More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Other Worlds Than These, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

What if you could not only travel any location in the world, but to any possible world?

We can all imagine such “other worlds”--be they worlds just slightly different than our own or worlds full of magic and wonder--but it is only in fiction that we can travel to them. From The Wizard of Oz to The Dark Tower, from Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass to C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, there is a rich tradition of this kind of fiction, but never before have the best parallel world stories and portal fantasies been collected in a single volume--until now.

Extract from Jeff Salyards' CHAINS OF THE HERETIC


Thanks to the generosity of the author and the folks at Skyhorse Publishing, here's an extract from Jeff Salyards' Chains of the Heretic for you to read. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Men are more easily broken than myths.

Emperor Cynead has usurped command of the Memoridons—Tower-controlled memory witches—and consolidated his reign over the Syldoonian Empire. After escaping the capital city of Sunwrack, Captain Braylar Killcoin and his Jackal company evade pursuit across Urglovia, tasked with reaching deposed emperor Thumaar and helping him recapture the throne. Braylar’s sister, Soffjian, rejoins the Jackals and reveals that Commander Darzaak promised her freedom if she agreed to aid them in breaking Cynead’s grip on the other Memoridons and ousting him.

Imperial forces attempt to intercept Braylar’s company before they can reach Thumaar. The Jackals fight through Cynead’s battalions but find themselves trapped along the Godveil. Outmaneuvered and outnumbered, Braylar gambles on some obscure passages that Arki has translated and uses his cursed flail, Bloodsounder, to part the Godveil, leading the Jackals to the other side. There, they encounter the ruins of human civilization, but they also learn that the Deserters who abandoned humanity a millennium ago and created the Veil in their wake are still very much alive. But are they gods? Demons? Monsters?

What Braylar, Soffjian, Arki, and the Jackals discover beyond the Godveil will shake an empire, reshape a map, and irrevocably alter the course of history.

Enjoy!
-------------------------------

The gambeson was a simple thing, a thick quilted linen coat that laced together at the front. It wasn’t a terrible fit, but part of me wished it had been, as I could have put a dead animal on my shoulder and it would have stunk less. It smelled like a thousand soldiers had worn it before, and was stained with sweat of the ages. I wondered if the stench drove off fleas and lice, but I suspected not. Still, so long as I rode with the captain, there were bound to be arrows flying in our direction and men trying to kill us, so it was a foul comfort. The helm was little better, as the padded lining was stained with the sweat and oils of more men than I cared to think about. No blood at least. That was something.

After belting Lloi’s curved blade at my waist, I rejoined Braylar on the bench, rather clumsily, unused to armor and weapons.

The captain inspected me briefly and nodded curtly. “I don’t want you deluding yourself into believing you are fit for combat—you should still hang near the rear and do your best not to attract attention—but those might just save your life when that proves impossible. As it likely will.”

We crossed some dry gulches and gullies, short grass beneath the horses’ hooves, with strange rock formations that seemed to burst out of the harsh landscape like stone fountains, something dreamed up by a drunken sculptor. Larger copper and salmon colored rock layers seemed precariously balanced on smaller ones, or leaning crazily but somehow still not falling. Some striated stones formed asymmetrical arches and miniature towers for reasons that perhaps only the rocks understood. Perhaps these were the leftover dreams of mad gods. Had the Deserters Gods left these behind as some signal or warning?

Our team struggled as we ascended a hill after passing through another ravine. I thought Braylar was going to have to turn us around to find a different route, but we continued climbing and climbing.

When we reached the top, I felt my breath catch. The other side of the ridge descended into a small valley, with the Godveil winding its way across the floor, warping everything that lay beyond. What I hoped lay beyond. Our options were limited, but if this gamble failed, we would be well and truly trapped, and I had no illusions about Azmorgon sparing me a second time. A padded jacket would certainly not stop his wrath if the captain lost his life on this venture, and I didn’t imagine any of his retinue would be especially interested in protecting me a second time.

