I wish I knew. No, I think I realized that she was . . . ephemeral. Like a wisp of fog, I could not grasp hold. For all that she lavished attention upon me, it seemed there was something missing.’ He shook his head, shrugged helplessly. ‘Elusive as a dream, is Hish Tulla.’

‘And is this unchanged in her?’ Andarist asked. ‘She has taken no husband.’

‘I imagine her suitors have all given up,’ Silchas answered. ‘Each draws near, only to see too sharply this own failings, and in shame pulls away, never to return.’

‘You may well be right,’ Anomander mused.

‘She seems to have suffered nothing in her solitude,’ Silchas observed, ‘nor do I see any weakness in her attention to grace and perfection. In elegant remoteness, she arrives like a work of high art, and you may well desire to edge ever closer, seeking flaws in the maker’s hand, but the closer you get, the more she blurs before your eyes.’

Andarist saw that Anomander was studying Silchas intently, yet when he spoke it was clear that his thoughts had travelled tracks other than those consuming Silchas. ‘Brother, do you see Hish Tulla as a potential ally?’

‘In truth, I cannot say,’ Silchas replied. ‘She seems the definition of neutrality, does she not?’

‘She does,’ Anomander admitted. ‘Well, let us consider it again, at a later time. For now, will you have at this gravestone?’

Eyes closing, Andarist awaited his brother’s answer.

Silchas was a moment before replying. ‘I see more rain, and we have another league before us. The valley floor promises mud and treacherous footing. I suggest we set this matter aside for now, as well. Be at ease, Andarist. I would do nothing to endanger your future, and though I have little time for omens and such, I do not await what awaits you. So, if you’ll forgive my occasional amusement, let us not cross the lame dog’s path.’

‘I thank you,’ Andarist replied, glancing over to meet Silchas’s warm gaze. ‘And will endeavour to think no ill of your amusement, irritating and patronizing as it may be.’

The smile on Silchas’s face now split into a grin, and he laughed. ‘Lead us on, then. Your brothers would meet this famous mason and look well upon his offering.’

‘Famous,’ muttered Anomander, ‘and damned expensive.’

Drawing their horses round, they set off.

Andarist looked across at Anomander. ‘One day I hope to answer your sacrifice, brother, with one as worthy and as noble as yours.’

‘Where love is the coin, no sacrifice is too great, Andarist. And with that wealth, who among us would hesitate? No, I but teased with you, brother. I trust I will be well pleased with the giving of this gift, and I hope you and your bride find the same pleasure in its receiving.’

‘I am minded,’ Andarist said after a moment, ‘of our father’s gift to us. Mother Dark has rewarded his loyalty through the elevation of his sons, and you, Anomander, have been lifted the highest among us.’ ‘And the point you wish to make?’

‘Would you have permitted Silchas the desecration of Father’s tomb?’

‘Desecration?’ Silchas said in shocked disbelief. ‘All I sought was—’

‘The sundering of a seal,’ Andarist finished. ‘What else could it be called?’

‘The moment is past,’ Anomander said. ‘There will be no more said on the matter. Brothers, we approach a precious time. Let us value it as it should be valued. The blood ever flows between us, and ever shall, and that is our father’s greatest gift to us – would either of you argue against that?’

‘Of course not,’ Silchas replied in a growl.

‘And though I am now elevated to First Son of Darkness, I will not stand alone. I see you both with me, at my side. Peace shall be our legacy – we will achieve it together. What must be done I cannot do alone.’

After a long moment of riding, Silchas seemed to shake himself, and then he said, ‘Hish Tulla looks fondly upon you, Anomander. She will see the nobility in what you seek.’

‘I hope so, Silchas.’

And Andarist said, ‘Though I do not know her as well as either of you, by reputation alone she is known for affability and a certain . . . integrity, and not once have I heard a word of spite directed towards Hish Tulla, which is in itself remarkable.’

‘Then shall I approach her?’ Anomander asked, looking from one brother to the other.

And both nodded.

Anomander had done well, Andarist reflected, in reminding them of what awaited them in the time ahead. A struggle was coming, and in Mother Dark’s name they would find themselves at the very centre of it. They could afford no divisiveness or contention between them. Through the branches of the trees lining the track, the sky was clear, the glare of the sun like molten gold on the leaves.

‘It seems,’ said Silchas, ‘the way ahead has seen no rain, Andarist. I imagine your builders are well pleased at that.’

Andarist nodded. ‘It is said that the Azathanai have power over both earth and sky.’

‘These are Tiste lands,’ Anomander countered. ‘Purake lands. I do not recall my invitation extending to the extravagant use of sorcery. Though,’ he added with a half-smile, ‘I find I cannot entirely object to a cloudless sky over us.’

‘We shall arrive with steam rising from us,’ Silchas observed, laughing, ‘like children born of chaos.’

Tuesdays With Morrie

While in Yerevan, Armenia, through CouchSurfing I met someone special with whom I connected in a profound way. It's funny how you can sometimes meet strangers and after an hour or so spent in their company feel as though you've known them for years. She's a writer and a journalist, and of course at some point during our first meeting we talked about books. Curious, with an inquisitive mind, that girl seemed to want to know everything about me!

