I read halfway through PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE tonight. Things sure took an interesting twist.
For quite a while, it almost seemed like Prince Amir had become a sort of narrator for his brother Erik's activities. But with the advent of a certain princess, all that changed and now Amir is once again front-and-center.
I'm impressed with the way Mallet keeps control over Amir's voice. This novel is written first-person, and I've yet to encounter a modern colloquialism (that I recall anyway). There's just enough exoticness in the voice to make it really seem like some sort of foreign prince is telling you a story. She has really immersed herself into the part. And except for Amir having a bit too much self-control for a young, hormone filled man (he manages to avoid the harem, which is at his disposal, but which also is extremely dangerous to visit), I find her rendering of a male voice convincing. I'm not a man, of course, so I can't say for certain. :)
Amir has reached an unexpected (and probably temporary) accord with a previously hostile prince-brother. I'm hoping it lasts. I also sense an aura of tragedy around Erik. For some reason, he seems doomed to die. Maybe he's just too nice and aren't the nice allies the first ones to die? We will have to see.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I read halfway through PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE tonight. Things sure took an interesting twist.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I'm about 1/5th of the way through PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE by Nathalie Mallet. The story is moving along at a steady pace. Amir is beginning to get to know his mysterious half-brother, known only as Erik. Erik has this to say about one of their recently-deceased brothers:
"Hamed and I were more than brothers, we were friends."
And that characterizes the typical relationship between brothers in PRINCES. Brothers are not to be trusted, but friends are.
At this point, Erik, who has access to detailed maps of the labyrinthine palace, is taking Amir on a tour through all the forbidden places . . . now, while it is safe, before the Grand Vizier returns. They are supposed to be exiting the palace to go into the forbidden outer city itself, but I have not reached that point yet.
I have not read Arabian Nights, but this book might just inspire me to do so.
Graeme recently put up a review of PRINCES as well.
Monday, August 27, 2007
My copy of THE PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE arrived today and it promises to be a fast read. I do apologize for letting such a huge gap of time pass by between The Hidden Worlds and Princes. But I have to admit . . . I've been reading a non-genre novel. In fact, it wasn't even written in this century. Yes, I've been sucked into Daphne du Marier's Rebecca, at the prompting of Mystery Robin.
I'm just past 3/4ths of the way through. After reading today's nail-biting suspense, it's nice to read a suspense novel that is a bit slower-paced. Also, I'm astonished at being 3/4ths of the way through, and I know who did it! But then again, I don't suppose you can call this a mystery. Or a romance. Or a suspense. However, it is a blend of all three.
The nice thing about it is that it does not demand that I keep reading (unlike some books I've read recently), therefore I'll be able to set it aside for a while so I can read Princes.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Recently, my fellow bloggers were kind enough give various mentions and shout-outs for Fantasy Debut on their weblogs, specifically:
Lisa Shearin (and here)
A Dribble of Ink
Pieces on Speculative Fiction
Fantasy Book Critic
The Soulless Machine Review
Thanks, everyone! In return, I'd like to draw your attention to some blogs that you may be unaware of.
The Toasted Scimitar is run by four very funny women who not only review books, but have a featured "subject" every week where they rant on various fantasy stereotypes. This week's topic? Villain Abodes.
Over at Enduring Romance, these two women blog about their favorite authors as well as nonfiction. Don't let the name fool you; they blog on lots of fantasy and science fiction as well. Every once in a while, they host a Cyber-Launch Book Party, and they are aways zany fun.
I believe I've mentioned Scooper before, but she's worth another mention. At her blog, Scooper Speaks, she blogs on all kinds of books, pulling no punches when she dislikes the book, and lavish with her praise when she loves it.
Milady Insanity is a very smart student who has a tremendously popular blog. She host short "6 Questions for . . ." interviews and blogs on many subjects in addition to books.
The Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog probably needs no introduction from me. She blogs a lot on TV and movies, but now has acquired some ARCs and plans to start reviewing fantasy as well.
Worth another mention is The Swivet, a blog run by a publishing insider known as La Gringa. Lots of big-name publishing insiders also read her blog. If you comment on La Gringa's blog, you never know who who might read it. It's a rather exciting place.
Well, what do you know? For some reason this turned out to be a web-wanderer on female bloggers. I know of several others, but they are still rather new to me and I don't think I'll be able to summarize them properly. Therefore, I will save them for next time.
UPDATE: Oops, I forgot 100 Bloggers, where one of the hundred put up a very nice post about Fantasy Debut!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
There is an article by Morgan Howell in the current issue of the Del Rey Internet Newsletter. His article is the second one down. I found it fascinating because he based his orcs on native American matriarchal societies.
Now I really can't wait to read it!
From the first few sentences of THE PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE, you know right away that something is up.
I sat straight up in my bed. I knew someone was coming because my two insane brothers, Jafer and Mir, were screaming bloody murder.
Screaming bloody murder isn't a phrase that we encounter a lot in the United States. Imagine someone screaming just as loud and hard as they possibly can. What a way to wake up.
