More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Hey! Just found out that you can still get your hands on the digital edition of Myke Cole's excellent Shadow Ops: Control Point for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down--and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.

Siege Line

For some unfathomable reason, it often feels as though Myke Cole remains one of the genre's best-kept secrets. True, military fantasy may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Cole's two series are as accessible as they are compelling. It's been years since I last encountered a fantasy series with so much mass appeal and there's nothing I would like more than to see these books get more widely read and enjoyed. The Shadow Ops trilogy was fresh and unlike anything else I have ever read. All three volumes were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads, each packing a healthy dose of ass-kicking! Breach Zone closed the show with an exclamation point and it was obvious then that Cole had become one of speculative fiction's brightest new voices

But the Gemini Cell series would focus on the early days of the Great Awakening, when magic first returned to the world and changed everything. Featuring new characters and new plotlines, I was wondering if the author could do it again. Indeed, the Shadow Ops trilogy generated some lofty expectations for whatever would follow. With Gemini Cell Myke Cole set my mind at ease and proved that his first series was no fluke. Javelin Rain was another worthy sequel that set the stage for what could be a great finale. Now with five quality yarns under his belt, there was no reason to doubt that Siege Line would be another captivating read. And once more, Cole's latest novel delivers on all fronts and caps off this series with style and aplomb!

Here's the blurb:

In Myke Cole’s latest high-octane, action-packed military fantasy, the fate of undead Navy SEAL James Schweitzer will be decided—one way or another…

The Gemini Cell took everything from Jim Schweitzer: his family, his career as a Navy SEAL, even his life. Hounded across the country, Schweitzer knows the only way he can ever stop running, the only way his son can ever be safe, is to take the fight to the enemy and annihilate the Cell once and for all.

But the Cell won’t be easily destroyed. Out of control and fighting a secret war with the government it once served, it has dispatched its shadowy Director to the far reaches of the subarctic in search of a secret magic that could tip the balance of power in its favor. Schweitzer must join with the elite warriors of both America and Canada in a desperate bid to get there first—and avert a disaster that could put the Cell in control.

Myke Cole continues to grow as a writer, getting more mature and in better control of his craft with each new published book. Hard to say whether or not the man has reached his peak, but he sure has become one of my favorite authors out there. As was the case with past installments, the fact that he served for years in the military and seen active duty allows him to imbue his books with a credibility regarding the realism of the use of magic in military operations and its ramifications up and down the chain of command. I feel that this gives any Myke Cole work its unique "flavor" and remains what sets them apart from everything else on the market. The early days of what will come to be known as the Great Awakening form the backdrop of this new trilogy. Magic has returned to our world and the US military is trying to harness these new powers for their own gain. From the get-go, I was particularly looking forward to finding out how the top secret unit known as the Gemini Cell would grow to become the SOC. Sadly, it seemed that this second series occurred too early during the Great Awakening, so it was doubtful that it would fill in the blanks created by the questions raised in the Shadow Ops trilogy. Having finished Siege Line, I can confirm that it is indeed the case. We do learn a few things, mind you. But I figure that there will be at least a series or two to bridge the gap between the two trilogies. If he can get a new book deal, Cole has already said that the next Shadow Ops series would pick up immediately after the events of Breach Zone, with many of the characters from the original trilogy. Which means that readers will likely have to wait for a while before discovering how the SOC came together. And yet, if like me you loved how Cole closed the show in Breach Zone, then you're equally looking forward to finding out what happens next. So it's kind of a win-win situation.

The Shadow Ops series was a more far-reaching work of fiction, with more characters and more multilayered storylines. And although the Gemini Cell trilogy is no less ambitious, the focus is much tighter. It occurs within a more limited time frame and we witness events taking place through the eyes of a smaller cast of protagonists. Early on, I was expecting these new novels to be as sprawling as the Shadow Ops installments. Now that I've reached the conclusion of the second series, there is no denying that Jim Schweitzer's tale, though it will probably kickstart the Great Awakening and everything it will engender, isn't as vast in scope. In and of itself, this raises yet more questions, as Jim Schweitzer's story is far from over. But how the events chronicled within the pages of Siege Line will progress and evolve into something that will lead to international cooperation and the creation of the SOC, that remains to be seen. The silver lining is that Cole still has a lot of stories to tell, which bodes well for all of us!

As is the author's wont, Siege Line is another character-driven affair. Cole always had a knack for creating genuine three-dimensional characters with good back stories. The smaller cast featured in the Gemini Cell series allows readers to connect with the characters at a deeper level. This time around, Jim Schweitzer's point of view is balanced with the perspective of the mysterious Director and that of Wilma "Mankiller" Plante, an Afghanistan veteran and the sheriff of a little hamlet in Canada's Northwest Territories. The supporting cast is particularly memorable, especially Jala Ghaznavi, Reeves and his team, and Joe Yakecan. À la Robin Hobb and Jacqueline Carey, Cole continues to show a deft human touch which allows him to come up with unexpected emotional scenes packing a powerful punch.

Kudos for his amazing depiction of Northern Canada's frozen and desolate scenery. Not bad for a New Yorker who complains every time temperatures approach freezing point, or if a little snowfall hits his home! The portion of the novel taking place in the Northwest Territories was by far the most interesting, with an endgame that stays with you and immediately makes you want to find out what comes next.

