Excerpt from Jim Butcher's COLD DAYS

To celebrate Harry Dresden's birthday, author Jim Butcher's posted an excerpt from the forthcoming Cold Days on his website! For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:


After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…His soul.

Follow this link to read the extract.

The Pat's Fantasy Hotlist world tour hits the road again!

Feeling a bit depressed these days, I need a change of scenery. . . :/

I was able to get a leave of absence from work, so I'll be flying away to sunny Mexico for 3 weeks in mid-November!

I'll be traveling around the Yucatán Peninsula, hitting all the highlights during my stay. I'm landing in Cancún, where I'll spend a couple of days. After which I'll be moving on to beautiful Isla Mujeres, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, and Tulum. I won't miss the impressive Maya sites of Chichén Itzá and Ek' Balam. I will also visit the gorgeous colonial towns of Mérida and San Franciso de Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico.

Hopefully the perfect mix of sun, sea, party, and culture. Just what the doctor ordered to help cure me of my autumn blues! =)

If anyone is in the area from mid-November and early December, let me know and we'll have a cerveza or three together! ;-)

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Gail Z. Martin's ICE FORGED

Once again this year, I accepted Gail Z. Martin's invitation to be part of her Days of the Dead promotion. So we're giving away an Advance Reading Copy of Ice Forged, which will be published by Orbit in January! For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine "Mick" McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, as the world's magic runs wild, McFadden and the people of Velant must fight to survive and decide their fate...

From Gail Z. Martin, author of the beloved series THE CHRONICLES OF THE NECROMANCER and THE FALLEN KINGS CYCLE, comes a new fantasy adventure for the ages.

Welcome to the end of the world.

Welcome to the beginning of THE ASCENDANT KINGDOMS SAGA.

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

For more info about the Days of the Dead promotion, check out the author's official website.

New Guy Gavriel Kay interview

The Spanish SFF website Sense of Wonder just posted a new interview with Guy Gavriel Kay. Here's a teaser:

I have always resisted labels and categories, in fact. I think they do more harm than good. Trying to figure out what 'box' to put a book in can get in the way of a more important question: Is it good? Having said that, the usual description for my work these days is 'historical fantasy'. I am 'accused' of having just about invented the form, and of course a number of others explore it now. I do extensive research into a time and place, then shift it slightly. One scholar called it 'a quarter turn to the fantastic'. I do this for many reasons, but one is respect for the actual lives lived in the past. I don't want to pretend I know the innermost thoughts of real people, from El Cid to the great Tang Dynasty poets. I prefer to share with the reader an awareness that the book is inspired by real events and people, but we must be honourable and respectful in how we deal with them. Thus, the mixture of history and the fantastic.

Follow this link to read the full piece.

Musical Interlude

I love the beat of this track!

Quote of the Day

The next wagon might have been the biggest in the Fellowship, with glass windows and The Famous Iosiv Lestek written along the side in already peeling purple paint. Seemed to Shy that if a man was that famous he wouldnt have to paint his name on a wagon, but since her own brush with fame had been through bills widely posted for her arrest she hardly considered herself an expert.

- JOE ABERCROMBIE, Red Country, (Canada, USA, Europe)

You gotta love Abercrombie!

A Fantasy Medley 2

Yanni Kuznia's A Fantasy Medley featured an all-star cast of contributors and turned out to be a very good anthology. Understandably, this limited edition was quick to sell out. With a couple of New York Times bestselling contributors, I'm persuaded that Subterranean Press expected no less.

With the original anthology ending up being a commercial and critical success, I was curious to see how the second volume would turn out. Yanni Kuznia has once again assembled a cast of quality writers, yet none of them possess the star power of big names like Robin Hobb or Kelly Armstrong. Still, Tanya Huff, Amanda Downum, Jasper Kent, and Seanan McGuire are another disparate group of writers that could make for an absorbing read.

Here's the blurb:

In A Fantasy Medley, editor Yanni Kuznia assembled a diverse quartet of stories from some of fantasy’s most exciting authors, and the sell-out volume earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Now Kuznia returns with A Fantasy Medley 2, offering absorbing new tales of the fantastic from four of the brightest stars in the field:

With “Quartered,” Tanya Huff returns to the world of her beloved Quarters series with the story of the young bard Evicka, whose mission to spy on an assassin brings peril, tragedy, and, ultimately, revelation.

In “Bone Garden,” Amanda Downum revisits Erisín, setting of her critically lauded novel The Bone Palace from the Necromancer Chronicles. Deadly spirits are preying on the city’s most vulnerable citizens in this story of secrets and sacrifice.

“The Sergeant and the General” finds Jasper Kent weaving a tale from the other side of the battle lines drawn in his Danilov Quintet, with a French veteran of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign haunted by more than just memories.

And in “Rat-Catcher,” Seanan McGuire travels into the past of the October Daye series to pull back the veils on both the world of 17th century London theater and the faerie Court of Cats as two worlds collide in one of the greatest conflagrations in history.

I hadn't read anything by Tanya Huff in ages and I wasn't familiar with her Quarters series. And although you can enjoy the short story without any foreknowledge of events and characters from the series, I have a feeling that there were some nuances that I probably missed along the way. Still, I particularly liked how Huff played with readers' preconceptions to surprise everyone at the end.

Amanda Downun's "Bone Garden" is hands down the most thrilling and fascinating short story of the bunch. Again, I wasn't familiar with the author's Necromancer Chronicles or her critically acclaimed novel The Bone Palace, but reading this story really made me want to learn more about Downun's work. I particularly enjoyed what felt like a Russian/Slavic flavor of the universe and the refugees, and I might look a bit further into this. This appears to be a speculative fiction series with a different vibe, one that has definitely piqued my curiosity.

As most of you know, I'm a big fan of Jasper Kent's Danilov Quintet and I was expecting this to be a short story told from the French perspective. And it is, yet it has nothing to do with Kent's series. On the one hand, I was a bit disappointed when that fact sunk in. But on the other hand, the author came up with an unusual and interesting ghost story that turned out to be quite good.

If you like cats, then perhaps you'll enjoy Seanan McGuire's "Rat-Catcher." It was a bit too cute and at times frivolous for my liking, but it reads extremely well. The most fluid story in terms of pace in the entire anthology. But I have a feeling that the faeries from the Court of Cats might not be for every reader.

