L. E. Modesitt, jr. contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive a copy of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s The Mongrel Mage, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Joses Meijers, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

Small Favor

After a Dresden Files marathon during which I read and reviewed Blood Rites, Dead Beat, and Proven Guilty over the course of about two weeks last year, it took a lot of self-control to forgo continuing reading subsequent installments. This series has definitely become one of my favorite SFF reads.

If Dead Beat turned out to be the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear, for its part Proven Guilty did build on the storylines introduced in basically every other volume and pushed the envelope even further. Far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

Understandably, White Night had lofty expectations to live up to. But even if it was a fun and entertaining read in its own right, it was not as good as its last few predecessors. Don't get me wrong. White Night raised the stakes yet again and the odds are now stacked even higher against Harry Dresden and his allies. The novel was not as intricately plotted and satisfying as Dead Beat and Proven Guilty turned out to be, yet it nonetheless set the stage for another chapter in the Dresden Files. One that would undoubtedly raise the series to another, deeper and more complex, level.

And I'm glad to report that Small Favor is definitely a return to form for Jim Butcher. Indeed, the book elevates the series to an even higher level, with several hints of an even bigger and more ambitious story arc that is gradually becoming more and more discernible.

Here's the blurb:

Harry Dresden's life finally seems to be calming down -- until a shadow from the past returns. Mab, monarch of the Sidhe Winter Court, calls in an old favor from Harry -- one small favor that will trap him between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and that will strain his skills -- and loyalties -- to their very limits.

Snow came early that year in Chicago, and harsh winter conditions will plague Harry's existence as he tries to repay one of the favors he owes the faerie Winter Queen and somehow survive this endeavor. The wintertime backdrop was apropos and gave this latest Dresden Files installment its unique vibe. Not sure if Butcher has ever lived in Chicago or anywhere where heavy snowfalls and subzero temperatures are a reality for three or four months a year, but at times his depiction of the blizzard and its repercussions on people did not always ring true. But hey, that's just nitpicking and it doesn't take anything away from the story.

As always, the book features the first person narrative of the only wizard in Chicago's phonebook, Harry Dresden. Harry's voice as the only POV remains witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle every couple of pages or so. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files volumes, it's the supporting cast which helps make this one another unforgettable read. The usual suspects are there for the ride; Murphy, Thomas, and Molly Carpenter. The rest of the Carpenter family plays a major role in this novel, one that is quite emotional at times. As Knights of the Cross, Michael Carpenter and Sanya got Harry's back when things take a turn for the worse and go down the crapper. But with Nicodemus and the Denarians, both the Summer and Winter faeries, members of the White Council, Marcone and his entourage, as well as Kincaid and the Archive all involved in a multitude of ways, you know that poor Harry is in over his head and may not survive to see the end of this conflict and go on a dinner date with Anastasia Luccio.

Small Favor was hands down the most convoluted installment yet. One of the principal themes explored would have to be promises. Made and broken, both. What begins as a relatively simple rescue operation quickly turns into an extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that links this one with plotlines from past volumes. Like its predecessors, Small Favor is an elaborate and interesting self-contained story. And yet, in my humble opinion, no other book in the series was this complex and unveiled so many secrets that keep readers begging for more.

In terms of pace, Small Favor is a fast-moving page-turner. There is never a dull moment and you get through this book before you know it. Although all Dresden Files are more or less stand-alone tales, Small Favor doesn't offer as much in terms of resolution. One of the main characters' fate ends with a cliffhanger, and a number of wider issues aren't wrapped up as neatly as I expected them to be. It doesn't rob the ending of its poignant impact, but it closes the show with the readers feeling that something is missing.

Be that as it may, it made it impossible for me not to immediately jump into the sequel, Turn Coat. Which, hard as it is to believe, is even better! Time will tell if I have enough self-control not to scrap my reading schedule for the rest of the year and just continue reading the next few volumes of the Dresden Files.

Jim Butcher is awesome and he keeps getting better! If only reading could always be this fun. . .

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robert Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle, opening chapter in the bestselling Majipoor Cycle, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

He is a man with no past— a wanderer without memory of his origins. He calls himself Valentine. As a member of a motley group of entertainers, he travels across the magical planet of Majipoor, always hoping he will meet someone who can give him back what he has lost.

And then, he begins to dream--and to receive messages in those dreams. Messages that tell him that he is far more than a common vagabond—he is a lord, a king turned out of his castle. Now his travels have a purpose—to return to his home, discover what enemy took his memory, and claim the destiny that awaits him…

Win a copy of Joshua Palmatier's THE THRONE OF AMENKOR

I have a copy of Joshua Palmatier's The Throne of Amenkor, an omnibus comprised of The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne, up for grabs. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Throne of Amenkor Trilogy omnibus brings together The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne for the first time.

One young girl holds the fate of a city in her hands. If she fails, it spells her doom—and the end of her world.

Twice in the history of the city of Amenkor, the White Fire had swept over the land. Over a thousand years ago it came from the east, covering the entire city, touching everyone, leaving them unburned—but bringing madness in its wake, a madness that only ended with the death of the ruling Mistress of the city.

Five years ago the Fire came again, and Amenkor has been spiraling into ruin ever since. The city's only hope rests in the hands of a young girl, Varis, who has taught herself the art of survival and has been trained in the ways of the assassin. Venturing deep into the heart of Amenkor, Varis will face her harshest challenges and greatest opportunities. And it is here that she will either find her destiny—or meet her doom.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "AMENKOR." 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 get your hands on the digital edition of Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov's Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together. Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer. The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. Worst of all was that the "R" stood for robot--and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim!

