Sunday, March 27, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-26)

I began reading one of these the day it arrived, the other books arrived on Friday.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (A Memoir by Lady Trent) by Marie Brennan (Tor Hardcover 04/05/2016) – Fifth installment in Brennan’s remarkably well-received series placing the discovery of Dragons in Victorian times. These are gorgeous looking books with Todd Lockwood’s fantastic art. Impressively, Marie has been on publishing these on an annual basis.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes: the thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

Javelin Rain by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 03/29/2016) – I’ve been a fan of Myke’s writing since reading his debut, novels Control Point. Set in the same milieu, this one follows directly on from Gemini Cell.

The fast-paced, adrenaline-filled sequel to Gemini Cell, set in the same magical and militaristic world of the acclaimed Shadow Ops series.

Javelin: A code denoting the loss of a national security asset with strategic impact.

Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions.

Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost...

Being a US Navy SEAL was Jim Schweitzer’s life right up until the day he was killed. Now, his escape from the government who raised him from the dead has been coded "Javelin Rain." Schweitzer and his family are on the run from his former unit, the Gemini Cell, and while he may be immortal, his wife and son are not.

Jim must use all of his strength to keep his family safe, while convincing his wife he’s still the same man she once loved. But what his former allies have planned to bring him down could mean disaster not only for Jim and his family, but for the entire nation...

League of Dragons (The Final Temeraire novel) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey 06/14/2016) – Novik brings her popular saga of Dragons in Napoleanic times to a close.

With the acclaimed Temeraire novels, New York Times bestselling author Naomi Novik has created a fantasy series like no other, combining the high-flying appeal of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern saga and the swashbuckling derring-do of Patrick O’Brian’s historical seafaring adventures. Now, with League of Dragons, Novik brings the imaginative tour de force that has captivated millions to an unforgettable finish.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been roundly thwarted. But even as Capt. William Laurence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, Napoleon is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. While the emperor regroups, the allies have an opportunity to strike first and defeat him once and for all—if internal struggles and petty squabbles don’t tear them apart.

Aware of his weakened position, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country—and the ferals, loyal only to themselves—vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa—and even by England, whose dragons have long rankled at their disrespectful treatment.

But Laurence and his faithful dragon soon discover that the wily Napoleon has one more gambit at the ready—one that that may win him the war, and the world.

The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove (Tor Hardcover 05/31/2016) – This might be the 43rd Turtledove book I’ve received, between ARCs, finished copies, and reprints. Though still an alternate history, this one seems to be different than many of his alternate views of wars past.

A picaresque tale of minor league baseball—in an alternate Great Depression America full of wild magic.

Since the Big Bubble popped in 1929, life in the United States hasn’t been the same. Hotshot wizards will tell you nothing’s really changed, but then again, hotshot wizards aren’t looking for honest work in Enid, Oklahoma. No paying jobs at the mill, because zombies will work for nothing. The diner on Main Street is seeing hard times as well, because a lot fewer folks can afford to fly carpets in from miles away.

Jack Spivey’s just another down-and-out trying to stay alive, doing a little of this and a little of that. Sometimes that means making a few bucks playing ball with the Enid Eagles, against teams from as many as two counties away. And sometimes it means roughing up rival thugs for Big Stu, the guy who calls the shots in Enid.

But one day Jack knocks on the door of the person he’s supposed to “deal with”—and realizes that he’s not going to do any such thing to the young lady who answers. This means he needs to get out of the reach of Big Stu, who didn’t get to where he is by letting defiance go unpunished.

Then the House of Daniel comes to town—a brash band of barnstormers who’ll take on any team, and whose antics never fail to entertain. Against the odds Jack secures a berth with them. Now they’re off to tour an America that’s as shot through with magic as it is dead broke. Jack will never be the same—nor will baseball.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-19)

Two of these, at least, I know I will be reading.

The Spider’s War (The Dagger and the Coin #5) by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Trade Paperback 03/08/2016) – The final novel in this fantastic series. I almost don’t want to read it because that means it will be over.

The epic conclusion to The Dagger and The Coin series, perfect for fans of George R.R. Martin.


