Thursday, December 29, 2011

Author Interview: Ty Schwamberger

A few months ago, Ty Schwamberger asked around for people interested in reviewing his novella The Fields. I of course, jumped on the chance. There's nothing I love more than sitting down to read the works of a newer name. After finishing The Fields, I contacted Ty once more and asked if he would be interested in stopping by for a bit and answering a few questions.

Ty Schwamberger is a growing force within the horror genre. He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies. In addition, he's had many short stories published online and in print. Two stories, 'Cake Batter' (released in 2010) and 'House Call' (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association. Ty is also the Managing Editor of The Zombie Feed Press, an imprint of Apex Publications. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.com

So, without further-ado, here's my interview with Horror author Ty Schwamberger:

SFG: The Fields isn't your typical zombie novella. Care to share what it's about?

Ty: You're absolutely right. The Fields is anything but typical. I always wanted to try my hand at writing a zombie story, but didn't want to just re-hash "zombies are coming, we better blow their heads off" type story. No. I wanted something different, deeper, thought provocating. But first I needed an atypical setting. That's when I came up with the time period of the mid-1800s on a southern plantation after the slaves were freed. From there, I didn't want it to be: Billy (the main character) sees his tobacco plants are dying and digs up some dead former slaves and reanimates them. I needed a sinister element. That's when I came up with the character, Abraham, which incidentally looks a lot like Lincoln. Once a day, Abraham knocks on Billy's door; offering salvation for the farm and Billy. Billy then must decide if he's going to be like this father (an angry land owner that beat his slaves while he was alive) or let the fields continue to wither away under the hot, southern sun.

To quote a part of the introduction by Jonathan Maberry: “[The Fields]…is part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense.”

When I go back and read the story now, it almost took on a commentary on yesterday and today's social climate. I didn't exactly set out to do that, but I think that's what happened. THE FIELDS is truly terrifying because it deals with real-life issues, not just a crazied zombie running around trying to find their next hot, skull-full of brains to munch down upon. In fact, I think fans of the zombie subgenre, even just general horror buffs, will dig the story a lot, if they give it a chance.

SFG: With The Fields, you've managed to combine history with zombies. Is that what you originally set out to do: combine a genre and a sub-genre to create a story?

Ty: I graduated from college in 2000 with a BA in History. It was really the only subject I ever liked in school. Of course at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do with it (in reality, unless you go into teaching, it's a pretty useless degree). During my history classes, I always enjoyed reading historical fiction. In fact, one of my favorite non-horror books is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. As I said before, I didn't want this to be a "normal" zombie story. So, I took my two loves -- horror and history -- putting them together to make a somewhat-believable story that has real-life implications planted within its pages.

SFG: How different is editing from writing? Is there anything you've found yourself applying to your writing that you probably wouldn't have if you had not had the experience of being an editor?

SFG: You've recently been appointed to run The Zombie Feed Press, an imprint of Apex Book Company. What has it been like for you since you said yes?

Ty: That's correct. First, I'd like to make something clear. Yes, I am the managing editor for TZF, and yes, THE FIELDS is being published by them, but I actually finished writing the novella and it was accepted by Jason Sizemore at Apex about a year ago. It wasn't until a few months ago that Jason asked me to come on board to run his zombie imprint. I've known Jason for years and was excited when he asked me to get involved. Apex is a great company, with some great writers and a very bright future, and I'm honored to be part of it. It's a lot of hard work, but I've always enjoyed the business side of the publishing world. In fact, I love the entire process: from the initial pitch through publication, when you can hold the finished product in your hand. It's a great feeling for everyone involved, most importantly for each TZF author.

SFG: When it comes to writing, was there a specific catalyst for wanting to put pen to paper?

Ty: People are always surprised when I tell them I've only been writing since early 2008. It was right after reading Offspring by Dallas (Jack) Ketchum and Cuts by Richard Laymon. I started by pounding out 100k words in exactly 90 days. Looking back now, it wasn't very good, but that's where I got my start. That's when I knew I found my calling in life. Since then, I've went blitzkreig on the horror genre, getting into editing anthologies, writing everything from novels to short stories, getting stories adapted for film, writing articles and running an imprint at a small press. I have a "vision", a goal to all this fast-paced madness. The truth of it is; I feel VERY fortunate to have come as far as I have so quickly. I have a lot of people I've thanked along the way. Horror writers/publishers are some of the best people I've ever met in my life and I feel lucky to give back to a genre I've loved since being a little kid and watching 80s slasher films back in the day. Not sure all that specifically answered your question of not. For the short version, I'll borrow the following quote from Richard Laymon: "I love writing. I have to write. If I'm away from it for very long, I start longing to get back into action." Yup, that about says it all.

SFG: When it comes to putting pen to paper, what does a typical writing day look like for you? Do you have a schedule you keep to, or write whenever you can get time?

Ty: To those on the outside it might seem like I’m writing or editing a project every single day. I mean, who puts out five or six books in a year and isn’t constantly sitting behind the keyboard. But the truth of the matter is; I just don’t have the time. Now, before someone stands up from their chair and starts yelling “there’s no excuse not to find at least a hour each day to write” let me explain. Besides currently having a fulltime “day job”, I’m a writer, editor, I run an imprint at a small press, and have the same general life duties as everyone else. So do I write or edit every single day? No. But, I do do at least something writing related each and every day. Whether that’s research the current publishing trends, promotional work (which can really take on a life of its own), helping a fellow writer with something, updating websites, spending time answering questions from fans, pitching new projects to publishers, etc. Now, you might be asking, “Then, Ty, how do you produce as much as you do?” Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. I’m blessed with the ability to produce very quickly. For example, there was one particular publisher that needed a completed novella in two weeks. My novellas are usually around 25-30k words, so they’re fairly easy to write in a small amount of time. Since he needed it quickly, I pounded it out in 2 weeks. I once wrote a 100k novel in exactly three months. It just all depends on the deadline that I’m given. Give me a little or a lot if the money is right I’ll be on spot. Harhar…

SFG: In your opinion, what makes good Horror?

Ty: Personally, I’m drawn to interesting and well fleshed out characters. Probably because I tend to write my own stories in a very character driven fashion. When I read or write a story, I like to get in the mind of the character, find out what makes him angry, sad, frustrated, happy, whatever. Besides, we’re all humans. What better to relate to in a story than a good character from the same species that’s holding the book.