I looked up, and it was as if two disparate skies had been stitched together. Almost directly above and stretching to the west, it was dark blue with fluffy white clouds scattered about, unmoving as if pinned there. To the east the clouds gathered together, dark gray and dense like wet clay, blocking out the sky and growing darker still until they were nearly black and then obscured entirely by the warp of the Godveil.

Those storm clouds didn’t seem especially fortuitous. But with the Syldoon it was hard to gauge—perhaps a black and heavy sky was actually a good portent.

Braylar called a halt, and his retinue rode up alongside us.

Vendurro tipped the broad iron brim of his pot helm back. “Well, plague me, this would be a pretty sight, wouldn’t it? That were, if that forsaken Godveil weren’t running right through the middle of it like that and our enemies weren’t closing in to crush us.”

Braylar asked Mulldoos, “How many miles away are the Urglovians?”

“Main body is a ways out, still. A few miles. Their war wagons are keeping them slow, but guessing their scouts are close. Don’t have much time.”

“Any,” Azmorgon amended, towering over everyone. “Don’t have any plaguing time. We’re pinned down here, Cap. Pinned. Out to make a break for it and ride right into the Urglovian bastards right now, before we got no chance at all.”

“Your opinion is duly noted, Lieutenant,” Braylar replied. He turned to Hewspear. “And how far back are the Imperials?”

The older lieutenant had a distant look in his eyes, and it took him a moment to realize he’d been asked the question. “Several miles still, Captain. But they have no wagons, so they will close soon now that we’ve stopped. We ought to make our play now.”

The captain said, “I’ll ride down to the Godveil. This hill is as good a place as any to make a stand. Block as much of the pass with the wagons as you can. We’ll be leaving them behind, either way. Unload whatever supplies and provisions are absolutely necessary, and distribute the weight on spare horses. When I return, I’ll start leading the men with me, as many as we can manage at a time. We will need to hold this position until we have crossed the company through.”

Azmorgon spit a phlegmy mass at a thorny bush. “And if you fall down dead at the Godveil? Which seems real plaguing likely. Almost a surety, really. What then?”

“Then,” Braylar said very slowly, “you will have your foolish charge into overwhelming forces after all, and you can gloat in the afterlife when you see me anon.”

The captain jumped off the wagon, his mail and plate harness clinking and slithering, and mounted Scorn. The officers were shouting orders at the men behind us, ordering them into position, and I felt the wagon rock as several climbed in the back and began unloading.

Braylar rode next to the bench and turned his helmet in my direction, the aventail obscuring his face. There was a beat before he said, “Of all the archivists who have ridden with this company, you annoyed me the least.”

He started down the hill and I called after him, “I’m coming with you.”

The captain reined up and spun his horse around to face me as I jumped off the wagon and ran to the rear. When I returned on my irascible mount, Braylar said, “Going to throw yourself into the Veil if this gambit fails?”

“It won’t fail,” I replied, not entirely believing it. “I am so confident, in fact, that once you return, I will be the first you lead over. To prove to the others it can be done.”

Braylar titled his head slightly, regarding me for a moment. I couldn’t read his expression and could barely see his eyes, so I wasn’t sure if they were hot with anger, wide with surprise, or implacable as usual. “Very well,” he said. “Let us put your theory to the test.”

He rode down the hill and I nudged my horse to follow. It wasn’t nearly as steep as the hill the men had hurtled down at the temple ruins the last time I’d seen the Veil, but I still felt myself clutching my reins tight and leaning back as we descended, trusting my horse not to kill either of us.

As the ground leveled out and we closed in on the Godveil, I felt its ceaseless tug, even from fifty yards away. The compulsion to keep going, to approach the Veil, was almost overwhelming. I looked at the captain and asked, “Do you feel it? The draw?”

He dismounted, Bloodsounder in his hand. After a beat he said, “I feel nothing.”

I swung my leg over and dropped down. “Good. That’s a good sign.” I didn’t have any idea if that was true. It could have been an awful sign.

I heard Braylar laugh. “You really ought not to lie, Arki. Being the most ingenuous creature alive, you truly haven’t the slightest skill at it.”

“Well,” said, “I hope it’s a good sign at least.”