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties maintains its position at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Alice Hoffman's The Rules of Magic debuts at number 5.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Musical Interlude

A little 2Pac to brighten your Friday! ;-)

Steven Erikson news

This from Steven Erikson's Facebook author page:

I've made a point of never dissembling to my readers so why start now? The reasons for this decision (delaying Walk in Shadow) are varied: the basic situation is as follows. For reasons unknown to me, my agent or my publishers, DoD and FoL have tanked in terms of sales. I wasn't even aware of that until we started marketing the First Contact novel, RKH, but when the details came out it took the wind out of my sails (putting it mildly). Now, if it was a matter of the style I employed for the Kharkanas trilogy turning readers off, then the sales of FoD should have been decent, only to then fall off for FoL. But that wasn't the case. Strangely, the Book of the Fallen series remains strong in terms of sales. Was it because it was a prequel? Possibly. Did FoD come too soon after TCG? Maybe. Or is there some kind of reader-fatigue going on? Could be. One theory I've been considering is a more general wariness among fantasy fans regarding trilogies and series -- having been burned by other authors waiting for books, are readers just holding back until the trilogy is done, before buying in? But then, Dancer's Lament sold brilliantly (and it too is a prequel). Anyway, the upshot is, given what we perceive as considerable enthusiasm for the Karsa trilogy, we decided to jump right in. The story picks up four or five years after the ten book series, so there'll be plenty of room to explore the fall-out, and room for favourite characters to make an appearance beyond Karsa himself. I do remain committed to writing Walk in Shadow and humbly apologize for you (few?) readers eagerly awaiting that novel.

As much as I'm excited about the new Karsa Orlong series, and even though I did not enjoy Forge of Darkness and Fall of Light as much as I wanted to, I was eager to see how Erikson would close the show with the Kharkanas trilogy.

I wasn't aware that those two books had tanked like that. :/ But with Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart, The Search For Spark, and The God is not Willing (working title for the first Karsa novel) on the way, I guess we can wait a while for Walk in Shadow.

Win a copy of Steven Brust's VALLISTA

I'm giving away a copy of Steven Brust's Vallista to one lucky winner. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Full of swordplay, peril, and swashbuckling flair, Steven Brust's Vallista is a treat for longtime fans of this popular fantasy series, a deep dive into the mysteries of Dragaera and all within it.

Vlad Taltos is an Easterner—an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire’s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he’s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad’s life is…messy.

Meanwhile, for years, Vlad’s path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life.

Now Devera has appeared again—to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea. Inside this structure are corridors that double back on themselves, rooms that look out over other worlds, and—just maybe—answers to some of Vlad’s long-asked questions about his world and his place in it. If only Devera can be persuaded to stop disappearing in the middle of his conversations with her…

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


I was a big Stephen King fan during my teenage years. Like countless readers in the 80s, I devoured novels such as Carrie, The Shining, Christine, Pet Sematary, The Stand, Cujo, and many more. I first read It circa 1989 and I remember loving it. And to this day I considered that book among the very best Stephen King titles out there, second only to The Stand. The new movie's release date was approaching and the reviews were surprisingly good. And I knew there was no way I could go see the new flick without rereading the novel beforehand.

Rereading old favorites always come with a certain sense of apprehension for me. Not every book age well and I was wondering if It had survived the test of time. After all, the children's part of the new movie is set in the 80s/90s and not in the late 50s as it is in the novel. Ye of litte faith and all that, I should have known that it wouldn't be a problem. It captured my imagination and grabbed a hold of me from the very beginning and I found myself going through this 1400+-page doorstopper in just a few days.

One thing's for sure. As a fifteen-year-old teenager, I was too young and immature to catch all of the nuances found throughout the narrative. Too young and inexperienced to appreciate the superb characterization and the bonds that link the protagonists. It was all about the scary bits and the evil clown, which is what the new movie focuses on. Which is why I elected not to go see the new adaptation once I finished rereading It. Any flick that didn't focus on the character development and the special bond between those kids could be nothing but a disappointment for me. I'll watch it at some point during a flight in the coming months, but It isn't about Pennywise. The younger me didn't get that. The older me was floored by the incredible characterization and the unbreakable bonds that united those kids that comprise the Losers' Club.

It occurs to me that I will also have to reread The Stand sooner rather than later. For as things stand, It has dethroned that novel and now ranks as the very best book Stephen King has written thus far. At least in this house.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

The bulk of the action takes place in the New England town of Derry. It's a fictional city set in the state of Maine and the author truly makes it come alive. Other than Carlos Ruiz Zafón's portrayal of Barcelona, King's depiction of Derry just might be one of the best ever. The town and its surroundings and its citizens come alive and make you feel as if you're right there with the characters.

The novel's structure is split into two different timelines. The first one, which transpires in 1957 and 1958, focuses on the events that would bring together the kids that will face the primordial evil menace they only know as It and their first showdown with Pennywise. The second one, happening in 1984 and 1985, focuses on the same bunch of protagonists and their return to Derry twenty-seven years later to battle It one final time. The novel opens up with the now classic scene of little George Denbrough chasing his paper boat down a gutter and his death at the hands of the clown Pennywise. The first part also includes a chapter on the events that led Mike Hanlon to realize that that the cycle of violence and murder that threatens Derry every 27 years or so has begun once again, as well as another chapter in which Mike calls each of the members of the Losers' Club to remind them of a promise they made as children. A promise to return to Derry to stand against It if it ever returned to terrorize the town. The second part concentrates on how the members of the Losers' Club met and gradually realized that they have been brought together for a special purpose. The third part shifts back to the future, where the protagonists are now adults with successful careers, as they must turn their backs on their lives and return to their former hometown. For most of them, it's been decades since they were last in Derry. The third part focuses of the kids' coming to terms with what they must do and their first showdown with the evil known as Pennywise. The fourth part concentrates on the adults' last confrontation with It. The novel also features a number of interludes which are comprised of Mike's thoughts and writings, and which bridge the gaps between the events of the two timelines. And though I much preferred the 1957-58 portions, overall the structure works quite well for the most part. It takes a while for readers to understand just how Mike Hanlon fits into the greater scheme of things, but there is a reason for that.