SFG: Are there any authors, filmmakers, or musical artists that inspire you?

Ty: I've been told by fans and my peers alike; that a lot of my writing has a Richard Laymonesque feel to it. That wasn't by design. Although, Laymon is my favorite horror author. I think I've got all but one of his novels at this point. I love the way he took a simple idea and made it really scary. The horror genre lost a great writer when he passed away in 2001. I wish I could have met him before then. Although, I've gotten the chance to get to know his wife, Ann, and daughter, Kelly, and they're very friendly and special people. In fact, every year Ann donates some of Richard's books for my annual "Richard Laymon Book Contest" I host on my site. 2011 is the 3rd such year. Before this year is out, I plan on putting up another one of his novels for folks to enter to win. So, yes, Laymon would definitely be the one author that inspires me the most. Though, there are a ton of other folks that I love to read, as well.

SFG: Reading and writing are two different monsters. Do you read outside of the Horror genre, or do you try and stay up to date with what's being published within your genre?

Ty: “They” say you should read in a wide variety of genres, especially if you’re a writer. But for me, I’m so drawn to horror, that when I do have time to read for pleasure, that’s the only thing I pick up. Sure, there have been times when I’ve picked up something for research (which I rarely do), but for the most part I read books with a horrifying element. That’s what I look for when buying a new book. Right or wrong, that’s what I dig.

SFG: What are you currently reading?

Ty: I just finished Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse. It was a fascinating collection and one I highly recommend.

SFG: What books do you have in your TBR pile that you're looking forward to cracking open?

Ty: A few books by some fine folks: Jonathan Maberry, Simon Clark, Deborah LeBlanc, Richard Laymon (this shouldn’t surprise anyone, as I own almost his entire catalog), along with some others. I’d have to get up off the couch I’m currently sitting on while answering this to have a look at my bookshelf, and honestly I’m just too damn tired right now to do so.

SFG: I'm always curious to hear author's takes on the current e-book explosion. As a new writer coming into the field, what's your opinion of e-books? Which do you prefer?

Ty: I work on a computer all day. I write and edit on a computer a ton. The last thing I want to do is then read a book for pleasure on a screen. But do I understand that the majority of folks that do read for pleasure aren’t writers and do enjoy reading a digital version of a book? Sure. That’s one reason I try and make sure all my stuff is available in eBook format. In fact, I’ll be experimenting with two novellas next year (one in February and the other later) that I’ll be putting out myself as eBooks. I’ve always went the traditional publishing route, so I’m looking forward to trying something new for these particular projects. The other four books coming out from me next year will still be released by traditional publishers.

SFG: As someone who is in an interesting point in their writing career, is there anything you wish you would have known then, that you know now? Any advice that benefit aspiring writers?

Ty: I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to have a mentor in the very beginning. I’ve done what I’ve done with hard work and dedication to my dream of writing fulltime one day. Have I made plenty of mistakes along the way? Of course. Would I take any of them back? No. Publishing is a constantly evolving universe and all writers, whether at the top of the mountain or fighting to dig out of the trenches, are always learning and adapting. I’d be amiss to say that many writers didn’t see the digital revolution before it happened. I sure didn’t. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did see it barreling down the tracks, but resisted it as long as possible. Of course in the end I let the train hit me and let my limp body go along for the ride.

So, what can the aspiring author do to make it in this business? First and foremost, learn the craft of writing. Once you’re able to start stringing coherent sentences together, then go out and start learning the business side of writing. Believe me when I say, you can’t make it in the publishing world without a strong understanding of both things. Then go out and mingle with those you admire. Go to book signings and conventions. Meet and talk to the same authors, editors and publishers you enjoy reading. If you’re lucky, you’ll not only make a great business contact, but a helluva friend as well.

SFG: With the warpath you've blazed in the last few years, and the pace with which you're still going, there must be some big things in store for 2012. If so, care to share what those might be?

Ty: Each year seems to get more and more exciting for me, and 2012 is no exception. As of right now, there are six books (from novellas to anthologies I’m Editor on -- available anywhere from hardcover to paperback to eBook) and one feature length film that should be released. There’s also two other surprises (one of which might not happen until 2013) for the new year I haven’t announced yet. One of which will be unveiled in very early January and be available soon after. Shortly after the new year, I’ll then start working on pitching to publishers for 2013. It’s a never ending process, but one I highly enjoy.

SFG: Is there any last comments you would like to add?

Ty: Yeah…  GO. BUY. THE. BOOK.

SFG: Thanks for your time, Ty! I look forward to reading your future works.

Ty: Thanks, Rodney. There’s always something new just around the bend.

~Rodney

The Fields Book Review

Title: The Fields
Author: Ty Schwamberger
Publisher: The Zombie Feed
Pages: 82
ISBN: 9781937009021

WARNING: The Fields is not your typical zombie story.

The Fields is the newest offering from author Ty Schwamberger. A novella-length tale, it feels at times as though it's telling much larger and much more significant story than its 82 pages.

With the death of his father, Billy Fletcher is left the plantation with which his family has made their living from for decades. Empty of slaves, and nothing but dead and dying fields, Billy is left with the major task of restoring the Fletcher's land to its past glory; eeking every bit out of the soil as is humanly possible for young Billy. That is, until one day, a strange, mysterious figure appears by the name of Abraham, offering to make Billy's burden much lighter.

With his choices running out, Billy makes the decision that puts him in charge of the risen slaves. But with the second life that the slaves have been given, can Billy be the master that his father never was? Can Billy manage to bring the plantation back to what it once was? And most importantly, what does the mysterious figure known only as Abraham really want?

The answers to these questions, and many others are addressed in a smart, engaging, politically thoughtful way, in The Fields.

Ty Schwamberger -- a relatively new voice in the Horror genre -- manages to do something in 82 pages that most authors can't do in the entirety of their writing careers: he makes you think. And not just in a think-while-you-read kind of way. Oh no. He'll have you questioning not only the contents of The Fields, but the politics and history that built this country.

Although the slaves of the Fletcher Plantation return as reanimated corpses with the single purpose of doing their master's bidding, the reader must look past the rotting flesh and their mundane torture; past the dying fields and the mysterious Abraham. Instead, one must look to the heart of the story. Its one part coming of age, one part reconciliation, and a hundred percent heart-wrenching.