As far as the rhythm goes, this book could be Cole's best paced yet. I felt that both Breach Zone and Gemini Cell suffered from rushed endings. I thought that a 300-page set-up and only 30-something pages to close the show felt a bit incongruous, and that the author likely needed more pages to do justice to the tale he was telling. Javelin Rain was much better balanced and the same can be said of Siege Line. Indeed, though the wordcount appears to be quite similar, it felt as though this third volume was as long as it needed to be.

If you have yet to give Myke Cole a shot, please do so ASAP! Decades separate these two series, so you can start with either without missing a beat. Whatever you do, whether you go for the Shadow Ops books or the second series, you can't really go wrong!

Siege Line is military fantasy with heart and soul. Definitely one of the books to read this year. Or any year!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

Brenda Cooper contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive a copy of Brenda Cooper's Wilders, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Mary Henaghen, from Hewitt, New Jersey, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author's ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his "preferred text"—and including his special Neverwhere tale "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back"

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman's darkly hypnotic first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of a major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now Gaiman's preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these works and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he discovers a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed.

Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in the Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. The Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Door, a noblewoman whose family has been murdered, is on a quest to find the agent that slaughtered her family and thwart the destruction of this underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life, he must join the journey to save Door's world—and find a way to survive.

A hallucinatory fantasia of mystery, mythology, and terror that "draws equally from George Lucas, Monty Python, Doctor Who, and John Milton" (USA Today), Neverwhere is an "Alice in Wonderland with a punk edge" (Poppy Z. Brite), "that is both the stuff of dreams and nightmares" (San Diego Union-Tribune).

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (August 7th)

In hardcover:

Christie Golden's Star Wars: Battlefront II: Inferno Squad debuts at number 13.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One returns at number 3 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down two positions, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Sarah Remy's Stonehill Downs for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Malachi is the last of his kind—a magus who can communicate with the dead, and who relies on the help of spirits to keep his kingdom safe. When he's sent to investigate brutal murders in the isolated village of Stonehill Downs, he uncovers dangerous sorceries and unleashes a killer who strikes close to home.

Avani is an outsider living on the Downs, one of the few survivors from the Sunken Islands. She has innate magics of her own, and when she discovers the mutilated bodies of the first victims, she enters into a reluctant alliance with Malachi that takes her far from home.

But Mal is distracted by the suspicious death of his mentor and haunted by secrets from his past. And Avani discovers troubling truths about the magus through her visions. She could free Malachi, but first they must work together to save the kingdom from the lethal horror that has arisen.

US Cover Art and Blurb for Mark Lawrence's GREY SISTER

The folks at just unveiled the American cover art and blurb for Mark Lawrence's forthcoming Grey Sister.

The cover was done by the artist Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme and it looks pretty damn good!

Here's the blurb:

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.

As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

And in all this only one thing is certain.

There will be blood.

Can't wait to read this one!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 31st)

In hardcover:

Dean Koontz’s The Silent Corner maintains its position at number 11.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Tad Williams' excellent Otherland: City of Golden Shadow for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:


Surrounded by secrecy, it is home to the wildest dreams and darkest nightmares. Incredible amounts of money have been lavished on it. The best minds of two generations have labored to build it. And somehow, bit by bit, it is claiming the Earth’s most valuable resource–its children.

In addition, you can get your hands on Tad Williams' Shadowmarch and The Dirty Streets of Heaven for the same price.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Tom Doyle's American Craftsmen for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

In Tom Doyle's thrilling debut, American Craftsmen, Seal Team Six meets ancient magic--with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance . . .

The Hunter of the Dark

You may recall that I gave Donato Carrisi's debut, The Whisperer, a perfect score a few years back. Dubbed the Italian literary thriller phenomenon, I have always remained on the lookout for anything else written by Carrisi. Read both the first one and The Lost Girls of Rome in French, so I bought the French translation for this one as well. A sequel to The Whisperer titled The Vanished Ones came out a while back and that's the one I originally meant to read next. But when I discovered that The Hunter of the Dark was out and that it was a sequel to The Lost Girls of Rome, I realized that the time was just about right for another quality thriller. And I wasn't disapointed!

Here's the blurb:

A brutal killer is on the streets of Rome. He leaves no trace. And shows no mercy.

A series of gruesome murders leaves the police force in Rome reeling, with no real clues or hard evidence to follow. Assigned to the case is Sandra Vega, a brilliant forensic analyst, struggling to come to terms with the crimes and her own past. Sandra's shared history with Marcus, a member of the ancient Penitenzeri - a unique Italian team, linked to the Vatican, and trained in the detection of true evil, means that the two are brought together again in the pursuit of a malignant killer.

Soon Marcus and Sandra notice the emergence of a disturbing pattern running alongside the latest killings - and every time they think they have grasped a fragment of the truth, they are led down yet another terrifying path.

A sensational new literary thriller from the bestselling author of The Whisperer, this novel captures the beautiful atmosphere of Rome and explores its dark and hidden secrets. 'Shiveringly intelligent', The Times.

As is Carrisi's wont, the action occurs in Italy, in and around the Eternal City of Rome. Once more, a variety of sources were used by the author to write this novel, chief among them criminology and forensic psychiatry manuals, as well as several FBI papers regarding serial killers and violent crimes. With his homework done properly, Carrisi's latest book has an unmistakable genuine feel to it. As a former jurist specializing in criminology and behavioral science, the man truly knows what he's talking about and it shows.

With both French and Italian sharing the same roots, the translation was good. I was told that the English translation for The Whisperer wasn't that great, but it appears that it was different with the English version of The Lost Girls of Rome. Checked a few reviews online and no one is complaining, so it seems that there are no issues with the translation for The Hunter of the Dark.