The characterization is by far the most amazing aspect of this novel. It features what could well be the very best character development of King's career. True, that of The Dark Tower is hard to beat. Then again, the author had seven installments to build those memorable characters. And though It weighs in at neary 1500 pages, it is nevertheless one single book. Not sure if a reread of The Stand will make me change my mind, but a more interesting bunch of characters I'd be hard-pressed to name, and none from a stand-alone novel. King has always had a knack for portraying children in a genuine fashion, one that rings true. And what he did with the members of the Losers' Club was a tour de force in that regard. William "Stuttering Bill" Denbrough, older brother of dead Georgie, overweight and good-hearted Benjamin "Ben" Hanscom, pretty Beverly "Bev" Marsh, Richard "Richie" Tozier, also known as Trashmouth, frail Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak, racially harassed Michael "Mike" Hanlon, and clean and neat Stanley "Stan" Uris are all bullied and abused boys and girl. Stephen King makes them come alive in a way that is nothing short of astonishing. Somehow, fate will bring them all together to face Pennywise, once as young children and another time nearly three decades later.

True, the author spends a lot of time fleshing out each protagonist and that may hurt the pace in certain portions of the novel. And yet, that character development is of capital importance, for it shows just how the bonds that unite them first as kids and then as adults were forged. And this is, in my humble opinion, what the story is all about. Each of them face a lot of violence, both psychological and physical. And although these sequences are necessary, they are at times quite disturbing. As a fan of grimdark and epic fantasy, I'm no stranger to violence, blood, and gore. And yet, the graphic violence in certain scenes featuring Bev getting beat up by her father and years later by her husband was definitely perturbing. Interestingly enough, an evil clown murdering random people was nothing special. Just part and parcel of any horror novel. But reading about the violence and abuse suffered by all these kids was a lot harder to come to terms with. For all of that, it did bring them all together. Which I figure is the point. King truly captured the themes of childhood and friendship as perfectly as humanly possible, and he made it impossible not to root for those guys. I mean, you would think that Bill's stuttering, Ben's obesity, Richie's voices, Eddie's lameness, etc, would annoy you and get old in a hurry. Yet it's the complete opposite. You basically fall in love with each and everyone of them.

As is usually King's wont, It is filled with pop culture references from those two periods. The book is often a trip down memory lane. I know I wasn't around in the 50s, but I'm a child of the 80s and got most of those relating to that era.

It is an enormous work of fiction. There is no getting around that. Understandably, such a big novel will occasionally suffer from rhythm problems. And while it's true that at times the pace can be slow, It is never boring. As I mentioned above, I went though this book in a matter of a few short days, and for me the rhythm was never an issue. King has taken a lot of flak over the years regarding his less-than-stellar endings and one has to agree that often that criticism was justified. Having said that, I felt that It ends on just the right note.

If you're only going to read one Stephen King title in your life, make it this one. It showcases King writing at the top of his game and is an unforgettable read.

Impossible to put down. It deserves the highest possible recommendation.

The final verdict: 10/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists, edited by Adrian Collins, the man who runs Grimdark Magazine, is now available for 0.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

It features stories by Michael R. Fletcher, Teresa Frohock, Alex Marshall, Mark Alder, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Janny Wurts, Jeff Salyards, Shawn Speakman, Marc Turner, Kaaron Warren, Courtney Schafer, Bradley P. Beaulieu, E. V. Morrigan, Matthew Ward, Deborah A. Wolf, Brian Staveley, Mazarkis Williams, Peter Orullian, and R. Scott Bakker.

Here's the blurb:

Experience your favourite fantasy worlds through some of the most fearsome, devious, and brutal antagonists in fantasy.

Villains take centre stage in nineteen dark and magical stories that will have you cheering for all the wrong heroes as they perform savage deeds towards wicked ends. And why not? They are the champions of their own stories—evil is a matter of perspective.

Extract from Myke Cole's SIEGE LINE

Here's an extract from Myke Cole's soon-to-be-released Siege Line, courtesy of the folks at Ace. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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.


Mankiller threw the spear.

Her grandpa had taught her to play snowsnake when she was six, and thirty-six years later, the motion was second nature. Two shuffling steps, the arm whipping low, gently. She gave a little hiss of air as she released the shaft, not because she needed to, but because she always had.

The spear did look like a snake, a thin brown line skipping through the unbroken snow, sending up white puffs that revealed the thick ice of the frozen lake beneath. There was a soft thud as it struck the hay bale dead center, sending a spray of yellow across the white. Grampy always pumped a fist when he got a bull’s-eye, but Mankiller stood frozen in her throw. Moving too quickly after letting the spear go could alter its course if you weren’t careful.

Joe Yakecan snorted hard enough to set the fur edges of his hood waving. “Weak. That’d been a caribou, he’d ’a jus’ sniffed it and gone back to sleep.”

“Ain’t a caribou,” Mankiller said, still not moving. “’S a hay bale.”

“Ya think?”