However, Prince Amir is savvy. He has positioned his room between his insane brothers to act as a sort of alarm system. A servant has brought the grim news of the death of one of Amir's 117 brothers. They think magic was involved, so they brought Amir to investigate since he is known to be a scholar. However, he is also a suspect.
Prince Amir is a captive in a cage, where all the princes are kept until an heir is decided upon. There's not a lot of brotherly love here. Amir's thoughtful caretaking of his insane brothers is as close as it gets.
Therefore, Amir goes to investigate his brother's death. Here is where I had a small quibble with the plot. He barely recognized his brother. If you lived with 117 people all your life, you should know each of them by name. In a typical high school, a student has 6 classes with 25 students per class. That equals 150. Well before Christmas, I always knew each person by name, and everyone else in all my classes did as well.
I was willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps each prince is isolated, so that they hardly know each other. At this point, I'm not sure so I had a "huh?" moment.
What follows is a deepening mystery. The dead prince had some sort of spell on him. The plot quickly turns into a murder mystery, complete with a mysterious locket, a prince-brother who seems to be up to something, rivalry between Amir and his brothers, and intrigue galore. PRINCES is told in first person from Amir's point of view. The writing is straightforward and transparent, sucking you into the setting. The dialog flows well, occasionally becoming a tad melodramatic. However, the melodrama might be appropriate to the setting. Will comment on this more as the plot progresses.
I like Amir, mostly because he looks out for his insane brothers in a touching manner. I too, want him to be able to escape his golden cage and venture out into the city beyond, a city famed for its beauty, but which Amir has never even glimpsed. I also like the setting because it's so different from what I usually encounter in fantasy. Just a few posts ago, I asked for a setting besides medieval European, and now I have it!
My excerpt ends when Amir meets his mysterious brother, who wants to talk. I'll have to wait until I have the book before I find out what they are going to talk about.
I was glad that I waited a few days before announcing this debut because Robert over at Fantasy Book Critic has already posted his review! More on that later.
Mark J. Ferrari has written THE BOOK OF JOBY, which appears to be a very unusual debut; a modern retelling of the trials of Job. Yes, the Job, as in the Bible. As you may recall, the Biblical story tells how God proved Job's faith to Satan by allowing Satan to inflict Job with one loss, misfortune or disease after another. Satan tried to get Job to curse God's name, but he never did. You can find the story in The Book of Job, chapters 1 - 3, with the ending in chapter 42, when God gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Fast-forward to the present day, put the fate of the world at stake and you have THE BOOK OF JOBY (Amazon: US, Canada). Here is the official description:
The author's website includes several excerpts, a FAQ and his other creative occupation as an artist.
Robert over at Fantasy Book Critic has written a very long and complimentary review. There's also a review at Publishers Weekly (scroll way down). Inkspot has some short reviews, but I'm not finding much else online. It appears to be getting some review attention in print, however.
I find the subject matter for this novel compelling and I cannot read Robert's review without wanting to read it for myself. I'll probably do a post about the first chapter soon, because I've already started reading it.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
An anonymous tipster (my first ever!) sent a link to a Lane Robins interview in her local paper. If you're not familiar with Lane Robins, my original shout-out on her novel, MALEDICTE, is here (my shout-outs weren't very good back then, I'm afraid). The tipster has also supplied her website, and since then I've found her blog, which she occasionally updates.
Nathalie Mallet, author of THE PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE, now has the first chapter available as a PDF file.
I've written most of my announcement for THE BOOK OF JOBY by Mark J. Ferrari, but I'm going to hold off on posting it until I can find some more reviews. I plan on posting it later tonight or early tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I discovered KING'S PROPERTY (Canada, UK) on The Swivet, where La Gringa has an interesting post about mass market originals "getting no respect". It is the first novel in the Queen of the Orcs series by Morgan Howell. I was unable to find the author's website, and the link to the author page on the publisher's site is broken. If I find a good link, I will update this post. Here is the book description:
Born into hardship, Dar learns to rely on herself alone. When her family betrays her, Dar is conscripted into King Kregant’s army and its brutal campaign to conquer a neighboring country. Now she is bound as a slave to a dreaded regiment of orcs, creatures legendary for their savagery and battle prowess.
Rather than cower, Dar rises to the challenge. She learns the unique culture and language of the orcs, survives treachery from both allies and enemies, and struggles to understand a mystical gift that brings her dark, prophetic visions. As the war escalates–amid nightmarish combat and shattering loss–Dar must seize a single chance at freedom.
I found reviews by Scott Oden (an excellent new blog discovery for me!), and at Jive Magazine, which adds that Elizabeth Moon blurbed her. Come to think of it, the plot (what I know of it) reminds me a bit of Paksenarrion's Daughter. I found another review as well, but it didn't live up to my quality standards (bad grammar) so I'm not including it here. (I'm trying to do a better job vetting my linkage.)
Del Rey is releasing one book each month, so if you really enjoy it, you won't have to wait long to read the next book.