As I mentioned, this novel is the sequel to The Lost Girls of Rome. Reading those reviews, I came across people who have read The Hunter of the Dark without having read its predecessor and they enjoyed the experience nonetheless. True, The Hunter of the Dark is a more or less self-contained story that can work as a stand-alone book. And yet, doing so means that the reader would miss out on all the nuances that comprise the relationship between Marcus and Sandra, as well as their respective backgrounds. Hence, while it's possible to enjoy Carrisi's newest work on its own, I encourage potential readers to go for The Lost Girls of Rome first. It's an even better read, so you can't go wrong!

As was the case in The Lost Girls of Rome, the characterization was great. As usual, a man and a woman are the main protagonists. Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst, lost her husband a few years before and has finally found love again. Marcus is a man without a past. Coming out of a coma after being shot in the head in a Prague hotel room, all he remembers is that he's a former priest and he's now part of a secret brotherhood investigating horrible crimes that have come under the attention of the church. Unexpectedly, their paths will cross again as they try to find a murderer who brutally kills couples. During their investigation, another dark secret hidden by the Roman Catholic Church will be unveiled and is at the heart of all the disappearances and murders. Once again, I particularly enjoyed how flawed both characters are and how their POVs create an interesting balance between them. The perspective of the mysterious Battista Erriaga is meant to be misleading and the revelation of the man's identity and the church's secret at the end will make it well nigh impossible not to want to read the third installment when it ever gets published.

Once more, there is a thought-provoking theme underlying the entire book: The true essence of evil. Does it exist within all of us, latent and just waiting to be released? The Hunter of the Dark is another complex and multilayered thriller that hits all the right buttons. It's a clever work with plots and subplots forming a chilling tapestry, all of which culminating toward an ending that will shock you. The fact that the novel is based on true law enforcement investigation techniques compounded by the religious aspects of the tale only add another dimension to an already complicated plot.

All in all, this perturbing work is everything a thriller is meant to be. The Hunter of the Dark is another page-turner that just begs to be read. If you are looking for compelling and disturbing books delving into psychology that stay with you long after you have finished reading them, give Donato Carrisi a shot as soon as humanly possible!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

Win a copy of R. Scott Bakker's THE UNHOLY CONSULT

I received an extra copy of R. Scott Bakker's The Unholy Consult, so I'm giving it away to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In this shattering conclusion to The Aspect-Emperor books, praised for their “sweeping epic scale and detailed historical world building” (Grimdark Magazine), R. Scott Bakker delivers the series’ feverishly harrowing and long-awaited finish.

The Men of the Great Ordeal have been abandoned by Aspect-Emperor Anasurimbor Kellhus, and the formerly epic crusade has devolved into cannibalism and chaos. When Exalt-General Proyas, with the Imperial-Prince Kayutas at his side, attempts to control the lost Men and continue their march to Golgotterath, it rapidly becomes clear that the lost Lord-and-Profit is not so easily shaken from the mission.

When Sorweel, Believer-King of Sakarpus, and Serwa, daughter of the Aspect-Emperor, join the Great Ordeal they discover that the Shortest Path is not always the most obvious, or the safest. Souls, morals, and relationships are called into question when no one can be trusted, and the price for their sins is greater than they imagined.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "CONSULT." 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 Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Compton Crook 35th Award winner and shortlisted candidate for the 2017 Hugo Award Best Novel category, Ada Palmer's political science fiction, Too Like the Lightning, ventures into a human future of extraordinary originality.

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of the Craft Sequence omnibus by Max Gladstone for only 11.99 here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

This discounted ebundle includes: Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow, Four Roads Cross.

“Stunningly good. Stupefyingly good.” —Patrick Rothfuss.

Set in a phenomenally-built world in which lawyers ride lightning bolts, souls are currency, and cities are powered by the remains of fallen gods, MAX GLADSTONE's Craft Sequence introduces readers to a modern fantasy landscape and an epic struggle to build a just society.

Three Parts Dead — A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Two Serpents Rise — Caleb Altemoc—casual gambler and professional risk manager—is sent by Red King Consolidated to cleanse shadow demons from the Dresediel Lex city water supply, and uncovers a scheme to forever alter the balance of power in the city.

Full Fathom Five — On the island of Kavekana, Kai nearly loses her life trying to save one of her creations, a god built to order. But when Kai starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can't stop it first.

Last First Snow — Craft lawyer Elayne Kevarian and warrior-priest Temoc must fight dark magic, secret agendas, and their own demons to save the peace between the citizens and rulers of Dresediel Lex, before hell opens to swallow the city whole.

Four Roads Cross — Protests rock the city of Alt Coulumb, Kos Everburning's creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god's church, and Craftswoman Tara Abernathy must defend the church against the world's fiercest necromantic firm.

Tor books by Max Gladstone

The Craft Sequence
Three Parts Dead
Two Serpents Rise
Full Fathom Five
Last First Snow
Four Roads Cross
The Ruin of Angels

Other Books
The Highway Kind

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Quote of the Day

To survive in this world, sometimes you need to ignore it.

- DONATO CARRISI, The Hunter of the Dark (Canada, USA, Europe)

This is another disturbing thriller!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 24th)

In hardcover:

Diana Gabaldon's Seven Stones to Stand or Fall is up four positions, ending the week at number 9. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Dean Koontz’s The Silent Corner is down two spots, finishing the week at number 11.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Guy Gavriel Kay's The Summer Tree for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Summer Tree is the first novel of Guy Gavriel Kay’s critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry. Five university students embark on a journey of self-discovery when they enter a realm of wizards and warriors, gods and mythical creatures--and good and evil…

It all began with a lecture that introduced five university students to a man who would change their lives, a wizard who would take them from Earth to the heart of the first of all worlds--Fionavar. And take them Loren Silvercloak did, for his need--the need of Fionavar and all the worlds--was great indeed.