Love each other or die.

I didn't know at the time, but it appears that Morrie Schwartz and I share the same philosophy regarding what life is supposed to be all about. Which is probably why she asked me if I had read Mitch Albom's bestselling Tuesdays with Morrie. When I replied that I hadn't, she immediately offered to give it to me as a present. Interestingly enough, over the years some friends had asked her to borrow the book, but she always refused to lend it to them. And there I was, newly arrived in town, a guy she had met in front of the metal bull at the Moskva cinéma complex a couple of hours before, and she insisted that I accept this gift. Not knowing what to say, I reluctantly agreed.

When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

Truth be told, I was kind of hoping that she would forget about the whole thing. Meeting locals through CouchSurfing while you travel can be a very special thing and I always feel bad when they offer me presents of any kind, or if they insist on buying me lunch/dinner, or pay for our drinks, etc. I'm the traveler, the one lucky enough to have them accept to meet me and show me around, so I should be paying for those things. In any case, when we reached the rooftop terrace overlooking Republic Square of the Diamond bar, she took the small book out of her purse and that was that. The maple syrup candies I handed her in exchange felt woefully inadequate. Even more so now that I've read this incredible work.

Make peace. You must make peace with yourself and everyone around you.

Indeed, only a few pages into it, I was acutely aware that Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie would be the sort of work that stays with you long after you've read the last page and put the book down.

You can't substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of companionship.

Here's the blurb:

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.

For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger?

Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final "class": lessons in how to live.

Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

After four years on the New York Times bestseller list, Tuesdays with Morrie is at last available in paperback.

You can read an extract from the book here.

Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others.

And old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson. Thus begins what could well be the most touching and thought-provoking book I have ever read.

For weeks before Morrie's death, every Tuesday Albom would fly from Detroit to meet with his old professor to discuss a variety of topics, such as the world, regrets, death, family, emotions, love, the fear of dying, our culture, forgiveness, and much, much more.

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

As you can see, I've included a number of quotes from the book in this review. I've never encountered a work that made me think, analyze, and reassess the way we live our lives as much as Tuesdays With Morrie did. The reading experience is so special that I forced myself to read it slowly. I wanted to take it all in, to let Morrie Schwartz's words of wisdom truly sink in. Far be it from me to claim that this work will change your life. But believe you me: It will change your outlook on life as we live it in North America and elsewhere in the Western World.

Aging is not just decay...It's growth.

Touching and rewarding moments on basically every page or so, Tuesdays With Morrie is a wonderful book.

At Brandeis, he taught classes about social psychology, mental illness and health, group process. They were light on what you'd now call "career skills" and heavy on "personal development.

The final verdict: 10/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself for only £1.99 here.

Here's the blurb:

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.

Cloud Atlas Trailer

Really not sure about this one.

Visually, it looks stunning. But nothing in the trailer makes me want to see this movie. . . :/

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

God is dead. Meet the kids.

When Fat Charlie's dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie "Fat Charlie." Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can't shake that name, one of the many embarrassing "gifts" his father bestowed -- before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie's life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie's doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who's going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun ... just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie's dad wasn't just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

Returning to the territory he so brilliantly explored in his masterful New York Times bestseller, American Gods, the incomparable Neil Gaiman offers up a work of dazzling ingenuity, a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny -- a true wonder of a novel that confirms Stephen King's glowing assessment of the author as "a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him."

You can also download Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief for 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur. . .

The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

Game of Thrones at Comic-Con 2012

Good stuff!

Win a copy of THE EYE OF THE WORLD: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2

I'm giving away my review copy of Chuck Dixon and Andie Tong's The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The second volume of the magnificent New York Times bestselling graphic novel adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World.

With the full cooperation of the Jordan estate, The Eye of the World has been turned into a stunning comic book series. Volume One of The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel was published by Tor in the Fall of 2011 and was a New York Times bestseller.

In The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel, Volume Two, scripted by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Andie Tong, Rand al’Thor, Egwene al’Vere, and their friends flee their home village in the company of Moiraine and her Warder, Lan Mandragoran. Pursued by their enemies, the group seeks sanctuary in Baerlon. Rand’s nightmares grow darker. Moiraine takes Egwene under her wing. Lan warns them to trust no one, but should that distrust extend to Lan and Moiraine as well?

The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel, Volume Two, collects six issues of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World comic book published by Dynamite Entertainment. This book will feature bonus material that gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a graphic novel.

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

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

In hardcover:

Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down one position, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe. This marks the 52nd consecutive week that ADWD has ranked on the NYT bestseller list!

Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is down seven spots, finishing the week at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' Deadlocked is down two positions, ending the week at number 22.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole is down five positions, ending the week at number 33. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

Deborah E. Harkness' A Discovery of Witches is up twenty-three spots, finishing the week at number 7.

George R. R. Martin's A Storms of Swords is up one position, ending the week at number 8.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up one position, finishing the week at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is up six positions, ending the week at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones maintains its position at number 13 (trade paperback).

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up six spots, finishing the week at number 13.

Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is up two positions, ending the week at number 15.

Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is down nine positions, ending the week at number 17 (trade paperback).