In my opinion, the best thing about the short stories contained in Yanni Kuznia's A Fantasy Medley 2 is that they work quite well as introductory works which may lure potential new readers to each author's body of work. Having said that, that same material will doubtless satisfy existing fans who will relish the opportunity to return to worlds and characters they have grown to love.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subterranean Press


Jeff Salyards is the author of the fantasy debut Scourge of the Betrayer (Canada, USA, Europe) and he just posted something quite interesting on his website:

One of the best things about being a debut author is that it’s all a brand new adventure. On the one hand, that means I have no idea what the hell I’m doing or how to balance promotion and writing, no clue about adjusting to a contracted deadline as opposed to some sliding target in my head. On the other hand, it means getting all kinds of fun surprises, like reviewers who fall in love with the book, or readers who reach out to compliment me on an interview I did, or sometimes even more unexpected stuff. Like a professional composer contacting me and proposing a trade: he’d compose a few tracks to serve as a mini-soundtrack to Scourge of the Betrayer in exchange for a signed copy of the book.

Being a newbie, I don’t know what’s usual or not. Maybe composers reach out to authors with similar offers all the time. I’m going to pretend otherwise. I like feeling special. But either way, it’s still really cool.

So of course I agreed. And the composer, Will Musser, recently sent me the first track. This serves as kind of an overture for the book, and tries to weave several different elements of the book in one track, which, while very ambitious, results in something pretty powerful, in my opinion anyway. It’s really interesting to see or hear another artist’s interpretation of something you created. Will wanted to convey some mystery associated with the Syldoon and their agenda, and the brutality they are capable of, as well as capturing the haunting quality of Braylar and the cursed weapon he possesses. Again, that’s a lot to cover in a track that’s under four minutes long, but I think Will did a fantastic job—there are a lot layers here, a lot of movement, and plenty of depth.

Follow this link to listen to the track, which is pretty damn cool!

Free Neil Gaiman short story on Audible

From audible.com:

Two years ago, author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman proposed that, every year for Halloween, people give each other scary books. We couldn't agree more. So this year, we're putting our money where our mouth is. Scare yourself or someone you love with the never-before-seen (or heard) short story Click-Clack the Rattlebag, written and narrated by Neil himself, and Audible will donate $1 for every download through Halloween up to $100,000 to the education charity DonorsChoose.org.

Share this link to spread chills and goodwill with as many people as possible, and tweet @neilhimself and @audible_com using hashtag #ScareUs to let us know how scary you thought Click-Clack and the Rattlebag was, or to share your own scary story.

If you are in the UK, visit Audible.co.uk, where donations will go to the education charity BookTrust.

Here's the blurb:

"'What kind of story would you like me to tell you?' 'Well,' he said, thoughtfully, 'I don't think it should be too scary, because then when I go up to bed, I will just be thinking about monsters the whole time. But if it isn't just a little bit scary, then I won't be interested. And you make up scary stories, don't you?'" So begins this sweet, witty, deceptive little tale from master storyteller Neil Gaiman. Lock the doors, turn off the lights, and enjoy.

Follow this link to download "Click-Clack the Rattlebag."

New novella by Nnedi Okorafor

You can read a new 32,000 word novella by Nnedi Okorafor in the fall edition of Subterranean.

Here's the blurb:

Grown in Tower 7 with a variety of other genetic experiments, an accelerated woman with unusual abilities has a rude awakening and finally begins to yearn for freedom. Nonetheless, obtaining that freedom comes with a heavy, highly destructive price. 'African Sunrise' has four parts: Specimen (previously published as 'The Book of Phoenix'), Beacon, Reaper and Villain. A riot of science fiction and fantasy and set in both a future United States and a future Africa, 'African Sunrise' features the rise of another of World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful characters.

Follow this link to read African Sunrise.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Fall for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From the authors of the instant New York Times bestseller The Strain comes the next volume in one of the most imaginative and frightening thriller series in many, many years Last week they invaded Manhattan. This week they will destroy the world.

The vampiric virus unleashed in The Strain has taken over New York City. It is spreading and soon will envelop the globe. Amid the chaos, Eph Goodweather—head of the Centers for Disease Control's team—leads a band out to stop these bloodthirsty monsters. But it may be too late.

Ignited by the Master's horrific plan, a war erupts between Old and New World vampires, each vying for control. At the center of the conflict lies a book, an ancient text that contains the vampires' entire history . . . and their darkest secrets. Whoever finds the book can control the outcome of the war and, ultimately, the fate of us all. And it is between these warring forces that humans—powerless and vulnerable—find themselves no longer the consumers but the consumed. Though Eph understands the vampiric plague better than anyone, even he cannot protect those he loves. His ex-wife, Kelly, has been transformed into a bloodcrazed creature of the night, and now she stalks the city looking for her chance to reclaim her Dear One: Zack, Eph's young son.

With the future of humankind in the balance, Eph and his team, guided by the brilliant former professor and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian and exterminator Vasiliy Fet and joined by a crew of ragtag gangsters, must combat a terror whose ultimate plan is more terrible than anyone has imagined—a fate worse than annihilation.

Just realized that the first volume of the series, The Strain, is also available for 1.99$ here.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 22nd)

In hardcover:

Kim Harrison’s Into the Woods debuts at number 13.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down three spots, finishing the week at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata debuts at number 34. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas maintains its position at number 4 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is up eighteen spots, finishing the week at number 9.

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

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up nine positions, ending the week at number 11.

Karen Traviss' Halo: The Thursday War is down five spots, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus maintains its position at number 16 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is up one position, ending the week at number 24 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is up ten positions, ending the week at number 25.

Christopher Moore's Sacré Bleu debuts at number 28 (trade paperback).

Kim Harrison's A Perfect Blood returns at number 30.

Justin Cronin contest winner!

This lucky bastard will get his hands on my copy of Justin Cronin's The Twelve. For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Brett Miller, from Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

any thanks to all the participants!

Win a copy of Joe Abercrombie's RED COUNTRY

Thanks to the cool folks at Orbit, I have a copy of Joe Abercrombie's Red Country up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust. . .