And in a marvelous land of men and dwarves, of wizards and gods, five young people discovered who they were truly meant to be. For they are a long-awaited part of the pattern known as the Fionavar Tapestry, and only if they accepted their destiny would the armies of the Light stand any chance of surviving the wrath the Unraveller and his minions of darkness intend to unleash upon the world…

Quote of the Day

"We have rules regarding this stuff," Hodges began.

"You'll forgive me if I don't buy that particular line," Schweitzer said. "Do the rules say that you can just reach out to the government of Canada on our own accord and set up an op? You're committing the United States to a foreign policy position. Doesn't the President or the Secretary of State get to weigh in?"

Ghaznavi snorted, "POTUS? SECSTATE? They're just public servants."

"Who the hell are you, then?" Schweitzer asked.

Ghaznavi and Hodges exchanged a knowing glance. "We're the people who run things while the public servants make speeches and cut ribbons. Been that way since people decided they were willing to give up some power to tough customers in exchange for being kept safe."

- MYKE COLE, Siege Line (Canada, USA, Europe)

Cole did it again! Siege Line is another compelling read!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

In his most ambitious project to date, award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson utilizes years of research and cutting-edge science in the first of three novels that will chronicle the colonization of Mars.

For eons, sandstorms have swept the barren desolate landscape of the red planet. For centuries, Mars has beckoned to mankind to come and conquer its hostile climate. Now, in the year 2026, a group of one hundred colonists is about to fulfill that destiny.

John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers, and Arkady Bogdanov lead a mission whose ultimate goal is the terraforming of Mars. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage and madness; for others it offers and opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. And for the genetic "alchemists, " Mars presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life...and death.

The colonists place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light to the planets surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels, kilometers in depth, will be drilled into the Martian mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves, and friendships will form and fall to pieces--for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.

Brilliantly imagined, breathtaking in scope and ingenuity, Red Mars is an epic scientific saga, chronicling the next step in human evolution and creating a world in its entirety. Red Mars shows us a future, with both glory and tarnish, that awes with complexity and inspires with vision.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Two magicians shall appear in England.

The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me...

The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

Tuf Voyaging

I've been meaning to finally read George R. R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging ever since Bantam Books re-issued the book in trade paperback format in 2013. I had my first taste of Haviland Tuf when I read GRRM's collection Dreamsongs, Volume 2, and was intrigued enough to want to find out more about that character and his adventures in outer space.

However, as is often the case, other authors, novels, and series have gotten in the way over the years and Tuf Voyaging sat on my shelf, all but forgotten. Yet when the time came for me to pick up reading material to bring with me on my two-week hiking trip in the French Alps, I recalled that this book had been awaiting my attention for quite a while and I decided to bring it with me.

Here's the blurb:

Long before A Game of Thrones became an international phenomenon, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin had taken his loyal readers across the cosmos. Now back in print after almost ten years, Tuf Voyaging is the story of quirky and endearing Haviland Tuf, an unlikely hero just trying to do right by the galaxy, one planet at a time.

Haviland Tuf is an honest space-trader who likes cats. So how is it that, in competition with the worst villains the universe has to offer, he’s become the proud owner of a seedship, the last remnant of Earth’s legendary Ecological Engineering Corps? Never mind; just be thankful that the most powerful weapon in human space is in good hands—hands which now have the godlike ability to control the genetic material of thousands of outlandish creatures.

Armed with this unique equipment, Tuf is set to tackle the problems that human settlers have created in colonizing far-flung worlds: hosts of hostile monsters, a population hooked on procreation, a dictator who unleashes plagues to get his own way . . . and in every case, the only thing that stands between the colonists and disaster is Tuf’s ingenuity—and his reputation as a man of integrity in a universe of rogues.

The problem with older science fiction works is that they don't always age well. This was a cause for concern, for the stories comprising this book were originally published between 1976 and 1986. The genre has evolved quite a bit these last few decades. The idea of an eccentric biogenetic engineer that moves from one world to the next in a giant spaceship, both solving and creating ecological problems along the way, may have been original thirty or forty years ago. But in 2017? Suffice to say that these stories didn't work as well as I had hoped. Not that Tuf Voyaging is a boring read. It kept me entertained while I was reading it, but these short fiction pieces definitely lack the unexpected, kick-you-in-the-balls when you least anticipate it, shock value moments and plotlines that have become the hallmark of GRRM's tales. Indeed, they're not something that stays with you once you're done reading and some of them are downright forgettable.

One of the main problems is that Haviland Tuf is not that compelling of a protagonist. Sure, it's kind of fun to follow the adventures of this quirky, fussy, extremely formal giant of a man. Pale and bald, vegetarian and cat-lover, Tuf sure is an oddball. Trouble is, it all gets old quite fast and Tuf is not endearing enough to carry this entire book on his shoulders. Hence, the more you read, the less enjoyable the stories get. The supporting cast is rather weak, and the spotlight remains on Haviland Tuf for the better part of the book. Tolly Mune showed some promise early on, but in the end she didn't live up to her potential. Another problem is that all of these short stories rely a lot on humor. To a certain extent, George R. R. Martin is responsible for heralding the grimdark era and he's never been known for his sense of humor. Overall, I felt that the comedic or comical aspects of Tuf's misadventures didn't always work all that well.