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One maintains its position at number 29.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Speaking of Mark Lawrence, you can now download his fantasy debut, Prince of Thorns, for only £1.99 here.

Here's the blurb:

When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him-and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Excerpt from Mark Lawrence's KING OF THORNS

Thanks to the author, here's an extract from of Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The boy who would be King has gained the throne...

Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath vowed when he was nine to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother—and punish his father for not doing so. When he was fifteen, he began to fulfill that vow. Now he is eighteen—and he must hold on by strength of arms to what he took by torture and treachery.

King Jorg is a man haunted: by the ghost of a young boy, by a mysterious copper box, by his desire for the woman who rides with his enemy. Plagued by nightmares of the atrocities he committed, and of the atrocities committed against him when he was a child, he is filled with rage. And even as his need for revenge continues to consume him, twenty thousand men march toward the gates of his castle. His enemy is far stronger than him. Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight.

But he has found, in a chamber hidden beneath the castle, ancient and long-lost artifacts. Some might call them magic. Jorg is not certain—all he knows is that the secrets they hold can be put to terrible use in the coming battle...



I found these pages scattered, teased across the rocks by a fitful wind. Some were too charred to show their words, others fell apart in my hands. I chased them though, as if it were my story they told and not hers.

Katherine’s story, Aunt Katherine, sister to my step-mother, Katherine who I have wanted every moment of the past four years, Katherine who picks strange paths through my dreams. A few dozen ragged pages, weighing nothing in my hand, snowflakes skittering across them, too cold to stick.

I sat upon the smoke-wreathed ruins of my castle, careless of the heaped and stinking dead. The mountains, rising on all sides, made us tiny, made toys of the Haunt and the siege engines strewn about it, their purpose spent. And with eyes stinging from the fires, with the wind’s chill in me deep as bones, I read through her memories.

From the Journal of Katherine Ap Scorron

October 3rd, Year 98 Interregnum

Ancrath. The Tall Castle. Fountain Room.

The fountain room is as ugly as every other room in this ugly castle. There’s no fountain, just a font that dribbles rather than sprays. My sister’s ladies-in-waiting clutter the place, sewing, always sewing, and tutting at me for writing, as if quill ink is a stain that can’t ever be washed off.

My head aches and wormroot won’t calm it. I found a sliver of pottery in the wound even though Friar Glen said he cleaned it. Dreadful little man. Mother gave me that vase when I came away with Sareth. My thoughts jump and my head aches and this quill keeps trembling.

The ladies sew with their quick clever stitches, line stitch, cross-line, layer-cross. Sharp little needles, dull little minds. I hate them with their tutting and their busy fingers and the lazy Ancrath slurring of their words.

I’ve looked back to see what I wrote yesterday. I don’t remember writing it but it tells how Jorg Ancrath tried to kill me after murdering Hanna, throttling her. I suppose that if he really had wanted to kill me he could have done a better job of it having broken Mother’s vase over my skull. He’s good at killing, if nothing else. Sareth told me that what he said in court, about all those people in Gelleth, burned to dust. . . it’s all true. Merl Gellethar’s castle is gone. I met him when I was a child. Such a sly red-faced man. Looked as if he’d be happy to eat me up. I’m not sorry about him. But all those people. They can’t all have been bad.

I should have stabbed Jorg when I had the chance. If my hands would do what I told them more often. If they would stop trembling the quill, learn to sew properly, stab murdering nephews when instructed. . . Friar Glen said the boy tore most of my dress off. Certainly it’s a ruin now. Beyond the rescue of even these empty ladies with their needles and thread.

I’m being too mean. I blame the ache in my head. Sareth tells me be nice. Be nice. Maery Coddin isn’t all sewing and gossip. Though she’s sewing now and tutting with the rest of them. Maery’s worth talking to on her own, I suppose. There. That’s enough nice for one day. Sareth is always nice and look where that got her. Married to an old man, and not a kind one but a cold and scary one, and her belly all fat with a child that will probably run as savage as Jorg Ancrath.

I’m going to have them bury Hanna in the forest graveyard. Maery tells me she’ll lie easy there. All the castle servants are buried there unless their families claim them. Maery says she’ll find me a new maidservant but that seems so cold, to just replace Hanna as if she were torn lace, or a broken vase. We’ll go out by cart tomorrow. There’s a man making her coffin now. My head feels as if he’s hammering the nails into it instead.

I should have left Jorg to die on the throne-room floor. But it didn’t feel right. Damn him.

We’ll bury Hanna tomorrow. She was old and always complaining of her aches but that doesn’t mean she was ready to go. I will miss her. She was a hard woman, cruel maybe, but never to me. I don’t know if I’ll cry when we put her in the ground. I should. But I don’t know if I will.

That’s for tomorrow. Today we have a visitor. The Prince of Arrow is calling, with his brother Prince Egan and his retinue. I think Sareth would like to match me there. Or maybe it’s the old man, King Olidan. Not many of Sareth’s ideas are her own these days. We will see.

I think I’ll try to sleep now. Maybe my headache will be gone in the morning. And the strange dreams too. Maybe Mother’s vase knocked those dreams right out of me.