For the horror reader looking for the typical blood and guts, bullet-to-the-head zombie story, you might want to look elsewhere. The Fields offers none of these cliches. Instead it delivers its shivers with the utmost subtliness, and the elegance of a stiletto peircing your side and cleaving the heart. That's why I'm giving The Fields by Ty Schwamberger 7.5 out of 10 TARDIS's.

If you're looking for a read different from the typical zombie norm, then look no further. Ty Schwamberger delivers!

~Rodney




Monday, October 31, 2011

The Red Duke Book Review

Title: The Red Duke
Author: C.L. Werner
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 413
ISBN: 9781849700733

With the last of Earl Gaubert d'Elbiq's sons dead, sent to their deaths by their own father, an already existing blood feud between the d'Elbig's and the du Maisne's comes to an epic climax.

Seeking revenge for the deaths of his sons, Earl Gaubert heeds the words of one of the lowliest peasants in his court, and seeks out a witch named Jacquetta who promises to lead him to the unmarked tomb of the Red Duke. And with the help of  Renar, -- a peasant Necromancer -- instill the powers of the duke into vessel's of Earl Gaubert's choosing.

"Beware you sons of Britonnia! Beware the forces of darkness that lie in wait to tempt and trap even the strongest soul! Beware the sad end of the heroic knight, that defender of chivalry and crown! Beware, you children of Aquitaine, lest your wickedness draw down upon you the foul curse of the Red Duke!" - Jacques the Troubadour

Once known as El Syf ash-shmel, or "the North Sword," by the Arabyans, the Duke of Aquitaine cast fear into the hearts of his enemies, even before his vampiric resurrection as the Red Duke. Entombed after a bloody battle upon the Fields of Ceren, it will take everything within the Lady of the Grail's reach to help to bring the Red Duke's resurrected reign to a final and bloody end.

Werner, a veteran of the halls of the Black Library delivers a bloody brilliant approach to vampires, Warhammer Fantasy style. Now, granted I haven't read too much of Warhammer Fantasy, but what I have read I've liked for the most part. More specifically the vastness of the world building. After finishing The Red Duke, I've come to the conclusion that Werner knows his stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if the man lives and breathes the source material. And this shows more than anything in the thoughtful layout of the novel.

Beginning with each chapter and speckled throughout The Red Duke, are flashbacks to 500 years before the Earl of Aquitaine's entombment, giving the reader the rich history and backstory needed without the endless, mind-numbing, drool-fest infodumps that seem to be so crippling to most speculative fiction novels. Although each flashback isn't as long as the chapters they reside in, Werner finds a way to include just enough information into them without giving the whole story away.

"Everything a man loves dies. Everything he values must turn to dust. It is only the things inside a man that he can keep with him always. Things like loyalty and honour." - The Red Duke

With most shared worlds it is to be expected that there's not much character development to be read and cultivated within the characters that populate the stories. The Red Duke is not one of those novels. Instead, as the backstory of the Duke is unveiled, the reader slowly begins to see not only the title character grow, but also a large handful of the main cast and secondary characters. No doubt it's a refreshing feel.

But not everything is refreshing. As the story unfolds almost poetically in spots, I can't help but think that the plot of the story is kind of overdone and cliched: an evil from centuries past has been resurrected to exact vengeance on the heads of those who most deserve it. Along the way, said ancient evil being manages to somehow amass a large following of supporters and soldiers willing to die with a single command. It's not that it's overly used in fiction, but in movies as well. Although it does manage to work rather well with this story, I would have much preferred it to be more refreshing.

If that doesn't bother readers, though, the ending might. For those that like closure and a succinct tying of loose ends, The Red Duke might disappoint. But, if you're looking for a story that carries well, and is richer than most when it comes to shared world literature, then look no further.

With that being said, I'm giving The Red Duke 7.5 out of 10 TARDISes.

~Rodney

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thrall Book Review

Title: Thrall
Author: Steven Shrewsbury
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780983108634

Ever found a book where it seems no matter what happens you just never have enough money, or time to buy or read it? Thrall was one of those books for me. It wasn't until Context 24, a small convention held in Columbus, Ohio each year, that I had the opportunity to grab a copy. Through conversations with the awesome Stephen Zimmer, an author notable for both his epic fantasy series and urban fantasy series both published through Seventh Star Press, I expressed my interest in Thrall, to which he responded by giving me a copy to review. To Stephen I say: thank you good sir!

With Thrall Steven Shrewsbury introduces a new hero; an aging warrior who has lived for centuries battling the monstrosities of legend and lore. Set in an age when the Nephilum walk the earth, demonic forces hunger to be unleashed, and dragons -- both living and dead -- still set claim to the skies. His name is Gorias La Gaul, and he's on a journey to find one of his own blood, a young man who is caught in the embrace of necromancy. And on his journey Gorias' will encounter things both living and dead. Familiar enemies and new foes alike.

For Gorias La Gaul, Deliverance Will Come...

One of the things that I found most fascinating with the yarn that Shrewsbury has managed to weave within the pages of Thrall is the main character: Gorias La Gaul. A man near the end of his extremely long life, he has seen and done things that most have long since filed away in the annals of history. Though he is a legend and a myth on the lips of many, he is nothing more than a man to those that know him. And a flawed man at that.

For the most part I enjoyed the story of Gorias La Gaul, although I found some of the names, places, and creatures to be quiet contrived, as if Shrewsbury ripped a page out of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. However, Shrewsbury does a fine job of executing the story, and making it believable enough to grab the readers attention.

If you're not one for novels with a large cast of characters, then Thrall might not be for you. Throughout the course of the novel the reader is introduced to many characters that share a history with La Gaul. And although Shrewsbury takes the time to fill in the reader as to how the hero of the story knows the individuals, after a while the constant feeding of information becomes tedious and lessens interest. Whether Shrewsbury meant to do this or not -- possibly setting Thrall up to be the conclusion to a longer story arc, (think David Gemmell's Druss the Legend series) -- it just didn't work for me. However, if you're a fan of tome-length tales of sword & sorcery, and are looking for something as deep and rich in world and character, but smaller in length, this might just be the novel for you!

With Thrall, Steven Shrewsbury has found a way to blend sword and sorcery, the occult, incredible monsters, and biblical beings into a tale set in antediluvian times, all the while channeling David Gemmell and Robert E. Howard. Remarkable!That's why I'm giving Thrall 7.0 out of 10 TARDISes. If you like the works of Robert E. Howard, or David Gemmell, and you're looking for a non-stop, action packed novel, then Thrall is the book for you!