Interestingly enough, it was the two oldest stories that were the most interesting. Written in 1975 and revised in 1986, "A Beast for Norn" and "Call Him Moses" from 1978 were by far the best of the bunch. Initially published in 1981, "Guardians" is another engaging story. What was written afterward lacks the originality and the quality of their predecessors. "The Plague Star" recounts the tale of how Haviland Tuf came into possession of the Ark, a biowar seedship of the Ecological Engineering Corps from the ancient Federal Empire. What follows has come to be known as the S'uthlam triptych. Comprised of "Loaves and Fishes", "Second Helpings" and "Manna From Heaven", these stories were written so that GRRM could come up with enough material so that the first edition of Tuf Voyaging could be published by Baen in 1986.

The stories are arranged in chronological order, not in the order they were published. It makes perfect sense structurally, but it does make for an uneven read for the most part. As a vacation read for someone looking for lighter reading material, Tuf Voyaging did the job. Still, there is no denying that it is the weakest GRRM book I have sampled thus far. The author's impressive body of work set the bar rather high and Tuf Voyaging failed to live up to the lofty expectations generated by basically every other GRRM novels/novellas/short stories I've read.

Once upon a time, Martin signed a contract to write a second Tuf book which would have been titled Twice as Tuf or Tuf Landing. But then Wild Cards, Hollywood, and A Song of Ice and Fire came along and the project never materialized. Perhaps it's for the best, given how the first book has not aged well. GRRM said that it might still happen one of these days, when readers least expect it. Time will tell. . .

The final verdict: 7/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Anthony Ryan's Blood Song for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm."

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order—a caste devoted to battle. Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate and dangerous life of a warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the Unified Realm—and Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright knows no bounds. Even his cherished memories of his mother are soon challenged by what he learns within the Order.

But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the Realm, but the world.

You can also download Brent Weeks' The Black Prism for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

Terry Brooks contest winner!

This lucky guy will receive a copy of Terry Brooks' The Black Elfstone! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Joseph Moore, from Sacramento, California, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Rogues, an anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A thrilling collection of twenty-one original stories by an all-star list of contributors—including a new A Game of Thrones story by George R. R. Martin!

If you’re a fan of fiction that is more than just black and white, this latest story collection from #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois is filled with subtle shades of gray. Twenty-one all-original stories, by an all-star list of contributors, will delight and astonish you in equal measure with their cunning twists and dazzling reversals. And George R. R. Martin himself offers a brand-new A Game of Thrones tale chronicling one of the biggest rogues in the entire history of Ice and Fire.

Follow along with the likes of Gillian Flynn, Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Cherie Priest, Garth Nix, and Connie Willis, as well as other masters of literary sleight-of-hand, in this rogues gallery of stories that will plunder your heart—and yet leave you all the richer for it.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 17th)

In hardcover:

Dean Koontz’s The Silent Corner is down one spot, finishing the week at number 9.

Diana Gabaldon's Seven Stones to Stand or Fall is down eight positions, ending the week at number 13. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download James Clavell's international bestselling masterpiece Shogun for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

A bold English adventurer. An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life, two ways of love. All brought together in an extraordinary saga of a time and a place aflame with conflict, passion, ambition, lust, and the struggle for power...

Extract from Joshua Palmatier's REAPING THE AURORA

Here's an extract from Joshua Palmatier's soon-to-be-released Reaping the Aurora, compliments of the folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Final book in Joshua Palmatier's epic fantasy trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.

In a world torn apart by the shattering of the magical ley lines that formerly powered all the cities and towns of the Baronies, there are few havens left for the survivors. The uncontrolled distortions released by the shattering have claimed the main cities of the Baronial Plains. And many of the Wielders who controlled the ley died in the apocalyptic cataclysm their manipulation of the ley created.

Wielder Kara Tremain and former Dog Allan Garrett, survivors of the city of Erenthrall’s destruction, have seized control of the new Nexus created at the distant temple known as the Needle, the stronghold of the White Cloaks and their leader, Father Dalton. With Father Dalton a prisoner, Kara intends to use the Needle’s Nexus to heal the major distortions that threaten to shake their entire world apart.

But while she and the remaining Wielders managed to stabilize Erenthrall, they have not been able to stop the auroral storms or the devastating earthquakes sweeping across the lands. Now they are hoping to find a means to heal the distortion at the city of Tumbor, releasing the nodes captured inside. If they succeed, the ley network should be able to stabilize itself.

But the distortion over Tumbor is huge, ten times the size of the one over Erenthrall. Kara will need the help of all of the Wielders at the Needle in order to generate enough power, including the rebel White Cloaks. But can Kara trust them to help her, or will the White Cloaks betray her in order to free Father Dalton and regain control of the Needle, possibly destroying any chance of healing the ley network in the process?

Meanwhile, Allan journeys back to Erenthrall, hoping to form alliances with some of the survivors, only to discover that Erenthrall itself has sunk a thousand feet into the ground. The vicious groups that plagued them on their last visit have banded together under a new leader—Devin, formerly Baron Aurek’s second-in-command. While discussing an alliance with the Temerite enclave, Devin’s men attack, forcing Allan and the Temerites to flee back to the Needle, leaving Erenthrall in Devin’s hands.