Mankiller didn’t answer, trying to take in the moment like Grampy told her. The sun reflecting off the smooth white surface of the snow. The sharp bite of the air against her nose. The spear pointing like a compass needle perfectly centered in the hay bale’s side. Save the good ones, Wilma, Grampy always said. Remember ’em for the times when the sun won’t come up.

Yakecan must have taken her silence for anger, because he added, “I’m just kiddin’, Sheriff. It’s a good shot.”

“Great shot.” Mankiller finally turned to look at him, giving the tiny quirk of her hard line of a mouth that passed for a smile.

Yakecan looked like God had come down from heaven and stapled half a dozen animals together. He was as big as a grizzly, had a face like a Saint Bernard. His wide cheeks hung down to his neck, chins overlapping just enough to tell the world that this was a man who liked beer, fried chicken, and chocolate. He was as furry as a beaver, and it didn’t help that he was always cold despite all that blubber. He covered himself in even more furs until he looked like a walrus.

Yakecan had been her deputy since Mankiller came to Fort Resolution after her tour in Afghanistan. She’d read his file from the Army, knew what he’d done in Iraq. Their first job together had been putting cuffs on Albert Haida after he beat up his wife. Haida was even bigger than Joe, and a mean drunk to boot. Haida had resisted, and turned out to be more than Mankiller had bargained for. She knew that he’d have hurt her, maybe even killed her, if it hadn’t been for Yakecan. He might be as big as a grizzly, but Joe was as fast as a striking eagle. Haida was on his back, knocked senseless, before Mankiller knew Yakecan had even moved. When the Yellowknife cops came to take custody of Haida, they’d asked Mankiller how she’d got so banged up. Yakecan could have said Haida’d gotten the drop on her, that she’d needed him to save her. But he only stood there, smiling. I’ve got you covered, that smile said.

She never forgot it.

Yakecan smiled his usual smile now, open and easy, the kind of smile that made you feel rested. “A great shot,” he conceded. “Even harder jus’ goin’ over the open snow.”

“But you think you can do better.”

“Hell, I know I can.” Yakecan’s smile got so big, his cheeks disappeared inside his hood. “Watch thi—”

A howl split the air, long and mournful.

Yakecan’s smile vanished. He glanced up at the bright sun, bent to retrieve the rifle where it lay propped against a small boulder of ice.

She put a hand on his elbow. “C’mon, Joe. You know that . . .”

But Yakecan’s eyes were scanning the horizon, the gun already at the low ready. “All right, Wilma. Can’t be too careful . . .”

He only called her by her first name when he was frightened.

“Joe, look at me.”

His eyes stopped scanning, met hers. She stared back. Her calming stare, “Sergeant’s Eyes,” her lieutenant had called them.

“Joe, they’re howling in the middle of the day. You know what kind of wolves these are.”

As if on cue, another howl sounded, closer this time. Yakecan’s eyes snapped away, and Mankiller followed his gaze to a low line of stunted trees, jagged gray limbs struggling through the thick snow.

A small shape, gray as the dead growth around it, detached itself from the trees, slunk along the icy ridge, its head turned toward them. Two dots burned in the center, brighter than the shining snow around them. Twin dancing fires, silver threaded with lines of thin gold. Wilma looked into the wolf’s eyes for a moment, and then it turned its head away, trotted along the ridge.

Mankiller gave the animal a tentative wave, felt her heart swell. She swallowed the emotion, kept her hand on Yakecan’s elbow until he finally sighed, letting the rifle barrel dip to the ground. She couldn’t resist crossing herself with her other hand.

It was a moment before she could speak. “Come on, Joe. It’s your throw.”

Yakecan didn’t move, tracking the wolf’s progress. “I don’t like turnin’ my back on ’em.”

“You know they ain’t gonna hurt you,” Mankiller says. “Might be your grandma under that fur.”

“Yeah,” Yakecan said, setting the rifle down. “S’pose you’re right. Might as well show you how the game is played, eh?” The smile was back, but there was no warmth in it now. “Need the spear.” He nodded toward the brown line sticking out of the hay bale.

“That’s right,” Mankiller said. “So, go get it, Deputy.”

Yakecan’s laugh was genuine. “Aye, ma’am.”

He trotted toward the spear, froze as another sound echoed toward them.

Not a howl this time. A low, rhythmic thudding. Distant but growing closer.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Helicopter?” Mankiller asked, but she already knew she was right.

“Yeah. We expectin’ anybody?”

Mankiller shook her head. “Probably droppin’ off hunters, or a research team.”

Yakecan looked doubtful. “We’d have heard ’bout that.”

Mankiller grunted. “Maybe they’re jus’ . . . passin’ through.”

“We’re in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere, boss. Nobody jus’ passes through.”

Mankiller grunted again. The rotors were much closer now, loud enough for the roaring of the turbines to be heard. “Sounds like a pretty big helo.”

“Military,” Yakecan said.

“Why would they be flyin’—”

“They wouldn’t. At least, they never have before.”

Mankiller nodded. “Think we better get out of sight.”

Yakecan moved with his deceptive speed, snatching up spear and hay bale in a single smooth motion. Mankiller retrieved the rifle and led the way toward an icy gulch carved by the runoff of a day that passed for warm this far north. The melting snow had washed a sizeable pile of bracken down the slope, forming it into a makeshift lean-to when it refroze.

Yakecan fell in behind her instinctively, crouching his way down the slope, his tread surprisingly quiet despite the frozen crust over the snow. He held the hay bale easily in his huge arms, his breathing smooth and even. Ever since Afghanistan, Mankiller had always felt uncomfortable with her back exposed. On the few occasions she ate at Bullock’s in Yellowknife, she always chose a chair with her back to the wall. Not when Yakecan was around. She kept her eyes front and scrambled under the frozen cover, felt Yakecan jostle her shoulder as he joined her.