I have to admit that I enjoy books with a tight focus on a strong female character. Therefore, this book intrigues me. It also intrigues me that a man wrote it. If I can find more, I'll update this post.
UPDATE! Here is a link to the first chapter.
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 7:19 AM
Monday, August 20, 2007
The editor at Night Shade Books is sending me a review copy of PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE. This is my first experience with an ARC and I admit to mixed feelings. On the one hand, it seems to validate my small-yet-growing niche as a blogger. On the other hand, it makes it feel more like *Literary Criticism* and less like fun.
However, I'll do my best to banish those feelings. He also emailed me the first three chapters, which I've already read. I'll try to get a post up on it tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here's a link to my original shout-out about her book, where you can find all the usual links.
Please note! I only cover debuts for books published by publishers that distribute books to bookstore shelves nationwide, which puts the books on shelves, like this:
All books I hear about go on my Debut Calendar, which is available through my sidebar. I also try to do a Debut Showcase for every entry in my Debut Calendar.
For reviews, I'm more selective. I'm open to most genres, with the exception of the following:
- Vampire stories. I'm not interested in protagonists that have to devour humans or human blood. Psionic vampires might interest me, however.
- Stories with demon or undead protagonists. It's okay if they're the bad guys.
- Angels as sexual partners.
- Deal-with-the-devil stories. However, I wouldn't mind reading such a book when the main protagonist is trying to save someone who has made a deal with the devil.
- Blood and gore horror. Horror should have a supernatural element and should scare the hell out of me, not gross me out.
- Stories with sex involving more than one partner.
- Excessively gritty stories. Of course "excessively" is subjective.
- Christian bashing, either overt or subtle. I don't like to see my beliefs trashed.
If you don't mind filling out a form, you can use this one to tell me about your debut. It has everything I like to know about new debut novels, which helps me when I do a Debut Showcase. You can also email me at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
THE BLADE ITSELF by Joe Abercrombie had its debut in the UK on May 4, 2006, Therefore, as a debut in the US, it has more momentum than an author starting from scratch. It debuts in the US on September 6. Interestingly, it is the second book with this title that came out this year. The other novel is also a debut, and it came out on January 9th. It pops up first on an Amazon search, so don't get confused.
Pyr has made the first 63 pages of THE BLADE ITSELF available as a beautiful PDF file. Therefore, I thought that I would be remiss if I didn't put up a post about the first few chapters.
The first few pages plunge us into action when an axe-wielding man named Logen fights for his life against the Shanka ("flatheads"). He ends up in a very unfortunate situation where certain death appears to loom. At this point, he makes the following reflection:
It was quite a scrape he was in. He’d been in some bad ones alright, and lived to sing the songs, but it was hard to see how this could get much worse. That got him thinking about his life. It seemed a bitter, pointless sort of a life now. No one was any better off because of it. Full of violence and pain, with not much but disappointment and hardship in between.
His reminisces have no opportunity to go on any further. He makes a desperate gamble for life and to his astonishment, it works. He returns to his camp to gather his things, muses about the fate of his friends, and he heads off with his pot, which is the only companion that he has left.
The next part I approached with a bit of trepidation when I realized that it would be a torture scene. However, although there was plenty of corruption that made me wince, along with a short description of the victim after said torture, Abercrombie did not subject the reader to any actual torture. The action was told through the eyes of the head inquisitor, and Abercrombie did a good job making me feel a pitying sort of sympathy toward him. One hopes for his eventual redemption.
The fantasy element, when it came, caught me by surprise. I liked this sentence:
Then, once he’d eaten, he would ask the spirits for guidance. Their guidance was pretty useless, but the company would be welcome.
And so they are. At this point, we're just over halfway through the excerpt. It's a promising start. There's nothing to dislike here. No wonder this novel is creating quite a buzz.
Friday, August 17, 2007
On Wednesday, THE PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE (Canada, UK) by Canadian debut writer Nathalie Mallet was released. Here is the book description:
Prince Amir lives in a lavish and beautiful cage. He lives in a palace with hundreds of his brothers, all barred by law from ever leaving the palace until he, or one of his brothers, becomes the next Sultan. Living under constant threat of death at the hands of his scheming brothers, Amir has chosen a life of solitude and study. His scholarly and alchemical pursuits bring him under suspicion when his brothers begin to die from seemingly supernatural means. Amir finds himself thrown together with his brother Erik, the son of a barbarian princess. Together they must discover the dark secret that is stalking the halls of their golden cage.
According to the author's weblog, this novel is based on the Ottoman Turks. Since the Turkish empire is a pet historical period of mine, this novel piques my interest. However, I was unable to find any first chapter excerpts.