“As do I. Now, did the manuscripts describe how this was done with any specificity?”

I was tempted to try to dissemble but it was pointless. “No, not really. They did all seem to agree that the Sentries approached the Veil with weapons in hand. One or two alluded to the fact that the weapon and man were of the same name now—the man who wielded Grieftongue was known as Grieftongue, the man wielding Wrathedge was known—”

“Yes, I think I have it. So did the man say the weapon’s name or—”

“His name as well.”

“Did this Grieftongue absurdly say ‘Grieftongue,’ or announce his presence before entering the Veil?”

“I don’t know. The records made no mention of it. But it couldn’t hurt.”

“Couldn’t it? Even if this isn’t just the fabrication of legend and someone actually passed through, I could still very well die by failing to know exactly how it was done, yes? So, you know of nothing else said or done, no incantations or bizarre gestures, nothing mentioned at all, besides the twice-naming?”

“No,” I admitted. “Not that I encountered.”

“Very well,” he replied, as he started walking forward. “If I should die because you simply didn’t translate far enough to learn a magic word, my wrathful wraith will hunt you.”

I looked back up the hill and said, “Azmorgon would crush my skull right after. So you’d have to hunt in a hurry. Captain Bloodsounder.” I forced a laugh, but it felt even hollower than it sounded.

The captain walked forward, holding Bloodsounder at his side, the twin chains and Deserter God heads swinging alongside his leg, not quite hitting the ground. It was a purposeful stride, as if marching forward to engage a foe, though this one was a millennium old, created by inscrutable gods, and deadly without reprieve. Even if the manuscripts were correct and someone had managed to pass through unmolested, that was centuries ago. What if the gods had changed the locks, as it were, or whatever latent powers were in weapons like Bloodsounder no longer functioned? What if I had just convinced the man to walk to his death, on nothing more substantial than my powers of translation and interpretation?

I nearly rushed forward, shouted for him to stop, but forced myself not to. We had no choice. It was this way or Azmorgon’s, and at least this option had the possibility of us surviving.

Braylar didn’t slow his pace at all. He might have gripped his weapon tighter, might have felt his cold heart beat faster, but none of that showed in his stride, and I respected him enormously for it—whatever else his faults, he was decisive and brave. I held my breath, praying that Braylar didn’t simply crumple into a heap as he closed in on the Godveil.

But he did not. He walked straight ahead, slowly raising Bloodsounder as he did, and though it was difficult to tell from that distance, it seemed like the warping bent and shifted faster, and then it wove around him and he was gone. Well, not truly—his watery silhouette remained, but he must have continued walking, as even that disappeared.

I waited. The moments ticked by, and I found myself jogging towards the Godveil before realizing how deadly foolish I was being. I hadn’t taken more than fifteen steps when the draw turned into a compulsion. I knew I needed to halt, to move back, but all I wanted to do was move closer, to reach out and touch the Veil, become part of it, join some small portion of myself to the immeasurable immensity of it. I tried to stop, but my feet carried me forward, and it was so beautiful ahead, the heat-wave intensity, the urgent tang of vinegar, the hum and thrum growing, that single final note of a harpist hanging in the air, but now louder, every step, louder, and then there were more notes, overlapping notes, and I raised my hand as I walked, outstretched, wanting to even graze it, and I felt my body respond as I closed in, vibrating as well, as if my very bones shook my flesh and tried to throw it off, as if my skull wanted to slough off my own skin, and it should have terrified me, but it was amazing.

Every step brought me closer to something wondrous, miraculous, sublime, and—

Braylar grabbed my wrist and suddenly the thousands of thrumming notes were gone, and so was the urge to walk towards total oblivion. There was only the wildly warping Godveil twenty paces in front of me, extending in all directions.

I shook my head, but was careful not to pull away from the captain. “Was I—”

“About to have your life snuffed out? Yes, I imagine you were very close.”

“You survived. I mean, of course you did, you’re standing here. Unless you are a wrathful wraith,” I tried to smile, as it was better than nearly vomiting. “What did you see? On the other side? How—”

“The stolen memories are gone. As to the other. . . come along. See for yourself. Let’s test your second part of your theory and find out, yes?”