The roar of the helo engine was even louder now, the dull whup whup whup of the rotors sounding like they were just over the ridge where she’d seen the wolf. Yakecan wedged his giant head up toward the icy cracks in the sticks overhead, his broad cheek pushing against her own with all the grace of a drunken bear.

“Move, you idiot,” she whispered.

He ignored her, “I can’t see it, boss. Sounds like it’s right over us.”

“Calm down,” Mankiller said, grabbing a fistful of Yakecan’s hood and pulling his head back. “Let me look.”

The film of ice over the sticks refracted the light, a prismatic spray of color that danced at the edges of her vision, but Mankiller had been squinting practically since the day she was born. There was an art to it, a thing that every Dene mastered by the time they were a few years old, scrunching your eyes just enough to keep you from seeing stars, but not so much that you missed what you were after. Yakecan said it was bright like that in Iraq, only it was the sun shining off the sand instead of the snow.

The bright white outside first wavered, then bent, then finally resolved as she got her eyes just the right degree of closed. She swept her gaze up, over the hill, unerringly tracking the echo of the rotors to their source in the ice-blue sky.

A huge rotor churned above a gray oval, no bigger than a football from this distance. It looked a little like a much larger version of the American Black Hawks that had shuttled her from hilltop to hilltop in the Korengal Valley, jammed shoulder to shoulder with soldiers from Montreal or Kansas or Tbilisi or any other of a legion of places she’d never see.

But the Army helos were green or, if they were one of the newer ones, that weird digital camouflage pattern that was so easy to see, it might as well have been hot pink. This one was a silk gray that matched the tenor of the sky. The angles of the airframe were different, softer and more numerous, a deft series of geometrical tweaks that made her eye want to slide right off it. Army Black Hawks flew rough, huge wheels dragging at the air, the shuddering cabin making all inside sore, tired, and vaguely sick after just a few minutes in the air. This helo was as smooth as a bullet. No lights. No weapon pods. No markings of any kind.

She could feel Yakecan digging in his pockets, jostling her as he searched. “Mighta left my field glasses in he—”

“Don’t need ’em.” Mankiller cut him off, elbowing him back. Just as there was an art to squinting, there was an art to seeing too, and the two were closely related. She squeezed her eyes shut more, shrinking the light down further. Her peripheral vision vanished, but in the tunnel that remained, all was made clear.

It took her a moment to reacquire the helo, but once she did, it looked much as she’d expected. The huge bay doors were open, a gunner hidden behind the hardpoint affixed to the airframe. Mankiller could see the telltale lined cylinder of a minigun barrel, the long cable of the ammunition feed snaking inside.

“Is it military?” Yakecan asked.

“Looks like a Black Hawk, only four times the size,” Mankiller said. “Loaded for bear. They have twenty-mil cannons on your ride in Iraq?”

“Yeah,” Yakecan said. “Vulcan or some shit. That what’s on there?”

“I count two. Guns out. Barrel’s moving a bit; someone’s harnessed up and watching. Good thing we got cover.”

“What, did a war break out in Canada?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Well, shit. Is it American?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know?”

Yakecan sounded frustrated. “Well, what flag’s on the tailboom, boss?”

“No flag.”

“There’s always a flag.”

“No flag. No number. No nothing.”

“That’s some spy shit.”

The tenor of the rotors changed from a dull thudding to a higher-pitched whirring, the blades sounding almost frantic as they took on more load.

“It’s comin’ down,” Mankiller said.

Yakecan crowded up toward the gap in the sticks again. “Why?”

“’S a transport,” Mankiller said. “Probably lettin’ folks off.”

“Why the heck would they let folks off here?”

The helo sank lower and lower, so fast that Mankiller’s stomach dropped a little, just as it would have had she been inside during so rapid a descent. It was a skilled pilot who could lower a bird that big that fast without crashing it, but it wasn’t a pilot overly concerned with the comfort of their troops.

The pilot stopped the descent roughly fifty feet off the ground, jerking the airframe so hard that it practically bounced, making Mankiller wince. Ropes came flying out of the airframe, three to a side, thick black hawsers covered in some kind of fabric that she guessed would make them quiet as a whisper. A moment later, the first of the operators came down them. They were uniformly dressed in white, trousers bloused into combat boots, tactical vests and packs, carbines and pistols with enough mods and add-ons to make any holster-kisser drool. All were painted the exact color of the snow around them, slashed through with gray that mirrored the landscape. Even using her squinting trick, it was hard for Mankiller to focus on them.

Yakecan couldn’t miss them now. “What the . . .”

The men reached the end of the ropes, dropping into the snow, guns coming up to the low ready, spreading out from the circle of the helo’s rotor wash. She’d seen armed professionals execute the same maneuver every day in the war. These people knew their business. But the soldiers she knew had worn patches on their sleeves, flags of the nations that paid for all the expensive gear they carried. These operators were utterly unmarked, the gray-white surface of their parkas and tac vests marred only by the straps that held their ammunition and armor.

With a click, the belly of the airframe swung open, issuing a grinding roar almost as loud as the turbines spinning the rotors. Military transport helicopters usually offloaded from the ramp in the back, and Mankiller watched in shock as a giant metal cage lowered directly out from the bottom of the airframe, sinking slowly earthward on a thick metal cable. Somewhere in the cabin, there had to be a capstan, a winch, and one hell of a motor.