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian for 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.

Guest Blog: Things that George R. R. Martin does well

Another guest blog, this time written by two of the brightest new voices in speculative fiction today, Bradley P. Beaulieu and Ian Tregillis. They wanted to elaborate on certain things that GRRM does particularly well, but that are not necessarily obvious. Given how much of a fan I am of the author, I was only too happy to let them have their fun!

Beaulieu is the author of the excellent The Winds of Khalakovo and The Straits of Galahesh. For more information about him and his body of work, check out his official website.

And Tregillis is the author of the excellent Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War. You can find all sorts of information on his official website.


A few months back, Pat kindly sent me a note inviting me by the Hotlist for a guest post. I quickly jotted down a few ideas and ran them past him. He ended up liking them all, and I’ll write those others in the weeks ahead, but the one I wanted to tackle first was a post about George R.R. Martin and the things he does well as a writer. I’d been reading A Dance With Dragons, and it seemed like a good opportunity to crystallize some of my thoughts. But before I got into it, I thought it would be fun to invite another author to join me. Writing is a lonely profession, so I try to make excuses to work with others when I can.

The first person that jumped to mind was Ian Tregillis. Why Ian? Well, first and foremost because he’s a great writer, and great writers tend to have great insights. Second, Ian has been in a writing group with Mr. Martin and has written two stories for his Wildcards anthologies. And thirdly, I sort of “came up” with Ian. We were both in the Online Writing Workshop together, we both joined a small writing group after that, and we both sold our first novels around the same time. It’s been great seeing the reception to Ian’s wonderful Milkweed Triptych books, and I’m very excited to see his next project.

That’s a somewhat longwinded way of saying I’m glad Ian decided to join me. Not only was this a really fun post, and not only did I get to formalize some of my own thoughts on Martin’s writing, but I learned a thing or three from Ian’s excellent observations.

Bradley P. Beaulieu

I think we've all heard the things that George Martin does best. The uber-epic scope of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, compelling characters, his penchant for putting character after character to the sword, which only serves to heighten our sympathy for those who remain, and so on.

And yet, there are many things that Martin does well that aren't immediately obvious. These things affect us as we read, but they often don't rise to the surface. It's like mood music in movies. The best kinds are the ones you don't notice, that ones that enhance mood without calling attention to themselves. Martin is not just a master storyteller, he's a consummate craftsman, and in this article, we hope to illuminate some of those things he does so well.

Beaulieu: I've always been impressed with the way Martin’s chapters are constructed. Sometimes they're composed of a single scene; sometimes they're multiple scenes; but almost always they leave me with the same satisfaction I get after I've read a particularly effective short story. I wonder if it has to do with his time in Hollywood writing scripts for episodic television. Or perhaps it's a skill that comes with careful practice and attention to craft. Whatever the reason, his chapters feel like discrete stories while simultaneously adding not only to the contiguous thread of that particular character but also the tapestry of the novel as a whole.

Let's break things down a bit.

There's a term fiction writers use called the hook, which is used to describe a compelling start to a story or a scene. I wouldn't say that Martin uses overtly strong hooks, but they’re certainly compelling. He very consciously immerses us in the scene, and does so in evocative ways. First of all, he uses the convention of "naming" his chapters with the name of the point-of-view character, so we're fairly immersed in who we're reading about early on, but beyond this we're quickly placed in the story, and by that I mean we’re grounded in the world and we know what the characters are doing.

Here's one of many examples from A Dance With Dragons, this one the opening three paragraphs from an early Jon Snow chapter:

The white wolf raced through a black wood, beneath a pale cliff as tall as the sky. The moon ran with him, slipping through a tangle of bare branches overhead, across the starry sky.

“Snow,” the moon murmured. The wolf made no answer. Snow crunched beneath his paws. The wind sighed through the trees.

Far off, he could hear his packmates calling to him, like to like. They were hunting too. A wild rain lashed down upon his black brother as he tore at the flesh of an enormous goat, washing the blood from his side where the goat’s long horn had raked him. In another place, his little sister lifted her head to sing to the moon, and a hundred small grey cousins broke off their hunt to sing with her. The hills were warmer where they were, and full of food. Many a night his sister’s pack gorged on the flesh of sheep and cows and horses, the prey of men, and sometimes even on the flesh of man himself.

We know that this is Jon's chapter, but we also know that he's inhabiting Ghost as the wolf ranges over the northern landscape of Westeros. We are very effectively and economically reminded of who Jon is, who Ghost is, and their abilities.

It isn't merely that we are embedded effectively with Martin's openings; it's that it is almost always done so in medias res. The characters are in motion when the chapter opens, even if it's from a point of view like Dany's and she's merely sitting and listening to petitioners in her audience chamber. If it isn't physical action we're shown at first, it's emotional or political or tactical.

The point is that we feel direction early on, and that initial surge of movement plays out over the course of the chapter. Now, I find most of the pages of his chapters to be fairly low tension, but one thing that stands out to me is the supreme confidence that Martin has in his prose and pacing. We know something is going to happen. We know that there will be a strong, emotionally driven ending that will have impact, an ending that will affect this character, his thread, and the story at large. We know so because Martin has been doing it over and over since the beginning of this epic series. Even early in Book 1, A Game of Thrones, when I wasn't familiar with his style, his mastery over story was so apparent that I was willing to give him a lot of leeway to see what was going to happen, and he always rewarded me for that investment.

So, we have a strong opening, and we have a build in the middle, and as the chapter wears on, our anticipation heightens. Our expectations, driven by the clues sprinkled throughout the chapter, create a sort of tension: it makes us wonder how the chapter is going to close. And when it comes at last, we feel excited, or angry, or like vengeance has been served or needs to be served. Whatever the case, the chapter feels fulfilling. Sometimes the emotional twist at the end—referred to by some as the "button"—lasts a few pages; sometimes it's only a line or two. Either way, I've been carried from the start of the scene in such a way that I feel like the story has advanced or shifted in some significant way, and that just makes me want to get back to that character all the more. Of all Martin’s skills, this one is standing out to me the most as I read the latest installment of his series.