~Rodney

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dead of Night Book Review

Title: Dead of Night
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780312552190

For the last few years I've been hearing nothing but great things about Jonathan Maberry and his works, specifically his Joe Ledger novels (Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, King of Plagues), and his recent foray into young adult fiction with his Benny Imura novels (Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay), I was more than eager to jump on the chance to review one of his stand alone novels (thanks to the kind folks at St. Martin's Griffin, and of course Janathan Maberry). Most of the time I like to read shorter fiction of new authors before I dive into some of their bigger bodies of work, but with Dead of Night, I couldn't resist.

Dead of Night tells the story of Stebbins, Pennsylvania, a small town that will soon pack a big bite. When a prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots, it's up to cops Desdamona Fox (Dez to everybody) and her partner JT Hammond to put things right and save their small town. When they're taken in for questioning in regards to the deaths of fellow Stebbins police officers, things take a turn for the worse, and they are forced to fight even harder for their lives, and the lives of the other two thousand people who call Stebbins home.

Maybe it's the fact that I read it during the days leading up to All-Hallow's Eve, or maybe it's the fact that I have a soft, rotten spot in my heart for zombies, I couldn't help but find myself absorbed in the pages of the novel, so engrossed that I finished two-thirds of Dead of Night in one quick sitting. 

With characters as ordinary as you and me; with faults and flaws, and lives lived as ordinary as the lives around us, it wasn't hard for me to find myself quickly becoming attached to the characters. Unlike some zombie novels that focus on the broader scope of a zombie infection-turned-plague, Dead of Night brings the setting down a few notches, and makes it more intimate, while all the more terrifying.

That's not all that Maberry does well with Dead of Night. Jonathan writes with such knowledge and love for zombies, that when I finally came to the scientific reason for the creation of the plague and the process with which it was done, I found myself fascinated. And I'm not normally one for in-depth science explanations!

But not all of the novel was great: at times I was confused as to whether Maberry was trying to be artistic, or more literary than some of his fellow authors. With the beginning of each new part there is an extract of T.S. Elliot's The Hollow Men, a poem which is referenced several times throughout the novel. Because of the purpose of the man-made plague, and reasons I won't get into for worry of spoiling the book, Maberry tries to connect the poem to the situation at hand, but unfortunately it's an attempt that felt too forced for me to try and like.

When I wasn't laughing, I was on the verge of tears; hoping against all hope that there would be a happy ending. This is a book filled with suspense and zombies... lots of zombies. Two things that just happen to mix very well! With interesting characters and an-almost-perfect plot, it's a novel that shouldn't be missed this Halloween season, that's why I'm giving Jonathan Maberry's Dead of Night 8.0 out of 10 TARDISes!

~Rodney

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Updates and More: Salvation's Reach. Children of the Sky. Blue Dragon. Kultus. The Night Eternal. Dead of Night.

It's no surprise that Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts series is a major hit for the Warhammer 40k author. The thirteenth book in the Gaunt's Ghosts series, and the second title in The Victory story arc, Salvation's Reach is long overdue. Because of medical issues that conflicted with Mr. Abnett's writing schedule, Salvation's Reach will finally hit the shelves on October 4th. For those fans out there, here's the newest synopsis below.

 The Ghosts of the Tanith First-And-Only have been away from the front line for too long. Listless, and hungry for action, they are offered a mission that perfectly suits their talents. The objective: the mysterious Savlation's Reach, a remote and impenetrable stronhold concealing secrets that could change the course of the Sabbat Worlds campaign. But the proposed raid is so hazardous, it's regarded as a suicide mission, and the Ghosts may have been in reserve for so long they've lost their edge. Haunted by spectres from the past and stalked by the Archenemy, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his Ghosts embark upon what could be their finest hour... or their final mission.

****

What began in 1992 with A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge continued it's story with A Deepness in the Sky seven years later. Now, twelve years after the second book in the Zones of Thought series, Children of the Sky is finally seeing the light of day. Here's the synopsis for it:

Ten years have passed on the Tines World, where Ravna Bergnsdot and a number of human children ended up after a disaster that nearly obliterated humankind throughout the galaxy. Ravna and the pack of animals for which the planet is named have survived a war, and Ranva has saved more than one hundred children who were in cold-sleep aboard the vessel that brought them.

While there is peace among the Tines, there are those among them -- and among the humans -- who seek power... and no matter the cost, these malcontents are determined to overturn the fledgling civilization that has taken root since the humans landed.

Children of the Sky hits shelves October 4th.

****

Blue Dragon is the conclusion to Kylie Chan's Dark Heavens trilogy, which started with White Tiger and continued in Red Phoenix. Although I have yet to pick up the second book in the trilogy, I'm excited to see what the third volume brings, and how Mrs. Chan manages to wrap-up the series. Below is the synopsis:

Martial arts, magic, demons and science.

The forces of Hell are poised to strike...

When Emma's relatives come to visit her, they are totally freaked out by what they learn... Emma's beloved, John Chen, is a 3,000-year-old Chinese god. Not only that, John is becoming weaker by the day. Demons pursue him relentlessly, hoping to use Emma and his child, Simone, as bargaining tools against him.

Emma battles to defend Simone as John's energy is drained by the effort of both living in the mortal world and protecing them. While Emma is nagged by doubts about her own nature, she must find the courage to go on...

****

Here's a first for Updates and More: a book featured from Solaris Press!

I've been patiently looking forward to seeing what Kultus is all about. Here's the synopsis for it:

Thaddeus Blaklok -- Mercenary, demonist, bastard and thug-for-hire -- is pressed into retrieving a mysterious key for his clandestine benefactors. Little does he know that other parties seek to secure this artefact for their own nefarious ends and soon he is pursued by brutal cultists, bloodthirsty gangsters, deadly mercenaries and hell spawned monsters, all bent on stopping him by any means necessary.

In a lightning paced quest that takes him across the length and breadth of the steam fuelled city of Manufactory, Blacklok must use his wits and his own demonic powers to keep the key from those who would use it for ill, and open the gates to Hell itself.

Kultus hits shelves on October 25th, just in time to scare the hell out of you for Halloween!