But the Needle is no safe haven. Father Dalton’s followers have begun to rebel, starting riots and creating unrest, all of it targeted at Kara and the Wielders. The tensions escalate beyond control when Father Dalton declares he’s had a vision—a vision in which the Needle is attacked from the north by dogs and from the south by snakes; a vision that ends with the quickening of the distortions called the Three Sisters to the north . . . and the annihilation of reality itself!


“What did you find?”

Grant had barely emerged from the gray shadows of dawn, but Allan had been watching for him. The large man huffed as he stalked forward, his furred face creased with a scowl of worry. Allan’s eyebrows rose when five Wolves emerged from the darkness behind him. “Two more of our brethren. There were others, but they fled like prey.” His lip curled in disdain. “We will find them.”

“What about the Gorrani?”

“We hunted their old territory but they were not there. Their scent is strong in that area though, and in the part of the old city that used to be trapped in the distortion nearby.” His gaze shifted toward where the rest of the camp had begun to rouse, Gaven already cooking by the heat stone, Bryce’s men donning swords as they ate. “Are we moving?”

“Any idea where the Gorrani went?” Allan countered.

Grant returned his attention to the ex-Dog. “To the cliffs to the south. We could see their fires.”

“Will they be a problem?”

“Not if we skirt their territory. They are foraging, like rabbits.”

“Then, yes, we’re moving.” Allan spun back to the camp, giving Bryce a signal, the Dog calling out orders. The activity in the camp picked up, everyone scarfing down what they could, Gaven scrambling to collect everything and load the wagons.

“We aren’t staying here?” Grant asked.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it back, so we’re taking everything with us. I don’t trust Erenthrall anymore.”

Within twenty minutes, they left the three story building behind, dawn’s light pulling the ruins of Erenthrall from the shadows. Grant’s Wolves vanished, although their pack leader stayed with Allan. Bryce sent out scouts ahead. They headed straight toward where Kara had described the shard she’d left behind, even though it would take them through part of the released section of the city.

They reached the churned up edge of the circle where the distortion had been by noon without encountering anyone. The demarcation between the earthquake-cracked roadway and the utter destruction caused by the distortion’s collapse was dramatic. The road simply cut off, the ground inside the collapse splintered and broken, granite sliced into random blocks and thrown into a haphazard pile. The rubble had been dragged toward the center of the distortion—toward Grass—churned into a heap a hundred feet wide before Kara had managed to heal the distortion from within. Gaven groaned when he saw the pile of stone, but a quick glance to either side revealed that there would be no going around it. The residue of debris arced off in either direction, nearly uniform in height. The only option was to climb over.

They cleared the worst of the shattered stone, creating a narrow path for the horses and wagons, then continued onwards, losing an hour of time. But once they’d passed inside the ring, spirits improved. This part of Erenthrall had been caught inside the distortion and hadn’t been affected by the quakes. Buildings were more intact, the damage caused by the Shattering. Bryce sent out his enforcers to scour the closest buildings as they moved, most reporting back that many of the homes and businesses hadn’t been looted yet.

Then they crossed a threshold, the tenor of the buildings changing. Allan thought at first that they’d passed into a new district, the stone of the cobbles and the surrounding buildings suddenly ancient, his skin prickling with age. He drew in a deep breath of unease, the air tainted with dust and decay, the scent thickening.

“What happened here?” Bryce asked, drifting closer to Allan as they progressed.

They passed a reddish-brown building, the stone façade sliced diagonally across two floors. The stone below the slice was a vibrant color, that above faded as if bleached by sunlight.

Allan grunted in sudden understanding. “This section was in one of the shards where time ran faster. The bleached stone feels older because it is.”

Bryce shuddered and unconsciously picked up his pace.

They slipped from the decaying stone into a new section.

A few hours later, they neared an area where all of the buildings were shrouded in a fine layer of spider’s silk. The enforcers clustered about the wagons as they slid past, the horse’s snorting and stamping their feet, eyes wide in fear. Holes penetrated the layered silk, boring through doorways and windows into darkness. Staring into those depths, Allan’s skin crawled, his palms suddenly clammy. Something deep in the darkness shifted with the scrape of skittering feet and a section of the webbing trembled, although Allan saw nothing.

Beside him, Grant bared his teeth and growled, the sound a low, dangerous rumble in his chest. “Don’t go any closer,” he said, his voice low and quiet. “It’s watching us.”

They edged beyond, Allan not relaxing until they’d turned a corner and the eerie tenements fell from sight. “What was it?”

“Men were transformed into more than Wolves after the Shattering.”

They never entered Grass, passing by the truncated towers a few districts away. But dusk began to fall before they were near the ring of destruction on the far side of Erenthrall. Allan ordered a halt and they camped in the gardens of what was once a lord’s manse, behind its walls. Once again, they could see firelight to the northeast, closer now. To the south, fires lined the walls of the cliffs that surrounded the city, Allan marking the Gorrani’s location. Overnight, howls broke the quiet, Grant and the other Wolves perking up, the two newest members pacing near the wrought iron gates of the wall and whining. Ley light also punctuated the darkness, some sections near Grass glowing with a low steady pulse, others throughout the city sputtering fitfully. Most were mere pinpricks, like stars.

“We didn’t see any of those ley lights last night,” Allan commented.

Dylan pointed toward the steady section. “Those were likely blocked from view by Grass.”

“They’re near where the Temerites were camped before the distortion was healed.”

“The Temerites might have Wielders. They could have stabilized the ley once the nodes were freed. They might be actively using the ley again.”

“What about the other lights?”