Here is an article from her local newspaper, the Prince George Citizen (first item). I also found a review by John Kilma, but not much else. Here is a post that her agent put up back in January showing the original cover art for the book. I found it interesting how the concept changed. I like the final version better.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I don't check the skin color of the author, but when I crack open the book I invariably find a novel about white characters. To be sure, most of these settings are like northern Europe, in a medieval world, where you would indeed expect there to be mostly white people. I have never read about a black elf (except the drow, which I don't think really count). Rarely do I come across novels set in an Egypt-like setting for example, or perhaps Central American. (Tad William's Otherland is a notable exception.) I suspect that this is because, for the most part, people write what they know. Indeed, that is advice that most would-be authors hear.
Now I'd like to take this post a bit further. According to the trackbacks from David's post, this subject is being discussed in a lot of different places. And some of you may be wondering why such things still need to be discussed.
It's a good question, I think. But I also think that many people still feel a need to discuss racial issues, which is reason enough in itself. This is why David has had over 40 responses to his post so far. However, I think most white people feel held back most of the time. I hate to generalize, and this may not be true in your particular case, but for the most part, I think this is true. For evidence, I point to this page on Walter E. William's website. It seems to me, in reading his "amnesty and pardon", that he has encountered this a lot over his long life.
Why do we feel held back? Because many of us are waiting, with the utmost respect, for our black friends to open the way.
Let me compare this with a conversation that myself and my co-workers once had with a Mormon. He knew that we were curious about his religion, but we refrained from speaking out of respect. Then one day he said, "Go ahead. Ask me anything." And we did.
David has said (not literally), "Go ahead. Talk about it." And so we are. The floodgates have opened, to use a tired metaphor. And because we are talking indicates that there is still a need to talk about it. This need will probably take another generation or two to become sated.
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 7:18 AM
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
First of all, I must admit that PLAGUE YEAR by Jeff Carlson has turned out to be not my thing. I read the first two chapters last night, and I do see much that piques my interest. However, I guess I'm too prim for "pungent" sex scenes that tell me way more that I would want to know. I can do gritty up to a point. If you're curious, here are the chapters; I don't want to get into the details.
However, that scene aside, it was quite compelling. A very small group of refugees have taken refuge at the top of a mountain, where they are out of the range of a nano virus that swims below, an airborne ocean of death. One can take brief trips below, but not without suffering health problems and scarring afterward. Therefore, it shocks the camp when they spy the flashlight of someone actually trying to cross the valley. Way on the other side of the valley, they can see the fires of another group of refugees. However, their fire abruptly goes out. The group on this side of the valley lights their own fire and the traveler eventually makes it to their camp.
Why did he travel to the camp? I don't know. Chapter two ends shortly after his arrival. If you decide to read or review this, please let me know what you think.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Since I am between books, I've been reading some first chapters that authors have posted. I'll have comments on them over the next few days.
The title of YOU HAD ME AT HALO by Amanda Ashby should tell you something of what to expect. I knew right away that it would be an irreverent romantic take on the afterlife. Here's the first few sentences:
“Unbelievable.” Holly Evans shook her head as she peered down through the glass window to the scene below.
That was the problem with an open casket. It meant everyone’s last memories of her would be with a white puffy face, the wrong color lipstick and a dreadful polyester dress. They always said the camera added five pounds to you, but no one ever talked about how fattening embalming fluid was, did they?
I guess once you're dead, you don't have much else to worry about than how you looked at your wake, now do you? It turns out that Holly does have some things to worry about. Her biggest problem is that heaven's entrance officials seem to think that she committed suicide.
I'm not sure why there's glass in heaven, or why there are so many rules, or why it doesn't seem very heavenly. Or why they would think that she committed suicide when she insists that she didn't. And you would think that heaven's officials would be rather difficult to fool. So, there's a mystery here.
The chapter ends at a nice cliffhanger when Holly gets kicked out of heaven for talking too much.
I'm not really sure what to think here. I can't say I've ever read an afterlife novel, but I did see All of Me years ago. Oh, and I saw Nick Cage in City of Angels. In any novel or movie of this sort, you cannot expect a doctrinally perfect heaven, or there wouldn't be much of a story. However, my interest is still piqued, mostly because of the zippy writing and the voice.
The excerpt is here.
My efforts to purchase books this weekend were thwarted! I went to two separate bookstores looking for Amanda Ashby's YOU HAD ME AT HALO and Richard Taylor's THE HAUNTING OF CAMBRIA and could not nab either one. I even tried to purchase HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS at Wal-Mart on Sunday, but they were sold out. Already. And it was a HUGE crate of books. (As it happens, I'm glad I didn't purchase it because a friend wants to give me her copy when she's finished.)
Anyway, I may have to break down and buy these two titles online. As you probably figured out, I don't like buying books online. I do buy a lot of nonfiction online, but I like to browse through the fiction as I purchase and see what else looks interesting. I suppose I could always click the "other people purchased title X as well" link, it's just not the same. I don't usually want to purchase similar-sounding books at the same time. After all, how polar opposite can you can than the above titles? What market analyst would have expected me to go purchasing an afterlife romance and a horror novel all in the same shopping trip?
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Here, as promised, is the interview with Kristin Landon, author of THE HIDDEN WORLDS, which has been the featured debut for the past year.