****

Another title that will see publication just in time for Halloween, is The Night Eternal, the third and final book in the Strain Trilogy. Written by the dynamic duo author Chuck Hogan, and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, I'm hoping for an explosive, dramatic ending. Not only did I love the first two books, but I'm a big fan of del Toro's work. Here's the full synopsis for The Night Eternal, which also hits shelves on October 25th:

It's been two years isnce the vampiric virus was unleashed in The Strain, and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation. There is only night as nuclear winter blankets the land, the sun filtering through the poisoned atmosphere for two hours each day -- the perfect environment for the propagation of vampires.

There has been a mass extermination of humans, orchestrated by the Master -- and ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled pwoers -- who selects survivors based on compliance.

The future of humankind lies in the hands of a ragtag band of freedom fighters -- Dr. Eph Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martines, Vasiliy Fet, and Mr. Quinlan. It's their job to rescue Eph's son, Zack, and overturn this devastating new world order. But good and evil are malleable terms now, and the Master is most skilled at preying on the weaknesses of humans.

Now at this critical hour, there is evidence of a traitor in their midst... And only one man holds the naswer to the Master's demise, but is he one who can be trusted with the fate of the world? And who among themwill pay the ultimate sacrifice -- so that others may be saved?

****

And finally, the other title to see publication just in time for Halloween, is Jonathan Mayberry's Dead of Night. It hits bookshelves on the 25th  as well. Here's the synopsis from the back of the Advanced Reader's Copy: 

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bong... but a bite...

A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots. But before he can be buried the killer wakes up. Hungry. Infected. Contagious. Can two small town cops contain the plague before it spreads beyond all control?

Look for a full review of Dead of Night to be posted before the end of the month!


~Rodney

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Bombed! The Doctor and the Kid! Darkness Falling! Red Phoenix! The Complete Drive-In!

Thanks to Pyr Publishing, I've just been book bombed! Luckily enough I decided to eat lunch at home today, otherwise I would have been forced to wait for the UPS man to come back around.

Although it's not due to hit shelves until December, I have an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Mike Resnick's newest Weird West Tale, sitting on my bookshelf. I recently mentioned, in August's Updates and More, that the cover for The Doctor and the Kid had been released on the net, and now I'm happy to announce that there's a synopsis for those interested, as well. Here it is:

The time is 1882. With the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral behind him, the consumptive Doc Holliday makes his way to Deadwood, Colorado, with Kate Elder, where he plans to spend the rrest of his life, finally moving into the luxurious facility that specializes in his disease.

But one night he gets a little to drunk and loses everything he has at the gaming table. He realizes he needs to replenish his bankroll, and quickly, so that he can live out his days in comfort under medical care. He considers his options and hits upon the one most likely to produce income in a hurry: he'll use his skill as a shootist and turn bounty hunter.

The biggest reward is for the death of the young, twenty-year-old desperado known as Billy the Kid. With the enlisted aid of both magic (Geronimo) and science (Thomas Edison), Doc goes out after his quarry. He will hunt the Kid down, and either kill him and claim the reward or die in the process and at least end his own suffering.

But as he is soon to find out, nothing is as easy as it looks.

****

I was pleased to recieve an e-mail a few weeks ago from the kind folks at Angry Robot, that stated there were extra review copies of Peter Crowther's Darkness Falling. So, I didn't hesitate to grab a copy. Now I'm looking forward to grabbing enough alone time to devour it and let you all know how great it is! Here's the synopsis:

First the flash. A glare of light, just before dawn, followed by utter darkness. A vast blanketing darkness that covered the whole world.

The the dissapearances. Friends and strangers alike, swallowed by the darkness... and the returned, altered, changed.

For the people of Jesman's Bend, it feels like the end of the world. But this is only the very start.

File Under: Science Fiction [Zombie Apocalypse; Bodysnatchers; They Return]

 
****

Red Phoenix is the sequel to Kylie Chan's White Tiger, and the second book in the Dark Heaven's Trilogy. Halfway through the first book of this series, I have no doubt that Red Phoenix is a read I'm honestly looking forward to. Combining something that I haven't seen in recent past: Chinese Mythology and Urban Fantasy. Here's the Synopsis for Red Phoenix:

Immortals, martial arts, gods, and demons...

The intrigue deepens as the demon threat closes around mortals and gods alike.

When Emma Donahue took the position of nanny to John Chen's daughter Simone, she never expected to be caring for the child of a Chinese god, and she didn't expect that demons would want him dead. Nor has moving from nanny to partner in his heavenly realm made Emma's life any easier. Now a powerful race of demons has been created to hunt her and her family from Hong Kong to Europe. And she and Simone have become targets -- pawns to be used in a deadly celestial power play.

****
Last, but not least for this Book Bomb is the omnibus The Complete Drive-In by Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale. Several weeks ago, Mr. Lansdale ran a quick contest on his fan page over on Facebook, and lucky me, I was the first to respond with the correct answer. The person who could answer the question correctly won a free, signed book of their choosing by the Champion Mojo Storyteller himself. I chose The Complete Drive-In. Hopefully I'll be able to review it in the next couple of months. Here's the synopsis for those interested:

Friday night at the Orbit Drive-in: a circus of noise, sex, teenage hormones, B-movie blood, and popcorn. On a cool, crisp summer night, with the Texas stars shining down like rattlesnake eyes, movie-goers try to leave, their bodies dissolve into goo. Cowboys are reduced to tears. Lovers quarrel. Bikini clad women let their stomachs' sag, having lost the ambition to hold them in. The world outside the six monstrous screens fade to black while the movie-goers spiral into base humanity, resorting to fighting, murdering, crucifying, and cannibalizing to survive. Part dark comedy part horror show, Lansdale's cult Drive-In books are as shcoking and entertaining today as they were 20 years ago.

~Rodney

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just Like Hell Book Review

Title: Just Like Hell
Author: Nate Southard
Publisher: Deadite Press
Pages: 122
ISBN: 9781936383832

One of the handful of books that I've really been looking forward to reading this past year, I finally got the chance to read Nate Southard's modern hardcore horror classic, Just Like Hell. Originally published in August of '08 with Thunderstorm Books, and named Book of the Year by Brian Keene (also in '08), it's finally seeing mass release thanks to Deadite Press.

I had nothing but high hopes for Just Like Hell. And sure enough, it didn't dissapoint. This 122 page edition has more to offer than just the title novella; included is the title novella (Just Like Hell), and with four bonus short stories thrown in for good measure ("A Team-Building Exercise," "Miss Kenner and Me," "Senorita," and "Work Pit Four"). I love longer works from established authors, and I enjoy shorter works from newer writers, which made Just Like Hell a perfect little book for me to dive into.