I nodded once, quickly. Now that I was no longer under the Godveil’s spell, I wanted nothing more than to run off in the opposite direction. But I forced myself forward, and then had to keep his pace to avoid him losing his grip on my arm.

He stopped right before the Veil. If I reached out I would have touched it. I did not reach out.

Braylar turned his face in my direction, his eyes in shadow, his face behind the mail curtain. “Are you ready, archivist?”

“Yes, I think—”

He pulled me through and I gasped. But I didn’t feel anything. One moment, the pulsing Veil was in front of me, and the next, it was simply behind. And directly ahead was. . . terrain exactly like that on the other side, dry, scrubby, russet stones. While the physical details were utterly lacking in drama, I still shouted, “It worked! I told you it would!” My voice broke with relief.

Braylar held onto my wrist and led me another forty paces forward. Then he let go.

I resisted the urge to grab him, like a drowning man clutching at debris in the sea. While I felt the tug of the Veil behind me, it wasn’t irresistible. Aside from being dizzy, there were no aftereffects at all.

He looked down at Bloodsounder and shook his head. “I was sure one of us would die. I’ve never been more happy to have been proven wrong.” Then he grabbed my wrist tight and we started back towards the Godveil. “Come. I have a small army to bring across.”

***

Braylar led me back through to the other side, and besides another bout of dizziness and nausea, the small trek did no harm. When we were far enough away from the Godveil that I wouldn’t succumb to its song again, he mounted Scorn and said, “A battle half won is no victory at all.”

“What does that—?”

Braylar had mounted Scorn and was racing past me up the hill. Glancing up, I saw the Jackals looking down at us. Soffjian stood out among them, a slash of scarlet like a wound.

By the time I’d mounted my own horse and scaled the hill, Braylar had already dispatched orders and summoned his officers, who were all on horseback around him.

Then the Syldoon began arranging into an orderly column. Their efficiency truly was a marvel. Sometimes disturbing and terrifying, but never less than a marvel.

Braylar and his retinue were off to one side, out of earshot. As usual, it sounded as if there was an argument brewing. Hewspear had his slashing spear across his saddle. “The scouts reported their outriders close. We are running out of time. There are surely other routes into this little valley, but most are goat trails that are nearly impassible to horse. They will come this way.”

Mulldoos nodded vigorously. “Aye, time’s slipping quick now. And it will take some time to get the boys through. How many did you say you could take at a time, Cap? Five? Ten maybe?”

Braylar nodded. “Arki confirmed a handful. We will try to exceed that, of course—I suspect if someone isn’t protected in the chain, we will know immediately without losing life.”

Soffjian had the hint of a smile on her face. “Well met, Bloodsounder. You are shorter than expected.”

Vendurro was looking down the hill at the Godveil. “Still can’t believe you made it, Cap. The both of you. I mean, I watched it, my own two eyes and everything, but still hard to fathom. What did it feel like? Was—?”

“You shall know very shortly. Our primary concern is making sure the Imperials do not run us to ground before we are through. Fire alone won’t do.”

Vendurro replied, “I could throw some caltrops down. Sure, they won’t come riding over them like idiot Hornfuckers, but even taking time to clean them up will slow them some.”

Mulldoos nodded. “Couldn’t hurt. See to it, Sergeant.”

Vendurro rode off and tasked a few men with returning to the wagons with him.

Rumbling as usual, Azmorgon said, “I’ll hang back, Cap. Need twenty or so men. Rearguard. Hold the pass. Prick any of those pricks if they try to close, keep them at bay until you clear out of here. Light the wagons behind us. Sound good?”

Hewspear interjected before the captain had a chance to respond. “It is a sound plan. But—and I do hate to pull seniority—but it should be me who commands the men.”

Azmorgon leaned forward in his saddle, his lamellar clattering. “Jealous of anyone stealing your glory, you old wrinkled twat? That it?”

“Mind your tongue, Ogre,” Mulldoos said.

The stout lieutenant’s normal intimidation tactics were lost on the giant, who laughed. “Or what, Mushrooms?”