Tregillis: I notice that the word "compelling" keeps popping up. And that seems entirely to be expected, because to my point of view the thing that Martin does extremely well, better than anything else, is the construction of incredibly immersive scenes. So while you're studying the way he does what I'll call "meso-scale" story construction, I'm paying attention to how he does things at a more "micro" level—the scene level.

As you point out, sometimes his chapters comprise just one scene. But sometimes they contain multiple scenes. The thing that strikes me over and over again as I read his work is the way each individual scene—even if stripped of its context, and read solely as a standalone piece—is remarkably immersive. And when I'm immersed so deeply in my reading experience, it automatically becomes compelling. I'd argue that the compulsion to keep reading stems in large part from the sense of immersion. At least, it does for me.

For me as a reader, this ability to construct incredibly immersive scenes is Martin's greatest talent. It's present in much of Martin's work, not only the Ice and Fire books. (Although it's there, I'd suggest, that it's used to its fullest and most powerful extent.) Going further, I'd even venture that it's the foundation for many of the other things for which he's noted. It's the immersion that makes us care about the characters by placing us inside their skin, inhabiting not just their environments but also their wants and needs. The immersion makes A Song of Ice and Fire truly epic by building an entire world that we can see, smell, feel, hear, and even (famously) taste. It's like the difference between glancing at a cheap matte painting of a castle and actually walking the high battlements and feeling the sting of a cold wind in your eyes.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What about the immersion? How does he do it? I'm still struggling to figure out how all the pieces work, but perhaps the key to what Martin does is his use of a staggering abundance of detail. Martin rarely introduces a new character—even a relatively minor one—without giving the reader a firm grounding in that character's background. There's a mastery to the way he uses just a few brush strokes to fill in a rather complete picture of a spear carrier. Even characters who, shall we say, aren't long for the world get their fair share of description. Take a look at the very first scene of A Game of Thrones, for instance, and note how everybody present is described. The world is rich and populated with living people.

But Martin's fluency with detail isn't confined to characters' wardrobes and familial histories. He's famous for the description of food in his books, to the extent that there's even a companion cookbook to the Song of Ice and Fire. It's hard not to yearn for some lemon cakes and honeyfingers, and to wash them down with some mulled wine, after taking a turn through Martin's saga.

It's the same when it comes to scene setting. Martin's locales are evoked with such detail that I'd be hard pressed to believe he couldn't envision every single stone of Winterfell as though he'd carved them himself. (Which in a way, of course, he did.)

The immersive writing is a prime example of that hoary old writers' dictum "Show, Don't Tell." (I call it hoary because I believe there are times when it is absolutely essential, not to mention acceptable, to relate something in passing. There are no hard-and-fast rules to writing. But, like everything else, it's important to learn why the rules of thumb are there, and then learn how and when to break them. But that's neither here nor there.) In fact, this is a common refrain in Martin's editorial work on the Wild Cards series. One of the most common pieces of feedback I receive on my Wild Cards work is frequently an appeal for more details, and to flesh out scenes that I had originally abbreviated out of concern for length. Striking that balance is still something I struggle with from time to time in my own writing.

I find quite a lot to admire in Martin's work, but his attention to detail is the thing that most impresses me.

Beaulieu: My urge now, of course, is to go back and scrub all occurrences of “compelling” from my opening salvo. And the cookbook! Yes, I’ve subscribed to the RSS feed of The Inn at the Crossroads, the site run by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, the two lovely ladies who created the Feast of Ice and Fire Cookbook. In a word: yum!

But I digress... I’m glad you mentioned immersion, because I want to touch on something that, for me, adds to it. It’s a small thing, but I think it helps settle us into the mindset of the characters subtly and effectively. It’s the ways in which Martin delivers interior monologue. He does so in two ways. The first is through the narration itself. The narrator is third person point of view, and we get most of the story delivered to us in this way. Martin is very good at not only keeping the viewpoint limited, but keeping it very tight to the character so that we understand their mood, their intent, their background, and so on, through small asides in telling of the tale.

Here’s a short example from A Dance With Dragons, a later part of the same chapter referenced above:

Jon’s cloak hung on a peg by the door, his sword belt on another. He donned them both and made his way to the armory. The rug where Ghost slept was empty, he saw. Two guardsmen stood inside the doors, clad in black cloaks and iron halfhelms, spears in their hands. “Will m’lord be wanting a tail?” asked Garse.

“I think I can find the King’s Tower by myself.” Jon hated having guards trailing after him everywhere he went. It made him feel like a mother duck leading a procession of ducklings.

The simple act of telling us that Jon hates having guards trail after him, along with an elaboration of feeling like a mother duck, does several things at once. It shows what life is like now in Castle Black, not just for Jon, but for the men as well. These are the small brush strokes that Martin uses to paint his world. But they also paint Jon himself. By constantly giving us insight with these small asides, we slowly build Jon’s character in our mind.

The second way that Martin shares the inner workings of his characters is through small bits of true monologue, set aside with italics. A simple example from the very next paragraph (note that I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers):

Iron Emmett’s lads were well at it in the yard, blunted swords slamming into shields and ringing against one another. Jon stopped to watch a moment as Horse pressed Hop-Robin back toward the well. Horse had the makings of a good fighter, he decided. He was strong and getting stronger, and his instincts were sound. Hop-Robin was another tale. His clubfoot was bad enough, but he was afraid of getting hit as well. Perhaps we can make a steward of him. The fight ended abruptly, with Hop-Robin on the ground.

The thought, Perhaps we can make a steward of him, is a simple aside, but we’re hearing Jon’s thoughts directly now. For just one moment we are Jon. We’re not seeing his thoughts through the lens of the narrator. Through persistent yet judicious use of this technique, we’re brought one level deeper than typical interior monologue. Note also that Martin doesn’t tag this with some sort of attribution. He doesn’t say “Jon thought,” as a less confident writer might. We’re simply presented the thoughts and we absorb them that much more easily.

To be clear, this isn’t some groundbreaking technique—the use of italics for internal monologue has been around for some time—but Martin uses them consistently and effectively to bring me tight to the point-of-view character, and that just helps the level of immersion you talked about so well above.

Tregillis: You raise a very good point about the use of interior monologue. In fact, I'd like to elaborate on this a little bit more. We might go even further when exploring the various ways it can pull us into a character's head so effectively.