I found the cultures of Nexus and Santandru to be fascinating. Did you have any particular real-world influences for these cultures?
Wellllll. . . my husband has been to Las Vegas. . . .
An Irish friend assured me that I clearly had parts of Ireland in mind when I described Santandru. That’s interesting, as I’ve never been there; but in theme I don’t think he’s far off—I respect human tenacity in harsh places, the shifts people are put to in order to survive. It’s a theme SF addresses more often than contemporary fiction can.
As for Nexus, I built that mostly by contrast to Santandru. Plenty, luxury, leisure, wealth. Yes, they have earned it by dangerous work, but there is a lack of compassion, a lack of understanding, that definitely features in the next book.
What is your favorite scene in THE HIDDEN WORLDS?
This took some thought, but I would have to say it’s the death of my male protagonist’s (Iain’s) father. It was such a pleasure to write, bringing together so many threads of plot and feeling. And I'm pleased with how well it works, and how it pays off.
What scene gave you the most trouble?
I had to rewrite the last third of the book extensively, because I’d submitted one book and in the end sold two. I’d left what I assumed was an open door for a sequel, but I discovered that that’s very different from actually planning and executing a sequel. My superb editor at Ace, Anne Sowards, was wonderfully helpful in suggesting ways to turn a fairly closed book into one that satisfies but leaves more to be told.
Of course, I’ve been told by some of my friends that the satisfaction is not quite enough, that they want more right now . . . but that’s good.
Can you give us a teaser about the sequel, THE COLD MINDS?
What happens when the Cold Minds find and use the greatest weakness of the Pilot Masters? When Iain is torn between old loyalties and new realities? When Linnea must choose between duty and family—when love pulls her in two directions?
Can you tell us the release date, if you know it?
It’s not yet set. The manuscript has been turned in, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
Is this an open-ended series? If not, can you say how many books you plan on writing in THE HIDDEN WORLDS setting?
I can’t yet say, because I don’t yet know. THE HIDDEN WORLDS has only been out for six weeks. I certainly have stories to tell beyond two books, if that works out.
Have you finished any other novels besides THE HIDDEN WORLDS and THE COLD MINDS and can we expect to see them in print?
I have one other finished novel stored away. It’s set in a completely different future from THE HIDDEN WORLDS—not related at all. But at this point my agent (Donald Maass) and I agree that I should focus on writing new books. Perhaps in future we’ll give it a look, and see what potential it might have.
It was my first novel, my journeyman piece, and I'm proud of it—but I know my agent’s advice is good.
Your bio mentions that H. G. Wells prompted your love of science and science fiction. Which other authors have you admired?
Goodness, after reading Connie Willis’s wonderful tribute to Heinlein in the latest LOCUS, I know I have to say, Heinlein—specifically his juveniles, such as TUNNEL IN THE SKY, THE ROLLING STONES, and CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY. And I share Connie Willis’s judgment that the best of all of them is HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL. I’ve loved that book since I was nine, and I still love it decades later.
I also deeply admire Ursula Le Guin, a fellow Oregonian. I don’t want to claim her as an influence, because I wouldn’t want anyone to think I imagine I write like her. But THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS is not the only book of hers that I find unforgettable and revisit regularly.
There are plenty of others, a pretty wild mix—Vernor Vinge, Kim Stanley Robinson, oh, goodness! Lois McMaster Bujold, I love her books! Maureen McHugh, Greg Bear— Too many to name.
Please share your publishing story and any writing advice that you may have.
I had been writing seriously for about fourteen years, and submitting off and on for ten. I entered THE HIDDEN WORLDS in a regional writing contest (Colorado Gold, run by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers—a marvelous group and a truly enjoyable conference). It and my other novel were both finalists in the SF category, so I went to the conference. HIDDEN WORLDS won. The judge was an editor from Ace, who asked me to submit the complete book.
It took me a while to work through it all, as I hadn’t looked at it in at least a year. I submitted it the following spring . . . and waited. I had health problems that fall and winter (now completely resolved, thank goodness), so it was actually a surprise to receive an email the following spring, from a different Ace editor (the original had left the company) asking, was the book still available? And could we talk?
It took off from there, to my surprise and delight. In fact, I am still surprised. And still delighted.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Persist at all costs!
And—thank you, Tia, for choosing to feature THE HIDDEN WORLDS on Fantasy Debut!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
This blog is only two months old, but it has seen significant readership expansion in the past three weeks. Thank you to everyone who has linked here and who stops by from time to time. Thanks especially to Pat's Fantasy Hotlist for his recent shout-out of this blog and others. Pat is the Godfather of fantasy review bloggers, so recognition by him was an honor. I also owe a lot of visits to David Anthony Durham's weblog. Thanks, guys!
Thief With No Shadow is a deeply personal fantasy, with a scope that only touches the remnants of two families. It is about a young woman named Melke, her brother, the crimes that they commit during times of desperation and its ramifications. By the time the story opens, the crimes have already been committed. The rest of the novel deals with their attempts to make amends. In this world, crimes can become curses that are passed from generation to generation, and supernatural creatures are horrific and wholly alien. Gee does a great job making you wonder how on earth the characters are ever going to find a way to solve their problems. You can find all the posts that I wrote about this title here.