She looked at the helo’s modified airframe, the gear on the operators moving out beneath it. The metal winch and cable. All customizations off aftermarket military hardware. Whoever outfitted this mission had an awful lot of money.

The cage thudded into the snow, the cable detaching and hauling skyward.

Yakecan didn’t even bother speaking now. He stared, jaw open so wide, his chin disappeared below the parka’s zipper.

The operators had turned. They were pointing their weapons inward now, at the cage.

She did her squinting trick, brought it into better focus.

It writhed.

For a moment, she had the crazy idea that it was filled with fat, gray snakes, giant pale worms, sliding and crawling over one another, but a moment later, her vision came into full focus and she saw they weren’t worms. They were people.

The cage was packed with people straining and clawing at the bars.

“Jesus,” Yakecan crossed himself. “Are they naked?”

“Yeah,” Mankiller said. “All of ’em.”

“They’ll freeze. Ten minutes tops.”

“No,” Mankiller said. “I don’t think they will.”

The people in the cage were naked, but their skin was the color of old fish, the dirty gray of the snow on a well-used highway.

Their eyes burned. Like the wolf.

A shape appeared in the cabin door, leaning on the gun hardpoint. Now that Yakecan was looking at the cage and the ring of operators around it, he found the helo easily, eyes tracking up as the last of the cable winched in and disappeared inside the cabin. His eyes were wide enough already, but they looked like they were going to pop out of his head when they settled on what Mankiller was seeing.

“Is that a . . . a guy in a suit?”

“Yup,” Mankiller said.

“His head looks like a lightbulb.”

“He’s got a white hood on, or a mask or somethin’. It’s stretched over his face.”

“Wilma, what the hell is going on? This is the weirdest damn thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Mankiller nodded, put her hand out for the rifle. “We’re going back to town. We’ll come back for the ATV later. I don’t want to be throwin’ up that much noise now. We’ll walk.”

Yakecan looked grateful for the chance to put distance between himself and the spectacle outside their crude shelter. He immediately turned to scramble out from beneath the woven canopy of broken branches and ice, crouching as he made his way up the gulch’s far side. “You think they see us?” He whispered.

If they do, there ain’t much we’ll be able to do about it, Mankiller thought, but she said nothing. They hadn’t brought snowshoes, relying instead on the ATV’s broad tires. Now, hurrying on foot, they crunched and plunged through the crust on the surface of the snow with each step, making so much noise that it seemed to Mankiller they’d be heard even over the rotors. Her shoulders tensed with every step, waiting for a shot to ring out, to hear footsteps coming behind her.

But in the end, there was nothing, and before long, the rotors were fading in the distance and she and Yakecan entered a stand of stunted trees, following a winding logging trail that would see them back to Fort Resolution in an hour or so.

Mankiller plunged on in silence. There was a rhythm to labor, a drumbeat that reminded her of drum gatherings, or the beats they played at hand games. Following that beat let her lose herself in work, feeling only the steady pulsing of her feet crunching on the snow, rather than her aching legs, or the cold nipping at her nose.

But Yakecan had no ear for that rhythm. Fast and strong as he was, he didn’t like hard work, and Mankiller could always tell when he was avoiding it. It was the same when he was frightened, or hurting, or almost anything else. He talked. He talked and talked and never stopped.

“Boss.” Yakecan sounded winded, the snow sucking at his boots, sapping his strength as much as it did hers. “What the hell just happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yeah, but . . .” Yakecan began. There was more to the stuttering cadence of his speech. He wasn’t just winded; he was hesitant, timid. He was deeply frightened.

Mankiller didn’t blame him. So was she.

“Who were they? What do they want?”

“Nothing good,” Mankiller said. The light sputtered in the trees around them. The sun was going down, and it wouldn’t be long before the temperature plunged. “Come on.”

Quote of the Day

"Right," Thomas said. "Where are we headed?"

"To where they treat me like royalty," I said.

"We're going to Burger King?"

- JIM BUTCHER, Small Favor (Canada, USA, Europe)

It's so much fun to have Harry and Thomas together again!

Extract from Ian Cameron Esslemont's DEADHOUSE LANDING

The folks at tor.com have just posted an extract from Ian Cameron Esslemont's Deadhouse Landing. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Return to the turbulent history of what would become the Malazan Empire…

After the disappointments in Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled their home. However, Kellanved is soon distracted by a strange and dangerous ancient structure. Back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith - and searching for answers.

During all this, the neighboring island of Nap threatens war and allies are beginning to wonder about Kellanved's sanity. Dancer now faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when his friend’s obsession with shadows and ancient artifacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction. After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter the Deadhouse?

Follow this link to read the excerpt.

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

In hardcover:

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties is down one spot, finishing the week at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View debuts at number 12.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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.

Musical Interlude

RIP Gord Downie. =(

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Luke Scull's The Grim Company for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

First in an epic, gritty trilogy from the hottest new voice in British fantasy.

It is a time of darkness. The last magic of the dead gods is on the wane. Demons and half-formed monsters plague the land as the final barriers between the realms begin to fail. The jealous Magelords of three great cities sit in their towers of stone and brood over the scant power that remains...

It is not a time of heroes. Their songs are long forgotten, their deeds go unwritten.

But, even now, some few still nurse a spark of hope, an unlikely fellowship, united against the tyranny of their immortal overlords - THE GRIM COMPANY.

The Genius Plague

My review copies of David Walton's quantum physics murder mysteries Superposition and Supersymmetry have been sitting on my "books to read" pile for a long, long time. I've always known that I'll get to them at some point, but there's always another novel/series that gets in the way. Still, when Pyr sent me an advance reading copy of The Genius Plague, the premise immediately piqued my curiosity and I knew that I wouldn't wait forever to read this one. I scheduled things so that my review would go up around its pub date and here it is!