Brad is absolutely right that Martin's use of a very tight third-person narration paired with judiciously chosen pieces of true interior monologue ground us very solidly in his characters' points of view. There are subtleties to this technique that I, for one, still must pay conscious attention to when I try to apply it in my own writing. In particular, when we're in a character's head—when we're riding around inside their skull, seeing the world through their eyes, hearing it through their ears—the world takes a different form than it does from any other person's point of view. It looks differently, smells differently, even tastes differently.

A character's experiences, beliefs, hopes, fears, knowledge of the world, even their secret desires and suspicions: all of these things color how they experience the world around them. These are the filters through which they evaluate their environment, including the people around them. What might be innocent or unthreatening to one person, coming from one background and set of experiences, might very well be deadly ominous to somebody else. The same situation, the same environment, even the same dialog can have radically different meanings to different characters. All because of the personal emotional landscape they bring to the interaction.

Consider this excerpt from early in A Feast for Crows. Here, Queen Cersei has just awaken from a very disturbing dream involving her brother Tyrion:

Her bedchamber was dark, but for the lantern one of the intruders held on high. I must show no fear. Cersei pushed back sleep-tousled hair, and said, "What do you want of me?" A man stepped into the lantern light, and she saw his cloak was white. "Jaime?" I dreamt of one brother, but the other has come to wake me.

"Your Grace." The voice was not her brother's. "The Lord Commander said come get you."

See how Martin displays her vulnerability? Cersei is a strong and formidable character throughout the series. But in those first moments of confused and drowsy wakefulness, when the frightening sensations of her nightmare haven't yet receded, she tips her emotional hand to herself, to the reader, and even to the strangers standing alongside her bed. Because in that unguarded moment she reaches out for Jaime. More than that, just for a moment she believes she sees him standing there—even though he isn't—because that's who she secretly wants to see there, far more than anybody else. Her fears and her desires together conspired to shape the way she saw the world.

I doubt a different character would have mistakenly seen Jamie standing there. (Indeed, I question whether any other characters in the series would consider it comforting to find Jamie Lannister looming over their bed!) But when we're there in Cersei's head, it's entirely sensible. And it conveys volumes about her state of mind and her relationship with her brothers. Reaching out for comfort in a vulnerable, unguarded moment is a very human reaction, and one that we readers understand instinctively. To me, the most effective piece of this vignette is the way her subconscious desire to be comforted, and by whom, is conveyed to the reader. It isn't examined or remarked upon; it simply is. It's part of the bedrock of her being, the foundation of Cersei's character, and it draws no more scrutiny from her any more than we examine our own subconscious reactions to the world around us from moment to moment.

Notice, too, how that little snippet seamlessly slides back and forth between external narration (albeit in a very tight third-person point of view, as Brad pointed out) and true internal monologue. They aren't set apart from one another. Instead, they're mingled together, just as the flow of sensory impressions (a dark bedchamber; the presence of intruders) and Cersei's own uncensored interpretations of those impressions (I must show no fear) occur to her. Very much like the way we experience the world.

Beaulieu: Nicely done, Ian, and a very good example of how a deep level of immersion can be achieved by showing such intimate thoughts, and I love the note about not commenting on it. Simply presenting it to the reader. And it’s us, the readers, who make judgments, not the narrator. Powerful stuff, indeed.

The last thing I wanted to mention was something pointed out to me by Brent Weeks. I was interviewing Brent on Speculate, a podcast I run with fellow author Gregory Wilson, and we got to discussing Martin’s work (as epic fantasists will tend to do). And he said something that I thought was brilliant. I had an “ah ha” moment in my writing, right there during that interview. We were talking about exposition, and Brent said that Martin makes it more palatable to the reader by bringing it out when it has an affect on the present. In other words, Martin makes the exposition relevant by giving it weight or importance in the here and now.

I was practically buzzing with excitement after Brent said that, because I’d never really put that together, and I’ve always struggled with when and how to bring in exposition. I’d heard the old chestnut: you make the reader want to know about the exposition before you reveal it. But that sort of implies that you reveal some behavior on the part of the characters that the reader wants to understand and then you talk about the past in order to clear it up. That’s all well and good, but this isn’t what Brent was saying. He was saying that when Martin does it, the past matters. It becomes part of the plot instead of simply supporting it.

That is a bloody brilliant observation, and even more brilliant for Martin to have mastered it and employed it so effectively throughout his series. Because let’s face it, Martin has a lot of backstory. I feel foolish using only italics to set that off. He has a metric ton, a gigaton, of backstory. More than any other writer I can think of (or you, dear reader, can name) because his cast is so wide and each character is so fully formed.

The earliest example I can think of is when King Robert Baratheon rides to Winterfell to ask Ned Stark to be his Hand. Ned was a close ally of Robert when they overthrew the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. But Martin didn’t bother to stop the story and tell us about the Battle of the Trident and the Mad King’s death at the hands of Jaime Lannister. No, he waited until King Robert came to Winterfell to tell us some small piece of it. Or, to put it another way, history came calling on poor Ned Stark.

Martin does this over and over again, making the past come back to haunt the present in new and interesting ways. Take any one event. The overthrow of the Mad King is one example, but there are others like the history of House Frey and the power it has long commanded, the legend of the Mountain That Rides and his brother, the Hound. The machinations of Littlefinger or Varys. The list goes on an on, and all the while Martin is slowly painting his picture, bringing that past forward to affect the future.

I’ll admit this isn’t something I fully grok yet, but I’ll be paying close attention to it as I plot my next novel and begin revealing backstory.

Tregillis: Brent's observation, and your elaboration of it, strikes a chord with me, too. It's reminiscent of something that another New Mexico writer has pointed out to me. Daniel Abraham posits—and the more I think about this, the more convinced I am that he's on to something—that an essential component of good storytelling boils down to effective "information control." Now that I hear what you and Brent are saying, it sounds to me as though you've all hit upon the same insight. (And I'm glad I have the chance to eavesdrop on the conversation and steal a chunk of that wisdom for myself.) These strike me as different ways of saying the same thing.