Jennifer Estep showed up when I put a post up about her debut, Karma Girl (Canada, UK), in one of my debut round-ups. She has a very fun website and an active blog.
Karma Girl is a laugh-out-loud take on superheroes. Estep called it a comic book for women in one of her comments, but I think men would enjoy it as well. When Carmen's fiancé cheats on her, she takes revenge on him by exposing his superhero identity -- along with his ubervillainess girlfriend. From the on, she's on a tear, exposing every superhero that she can. She seems to have a special gift for rooting out secret identities.
Then, when she exposes a member of the Fearless Five, she attracts the wrong sort of attention. A troupe of ubervillains decide that she needs to work for them. They give her a month to expose the leader of the Fearless Five, the sexy Striker. You can find all my posts on this title here.
I'd love to know if you read any of these books, or if you intend to add any to your reading lists.
Friday, August 10, 2007
My one word description of THE HIDDEN WORLDS? Tense.
From the time Linnea first set foot on Nexus, the novel held my attention to the last page. I'm not saying that the first few chapters were slow -- not at all. But the novel's true conflict and action only started when Linnea set Iain's life into a tailspin by showing up unannounced, claiming to be his servant.
The novel starts when a ship is lost at sea, thus dooming the village that depends on it for its survival. Linnea and her family evacuate the village, going to an overcrowded city where jobs are scarce. Then, Linnea's sister tells her of a family secret in the form of a mysterious cylinder. Linnea takes the secret to a government bureaucrat with whom she has become friendly, and together they hatch a scheme to use the secret as leverage against the Pilot-Masters to compel them to renew a trade contract with her world.
In short, she wants to bribe them.
Well, it turns out that the government bureaucrat has just the thing she needs to get to Nexus, and it has been waiting for someone in her family to claim it for years. It is a labor contract. With Iain. Who has no idea of its existence.
I'm still not sure of the motives behind the labor contract storyline. But then, neither does Linnea, so I can hardly quibble with that.
In earlier posts, I mentioned that I found the birth restrictions that the Pilot-Masters utilized unrealistic. Well, as it turns out, the plot does address this discrepancy, but it still leaves much a mystery. However, I can hardly find fault with that, since this book is the first of a series. I must be patient. All will be explained in time. I'm also interested in finding out why a society of men would agree to the restrictions that they live under, not to mention why women would agree to be shut out, entirely.
I found Landon's prose utilitarian, in keeping with the gritty story. Her writing was entirely transparent and her dialog flowed effortlessly. I would call it a character-driven story, except that term usually relates to the protagonist and his or her motivations. The characters who drive this story are definitely the villains. Throughout much of the story, the protagonists seem like driftwood in a maelstrom, almost powerless to resist the forces around them. Through the self-sacrificing actions of those around them, they finally find a way to prevail, at least in a small way.
And something that I wondered about turned out to be true. The Pilot-Masters are guilty of perpetuating more than one lie. I was particularly happy with Iain's response to the discovery of this second lie. It made me like him more.
As for the contents of that mysterious cylinder? At the end of the novel, it is still a mystery.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
I wrote my final review for THE HIDDEN WORLDS while I was on break today, and then I went and left it on my hard drive at work! Therefore, I will post it when I get to work tomorrow. I am supposed to go in early anyway, so I can get a new production build in before anyone else gets there (yes, I'm an IT geek). In the meantime, I have some musings for you.
After reading two serious books, I am in need of something lighthearted. Then I got to thinking about classic dramatic novels that have also made me laugh out loud. I love it when I can get a combination of both. Here are some that I especially enjoyed:
Huck Finn by Mark Twain. Serious subject matter, side-splitting laughter.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I admit it -- I never finished it. But the opening chapters had me giggling.
East of Eden. The most lighthearted John Steinbeck novel that I have read.
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. The parts about Nell are tragic. But the parts about Kit had me smiling.
The Once and Future King by T. H. White. Who can forget the joust between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore Grummursum?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Too many scenes to mention.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles, when Tess and the girls giggle and sign over Angel.
Those are the ones that I remember right now. Some of them had me crying as well as laughing.
Which books have made you both laugh and cry?
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
To complete the trifecta of authors that debuted yesterday, we have Amanda Ashby's afterlife romantic fantasy, YOU HAD ME AT HALO. On her website, Ashby calls it "a romantic comedy with a paranormal twist." She keeps a blog, which she updates regularly, and a MySpace page. Here is the book description:
Holly Evans has just seen her own body laid to rest. Now she would like to move onto the afterlife. But apparently she has some mortal baggage to unload first, starting with the matter of how she died. Her heavenly shrink isn't buying that she didn't kill herself- and says she must return to earth to straighten things out. The thing is, she needs to borrow the body of computer geek Vince Murphy to do it. Oh, and although Vince was supposed to have vacated the premises, he apparently never got the memo.