Lord Regent Geder Palliako's great war has spilled across the world, nation after nation falling before the ancient priesthood and weapon of dragons. But even as conquest follows conquest, the final victory retreats before him like a mirage. Schism and revolt begin to erode the foundations of the empire, and the great conquest threatens to collapse into a permanent conflict of all against all.

In Carse, with armies on all borders, Cithrin bel Sarcour, Marcus Wester, and Clara Kalliam are faced with the impossible task of bringing a lasting peace to the world. Their tools: traitors high in the imperial army, the last survivor of the dragon empire, and a financial scheme that is either a revolution or the greatest fraud in the history of the world.

The Devourers by Indra Das (Del Rey Hardcover 07/12/2016) – Das’s debut which is getting a nice push. The ARC looks like a finished copy and is adorned with a very pretty cover. .

"I'm a werewolf," he says. Smoke flares out of his mouth in curls that wreath his long black hair, giving him silver-blue locks for a passing second. I don't see him throw away the match, but his foot moves to rub it into the soil.

In present-day Kolkata, college professor Alok Mukherjee meets a man who claims to be a werewolf. Alone and estranged after a divorce, Alok is drawn to the stranger's hypnotic allure, unable to tell delusion from truth, trickery from magic. In a dusty caravanserai in seventeenth-century Mumtazabad, Cyrah, a young wanderer, meets a man who says he is a monster. Their encounter fills her with revulsion and dread, yet changes her forever.

Beginning in Mughal India by the foot of the Taj Mahal and culminating in the lush, dangerous forests of the Sunderbans in twenty first century India, The Devourers is a story about shapeshifters, men with second selves who prey on humans. But it is also about what it means to be human and of the transformative powers of love. Utterly gripping and wholly original, it reinvents the modern fantasy novel for India, imbuing it with depth, emotion and richness.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

World of Warcraft: Illidan (Tyrion and Teclis #1) by William King (Del Rey Hardcover 04/12/2016) – William King is well-experienced in the world of Media Tie-ins, having penned numerous Warhammer fantasy novels. This one is obviously timed in preparation for the new Warcraft movie.

Behind the legend stands an individual hungry for justice and vengeance—as the adventure, intrigue, and heroism of World of Warcraft rise to a new level.

You are not prepared.

Illidan Stormrage is one of the most powerful beings ever to walk the lands of Azeroth. He is also one of the least understood. Behind his legend, beneath his enigmatic mission, lies a brilliant mind whose machinations are comprehended by few—and trusted by even fewer. Illidan’s righteous reign of justice and vengeance has begun.

Long ago, the night elf sorcerer Illidan infiltrated the demonic Burning Legion to ward off its invasion of Azeroth. Instead of hailing him as a hero, his own kind branded him the Betrayer, questioning his intentions after he appeared to aid the demon lords. For ten thousand years, he languished in prison—vilified, isolated, but never forgetting his purpose.

Now the Legion has returned, and there is only one champion who can truly stand against it. Released from his bonds, Illidan prepares for the final confrontation in the alien realm of Outland, gathering an army of grotesque fel orcs, serpentine naga, cunning blood elves, and twisted demon hunters to his side. He alone knows what deeply hidden motives guide his hand; he alone understands the price that must be paid to defeat the enemies of creation. Yet as before, he is assailed by those who see his schemes as a cynical quest for power, including the night elf Maiev Shadowsong, his former jailor. Warden Shadowsong and her Watchers have pursued the Betrayer to Outland to exact retribution for his crimes, and she will not rest until Illidan is in her custody . . . or in his grave.

Alight (Generations Trilogy #2) by Scott Sigler (Del Rey Hardcover 04/05/2016) – I listened to Scott’s first podcast two novel Infected and Contagious and loved Alive when I read it last year. This is the hardcover/finished version of the ARC I received a couple of weeks ago.
In Alive, Scott Sigler introduced readers to an unforgettable young heroine and a mysterious new world reminiscent of those of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising. Now he expands his singular vision in the next thrilling novel of this powerful sci-fi adventure series.

“If it’s war they want, they messed with the wrong girl.”