Chapter 1

Wedding day

Open the box, Jorg.

I watched it. A copper box, thorn patterned, no lock or latch.

Open the box, Jorg.

A copper box. Not big enough to hold a head. A child’s fist would fit.

A goblet, the box, a knife.

I watched the box and the dull reflections from the fire in the hearth. The warmth did not reach me. I let it burn down. The sun fell, and shadows stole the room. The embers held my gaze. Midnight filled the hall and still I didn’t move, as if I were carved from stone, as if motion were a sin. Tension knotted me. It tingled along my cheekbones, clenched in my jaw. I felt the table’s grain beneath my fingertips.

The moon rose and painted ghost-light across the stone-flagged floor. The moonlight found my goblet, wine untouched, and made the silver glow. Clouds swallowed the sky and in the darkness rain fell, soft with old memories. In the small hours, abandoned by fire, moon and stars, I reached for my blade. I laid the keen edge cold against my wrist.

The child still lay in the corner, limbs at corpse angles, too broken for all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Sometimes I feel I’ve seen more ghosts than people, but this boy, this child of four, haunts me.

Open the box.

The answer lay in the box. I knew that much. The boy wanted me to open it. More than half of me wanted it open too, wanted to let those memories flood out, however dark, however dangerous. It had a pull on it, like the cliff’s edge, stronger by the moment, promising release.

"No." I turned my chair toward the window and the rain, shading to snow now.

I carried the box out of a desert that could burn you without needing the sun. Four years I’ve kept it. I’ve no recollection of first laying hands upon it, no image of its owner, few facts save only that it holds a hell which nearly broke my mind.

Campfires twinkled distant through the sleet. So many they revealed the shape of the land beneath them, the rise and fall of mountains. The Prince of Arrow’s men took up three valleys. One alone wouldn’t contain his army. Three valleys choked with knights and archers, foot-soldiers, pikemen, men-at-axe and men-at-sword, carts and wagons, engines for siege, ladders, rope, and pitch for burning. And out there, in a blue pavilion, Katherine Ap Scorron, with her four hundred, lost in the throng.

At least she hated me. I’d rather die at the hands of somebody who wanted to kill me, to have it mean something to them.

Within a day they would surround us, sealing the last of the valleys and mountain paths to the east. Then we would see. Four years I had held the Haunt since I took it from my uncle. Four years as King of Renar. I wouldn’t let it go easy. No. This would go hard.

The child stood to my right now, bloodless and silent. There was no light in him but I could always see him through the dark. Even through eyelids. He watched me with eyes that looked like mine.

I took the blade from my wrist and tapped the point to my teeth. “Let them come,” I said. “It will be a relief.”

That was true.

I stood and stretched. “Stay or go, ghost. I’m going to get some sleep.”

And that was a lie.

The servants came at first light and I let them dress me. It seems a silly thing but it turns out that kings have to do what kings do. Even copper-crown kings with a single ugly castle and lands that spend most of their time going either up or down at an unseemly angle, scattered with more goats than people. It turns out that men are more apt to die for a king who is dressed by pinch-fingered peasants every morning than for a king who knows how to dress himself.

I broke fast with hot bread. I have my page wait at the doors to my chamber with it of a morning. Makin fell in behind me as I strode to the throne-room, his heels clattering on the flagstones. Makin always had a talent for making a din.

“Good morning, your Highness,” he says.

“Stow that shit.” Crumbs everywhere. “We’ve got problems.”

“The same twenty thousand problems we had on our doorstep last night?” Makin asked. “Or new ones?”

I glimpsed the child in a doorway as we passed. Ghosts and daylight don’t mix, but this one could show in any patch of shadow.

“New ones,” I said. “I’m getting married before noon and I haven’t got a thing to wear.”

New Steven Erikson interview

Speaking of Erikson, the folks at sffworld.com just posted a new interview with the author!

Here's a teaser:

Forge of Darkness is a prequel. Did you always have the idea of a prequel in mind, or was it something that developed as an idea as you were writing the Book of the Fallen?

I think it began to take shape as an idea while I was writing Toll the Hounds, and accordingly I began laying the groundwork in that novel, via flashbacks. Histories hide behind other histories, and this Kharkanas trilogy is a layer pulled back, but even there it’s not structured as ‘this is precisely what happened back then.’ Rather, it is a tale deliberately reshaped by the narrator, for motives entirely his own. This detail allowed me to stay fresh in creating the tale, without being too tightly bound to any kind of objective reality.

Follow this link to read the full interview!

Forge of Darkness

While I was reading Erikson's magnum opus, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, even though there were more than enough incredible storylines, my favorite parts were always the prologues offering flashbacks from the tale's distant past. Hence, when the author revealed that he would write an entire trilogy chronicling the story of Anomander Rake and the Tiste people, I was giddy with excitement.

I was looking forward to reading Forge of Darkness, for I knew that it would be a different reading experience. As was the case when we watched the second Star Wars trilogy, we already know how it's going to end. So in a way, we're along for the ride to finally discover how Anakin will turn to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader. And yet, as is Steven Erikson's wont, the novel raises a lot more questions than it answers. . .