Let's be honest. The cover art is absolutely atrocious and likely won't attract potential readers' attention. Which is a shame, for this science fiction thriller is one of my favorite reads of 2017!

Here's the blurb:


In this science fiction thriller, brothers are pitted against each other as a pandemic threatens to destabilize world governments by exerting a subtle mind control over survivors.

Neil Johns has just started his dream job as a code breaker in the NSA when his brother, Paul, a mycologist, goes missing on a trip to collect samples in the Amazon jungle. Paul returns with a gap in his memory and a fungal infection that almost kills him. But once he recuperates, he has enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. Meanwhile, something is happening in South America; others, like Paul, have also fallen ill and recovered with abilities they didn’t have before.

But that’s not the only pattern–the survivors, from entire remote Brazilian tribes to American tourists, all seem to be working toward a common, and deadly, goal. Neil soon uncovers a secret and unexplained alliance between governments that have traditionally been enemies. Meanwhile Paul becomes increasingly secretive and erratic.

Paul sees the fungus as the next stage of human evolution, while Neil is convinced that it is driving its human hosts to destruction. Brother must oppose brother on an increasingly fraught international stage, with the stakes: the free will of every human on earth. Can humanity use this force for good, or are we becoming the pawns of an utterly alien intelligence?

The bulk of this novel takes place in Brazil and the Amazon rainforest, as well as in and around the National Security Agency compound in Maryland, and the Washington, D.C. area. Other than the presence of the intelligent fungus and everything that it engenders, The Genius Plague reads like an ordinary thriller. The best thing about this book is that it's not hard science fiction per se. David Walton did a wonderful job explaining the science and the concepts involved without dumbing down the plot. The author also managed to avoid the pitfall of peppering the narrative with info-dumps that would have killed its momentum. The result is a compelling science fiction thriller. With its relatively short chapters, The Genius Plague is a real page-turner.

As the blurb implies, brothers Neil and Paul Johns take center stage. Their father is battling with Alzheimer's disease, and the sad repercussions this has on the entire family touches the story in a myriad ways. The scenes involving Neil, his mother, and his father's memory loss are emotional and occasionally gut-wrenching. Like Neil, readers find out that the life of a cryptologist working at the NSA certainly isn't all that's cracked up to be. As interesting and three-dimensional as the two brothers turned out to be, there's no denying that it's the supporting cast that makes this novel such a memorable read. Indeed, it would never have been the same without the presence of characters such as Shaunessy Brennan, Melody Muniz, and Andrew.

One of my favorite facets of this book is that there are no true villains. Mother Nature can be unpredictable and scary. The fungus does what it feels is required to ensure its own survival. There are no definite plans behind its actions and the aftereffects of the plague on the human brain of its hosts are always unexpected and shocking. With The Genius Plague, David Walton keeps readers on the edge of their seats and you never know what's going to happen next.

The science fiction elements notwithstanding, The Genius Plague was meant to be a thriller and for it to work it must read like one. Short chapters ending with startling cliffhangers create a page-turning pace that makes this novel hard to put down. This is the kind of work that you go through in just a few sittings.

Intelligent, touching, and captivating, David Walton's environmentally consciousThe Genius Plague is a joyride from beginning to end! Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

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

Quote of the Day

Religion and ethics were not always--or even frequently--mutually compatible. The demands of religious absolutism or fundamentalism or rampaging relativism often reflected the worst aspects of contemporary culture or prejudices rather than a system which both man and God could live under with a sense of real justice.

- DAN SIMMONS, The Fall of Hyperion (Canada, USA, Europe)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can get your hands on the digital edition of Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:


A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King's The Shining, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jim Butcher's Proven Guilty for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

There's no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it's all in a day's work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can still download Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian: 20 Adventure Tales of Conan for only 0.99$ here. 1339 pages featuring Conan the Cimmerian for less than 1$, it doesn't get much better than this!

Here's the blurb:

Conan The Barbarian is the original stories about adventure stories of conan the cimmerian written by Robert E. Howard in 1934-1936. In this book contains 20 stories of Conan The Cimmerian.

1.The Hyborian Age, first published in The Phantagraph, February-November 1936.
2.Shadows In the Moonlight, first published in Weird Tales, April 1934.
3.Queen Of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales, May 1934.
4.The Devil In Iron, first published in Weird Tales, August 1934.
5.The People Of the Black Circle, first published in Weird Tales, September, October and November 1934.
6.A Witch Shall Be Born, first published in Weird Tales in 1934.
7.The Jewels Of Gwahlur, first published in Weird Tales, March 1935.
8.Beyond the Black River, first published in Weird Tales magazine circa 1935.
9.Shadows In Zamboula, first published in Weird Tales, November 1935.
10.The Hour Of the Dragon, first published in Weird Tales, December 1935-April 1936.
11.Gods Of the North, first published in Fantasy Fan, March 1934.
12.Red Nails, First Published in Weird Tales, July, August-September, October 1936.
13. The Shadow of the Vulture, First published in the pulp magazine Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934.
14.The Phoenix on the Sword, First published in 1932.
15.The Scarlet Citadel, First published in 1933.
16.The Tower of the Elephant, First published in 1933.
17.Black Colossus, First published in 1934.
18.The Slithering Shadow, First published in 1934.
19.The Pool of the Black One, First published in 1934.
20.Rogues in the House, First published in 1935.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 9th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 1 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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.


This probably ain't the first time this has happened, but King holding top spot on both the hardcover and paperback charts is pretty impressive!