M. Savage—or Em, as she is called—has made a bewildering and ominous discovery. She and the other young people she was chosen to lead awoke in strange coffins with no memory of their names or their pasts. They faced an empty, unknown place of twisting tunnels and human bones. With only one another to depend on, they searched for answers and found the truth about their terrifying fate. Confronted by a monstrous enemy, they vowed never to surrender—and, by any means, to survive.

The planet Omeyocan may be the sanctuary Em and her comrades seek. But the planet for which they were created turns out not to be a pristine, virgin world. Vestiges of a lost civilization testify to a horrifying past that may yet repeat itself. And when a new enemy creeps from the jungle shadows, Em and her young refugees learn there’s nowhere left to run. They face a simple choice: fight or die.

In the midst of this desperate struggle, their unity is compromised from within—and a dangerous zealot devoted to a bloodthirsty god moves to usurp Em’s command, threatening to lead them all down a path to violent doom.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-12)

It is Sunday, so that means I post the books I received the weeks before

Shattered Spear (The Lost Stars #4) by Jack Campbell (Ace Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Fourth installment of the side-quel(?) parallel series to Campbell’s extremely popular The Lost Fleet series. I’ve read a handful of the books in the series and enjoyed them, but the series has sort of fallen to the back burner.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Fleet returns to the “strong saga”* of a rebellion against a totalitarian regime and the determination of two people to create a better future in the farthest reaches of the colonized galaxy…

The Syndicate Worlds continue to splinter as more star systems pledge allegiance to President Gwen Iceni, General Artur Drakon, and the new government they’re establishing at Midway. But the toxic legacy of Syndicate rule continues to undermine their efforts as the rebels encounter difficulty trusting one another and believing their new leaders’ promises of freedom from tyranny.

Before Iceni and Drakon can put their house in order, they must deal with an even greater threat. An enigma warship has appeared and vanished near a Syndic colony. If the aliens are capable of jumping into other human-occupied star systems, then billions of people could be vulnerable to a hostile invasion fleet anywhere they choose to strike.

But an even greater vulnerability lies with Iceni and Drakon, as a once-trusted adviser-turned-saboteur plans revenge…

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Crown Hardcover 08/02/2016) – New SF Thriller from Crouch, whose popular Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted for television in Summer 2015. The marketing material sent with this book (which came in a big, black bubble envelope) indicates this is the book Crouch has been working his life to finish.

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Children of the Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (New American Library, Hardcover 05/10/2016) – A new novel from Guy Gavriel Kay is always cause for celebration. I’m a few novels behind, but I’ve never been disappointed by anything he’s written.

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world...

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-05)

Just two new books this week, both from the fine folks who occupy the Flatiron Building, plus the final copy of a book which I read and the review of which will appear next week

The Cold Between (Central Corps #1) by Elizabeth Bonesteel (HarperVoyager Trade Paperback 03/08/2015) – Bonesteel’s debut novel looks like a fun mix of noir and space opera.

Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.

Transgalactic by James Gunn (Tor Trade Paperback 03/22/2016) – Sequel to Gunn’s Transcendental which published in 2014. I haven't read (nor did I receive a copy) of that one, but it seems to have been fairly well-received. 

Transgalactic: the latest novel in Hugo Award Winner James Gunn's SF Grandmaster Career!

When Riley and Asha finally reached the planet Terminal and found the Transcendental Machine, a matter transmission device built by an ancient race, they chose to be "translated." Now in possession of intellectual and physical powers that set them above human limitations, the machine has transported them to two, separate, unknown planets among a possibility of billions.

Riley and Asha know that together they can change the galaxy, so they attempt to do the impossible--find each other.

Liar’s Bargain (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Tim Pratt (Paizo Trade Paperback 06/15/2016) – Pratt is turning into perhaps the most dependable writer in the stable of Pathfinder authors, he seems to deliver one novel per year.