The Malazan Book of the Fallen was so vast in depth, scope, and vision, my only true concern was that this new trilogy wouldn't live up to the lofty expectations created by the original book cycle. And although Forge of Darkness may not be as sprawling a novel as the other Malazan installments, it remains an epic and multilayered tale.

Here's the blurb:

Forge of Darkness: Now is the time to tell the story of an ancient realm, a tragic tale that sets the stage for all the tales yet to come and all those already told...

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power… and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm, and as the rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...

Steven Erikson entered the pantheon of great fantasy writers with his debut Gardens of the Moon. Now he returns with the first novel in a trilogy that takes place millennia before the events of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and introduces readers to Kurald Galain, the warren of Darkness. It is the epic story of a realm whose fate plays a crucial role in shaping the world of the Malazan Empire.

Forge of Darkness takes us back millennia into the past. The earliest flashback from The Malazan Book of the Fallen takes us back nearly 300,000 years and Forge of Darkness occurs centuries or millennia before that. As the tale begins, dragons are just a legend. It is a time before the Elder Gods, before the Holds, before the Warrens. After a bitter and hard-fought war against a previous incarnation of the Forkrul Assail (or so it seems), there is finally peace in Kurald Galain. The cult of Mother Dark cult is growing in Kharkanas and the Tiste people have grown hedonistic and decadent, and now civil war is looming.

As always, Erikson's worldbuilding is top notch. As Warrens don't exist just yet, Kurald Galain is a land situated in a "real" world. It is unclear if this country and the realms beyond it -- the Thel Akai, the Jaghut, the Jheck, and the Dog-Runners' realms to the west beyond the Bareth Solitude, as well as the Forulkan realm to the south -- existed at one point on Wu or if they exist in another dimension or something similar. It is ambiguous, for there are mentions of the High Kingdom and its High King, and Malazan fans are well aware that before he was cursed by three Elder Gods, Kallor ruled over an empire on the continent of Jacuruku. Then again, it might be a different High King, or it might be that he ruled in another dimension. As far as the Malazan canon is concerned, unless Kallor reached Wu first, the Tiste Invasion took place long before the evolution of humans when the Tiste Andii and the Tiste Edur faced the K'Chain Che'Malle on the continent of Lether. Thus, a lot of questions remain unanswered.

Though Forge of Darkness raises a panoply of new questions and provides very few answers, discovering more and more regarding that distant and mysterious past is utterly fascinating. One thing to remember is that as the tale begins, even though there are factions and dissension among them, the Tiste are a united people. At this point, there is no such thing as the Tiste Andii, the Tiste Edur, or the Tiste Liosan. It's interesting to see and learn things about the previous incarnations of races that populate The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Like the Jaghut, who have put an end to their civilization. Or the Azathanai, the people that were never born. Or the Dog-Runners, the Imass' ancestors.

The characterization is probably the aspect that will disappoint some readers. Sadly, the narrative doesn't feature POVs from Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, or Andarist. Forge of Darkness unfolds through the eyes of a great many disparate characters, a lot more than I felt was necessary. But since this is the first volume, only time will tell if such a high number of POV protagonists was required. As was the case with the last few Malazan installments, Erikson's characters go through a lot of introspection. Which at times, it's true, can bog down the narrative.

One would have thought that familiar faces such as the Sons of Darkness, Draconus, and Scara Bandaris would have been the principal POV characters, but the better part of the novel is made up of the POV from new protagonists. Although most of the scenes featuring Draconus are told from his bastard son Arathan's perspective, finding out more about this enigmativ man was great. We are aware that he's at the heart of what's to come, so it's nice to see Draconus feature so prominently in Forge of Darkness. Another factor that readers might find off-putting is that, not only don't we get POVs from Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, and Andarist, but the three brothers don't get much "air time" in this book. Still, it is intriguing to follow younger versions of characters such as Osserc, Spinnock Durav, Sandalath Drukorlat, Orfantal, and others.

Although we were told that Steven Erikson's style would be a bit different in this new series, I haven't perceived any difference in style and tone. But it does feel that Erikson writes with a tighter focus. Though epic in scope, it's not as sprawling as The Malazan Book of the Fallen. More structured, also, which at times feels a bit odd, given the style of the 10-book cycle (where everything could happen at any given moment). Having said that, the plot is as convoluted as that of any other Malazan offering.

The pace of the novel is a bit uneven and much different from what we are used to from Erikson. Habitually, the author starts slow, gradually building up the plotlines, and then going all out for a mind-blowing finale. Virtually all the Malazan installments were like that, so fans have come to expect such structure. With Forge of Darkness, it's the complete opposite. The book features a strong beginning, and then an even stronger middle portion. Yet instead of the exciting ending that we have come to love, Erikson came up with a somewhat weaker and anticlimactic ending for Forge of Darkness. I have a feeling that it has a lot to do with the structure of a trilogy. In and of itself, Forge of Darkness is a set-up book. Steven Erikson is laying A LOT of groundwork for the rest of the series. And though it may be a little lackluster, it looks as though Forge of Darkness ends just the way it should, setting the stage for what should be an amazing sequel. Only time will tell if Fall of Light will live up to that potential. As things stand, it appears that Forge of Darkness is a vast introduction that will serve as the opening chapter for what is to come, and as such I'm wondering how well it will stand on its own.