Backstory threatens to become the dreaded indigestible expository lump when it's laid down too thickly, or too extensively, or too intrusively. Avoiding all of those pitfalls boils down to finding just the right balance between moving the story forward and telling the readers things they need to know. That's information control. And ideally, the things the reader needs to know will also be things she or he wants to know at that point in the story. Again, that's a form of information control. And a fairly subtle one.

Of course, information control can also mean deliberately not conveying information at a particular point in the story. Strategically withholding information from the reader is one of the oldest techniques in the book for generating tension—after all, that's essentially the basis of the cliffhanger. And Martin's Ice and Fire books certainly make use of that technique from time to time.

But even that isn't quite as straightforward as it sounds. I think a successful cliffhanger works because it hits us just when we're dying to know what happens next. When we're deeply invested in the adventures of a particular character, or emotionally invested in a character's own wants and needs, or their wellbeing. (Or, in the case of a hated character, their comeuppance!) And then a sudden reversal or revelation kicks the story spinning in a new direction—but into uncharted territory, because we can't see (yet) where it goes next. For me, a particularly effective cliffhanger in Martin's series (and here I'm tap-dancing to avoid spoilers) pertained to Arya Stark in A Feast for Crows, for all the reasons I just listed. She suffers a rather surprising reversal just at the very end of the last scene in her point of view in that book. (It certainly took me by surprise.)

But if it's not done well, the withholding of information tends to generate confusion rather than tension. The former is sometimes confused with the latter, especially in the works of beginning writers. I, for one, frequently made that mistake in my early writing. A deliberately vague context rarely makes a good "hook" (though beginning writers often try to use it that way, as I certainly did). It doesn't cause the reader to ask, "Why is this happening?" Rather, it stimulates the reader to wonder, "What is happening, and why should I care?" The cliffhanger is used at the opposite end of a piece of story—it makes the reader desperate to know, "But what happens next?"

The cliffhanger is only one effective technique for withholding information, though, and it's certainly not the only one that Martin uses in his series. He's also very good at dangling an enticing piece of worldbuilding before the reader, and then doling out intriguing hints about it in agonizingly slow fashion. And again, that's terrific information control. I, for one, would love to know as much about the Wall as possible, especially the logistics of its construction. Granted, that's all beside the point of the story, and Martin is writing epic fantasy rather than an engineering-heavy hard SF tale. So it's not surprising that the story doesn't veer into such a discussion. Still, though, there's a part of me that perks up every time some previously unknown detail about the Wall, or its history, pops up in the narrative.

Intriguing questions like these pervade the series. Some are directly relevant to the characters we're following, while some are of a more general nature. Who was Jon Snow's mother? What exactly was the Doom of Valyria? When I'm reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I occasionally find myself wishing the author weren't quite so parsimonious with certain pieces of information...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Stephen R. Lawhead's Taliesin, the first volume in The Pendragon Cycle, for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

It was a time of legend, when the last shadows of the mighty Roman conqueror faded from the captured Isle of Britain. While across a vast sea, bloody war shattered a peace that had flourished for two thousand years in the doomed kingdom of Atlantis.

Taliesin is the remarkable adventure of Charis, the Atlantean princess who escaped the terrible devastation of her homeland, and of the fabled seer and druid prince Taliesin, singer at the dawn of the age. It is the story of an incomparable love that joined two worlds amid the fires of chaos, and spawned the miracles of Merlin...and Arthur the king.

Joe Abercrombie contest winners!

Thanks to Joe Abercrombie's generosity, our two winners will receive signed copies of his latest, Red Country. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Michael Hartney, from Sutton, England

- Gerry Sweeney, from Monkstown, Ireland

Many thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 15th)

In hardcover:

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down three spots, finishing the week at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Mercedes Lackey’s Redoubt debuts at number 20.

Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died a Lot debuts at number 24.

David Weber and Jane Lindskold’s Fire Season debuts at number 30.

In paperback:

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is up one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Karen Traviss' Halo: The Thursday War debuts at number 8 (trade paperback).

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is down three positions, ending the week at number 16 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is down ten positions, ending the week at number 20.

Faith Hunter’s Death’s Rival debuts at number 23.

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is down eight positions, ending the week at number 25 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 27.

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down seven positions, ending the week at number 28.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down thirteen positions, ending the week at number 35.

Musical Interlude

Though most people can't understand a word beyond the "Hey sexy lady" bit, this track tops the charts around the globe. . . And the video is pretty funny!


Kameron Hurley's God's War (Canada, USA, Europe) was everything I want a novel to be and then some! Brutal, uncompromising, brilliant, enthralling; it was an awesome read!

The question was: Could Hurley do it again? After all, the author had set the bar rather high, and I doubted that she could write a sequel that would live up to the lofty expectations generated by God's War.

Although Infidel may not be as incredible as its predecessor, it is nevertheless a very, very good read and a worthy sequel to God's War. It is also a sort of transition book that will link the storylines from the first installment with what will take place in the third volume of the Bel Dame Apocrypha series.

Here's the blurb:

The only thing worse than war is revolution. Especially when you're already losing the war...

Nyx used to be a bel dame, a government-funded assassin with a talent for cutting off heads for cash. Her country's war rages on, but her assassin days are long over. Now she's babysitting diplomats to make ends meet and longing for the days when killing people was a lot more honorable.

When Nyx's former bel dame "sisters" lead a coup against the government that threatens to plunge the country into civil war, Nyx volunteers to stop them. The hunt takes Nyx and her inglorious team of mercenaries to one of the richest, most peaceful, and most contaminated countries on the planet -- a country wholly unprepared to host a battle waged by the world's deadliest assassins.

In a rotten country of sweet-tongued politicians, giant bugs, and renegade shape shifters, Nyx will forge unlikely allies and rekindle old acquaintances. And the bodies she leaves scattered across the continent this time... may include her own.

Because no matter where you go or how far you run in this world, one thing is certain: the bloody bel dames will find you

Once again, the worldbuilding was my favorite aspect of this work. As was the case in God's War, Hurley's vision is unique and the universe she created comes alive as the story progresses. Her narrative creates a vivid imagery that makes the ravaged world and its characters leap off the pages. Centuries in the past, Islam took to the stars, but the religion has evolved and strife began hundreds of years before while the men and women lived on the moons as magicians terraformed the planet to make it habitable. That facet of the novel was as brilliantly done as it were in God's War. Problem is, so much remains undisclosed. Revelations are few and far between, which makes reading the book all the more fascinating, but also a little frustrating. The backstory is important in order to understand what led to the holy war and the planet's isolation, yet most concepts retain a definite mysterious aura with very few answers in sight. With two volumes under my belt, I'm still looking forward to discovering more about the origins of the long-lasting war and the different societies/religions populating the planet. Hopefully, the third volume, Rapture, will be more forthcoming in that regard.