Just Like Hell: The longest of the five stories, and the main piece of this collection, Southard proves why Just Like Hell has obtained the notable praise and mantle of modern horror classic. What started as gruesome amusement for Dillon's captors and football teammates, quickly turns into something far worse than any of them could have imagined. A silent night, in the woods, a cabin to themselves, Dillon and his boyfriend are subjected to his colleague's ire. As the night escelates, one thing is clear: there can only be one survivor. In an age of rage and hate for being 'different,' this isn't just fiction, it's a horrifying reality that many are too afraid to write.

A Team-Building Exercise: A short story that instantly starts off balls to the walls with no chance of slowing down until the final paragraph. 'A Team-Building Excercise' focuses on a group of co-workers who have to fight there way to the bottom of their building; from floor to floor there's something new for them to encounter, from Chuthulian type monsters, to ferocious woodland creatures. It all culminates at the end with a twist.

 
Miss Kenner and Me: As one part of his life comes to and end and another begins, newly gradauted Jacob must come to grips with the harsh reality that Miss Kenner his full time high school teacher and part time lover, no longer wishes for their fling to continue. Heart broken and unwilling to accept the truth, Jacob's life begins to spiral out of control as he tries to find a way to make Miss Kenner love him again.

Senorita: Told through first person POV, the main character of 'Senorita' finds a too-young lolita back behind a bar servicing a patron in a very inappropriate way, he decides to take matters into his own hands and rescues the girl, only to find that she's the property of a man named Abel. With only a shotgun and a few rounds of ammo, he breaks into her pimps apartment and from there the story goes from crime, to weird, ending with an almost Twilight Zone Twist.

Work Pit Four: The last and shortest piece of the collection is 'Work Pit Four,' a far future, dystopian post-apocalyptic yarn that finds a group of workers searching through a large pit of mud, for an uknown object. Along the way workmates begin to change, from oozing honey from every pore of their body, to slowly turning into stone, Southard casts a grim, unwanted future, that will send chills down your spine.

Overall, I loved this little book. Not only was the title story phenominal, but the added shorts at the end rounded it out well. It was a nice change of pace: each story ended differently, which helped to change it up. Although every story in this collection reads different, they are each a breath of fresh air; offering only a little of what I hope Southard has up his sleeve for future stories. That's why I'm giving Nate Southard's Just Like Hell 9 out of 10 TARDISes!


~Rodney


Friday, September 2, 2011

Updates and More: The Rift Walker. Into the Hinterlands. All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky. Debris. Blood Rights. The Hum and the Shiver.

Currently at the top of my list of reviews is The Rift Walker, book two of the Vampire Empire trilogy: the sequel to The Greyfriar, which I reviewed in full, here. For those who have read the review, or the first book and are interested in seeing what The Rift Walker is about, here's the back cover blurb for your reading pleasure:
Princess Adele struggles with a life of marriage and obligation as her Equatorian  Empire and their American Republic Allies stand on the brink of war with the vampire clans of the north. However, the alliances horrific strategy for total victory drives Adele to abandon her duty and embark on a desperate quest to keep her nation from staining its hands with genocide. Reunited with her great love, the mysterious adventurer known to the world as the Greyfriar, Adele is pursued by her own people as well as her vengeful husband, Senator Clark.

As Adele labors to bring order to her world, she learns more about the strange powers she exhibited in the north. Her teacher, Mamoru, leads a secret cabal of geomancers who believe Adele is the one who can touch the vast power of the Earth that surges through ley lines and wells up at the rifts where the lines meet. These energies are the key to defeating the enemy of mankind, and if Princess Adele could ever bring this power under her command, she could be death to vampires. But such a victory will also cost the life of Adele's beloved Greyfriar.

****

After the discovery of Baen Publishing's free online library came the discovery of science fiction author David Drake. Since that day I've kept him on my radar of authors to always follow. So I was extremely happy when I found out he would be writing a new series of books for Baen with John Lambshead. Into the Hinterlands is the product of that, and it hits shelves on September 6th. Here's the synopsis from the inside jacket:

When Allen Allenson, scion of a noble family that has fallen on hard times, gets a mission to roust the power-hungry Terrans from a "wild" star sector where they're encroaching, he jumps at the chance to show his individual worth, improve his family's fortunes -- and gather enough lucre to make a good marriage. But the wily Terrans are not so easily persuaded by a young colonial they think of as a rube.

Worse, Riders, the beings who naturally ply the wilderness between the stars, are playing their own deadly political games -- against the Terrans, against the colonials, and against one young greenhorn commander in particular: niave young Allen, whom they figure they can manipulate to do their bidding. The one thing nobody has counted on is the fact that Allen, while young and inexperienced, and much to his own amazement, happens to be a hero in the making.

From that alone, it sounds like this will be one hell of a series. For those into harder sci-fi, this just might be the book for you!

****

Another author who is always on my radar: Joe R. Lansdale. September 13th will see the release of his newest young adult novel All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky. A coming of age novel set in the ere of the Dust Bowl, this one sounds like a definite winner. Here's the description for the novel:

Jack Catcher's parents are dead -- his mom died of sickness and his dad of a broken heart -- and he has to get out of Oklahoma, where dust storms have killed everything green, hopeful, or alive. When former classmate Jane and her little brother Tony show up in his yard with plans to steal a dead neighbor's car and make a break for Texas, Jack doesn't need much convincing. But a run-in with one of the era's most notorious gangsters puts a crimp in Jane's plan, and soon the three kids are hitching the rails among hoboes, gangsters, and con men, racing to warn a carnival wrestler turned bank robber of the danger he faces and, in the process, find a new home for themselves. 

****

Debris is one of those novels that has three very important things going for it: 1.) It's got a kickass cover, 2.) It's got a kickass premise, and 3.) It's published by Angry Robot.

I know I've said it before, but Angry Robot has got everything going for it right now, including Jo Anderton's Debris. I'm seriously looking forward to reviewing it. With such an intriguing synopsis, I'm ready to hide away for as long as it takes to devour it whole.

And this is why: After being exposed to radioactive particles as part of a clean-up gang in the depths of space, Tanyana is told she has developed a hitherto-unseen ability to understand the apparently sentient stuff. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting magical garbage -- 'debris' -- but starts to realize debris is more important than anyone could guess.