Now, Holly has forty-eight hours to resolve her issues while sharing arms, legs, and...other things...with a guy she barely noticed while she was alive. But the real surprise is what life has to offer when you have only two days to live it.
It got 4 1/2 stars at The Romantic Times. I found interviews at Naptime Writer and Writes and Wrongs, and Mia Musings. Publishers Weekly has a review (last one), but other than that I'm not finding many reviews yet except a short one by Harriet Klausner. It sounds charming.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Monday, August 6, 2007
SPACEMAN BLUES: A Love Song by Brian Francis Slattery releases tomorrow, August 7th. Amazon has a bunch of review snippets on the book site, and one word that I keep encountering is "chaotic". It seems to be getting a great deal of review attention, more than I think I've seen so far. Here's the blurb from Tor's website:
When Manuel Rodrigo de Guzmán González disappears, Wendell Apogee decides to find out where he has gone and why. But in order to figure out what happened to Manuel, Wendell must contend with parties, cockfights, and chases; an underground city whose people live in houses suspended from cavern ceilings; urban weirdos and alien assassins; immigrants, the black market, flight, riots, and religious cults.
Painted in browns and grays and sparked by sudden fires, Spaceman Blues is a literary retro-pulp science-fiction-mystery-superhero novel, the debut of a true voice of the future, and a cult classic in the making.
There is a sample chapter available at the author's website. Interestingly, it is written in the present tense. It doesn't look too distracting, you may not even notice at first. Here's the opening sentence:
It is his last day, and by six in the morning he is already drinking, drinking and shot up, eyes frantic, limbs flailing like he's ready to explode.
The chapter headings are reminiscent of The Three Musketeers, Don Quixote and Candide, reading like this:
In Which a Man Disappears, and Several Parties Are Held
As for reviews? Try the Mumpsimus, Sci Fi Wire (John Joseph Adams), and the Agony Column at Trashotron. Plus, you can go to the author's website and find a bunch more review links here.
Ok, I admit it. I've finished THE HIDDEN WORLDS. It lived up to its promise of a fast read. However, I will continue to post on it in parts as I ruminate over the plot.
Linnea has discovered a family secret that affects the family of Pilot-Masters on Nexus, the hub of the Hidden Worlds. With the help of a govenrment bureaucrat, she finds the means to leave her world and go to Nexus as an indentured servant, where she intends to offer the secret in return for certain help from them. However, she has no idea that the family secret is the reason behind her world's desperate condition, and when she arrives at Nexus, she steps into a huge spider web of deceit, backstabbing and just pain evil.
While she travels to Nexus, we get to meet Iain, one of the Pilot-Masters, and we get to learn a bit about his mysterious world. Here is where I have a quibble with the plot. It doesn't seem like the Pilot-Masters reproduce often enough to sustain their population. I won't go into all the details because I don't want to give away too much plot. However, I can say that population is strictly controlled (or so they think) and it's a major honor for a man to be selected to father a child. We're talking ceremonies and orgy-like parties, here. Since not every son can become a Pilot-Master, one would think that all Pilot-Masters would be encouraged to have many sons.
However, I found the story absorbing enough to set aside my doubts. Linnea arrives onto Nexus to find that her master had no idea that she was to be his servant. He suspects that his father knows something of it, however his father orders him to turn Linnea over to him and pursue the matter no further.
The society on Nexus reminds me a great deal of ancient Rome, especially the father-son relationship. In Rome, the father's word had the force of law. It seems much the same on Nexus. Therefore, it's a shocking thing when Iain disobeys his father and goes to his treacherous cousin for the truth -- thus unleashing the momentum for the rest of the book.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Three debuts release on Tuesday, so I'm going to start posting them today. I'll start with Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe. Radio Freefall appears to be a rock-n-roll cyberpunk science fiction story. Here's an excerpt from the blurb on his website:
Aqualung knows how to get inside his audience's heads. He knows what kind of music they really want, and this knowledge has propelled the Snake Vendors to the peak of fame. He also knows what kind of world the people want, and it isn't the kind of world they are about to get.
Walter Cheeseman is about to give the people the kind of world he wants. He knows how to control the people by controlling information. The only thing that stands in his way is a wild intelligent virus called the Digital Carnivore.
Quin Taber is on the trail of the Digital Carnivore. He has discovered the origins of the virus and is about to unlock the secret that will control it, and through the virus, all of the computers in the world. His motivation: revenge against his former boss, Walter Cheeseman.
On the eve of Unification, when all countries of the world come together under one government, a musician, a hacker and a trickster god of the web combine forces to give the people a new choice.Jarpe's amusing website hints at his writing style. It's worth a visit just to read his bio, not to mention the sample chapter. And of course, he has a blog. And I might as well put up a link to the Snake Vendors, just so I have a link to almost every page on his site.
There's an interview at SFRevu, plus reviews at SFSignal, Publishers Weekly (scroll way down, as usual), and Don D'Ammassa (third review).