Throughout Infidel, Hurley keeps her cards close to her chest again, which means that we don't learn a whole lot regarding the strange insectile technology and magic, both of which give this series its unique "flavor." We do learn more about the bel dames and their council, and politicking is at the heart of this novel. It looks as though the gene pirate plotline, which played a vast role in the first installment, will reappear in volume 3. Meanwhile, the bulk of Infidel has to do with the rogue bel dames' attempted coup against the government and Nyx's involvement in the conflict.

The tale occurs in a war-torn and contaminated world, and the men and women populating this book are the product of a brutal and unforgiving environment. The author's characterization is akin to that of gritty authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, and George R. R. Martin. Once more, nothing is as it seems. And though Hurley is parsimonious when it comes to revelations, the more you read, the more this novel continues to resound with depth. Nyx was too kick-ass for my taste to be fully believable in God's War. She remains true to herself in this second volume, but I felt she was more genuine this time. In addition to her point of view, Rhys and Inaya are also POV protagonists and I felt that their disparate personalities created a nice balance between them. Witnessing events unfold through the eyes of such vastly different characters added another dimension to what was already a superior work. À la Robin Hobb, Kameron Hurley has no qualms about making her characters suffer, and boy will they go through hell before all is said and done.

The rhythm is balls-to-the-wall and fast-moving, making Infidel another page-turner. The author sure knows how to pace a novel. And as the proverbial shit hits the fan, Infidel becomes hard to put down.

Like God's War, this second volume is a violent tale set against the backdrop of a centuries-old holy war. Hurley's prose remains dark and brooding, but she still manages to surprise you with touching moments that pack a powerful emotional punch when you least expect it. The secret's out: Kameron Hurley is definitely a gifted writer and I'm looking forward to reading the final chapter in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

And here's the trailer:

Read the first chapter from Joe Abercrombie's RED COUNTRY

The first chapter from Joe Abercrombie's eagerly anticipated Red Country is up on the Gollancz blog!

Follow this link to read the excerpt. . .

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

Mega George R. R. Martin giveaway!!

Since I already own past editions of these review copies I just received, I'm giving away a bundle of George R. R. Martin titles to one lucky winner! The prize pack includes:

- Dreamsongs, Volume 1 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.

- Dreamsongs, Volume II (Canada, USA, Europe)

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin is a giant in the field of fantasy literature and one of the most exciting storytellers of our time. Now he delivers a rare treat for readers: a compendium of his shorter works, all collected into two stunning volumes, that offer fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Whether writing about werewolves, wizards, or outer space, George R.R. Martin is renowned for his versatility and expansive talent, highlighted in this dazzling collection. Included here, in Volume II, are acclaimed stories such as the World Fantasy Award-winner “The Skin Trade,” as well as the first novella in the Ice and Fire universe, “The Hedge Knight,” plus two never-before-published screenplays. Featuring extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume II; is an invaluable chronicle of a writer at the height of his creativity—and an unforgettable reading experience for fans old and new.

- Windhaven (Canada, USA, Europe)

George R. R. Martin has thrilled a generation of readers with his epic works of the imagination, most recently the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling saga told in the novels A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords. Lisa Tuttle has won acclaim from fans of science fiction, horror, and fantasy alike— most recently for her haunting novel The Pillow Friend. Now together they gift readers with this classic tale of a brilliantly rendered world of ironbound tradition, where a rebellious soul seeks to prove the power of a dream.

The planet of Windhaven was not originally a home to humans, but it became one following the crash of a colony starship. It is a world of small islands, harsh weather, and monster-infested seas. Communication among the scattered settlements was virtually impossible until the discovery that, thanks to light gravity and a dense atmosphere, humans were able to fly with the aid of metal wings made of bits of the cannibalized spaceship.

Many generations later, among the scattered islands that make up the water world of Windhaven, no one holds more prestige than the silver-winged flyers, who bring news, gossip, songs, and stories. They are romantic figures crossing treacherous oceans, braving shifting winds and sudden storms that could easily dash them from the sky to instant death. They are also members of an increasingly elite caste, for the wings—always in limited quantity—are growing gradually rarer as their bearers perish.

With such elitism comes arrogance and a rigid adherence to hidebound tradition. And for the flyers, allowing just anyone to join their cadre is an idea that borders on heresy. Wings are meant only for the offspring of flyers—now the new nobility of Windhaven. Except that sometimes life is not quite so neat.

Maris of Amberly, a fisherman's daughter, was raised by a flyer and wants nothing more than to soar on the currents high above Windhaven. By tradition, however, the wings must go to her stepbrother, Coll, the flyer's legitimate son. But Coll wants only to be a singer, traveling the world by sea. So Maris challenges tradition, demanding that flyers be chosen on the basis of merit rather than inheritance. And when she wins that bitter battle, she discovers that her troubles are only beginning.

For not all flyers are willing to accept the world's new structure, and as Maris battles to teach those who yearn to fly, she finds herself likewise fighting to preserve the integrity of a society she so longed to join—not to mention the very fabric that holds her culture together.

- Dying of the Light (Canada, USA, Europe)

In this unforgettable space opera, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin presents a chilling vision of eternal night—a volatile world where cultures clash, codes of honor do not exist, and the hunter and the hunted are often interchangeable.

A whisperjewel has summoned Dirk t’Larien to Worlorn, and a love he thinks he lost. But Worlorn isn’t the world Dirk imagined, and Gwen Delvano is no longer the woman he once knew. She is bound to another man, and to a dying planet that is trapped in twilight. Gwen needs Dirk’s protection, and he will do anything to keep her safe, even if it means challenging the barbaric man who has claimed her. But an impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounds them all, and it’s becoming impossible for Dirk to distinguish between his allies and his enemies. In this dangerous triangle, one is hurtling toward escape, another toward revenge, and the last toward a brutal, untimely demise.