Even with the absence of the sort of convergence that always allowed Erikson to cap all of his novels off with style, there is more than enough secrets, questions, and revelations to satisfy Malazan fans. Forge of Darkness will have you begging for more, which is all we can ask for!

What would be a new Malazan offering without a timeline issue, right!?! And yes, Forge of Darkness features a couple of glaring timeline errors. The first: Sukul Ankhadu was a soletaken Eleint goddess of the Tiste Edur. She was sister to Menandore, and half-sister to Sheltatha Lore. She was the daughter of Tiam and Osserc. At least, that's what we learned in The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Problem is, at the beginning of Forge of Darkness Sukul Ankhadu is already a young woman held as a noble hostage. It is a problem because she appears to be older than Osserc (who could be anywhere between late teenage years and young adulthood). So as things stand, Osserc could not have fathered Sukul Ankhadu. Moreover, at this juncture dragons are just a legend and Tiam remains unknown to the Tiste. The second time issue has to do with Sheltatha Lore. But I can't provide more details without including spoilers, so I'll refrain from doing so.

I brought it up on malazanempire.com and we were told that Steven Erikson is aware of these apparent errors and remains unmoved. Hence, we have to trust the author and see how he will reconcile these errors with the established Malazan canon.

For all of its flaws, Forge of Darkness is a "must read" for all Malazan fans out there!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

Ian Tregillis contest winners!

Our three winners will receive a complimentary copy of Ian Tregillis' excellent The Coldest War, courtesy of the kind folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Emilia Fallavollita, from Montréal, Québec, Canada

- George Kalogeris, from Brossard, Québec, Canada

- Grant Glaus, from Waitsburg, Washington, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Starred review for Tad Williams' THE DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN

Tad Williams' upcoming urban fantasy novel, The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Canada, USA, Europe) garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly:

Epic fantasist Williams (A Stark and Wormy Knight) launches a noir fantasy series with a dark and thrilling story of Heaven and Hell battling for human souls. Bad-ass smart-mouth Bobby Dollar, an Earth-bound angel advocate for newly departed souls caught between Heaven and Hell, is appalled when a soul goes missing on his watch. Bobby quickly realizes this is “an actual, honest-to-front-office crisis,” and he sets out to fix it, sparking a chain of hellish events. A gruesome murder, cryptic messages from Heaven, a stolen object, a villainous grand duke of Hell, an elusive secret society, an irresistible succubus, and a dreadful primordial spirit provide the ingredients for a tightly woven, action-packed adventure. Bobby is a scene-stealer from the first page; his gutsiness, determination, and offbeat sense of humor add zest to the pandemonium that erupts around him. Exhilarating action, fascinating characters, and high stakes will leave the reader both satisfied and eager for the next installment.

Really looking forward to this book!!

Quote of the Day

Vengeance, Anomander, is the slayer of righteousness.

- ANDARIST, in Steven Erikson's Forge of Darkness (Canada, USA, Europe)

You can now pre-order the book at 48% off on amazon.co.uk and 41% off on amazon.com. . .

The Pillars of Hercules

A lot has been said regarding David Constantine's The Pillars of Hercules since the day the book was published, and a lot of it has not always been positive. In light of all this, I'm kind of glad that my full reading schedule and prior commitments prevented me from giving the novel an early read and review when the author first approached me. Indeed, going in with the knowledge of this work's supposed shortcomings allowed me to have a different mindset and probably permitted me to enjoy the novel more than I would have otherwise.

David Constantine is a new pseudonym for David J. Williams, science fiction author of the excellent The Mirrored Heavens, The Burning Skies, and The Machinery of Light. They felt that the change of genre and style warranted a change of pseudonym, which is understandable. You can visit David Constantine's official website here.

Here's the blurb:

Alexander, Prince of Macedon, is the terror of the world. Persia, Egypt, Athens . . . one after another, mighty nations are falling before the fearsome conqueror. Some say Alexander is actually the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and the living incarnation of Hercules himself. Worse yet, some say Alexander believes this . . . .

The ambitious prince is aided in his conquest by unstoppable war-machines based on the forbidden knowledge of his former tutor, the legendary scientist-mage known as Aristotle. Greek fire, mechanical golems, and gigantic siege--engines lay waste to Alexander's enemies as his armies march relentlessly west--toward the very edge of the world.

Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, past the gateway to the outer ocean, lies the rumored remnants of Atlantis: ancient artifacts of such tremendous power that they may be all that stands between Alexander and conquest of the entire world. Alexander desires that power for himself, but an unlikely band of fugitives--including a Gaulish barbarian, a cynical Greek archer, a cunning Persian princess, and a sorcerer's daughter--must find it first . . . before Alexander unleashes godlike forces that will shatter civilization.