Update: Edited to clear up an error. See comments if you are curious.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
I figured that I'd better put up a first chapter post before I finish the whole book. This book promises to be a fast read. Here's the first sentence:
"At dawn, at the slack of ebb tide, they all went out again to search the beach outside the harbor mouth."
Search for what? And why again? It soon becomes clear that there has been a disaster: a ship has sunk. With the sinking of the ship, the village that depends upon it is doomed. Linnea, who is considered a spinster at nineteen, is one of the only ones who does not appear to be personally touched by the disaster. She lost her brother-in-law.
Linnea, her sister, and her sister's children flee the doomed village to the planet's only city. We get the impression early on that there's something wrong with the society in which Linnea lives. An unmarried nineteen-year-old is almost a freak. Why? I' don't yet know. She lives on a dying world, with little beauty and little hope.
Linnea's world is a sterile one, except for the seas. The only things that grows in the soil are potatoes. The weather is harsh, and life is barely above the sustenance level. There is little beauty and few pleasures. It doesn't make for pleasant reading, but it is gripping.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I took a trip to the bookstore today, intending to buy THE HIDDEN WORLDS by Kristin Landon and THE HAUNTING OF CAMBRIA by Richard Taylor. However, only the Landon book was in stock. Therefore, I will feature her book first.
I considered featuring Marr's WICKED, LOVELY and Grossman's SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBIE, but they seem to be getting plenty of attention and are on the bestseller lists. It is my intention with this blog to feature the lesser-known gems.
THE HIDDEN WORLDS was placed cover-out, and there were about seven copies. It piqued my interest because its been a while since I've read any science fiction and because I'm in the mood for a love story.
The cover is good, but not spectacular. I would have been more interested in seeing a rendering of one of the cold minds than a guy and a girl, even if the girl has a cool gun. The city in the background is intriguing.
Here is the cover blurb:
After the Earth was destroyed by ruthless machine intelligences known as the Cold Minds, the remnants of the human race sought refuge on far-flung planets. Humanity was saved by a hereditary guild of jump pilots who now control all travel and communication among the Hidden Worlds.…
Nineteen-year-old Linnea Kiaho lives on a backwater hostile planet, one of the poorest of the Hidden Worlds. To save her family, Linnea does the unspeakable: She accepts an indenture on the decadent home world of the Pilot Masters, hoping that she will be able to barter an old family secret into a future for her loved ones—and perhaps her planet as well.
Linnea's unwilling master, the pilot Iain sen Paolo, knows nothing about her secret. But to spite his father, he joins her in uncovering a truth that could throw the Pilot masters into chaos at a time when they can least afford weakness. For after six centuries, the Cold Minds have discovered the Hidden Worlds.…
I put up what I thought was my final post about ACACIA by David Anthony Durham a week ago today. Now here I am posting about it again.
I like it when I find myself thinking about a book a week after I read it.
Anyway, I am rethining earlier conclusions about a certain character's supposed death. I don't have the book right here in front of me, as I am not at home, so forgive me if I get any details incorrect. However, a certain hero-villian was left to die at the hands of another certain slimy character. However, that slimy character is not exactly known for his dependability. He IS known for thinking of himself, first. So, now I'm wondering if the hero-villian is actually dead. Wouldn't he be a nasty surprise for a certain other character?
Sorry to be so cryptic. I'm sure those who read the book will know who I meant.
I've also found myself rethinking a certain fire. It should not have been possible to extinguish the fire. Water would not have worked and the only other possible retardant I can think of is sand, which would not have been available. I suppose heavy woollen blankets might have worked as well, but this was a HUGE fire. Therefore, those that DID extinguish the fire must have had help from somewhere -- or something. Hmmm?
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips debuts today in the UK. It is also listed at the USA's Amazon site, but does not show any availability yet.
Here's the blurb:
Being immortal isn't all it's cracked up to be. Life's hard for a Greek god in the 21st century: nobody believes in you any more, even your own family doesn't respect you, and you're stuck in a delapidated hovel in north London with too many siblings and not enough hot water. But for Artemis (goddess of hunting, professional dog walker), Aphrodite (goddess of beauty, telephone sex operator) and Apollo (god of the sun, TV psychic) there's no way out... Until a meek cleaner and her would-be boyfriend come into their lives, and turn the world literally upside down.
Gods Behaving Badly is that rare thing, a charming, funny, utterly original first novel that satisfies the head and the heart.
It sounds fun. The author also has a MySpace site, which has lots more information, and she talks about her novel at YouTube. There are reviews at the Independent Online, the Times Online, Scotland on Sunday and gobs more.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
I owe more thanks to Neth Space, Gav's Blog, Milady Insanity, Fantasy Book News & Reviews, Bewitched by Books, and Draxian Trilogy for blogrolling this site over the past few days. I have returned the favor, but please make sure I got your link right.
I also discovered The Paperback Stash.
And, I finally managed to get all my blogrolled sites onto my Google Reader. Now I'll do a better job keeping up with everyone.