****


I never really ever liked reading about vampires, even before they blew up the horror industries. But, lately, I've been reading more and more stories with them. Not because they've become such a powerhouse in the Horror genre, but because, believe or not, there's still a handful of fresh tales to be told with the trope. And I'm hoping Blood Rights, book one in the House of Comarre series by Kristen Painter is one of those. Or, it could very well be a more serious and grounded Twilight novel for adults. I'm looking forward to finding out. Here's the synopsis from Orbit Publishing:

Born into a life of secrets and service Chrysabelle's body bears the telltale marks of Comarre -- a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world... and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he feeds. 

Now, Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds.

****

To round out this edition of Updates and More is Alex Bledsoe's The Hum and the Shiver. Most notably known for his Eddie Lacrosse fantasy/mystery series, The Hum and the Shiver is a stand-alone from Macmillion books.

Sounds like it might have a noir/mystery feel to it like some of his other stuff. Here's the synopsis from the publisher's website:

No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music -- hints of their true nature buried in songs they have passed down for generations.

Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend . But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens war of impending tragedy, and a restless "haint" lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn's darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity.

With death stalking her family, Bronwyn will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds...

~Rodney

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Roil Book Review

Title: Roil
Author: Trent Jamieson
Publisher: Angry Robot
Pages: 416
ISBN: 9780857661845

Shale is disappearing; the land is being devoured by the Roil, a sentient mass of heat, darkness and swarms of horrible creatures. Where once stood twelve major cities to fight back the engulfing Roil, now there are only four bastions of humanity that remain to fight. Including a drug-addicted boy, a man thousands of years old, and a young woman bent on avenging her parents deaths.

As the story begins -- hundreds of miles north of the Roil -- David Milde watches as his father bleeds out from a slit throat in the streets of his hometown. Forced into hiding he heads to the underground tunnels that worm beneath the city of Mirleess, all the while suffering from Carnival withdrawels (a type of drug). Soon after an old man named Cadell arrives to whisk David away, with Carnival aplenty, and a plan to save Shale.

Hundreds of miles away, nestled in the Roil, Margaret Penn discovers that her parents -- the geniuses credited for the still standing city of Tate -- are dead. Left with nothing, Margaret is forced to fight her way through the Roil into the areas of Shale that have yet to suffer from the heat. From there the story takes off, leaving the reader to ride the waves of excitement and confusion. Shortly after, the three saviors of Shale finally meet, the story plateaus and comfortably carries on well past the climax.

Opening each chapter Jamieson includes an excerpt from personal diaries, historical texts, or quotes that pertain  to the world of Shale. Their purpose is to add flavor, and somehow tie in to each chapter in their own way, enriching the story. Jamieson manages to do a remarkable job with this in the first handful of chapters, but after that they only add to the spiraling miasma that begins soon after these flavor texts lose their flavor. A clever idea, if executed throughout the full length of the novel, I still enjoyed reading each one, even if they didn't carry the story in that particular chapter.

Established early on that David is a addict of the drug Carnival, the addiction continues through the majority of the book, but is only mentioned in spots where it's important. Never is it actually portrayed that David has a true addiction, one where he's constantly trying to find his next fix, but rather it's used as a tool to fill space, or thrown in only to further the scene or plot. David's addiction is promemant within the first few chapters, but then slowly begins to dwindle off, until it is convenient to mention it.

Throw in a handful of ideas, -- that if executed properly would have added intense depth and a wider scope to the world created -- that didn't coalesce or gel in any form or fashion and left more questions at the end of the novel than resolutions.

However, as painful and confusing as it was to read, I still thought the premise of the story was a fresh allegorical take on global warming and how we humans have been and still are the catalyst for something that could very well be our downfall.

There's not much that really redeemed Roil for me, which means I probably won't be picking up the second book in the duology, Night's Engines, anytime soon. So, I'm giving Roil 4.5 out of 10 TARDISES.


~Rodney

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Bombed! Black Library!

Not pictured: The box
I've just been book bombed, thanks to Black Library! Here's what the contents of the package looked like:
  • Sabbat Worlds a short story anthology featuring some of the bigger names in Black Library's repertoire, all playing in Dan Abnett's sandbox, the Sabbat Worlds, which includes the Gaunt's Ghosts series.
  • Salvation's Reach, the second book in Dan Abnett's  "The Victory" story arc of Gaunt's Ghosts series.
  • Red and Black, an audio drama featuring The Sisters of Battle. Written by James Swallow and performed by Beth Chalmes and Lisa Bowerman.
  • Thanquol's Doom, the third book in the Thanquol and Boneripper series, written by C.L. Werner.
  • It would seem as though C.L. Werner has been a very busy person as of late, with not only one book in the box, but two. The second one being The Red Duke, a stand alone novel in the Warhammer Fantasy Universe.
  • Nocturne, the last book in the Fire Tomb trilogy. Written by Nick Kyme, the series focuses on the Salamander chapter of the Space Marines.
  • And finally, included in this box of Black Library goodies: The Outcast Dead, the newest title in the Horus Heresy series. Written by none other than Black Library veteran Graham McNiell. 
Fingers crossed, I'll be able to squeeze in a few reviews of some of the titles mentioned above.

~Rodney

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Updates and More: Black Prism. Roil. The Doctor and The Kid. White Tiger. Wizard Undercover. Farlander.



Here's another book update for those interested.

First up is Brent Weeks novel Black Prism, published through Orbit,  which will see an August 23rd release in paperback.

Here's the synopsis for Black Prism: Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.

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

And for those who have an interest in book trailers, you're in luck! Below is the book trailer for Black Prism, one of the most badass book trailers I've seen in recent years:

I'm happy to announce that I'll be doing a review for Black Prism here in the next few weeks.

****

It seems as though the only thing Angry Robot Publishing has been capable of doing since letting their presence be known in speculative fiction, is finding authors with brilliant ideas and publishing them. They've managed to do it again with Trent Jamieson's Roil, book one of a two book series called The Nightbound Land. The release date for Roil is August 30th, when it'll be found on the shelves of your local book store.

Here's the gripping synopsis: Shale is dying. A vast, chaotic, monster-bearing storm known only as the Roil is expanding, consuming the land. The last humans are fighting back with ever more bizarre new machines, but the Roil seems unstoppable. Whole cities have been consumed -- where once there where twelve, only four remain.