The Pillars of Hercules is an epic adventure that captures the grandeur and mystery of the ancient world as it might have been, where science and magic are one and the same

What virtually every reviewer has been complaining about has been David Constantine's narrative voice. And I agree that it is a problem. Not a deal breaker in and of itself, but it can be off-putting enough to kill what is essentially an entertaining tale for many a reader. David J. Williams is not the first genre writer to jump from science fiction to fantasy or vice versa. And chances are that he won't be the last. Trouble is, although he changed his name, the author did not adapt his style to the new genre he was writing in. Authors such as Stephen R. Donaldson, Orson Scott Card, L. E. Modesitt, jr., Tad Williams, and Richard Morgan have all jumped from one genre to the other during their career. And though their style remains their own, their narrative voice is inherently different depending on whether they are writing in the fantasy or the science fiction genres. Which is as it should be, of course. Problem is, Constantine wrote The Pillars of Hercules the way he wrote his three scifi yarns, thus ensuring that the novel doesn't read like a fantasy book.

As a result, the narrative is anachronistic and incongruous, and the same can be said of the dialogue. Since the action takes place in the Ancient World, the narrative and the dialogue must reflect that historical period of time, at least to a certain degree. Hence, expressions such as "going batshit" have no place in such a setting. To be honest, it's nothing major. But these little things add up, and I can see why a lot of readers and reviewers were not enamored with The Pillars of Hercules. Moreover, it's these little things that act as distractions, potentially annoying readers and getting in the way of a balls-to-the wall action story.

Labelled as A Saga of the Ancient World -- As it might have been, this combination of steampunk and Alexander the Great was quite intriguing. As far as I know, nothing like this had been done yet, making me curious to see how cool it was going to be. After conquering the Persian Empire and going all the way to Afghanistan, Alexander the Great returns to the West, his sights set on Athens. At the beginning, I have to admit that the addition of steampunk elements keeps you on your toes and makes The Pillars of Hercules a decidedly original read. Having said that, I'm afraid that David Constantine sort of fell too in love with such artifices and went over-the-top with their use, which at times almost became deus ex machina aspects of the various storylines. Hence, the more the story progresses, the more it becomes a concern.

The anachronistic and incongruous aspects of this work are never more evident than in the characterization, I'm afraid. Every single character sounds like a protagonist from The Wire or another bad-ass TV show, which has absolutely nothing to do with the historical period portrayed in the book. Eurydice, at times, sounds like she's in Jersey Shore. And that's what's likely the most off-putting facet of this novel. Every character's thoughts and words are straight out of the 21st century, or so it seems, when the action occurs against a specific historical backdrop where slang found in the urban dictionary should be unknown. This is especially true of all the sections featuring Lugorix and Matthias.

For all of that, the plotlines move at a breakneck pace for the better part of the novel. The short POV sequences make for a brisk rhythm and the story progresses rapidly. At times too fast for the reader to truly understand what is going on, actually. If you are familiar with David J. Williams' books, you are aware that he likes to keep the action coming, to keep readers on the edge of their seats. What worked extremely well for his science fiction novels didn't work as well in the fantasy genre, however. Too often are we left in the dark as to what exactly is supposed to be taking place, and only rarely are we treated to a bit of elaboration to help shine some light on the various storylines.

If you can overlook these flaws, Constantine's The Pillars of Hercules remains a fun and action-packed read. Probably the perfect book to bring along on vacation if you are looking for a light and entertaining read. It's akin to one of those big-budget Hollywood productions where lots of shit gets blown up. It will never win an Oscar or a Golden Globe award, but it's fun to watch.

The final verdict: 7/10

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

Quote of the Day

Sam Raimi is a person who believes in heroes. His Spider-Man movies are obviously about a heroic person who's rising up to challenges. Sam was instrumental in making that movie about a real person. He understood that [Spider-Man] is about a real individual who had to rise to challenges and be heroic. He strongly believes in the sacredness in heroes for all of us, for kids and adults alike. That's something that really drew him to Wizard's First Rule: he loves the characters; he loves the heroic aspects of [the story]. The reason he wants it done for T.V. is because he says that if he were to do it as a two hour movie, it would ruin the story. He has so much respect for the story that the last thing in the world he wants to do is ruin it; he wants to do a television format.

 Right now he's working on who [the audience] it's going to be for and what format will it take, whether it's going to be an hour [per week] miniseries. He's in the early planning stages, and he wants me to be intimately involved in all aspects of it—more involved than I have time to be! He's told me he wants this to be true to my vision, because if I love it, my fans will love it, and if my readers love it, the general audience will love it. He thinks my involvement [in the project] is integral to its success, and he wants me to be there for every stage of it—and I plan to be

- TERRY GOODKIND about the forthcoming TV series Legend of the Seeker in an interview.

Didn't quite work out as planned, methinks. . . Do you guys remember when that dumbass Mystar stirred up all that crap when he claimed to have met HBO executives in Las Vegas and went on about how the Game of Thrones TV series had been cancelled???

Someone just sent me this parody. . . :P

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

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is up one position, ending the week at number 7. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe. This marks the 52nd consecutive week that ADWD has ranked on the NYT bestseller list!

Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is down four spots, finishing the week at number 10. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Charlaine Harris' Deadlocked is down one position, ending the week at number 20.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole is down seven positions, ending the week at number 28. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Taylor Anderson's Iron Gray Sea: Destroyermen debuts at number 32.