“Ley lines that were left open at the Shattering are now active again because their connections to the inner nodes have been restored. The ley runs where it can. If ley globes were attached to its flow and left on, they’d light up again, assuming they survived the surge. They won’t be glowing as strongly now though. The Nexus isn’t there to augment the strength of the ley.”

Allan thought about all of the lights that had once lit the city, recalling the web of ley lines he’d seen from the hills over a year before, how the city had glowed in the darkness of the plains with a strange brilliant beauty.

The glow of ley he saw now was nothing compared to that.

The next morning, they followed the edge of the river, crossing it eventually on a cracked but still standing stone bridge. The waters flowed dark beneath them.

Then they climbed the distortion’s ring of debris and entered into the territory near where Allan, Kara, and their previous group had run into the Tunnelers and the Rats. Bryce stepped forward, taking the lead, and Allan let him, knowing the Dog knew how to handle his men. With Dylan’s help, they angled toward where the shard containing the trapped Wolves and the family they had been chasing stood, moving slowly, everyone on edge. But they saw no one and heard nothing.

They entered the square where the shard glowed with a faint orange-pink light, even beneath the sunlight. Bryce barked out orders and the enforcers spread out around the square as Allan, Grant, Dylan, and the wagons pulled up alongside the shard. Stepping up to its edge, Allan could see the cart trapped inside, the man who drove it tensed in grim determination, the horses lathered with sweat, eyes wide in terror. Another man, a woman, and two children cowered in the cart behind him, three Wolves hounding the cart from behind, caught in mid-snarl. When they’d been here last, Kara, Dylan, Artras, and Carter had healed the shards that surrounded this section. But they’d been unable to free the people trapped here, because it would also free the Wolves.

And because this shard was really composed of multiple pieces, some of which sliced through the woman, the small boy she clutched to her chest, the driver’s legs, and the horses.

“Can you release them?” Allan asked as he felt Dylan halt beside him.

The Wielder sucked in a deep breath. “I’ll have to heal the breaks inside the shard first, otherwise it will cut those poor people in half. Then I’ll release the shard. Which means the Wolves will be freed at the same time.”

From behind, Grant said, “I’ll handle the Wolves.” He whistled, the sound sharp, and all five Wolves loped out of the shadows of the surrounding buildings, trotting towards them. Allan hadn’t even realized they were that close.

Grant turned back to Allan. “Tell us when you’re ready.”

Allan signaled Bryce, the enforcers drawing in closer around the shard, Gaven and his crew stepping down from the wagons as well. Bryce’s men focused their attention outwards, while Gaven and the Wolves focused on the trapped people and Wolves.

“Whenever you’re ready, Dylan.”

The Wielder licked his lips, then closed his eyes. Allan stepped back, keeping his distance. He knew he could affect the ley in odd ways and didn’t want anything to interfere with the release of the shard. But he tensed, ready to charge forward as soon as the shard released.

Nothing happened at first, until Allan noticed that the fractures inside the shard were slowly fading. The face that cut through the people and the horses dissolved, sinking back on itself, toward a focal point to the right of the cart. Sweat broke out on Dylan’s forehead as he worked, a droplet trickling down to drip from his nose. He raised a trembling hand—

And then the entire shard collapsed. Screams, snarls, and the desperate shouts from the driver slammed into the silent square as the cart leaped forward. The Wolves in pursuit lurched forward as with a splintering crack one of the cart’s wheels faltered. The cart sagged sideways, spilling the woman and the boy she clutched to the cobbles, her scream cut off. The man in the bed clutched at the headboard with one arm, roaring in defiance as he snatched for the girl and missed. She tumbled out a breath after her mother as the bed’s corner struck stone and jerked sideways. One of the horses screamed as they fought the suddenly cumbersome weight, the entire rear axle cracking, the second wheel spinning off to the side.

Allan darted forward, heading toward the girl. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gaven and the others doing the same. They’d known they’d only have seconds before the Wolves would be on them, even before the wheel gave in.

Even those few seconds wouldn’t have been enough if it hadn’t been for Grant and his own Wolves.

Before Allan had made it halfway to the girl, a blur of gray fur sped before him and launched itself at the snarling Wolves in pursuit. Eyes fixed on the girl, Allan heard two heavy bodies slam into each other, a vicious snarl cut off with a sharp, startled yip, which instantly devolved into a mess of thrashing growls. He snatched the girl—no more than six—from the street, dragging her to his chest in a protective huddle, then shouted “I’ve got the girl!” before sprinting across the space toward where some of Bryce’s enforcers waited on the far side. As soon as he passed their line, he spun, breath heaving.

Behind, Bryce was dragging the woman and her son, younger than the girl, back from the edge of a snarling mass of Wolf teeth and claws. Grant’s pack had attacked the three Wolves that had been in pursuit of the cart and blood now slicked the cobbles. Grant had stayed back, although he stepped forward as soon as Bryce, the woman and child, and the rest of their men retreated from the fray.

A low growl churned up from his chest, building in intensity until it cracked and broke into a shouted, “Enough!”

Grant’s pack broke free of the fight, twisting and rolling out of their attackers’ reach, pulling back in a rough circle. Some of them were blooded, teeth and claw marks on their sides. One of them limped slightly. All of them had teeth bared and were growling.

The three Wolves left rolled into defensive stances, fur bristled across shoulders, lips drawn back. Their feral eyes glared at their fellow Wolves before latching onto Grant.

One of them stepped forward, head lowered, body bracing for a leap.

Grant barked out a command, mostly snarls, and the two Wolves behind their leader flinched. The leader didn’t.