When caught stealing in the crusader nation of Lastwall, veteran con man Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym expect to weasel or fight their way out of punishment. Instead, they find themselves ensnared by powerful magic, and given a choice: serve the cause of justice as part of a covert team of similarly bound villains, or die horribly. Together with their criminal cohorts, Rodrick and Hrym settle in to their new job of defending the innocent, only to discover that being a secret government operative is even more dangerous than a life of crime.
From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of reluctant heroes and plausible deniability, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

February 2016 Reading: Elliott, Schwab, Gannon, Sutter, Gaiman, & Akers

February was a short month, but longer than usual as it was a Leap Year (yay!) and like every month for the past forever, I read a handful of books. I'll cover the books I didn't review in more detail than those I did.  I’ve been much more inclined to pick off books from the older slopes of Mount Toberead as of late than the Newer Releases. 

That said I did post a couple of book reviews in February, the first of which was for Tim Akers’s The Pagan Night, posted to SF Signal at the beginning of February. I thought this one had some good ideas, but ultimately was weighed down by an overly bulky middle and a muddling of secondary characters. Loved the monsters Tim created for this Historical Epic Fantasy.

From there I jumped into Trial by Fire the second installment in Charles Gannon’s Terran Empire series. This is a fun space opera saga that is leaning towards Military Science Fiction as the series progresses. 

Fun stuff, great aliens and Gannon mixes traditional SF with modern sensibilities quite nicely. His characters feel real, for the most part, and behave in a plausible fashion in the galactic society he’s constructed for this series.

 My only real complaint with this one is that the protagonist, Caine Riordan, seems to not feature in the book quite as prominently as he did in Fire with Fire. This book was sitting on Mount Toberead for quite a while, I picked up at the Baen Books booth back at New York Comic Con in October 2014.

I listened to two audio books in February, one of which was James L. Sutter’s Akers’s Death’s Heritic which I thoroughly enjoyed. More about that one at the link to my review, but I’ll again stress that an excellent story and a superb narrator make for a great story experience.

That story + narrator combination was full effect in V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the audio book which kept my ear-holes happy for the early part of February. A couple of years ago, I read Schwab’s Vicious which is one of the best superhero (supervillain) prose stories I’ve ever read. For A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab turns her pen to a mix of magic and parallel worlds. As a long time comic book reader, I love parallel world stories and what Schwab with the concept is fantastic. Schwab’s concept of a magical multiverse is, if not exactly a new concept, but one that feels very fresh in how magic exists in each of the parallel worlds.

The characters were very well drawn, Kell as a pressured and roguish magician who can travel between worlds. Delilah (Lila) Bard is his co-protagonist, well initially she felt like a sidekick, but grew as the story grow. I also was slightly annoyed by her at first, but Schwab did a wonderful job of endearing the character to me by the end of the novel.

Steven Crossley is the narrator for this audio version and he’s got a very pleasant style. His narration, combined with Schwab’s at times poetic and lyrical storytelling, made me feel as if I was listening to a Dr. Seuss story. This is not a bad thing.

Continuing with my re-read and catch-up of Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series, I stormed through Prince of Dogs. Elliott does such great things with the characters in this one, introducing a couple of new players and continuing a Robin Hobb-esque method of torturing her characters. I’m glad I still have five more books to read in this series because this is such a fun, comfortable, and enjoyable series that hits every one of my check-boxes for epic fantasy. I’m still debating if I’m going to do a full write-up of each book in the series.

Yes, that is my copy signed
I loved the new character of Rosvita, especially her interactions with Liath and how she comes to an understanding of the events unfolding around her. I hope Rosvita sticks around and becomes more involved because she feels like an important person. Of course, to counter her wonderful appearance is the return of a character from King’s Dragon who was thought to be gone.

Next up was an impressive debut novel, Katherine Bonesteel’s The Cold Between. I’ll be posting my review of this one on the day it publishes (March 8), but I’ll just say right now that I was impressed with the book and Bonesteel’s novel.

Lastly, I finished off volume three of The Annotated Sandman by Gaiman and compiled by Leslie Klinger. The highlight of the volume was the Brief Lives storyline which recounts Dream, at the urging and insistence of sister Delirium, searching for their brother Brian Destruction who quite his position among the Endless. One of the reasons Brief Lives was so great was the art of Jill Thompson and Vince Locke.  Wonderful art that complemented an excellent story.