In paperback:

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus debuts at number 5 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down two spots, finishing the week at number 6.

Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is down two positions, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storms of Swords is up one position, ending the week at number 9.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up one position, finishing the week at number 10.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up thirteen spots, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down one position, ending the week at number 16.

Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is down five positions, ending the week at number 17.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is down two spots, finishing the week at number 19.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down four spots, finishing the week at number 29.

Deborah E. Harkness' A Discovery of Witches returns at number 30.

Mark Lawrence contest winners!

Thanks to the folks at Ace and Voyager, our three winners will get their hands on a copy of Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Don't forget that you can pre-order the book via the aforementioned links at 46% off on amazon.com and 42% off on amazon.co.uk!

The winners are:

- Mika Sunberg, from Seattle, Washington, USA

- Rick Fennelly, from Lamoine, Maine, USA

- Neil Pearson, from Bristol, England (Red Snow on asoiaf.westeros.org)

Many thanks to all the participants!

Musical Interlude

Cool tune!

Teaser extract from Mark Lawrence's KING OF THORNS

There is a teaser extract from Mark Lawrence's King of Thorns (Canada, USA, Europe) now available online on Staffer's Book Review.

Follow this link to read it.

They also have a giveaway!

The Wurms of Blearmouth

As most of you know, I wasn't enamored with Steven Erikson's last Malazan novella, Crack'd Pot Trail. I felt that it was too weird and experimental in style and tone, and I could never truly get into it. Well, I'm pleased to report that The Wurms of Blearmouth is akin to Blood Follows, The Healthy Dead, and The Lees of Laughter's End in every aspect.

As far as the timeline is concerned, the action takes place directly following The Lees of Laughter's End. In many ways, this novella is sort of the aftermath of everything which occurred in the third Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella. And once again, it's hilarious! Considering the doorstopper size of Erikson's Malazan installments, his short fiction continues, for the most part, to be immensely entertaining reading experiences.

Here's the blurb:

Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants will thrive in palaces and one room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct, and all propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery.

But we’ll leave all that behind as we plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind, and in the ragged wake of the tale told in Lees of Laughter’s End, our most civil adventurers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their suitably phlegmatic manservant, Emancipor Reese, make gentle landing upon a peaceful beach, beneath a quaint village above the strand and lying at the foot of a majestic castle, and therein make acquaintance with the soft-hearted and generous folk of Spendrugle, which lies at the mouth of the Blear River and falls under the benign rule of the Lord of Wurms in his lovely keep.

Make welcome, then, to Spendrugle’s memorable residents, including the man who should have stayed dead, the woman whose prayers should never have been answered, the tax collector everyone ignores, the ex-husband town militiaman who never married, the beachcomber who lives in his own beard, and the now singular lizard cat who used to be plural, and the girl who likes to pee in your lap. And of course, hovering over all, the denizen of the castle keep, Lord

Ah, but there lies this tale, and so endeth this blurb, with one last observation: when tyrants collide, they have dinner.

And a good time is had by all.

At the beginning of this new novella, our favorite necromancers and their down-on-his-luck manservant survive the destruction of the Suncurl and end up on a wrecker's coast located in West Elingarth's Forgotten Holding. Nearby lies the welcoming community of Spendrugle, which is ruled by the diabolical tyrant known as Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render. As Bauchelain and Korbal Broach and poor Emancipor Reese have no choice but to accept the tyrant's hospitality, little do they know that several parties are in hot pursuit, what with the way The Lees of Laughter's End came to a close.

What follows are the tribulations of our unlikely trio and the repercussions their arrival generates among the inhabitants of the lovely locale known as Spendrugle.The back-and-forth between Bauchelain and Emancipor Reese continues to produce highlights to be savored. Still, the conversations between Lord Fangatooth and his scribe Coingood make for some extremely funny moments as well. And once you've read this tale, you'll certainly agree that the folks of Spendrugle are an endearing bunch. . .

As fun and entertaining as the first three Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas, The Wurms of Blearmouth is a page-turner. And as the proverbial shit in about to hit the fan, there is no way to put this book down. This could well be Steven Erikson's best novella yet.

As much as I'm enjoying my early read of Erikson's forthcoming Forge of Darkness, The Wurms of Blearmouth offered a welcome and fun-filled interlude featuring a trio of protagonists that I can't get enough of!

Evil has never been this much fun!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

You can pre-order the novella here.

Cover art for Guy Gavriel Kay's RIVER OF STARS

No word yet if this is the final cover art, but it looks good!

Update: This is the cover art that will be used for both the Canadian and the American editions of River of Stars.

Guy Gavriel Kay's comment: "I genuinely love this cover, and am really happy to be able to share it. Authors often complain about their book covers. Allow me to be different - I think my publishers have done a spectacularly creative job. Hope readers agree."

Brandon Sanderson contest winner!

This lucky bastard will get his hands on my ARC of Brandon Sanderson's Legion! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, and the Subterranean Press website.

The winner is:

- Rémi Gracet, from Avignon, France

Many thanks to all the participants!

Cover blurb for Guy Gavriel Kay's RIVER OF STARS

Okay, so we now know a little more about Kay's upcoming project:

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

Can't wait!