I have a copy of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere Illustrated Edition up for grabs, compliments of the folks at William Morrow. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s dark classic of modern fantasy, beautifully illustrated for the first time by award-winning artist Chris Riddell, and featuring the author’s preferred text and his Neverwhere tale, “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back.”

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of a major talent. Over the years, various versions have been produced around the world. In 2016, this gorgeously illustrated edition of the novel was released in the UK. It is now available here, and features strikingly atmospheric, painstakingly detailed black-and-white line art by Chris Riddell, one of Gaiman’s favorite artistic interpreters of his work.

Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman with a good heart whose life is changed forever when he stops to help a bleeding girl—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.

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

Kitty in the Underworld

Time was, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville book sequence was one of the best urban fantasy series on the market. Nearly as enjoyable as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. I loved the fact that Vaughn takes her characters and storylines along unexpected paths, keeping this series fresh and very entertaining. And while the early books were more episodic in style and tone, in the middle installments the author continued to unveil various hints and offered lots of glimpses of a much bigger and more ambitious overall story arc. Urban fantasy is often characterized by short works which are episodic in nature and don't always allow the plotlines to progress overmuch. Up until the tenth volume, Vaughn had always managed to dodge the bullet and keep things moving, making you eager to read the next installment to find out what occurs next.

Unfortunately, in the eleventh book the series lost a lot of steam. Indeed, Kitty Rocks the House turned out to be the one in which Carrie Vaughn failed to live up to expectations. I'm not sure there was enough material to sustain a full novel and it showed. A lot of filler and not much killer, that novel felt like some kind of interlude and didn't have a whole lot going for it. For the first time ever, a Kitty Norville title was a disappointment for me.

And if its predecessor marked the point where the series started losing steam, Kitty in the Underworld definitely brought it to a standstill. This is by far the most underwhelming and often downright boring installment thus far.

Here's the blurb:

As Denver adjusts to a new master vampire, Kitty gets word of an intruder in the Denver werewolf pack's territory, and she investigates the challenge to her authority. She follows the scent of the lycanthrope through the mountains where she is lured into a trap, tranquilized, and captured. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a defunct silver mine: the perfect cage for a werewolf. Her captors are a mysterious cult seeking to induct Kitty into their ranks in a ritual they hope will put an end to Dux Bellorum. Though skeptical of their power, even Kitty finds herself struggling to resist joining their cause. Whatever she decides, they expect Kitty to join them in their plot . . . willingly or otherwise, in Carrie Vaughn's Kitty in the Underworld.

My disappointment evidently stems from the fact that Kitty Steals the Show raised the bar to new heights. The conference in London allowed Kitty to come in contact with a lot of supernatural creatures, most of them centuries old. We were introduced to yet more players in the Long Game, and once again it became obvious that the endgame was approaching. And the surprising side-story fleshing out the Cormac/Amelia plotline added yet more layers to the plot. All in all, Kitty Rocks the House turned out to be sort of lackluster and at times a bit boring. In the end, we were left with a weak plot that could likely have been part of another Kitty installment and the series would have been better for it. Sadly, Kitty in the Underworld suffers from the same shortcomings. And then some. Once again, there is not enough material to sustain a full book. Kitty gets kidnapped and she spends the better part of the novel talking to herself. That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

The book is told in the first-person narrative of the up-until-this point endearing werewolf radio host. With her supernatural knack for attracting trouble and the fact she's not always be the sharpest tool in the shed, there is seldom a dull moment in Kitty's life. And yet, with the odds stacked against her and the stakes always getting higher, her stubbornness keeps putting herself and her loved ones in mortal danger. In my last couple of reviews I've said that it doesn't always sit well with me and this continues to be the case. Kitty is definitely changing with each new installment. Although her heart remains in the right place, I think that Ben and Cormac need to have a serious talk with her. Especially Ben, who truly needs to start acting like a true man and not just a pillar on which she can lean on. Their relationship makes no sense and it's getting worse. The main problem with Kitty in the Underworld is that the bulk of the novel features Kitty by herself. And if she has grown particularly reckless in the last few volumes, she acts absurdly dumb in this one. Her inner monologue gets old after only a couple of chapters, and things keep going downhill after that. The supporting cast remains absent for most of the book and this is what kills the story. Kitty, at this juncture in the series, cannot, on her own at least, carry the weight of the tale on her shoulders. Not only is she acting stupid, but her association with a bunch of nutjobs while she is acutely aware that what they're doing could kill them all goes against everything she stands for.

Both Kitty's Big Trouble and Kitty Steals the Show were transition titles linking past plotlines and weaving them into the tapestry of threads that will lead us to the series' finale. The stage was set for other thrilling reads, but Kitty Rocks the House and Kitty in the Underworld were little more than subpar intermissions. At this point, it's obvious that both the author and Tor Books were milking Kitty's popularity for all it was worth. Here's to hoping that the last two installments will refocus and end this series on a high note.

The pace was terrible. I'm sorry, but there is no way to sugarcoat it. Thankfully, Vaughn has been laying out a lot of groundwork over the course of the last couple of books, and the endgame is approaching. For that reason, I'm more than willing to overlook two disappointing and uninspired novels if the subsequent books live up to the hype generated by what came before.

It would be a shame for the Kitty Norville book sequence to end in forgettable fashion. But the Long Game has been introduced years ago and it's obvious that the proliferation of sequels has hurt what used to be a quality series. Quality will always win over quantity.

Hopefully Low Midnight and Kitty Saves the World will be a return to form for Carrie Vaughn. . .

The final verdict: 6/10

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