It's up to a decadent wastrel, a four thousand year-old man, and a young woman bent on revenge, to try to save their city -- and the world.

I'll be posting a review for Roil soon.

****

After reading Mike Resnick's The Buntline Special earlier this year and loving it for the most part, I've been keeping my ears to the ground, waiting for news of a sequel to it. And sure enough, pictures of the cover for The Doctor and the Kid finally popped up on the web, with a now updated release date of December 20th of this year. 

There isn't much in the way for a synopsis or brief explanation for The Doctor and the Kid, thus far, except for this little nugget:

Doc Holliday needs to replenish his bankroll quickly and uses his skill as a shootist to turn bounty hunter. The biggest reward is for the death of Billy the Kid. Doc enlists the aid of both magic (Geronimo) and science (Thomas Edison).

Sadly, that's it for now. If it's not the first book I review for 2012, it'll probably be the last for 2011. Either way, expect a review.


****

One of the more recent procurements for my collection is Kylie Chan's White Tiger from Harper Voyager. From what I can tell, White Tiger is Urban Fantasy with an Asian twist. I'm looking forward to reviewing it.

It's slated for release on August 30th. For those interested, here's the synopsis:

Emma Donahoe has just started her new job as nanny to Simone, the daughter of John Chin, a very rich Hong Kong businessman.

She understands that Simone may be a target for kidnappers but she does not expect to be drawn into a world of martial arts, magic and extreme danger, where gods and demons can exist in the mortal domain.

When John and his American bodyguard, Leo, teach Emma their particular style of martial arts, they realize that Emma herself is more than she seems.

****

Here's another novel that I've been keeping my ear to the ground about. Originally it was slated for a September 27th release date according to Amazon.com only a month or so ago. Because of unfortunate health issues, K.E. Mills (Karen Miller) recently posted on her blog that Wizard Undercover, published through Orbit Publishing, has been pushed back until January of 2012. 

So, expect reviews posted for both Witches Incorporated, the second book in the Rogue Agent series, and Wizard Squared, the third book in the series, before the end of this year.

And of course, here's the synopsis for Wizard Undercover:

There may be trouble ahead...

Wedding bells are ringing for the constantly battling nations of Splotze and Borovnik, and the upcoming royal nuptials could at last put an end to their dangerous hostilities. But in a development that hardly bodes well, one of Gerald's fellow janitors goes missing -- after delivering a dire warning of danger surrounding the marriage treaty. So Gerald must embark on a dangerous mission to uncover the troublemakers, before wedded bliss becomes international war.

But going undercover isn't as easy as it looks, even with Melissande and Emmerabiblia for camuoflage. Soon Gerald finds himself fighting for his life as well as world peace.

****

To round out this awesome update list, I figured I would mention the paperback release of Colin Buchanan's Farlander, published by Tor, which hits shelves on the 30th of August. I was excited about it when it first came out in hardcover, and I'm even more excited about it coming out in paperback, because now I can afford it, which means I'll be doing a review for it in the near future! For those interested, here's the back cover blurb:

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico finds himself hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch's son murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun, he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his apprentice set out to fulfill the Roshun orders, their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports... into bloodshed and death.

****

There's the roundup for now! Look for more reviews soon!

~Rodney



Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Blight of Mages Book Review

Title: A Blight of Mages
Author: Karen Miller
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 640
ISBN: 9780316029223

Dorana is a peaceful nation where magic runs through the blood of the people.

Barl Linden finds herself going against the Council of Mages, -- a group of the finest magic users in Dorana who vote and rule over the country's upper echelon of Mages. The Council chooses who may enter the mage schools of Dorana, and though an unspoken rule, limits education to only the strongest and most influential bloodlines of the nation, and the Linden bloodline prevents Barl from doing so.

With the Council comes some very interesting characters, including Morgan Danfey, a mage of the echelon of Dorana and the youngest mage to ever hold a seat on the Council of Mages. Through his ailing father's tyrannical power, Morgan is forced to search for a wife; a female to use only for the progress of the Danfey bloodline, name and influence.

Ignored by peers and loved ones alike, Morgan is forced to act while the rest of the country sits and waits unaware, studying the condemned and terrifying magic that has been hidden away to most of Dorana for centuries, to prevent the very fabric of Dorana from unraveling. And all the while he continues to search for a bride, and hold his seat with the Council.

When Barl Linden demands confrontation with the Council, Barl and Morgan Danfey meet for the first time, and something within them snaps; they recognize each other for what they truly are. And so begins their forbidden relationship. Brought to the forefront of Morgan's conspiracy, Barl begins to work endlessly to help her lover and mentor protect Dorana. And the question is raised: who does Dorana need protected from?

Although not the first book written in the series, A Blight of Mages is in fact the first book in the series. Written as a prequel to the Miller's duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, A Blight of Mages explains the story before the story. Luckily enough, this is my first Karen Miller novel, or 'Mage' novel. I've previously read  The Accidental Sorcerer -- more of an urban fantasy, even though it is set in another world -- written by K.E. Mills, a pen name of Miller, and thought it was fun.

But, like The Accidental Sorcerer, A Blight of Mages suffered from a few of the same problems. Namely: the pace, and the abruptness of the ending. Let me explain. It's not until well into three hundred pages that we meet Morgan and the Council. That's when things really get going. Everything before it sort of felt like filler, although a great in-depth character study, it just didn't gel too well with me. Regardless of whether or not a novel's full intent is to be one large character study or not, the story needs to begin immediately. And I didn't see it starting until well past page 200. On that same note, it would make sense however, that the Barl Linden's background be explored more. (For those that have read either Kingmaker or Kingbreaker, or both, you know why. Trying to stay as spoiler free as possible.)

It's definitely noticeable throughout the novel, where the story changes, and I found myself being taken aback several times. Miller does a wonderful job of twisting things just enough, especially once the reader has settled in and semi-gotten used to the situation at hand, which works in such a novel, especially since it has a larger page count. Even though it's a stand-alone prequel, I would love to see maybe more books set before Kingmaker, that go more in depth with the characters left at the end.

A Blight of Mages is vast in scope, and filled with memorable characters, and even some memorable quotes that will make you think, and possibly have you rethinking how you treat people.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to reading the Mage series. Karen Miller has proved to be an author to keep on my radar, and I intend to do just that. That's why I'm giving A Blight of Mages 8.0 TARDIS's out of 10.

~Rodney