The girl in Allan’s arms began to struggle. He loosened his hold and shot a glance toward where the cart had headed, glad to see Gaven and a few of the others had the panicked horses under control but were keeping their distance. The two men in their midst looked confused, but he trusted Gaven to handle it and turned back to the Wolves.

Grant stepped forward, to within arm’s reach of the lead Wolf, and knelt down. The Wolf’s growl deepened and one paw stepped forward.

Without warning, Grant’s hand snapped forward and cuffed the Wolf hard enough to shove him to the side.

Those watching gasped. The Wolf’s head snapped back, teeth flashing. But Grant’s hand wasn’t there anymore. The Wolf’s jaws closed on air and Grant cuffed him again from the other side. He yelped this time, rounding on Grant again. The two stared at each other, until the Wolf leader’s rumbling growl of defiance broke off and he dropped his head with a plaintive whine and attempted to lick Grant’s hand.

Tension leeched out of the square as Grant stood and gave Allan a curt nod. Allan sighed, then glanced down toward the girl in his arms.

She looked up at him with wide-eyed curiosity, her eyes a penetrating green, her hair a silky yellow, like corn tassels. Blood had beaded along a scrape on one cheek where she’d struck the cobbles while falling from the cart, another more serious scrape along one forearm, but she didn’t appear to notice either one.

“Are you here to save us from the ley?” she asked.

Allan strode toward the girl’s mother, who stood next to Bryce, her face locked in shock. That transformed as soon as she saw Allan and her daughter.


She stumbled forward, snatching the girl from Allan’s arms and kneeling down to set both the boy and girl on the ground as she kissed their foreheads and checked them over for injuries.

Bryce had come up behind her. “Looks like we managed that. Now what?”

“Now we regroup and find a place to settle in for the night.”

He glanced warily at the Wolves, Grant and the others still surrounding the three new additions, although they weren’t bristling at each other anymore. “We should probably keep them separate, don’t you think? Until we know if the newest ones are going to follow Grant’s lead?”

“Not a bad idea.”

He raised his fingers to his lips. A piercing whistle and hand wave called Gaven and the two men released from the shard toward them, one of the men crouching down beside what Allan assumed was his wife, hugging her and the two children close as he broke into tears.

The other man—the driver of the cart—stood over them, arms crossed, eyeing Bryce, Gaven, and the rest as they converged back on their own wagons.

His gaze finally settled on Allan, mouth downturned with unease, tainted with suspicion. “Who are you people?”

“Survivors of the Shattering … and the healing of the distortion.” Allan could tell the words meant little to him.

“That man, Gaven, said we were trapped in the distortion. That you freed us.”

“Yes. We would have freed you sooner, but we couldn’t with the Wolves attacking you. They were caught in the distortion as well. It’s taken us a few months to get back to you.”

“Months.” The man fidgeted uncertainly, glancing around at the surrounding buildings, the cliffs, the ring of debris caused by the distortion not that far away, broken only by the section where Kara and the others had healed shards before it had started to collapse. “He said we were trapped in the distortion for over a year.”

“Yes. A lot has happened since the distortion quickened.”

“So it would seem.”

The second man finally released his wife, both of them standing, although the woman held both of the children close to her side.

“Forgive my brother,” the man said, extending his hand. Allan hesitated, then shook it. “He’s always been untrusting. I want to thank you all for saving us from the Wolves.” He laughed, the sound shaky, as if he were barely holding on to sanity. “From our perspective, you simply appeared out of thin air. One moment we were alone, running for our lives, the next—there you were!”

“Charles, hush,” the woman said, grabbing onto his arm to calm him. But she turned to Allan with a thin smile. “We are grateful, whatever has happened.”

Charles’ brother suddenly tensed. He nodded toward one side of the square and said, “You have company.”

Before Allan could turn, one of the enforcers cried out in alarm. Bryce’s men formed up around the wagons as on the far side of the square a group of a dozen men emerged from one of the streets, creating a short wall between the buildings to either side. Archers trained arrows on them, but no one fired. Three men passed between the archer’s ranks, stepping out before them, then halted. Allan couldn’t tell who they were at this distance. The Tunneler’s? Temerites? Another group?

The fact that they hadn’t already attacked told him they weren’t Rats.

“Get your family to the wagons,” Allan said, not bothering to look back to see if Charles and the rest were complying as he stalked toward where Bryce and the enforcers stood. Grant and his Wolves remained clustered to one side, their attention fixed on the newcomers.

“That didn’t take long,” Bryce said as he approached.

“Can you see who they are?”

“Not at this distance.”

“Stay here. It looks like they want to talk.”

Bryce sucked in a breath to protest, but Allan was already walking across the square. He flicked orders to Grant with one hand, the pack leader nodding once in acknowledgment.

Then he focused on the group ahead. As he drew closer, he relaxed slightly. The lead figure was obviously Temerite, the thin face and neatly trimmed beard a dead giveaway. Most of the others sported the same beards. They were dressed in the armor he’d seen the guards of the Temerite nobles who’d visited Erenthrall using, although then it had gleamed. Now the polish had worn off, the uniforms obviously blemished from hard use. Pieces had been replaced with whatever could be found at hand. Even the leader’s uniform—slightly more embellished but still practical—showed wear.

Allan halted ten paces away from the leader, acutely aware that at least four of the arrows were trained on him.

He and the Temerite eyed each other for a tense moment. Then the Temerite’s eyes flicked toward the rest of Allan’s group in the square. “That was impressive. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to release the family for months now.” His attention returned to Allan, his gaze hardening. “What group are you with and what are you doing here in our district?”