- The Armageddon Rag (Canada, USA, Europe)

From #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin comes the ultimate novel of revolution, rock ’n’ roll, and apocalyptic murder—a stunning work of fiction that portrays not just the end of an era, but the end of the world as we know it.

Onetime underground journalist Sandy Blair has come a long way from his radical roots in the ’60s—until something unexpectedly draws him back: the bizarre and brutal murder of a rock promoter who made millions with a band called the Nazgûl. Now, as Sandy sets out to investigate the crime, he finds himself drawn back into his own past—a magical mystery tour of the pent-up passions of his generation. For a new messiah has resurrected the Nazgûl and the mad new rhythm may be more than anyone bargained for—a requiem of demonism, mind control, and death, whose apocalyptic tune only Sandy may be able to change in time . . . before everyone follows the beat.

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

Cover art for James S. A. Corey's ABADDON'S GATE

Looking good!

The design is by Kirk Benshoff and the illustration is by Daniel Dociu.

Get Joe Abercrombie's RED COUNTRY at 55% off!

With the book about to hit the shelves on the other side of the pond, you can now pre-order Joe Abercrombie's Red Country at 55% off via the "Europe" link that follows. Not as cheap, but still a good deal, you can also pre-order the American edition at 42% off! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Can't wait to read this one!!!

Here's the blurb:

They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust. . .

Extract from R. Scott Bakker's THE UNHOLY CONSULT

The folks at The Second Apocalypse have just posted an exclusive extract from R. Scott Bakker's forthcoming The Unholy Consult! It's a portion of the first chapter from the book and I'll have the pleasure of posting another extract on the Hotlist later this year!

Here's a little teaser:

Late Summer, 20 New Imperial Year (4123, Year-of-the-Tusk), the Demua Mountains.

Nau-Cayûti...” one of the wretches croaked.

Nau-Cayûti...” another rasped, rocking like a worm.

Such a prizssse...”

Achamian rolled to his knees, coughed. Manacles clamped his neck, wrists, ankles. A circle of figures leaned close about him, black with confusion. Beyond, the world lurched with shadow and gold. A reeking breeze laved his naked back, pinched his gut and pulled vomit to his throat.

He convulsed with a different body, gagged about a string of burning spittle. Memories of a darkling flight crowded his eyes, claws hooked about his limbs, wings shearing hard air, a blasted landscape reeling out to the horizon.

Such-such a prizsse...”


More memories came, like ice packed about his heart and lungs. His wife, Iëva, plundering his loins with wanton abandon. The Inchoroi, Aurang, cracking him from his sarcophagus, hauling him into the heavens. Golden bulkheads rearing from bastions of cruel stone, their surfaces stamped in endless, alien filigree...

Golgotterath, the Great Prince realized. He was in Min-Uroikas, the dread Ark-of-the-skies...

Which meant he was worse than dead.

“My father!” he cried, staring about witless. “My father will yield nothing for my return!”

Return...” one of the wretches gasped.

There is no return...” another added.

No escape...”

The Wizard gazed wildly about. Ten ancient men encircled him, their skin sucked tight about their ligaments, their eyes bleary with mucous and misery. They wagged their heads–some bald, some wisped with snow-white strands–as if trapped nodding at the surface of a long, nightmarish slumber. One chewed his own bottom lip, so that blood sheeted his chin.

At first he thought they sat huddled–but he quickly realized they possessed no limbs, that they had been bound like larva to cradle-like sconces of stone. And he understood that these ten men were Men no longer, but wheels in some kind of contrivance, arcane and abominable.

At once, the Great Prince realized who it was who truly scrutinized him–as well as who had betrayed him.

“My wife,” he groaned, testing the mettle of his chains for the first time. “Iëva!”

Has committed...” one of the ancient mouths warbled.

Such crimes...”

“What was her price...” he coughed. “Tell me!”

She sheeks only...” the bloody one bubbled.

To save her soul...”

Laughter, thin and eerie, passed through the wretches, like the lash through the whip, one rising from the trailing of another.

The Great Prince cast his gaze beyond them, toward the gold-girdered walls. He saw hooded light rising across faraway structures, surfaces gleaming through darkness, stamped with infinite detail, packed into inexplicable forms. A sudden awareness of distance and dimension struck him...

Dizzy, gaping spaces.

He fell to his right elbow, so sudden was the vertigo. They floated, he realized. The ancient amputees had been arrayed across a platform of some kind–one rendered of the same unearthly metal as the Ark. He saw golden reliefs through the scuffs in the offal beneath him, warring figures, leering and inhuman. And the form, opposing S’s hooked about the arms of a V...

A shape no Son of the House Anasûrimbor could fail to recognize: the Shield of Sil.

They floated upward through some kind of shaft, one impossibly vast, a gullet broad enough to house the King-Temple whole. The Horns, Nau-Cayûti realized, remembering the tales told by the Nonmen, who had ransacked this place at the conclusion of their grievous war...

A marvel...” one of the wretches croaked, a momentary light flaring and fading in his eyes.

Is it not?

They ascended what Siqu called the Toir’inskiri, the Grave-with-no-bottom...

The Iyisku...”

They made this...”

To be their...”

Sssshurrogate world...”

The vast well that plumbed Golgotterath’s Northern Horn.

Now... now...”

It belongs to me...”

They climbed to the world’s most wicked summit, where none but the dead and the damned descended.

The very...”


Of ssssalvation!

Rage, delirious and titanic, seized the old Wizard’s limbs and voice. He howled. He cast his naked body whole, wrenched and heaved with the strength and fury that had made him unconquerable on so many fields of battle.

But the Wretches only drooled and laughed, one after the other.


He drew his feet beneath him, squatted, strained roaring, until his limbs flushed and quivered. He hurled all his being...


The iron links creaked, but did not yield.

You hath returned...”

To the house...”

From which you hath stolen...”

He slumped in dismay, gazed sneering at the wretches. Different faces worn into the same face by decrepitude. Different voices throttled into the same voice by senescence and age-old hatred. Ten Wretches, one ancient and malevolent soul.

Can't for this book!!!

Follow this link to read the full extract!