Braylar clapped his hands together. “Enough. I am heading down to start leading troops over. Azmorgon, Soffjian, accompany me—the men need protection on the other side.”

Soffjian said, “Brother, I can do more at the rearguard here to protect your men. You—”

“We have no idea what truly awaits us on the other side of that cursed Veil. You will go in the initial group.” He turned to his other lieutenants. “Mulldoos, Hewspear, hold the line here at the base. When it’s clear the majority are safe on the other side, light the wagons and ride hard to join us.” Then he turned to me. “Your supplies are likely still in the wagon. Get your gear and then meet me at the base, yes?”

I nodded. “And the manuscripts?”

“The men spread out the remaining scrolls and parchments among the horses already. The pages you translated will be burnt.”

“Burnt?”

He threw his hands in the air. “Why is it no one understands how fire seems to work? Yes, Arki. We ensure it doesn’t fall into the Emperor’s hands, in case his researchers see something in them you missed.”

“I missed nothing.”

“Very good. Then you won’t cry when they are burnt.” Then he turned and started riding down the hill.

He might have been wrong about the crying. It seemed a tragic waste—all the ancient knowledge and records, turned to ash and lost to the wind. But it couldn’t be helped. Still, it ran counter to everything I had spent my life doing—compiling, recording, and now translating accounts intended to be read and read again.

Shaking my head, I earned a curse from a passing Syldoon as I rode too close, and his horse snapped at mine as well. I moved away, leaned over my horse’s neck and apologized for being a poor rider, and then we headed towards the wagons. They were positioned front to end across the pass to block as much of it as they could. The Syldoon had stripped the wagons of most of the necessary supplies and tools they could carry, with only a few soldiers checking the remains to be sure nothing vital was left behind before dousing most of them in oil.

Vendurro was heading back with the handful of soldiers he had taken to spread the caltrops across the trail further up. He said, “Got to say, Arki, maddest plaguing thing in the world, crossing the Godveil. Like thumbing your noses at the gods, ain’t it?” He shook his head, a melancholy smile on his face. “Wish Gless could have seen this. He would have shit himself.”

Then he laughed and kept riding.

Rudgi was rolling a barrel of oil past and looked up at me. “Best get done whatever it is you’re doing here, scribe. We’ve got orders to get these alight right quick. Unless you want to stand around and scribble something down for posterity. Then by all means, hang back, watch the wagons burn, maybe take a plaguing nap.”

“Posterity can wait,” I said, as I dismounted and then climbed up onto the captain’s abandoned wagon. The interior looked well and truly looted, the bed littered with nails, a half-empty torn sack and a trail of grain from the hole torn in the canvas. The crate that had contained the scrolls I hadn’t gotten to was thrown open and completely empty.

It was truly sad that this wagon felt like more of a home than any city I’d visited or even lived in. But there was no denying the pang of loss I suddenly felt. It was nothing but wood and canvas, cramped and uncomfortable, filled with stenches known and mysterious, and generally sweltering, but I was loath to leave it. I sighed, and grabbed my brass writing case from the corner of the wagon, slipped the strap over my helm and shoulder, and started towards the front again.

I stepped onto the bench when I heard hooves. A galloping horse. A Syldoon sped past, riding hard, and headed down the hill towards the Godveil.

Rudgi ran up to the wagon and ordered me out. “Get down there with the others, Arki. Burning time.”

The Imperials were upon us.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Octavia E. Butler's Dawn, first volume in the Xenogenesis trilogy, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Rescued from Earth’s destruction, one woman is called upon to revive mankind.

Lilith Iyapo has just lost her husband and son when atomic fire consumes Earth—the last stage of the planet’s final war. Hundreds of years later Lilith awakes, deep in the hold of a massive alien spacecraft piloted by the Oankali—who arrived just in time to save humanity from extinction. They have kept Lilith and other survivors asleep for centuries, as they learned whatever they could about Earth. Now it is time for Lilith to lead them back to her home world, but life among the Oankali on the newly resettled planet will be nothing like it was before.

The Oankali survive by genetically merging with primitive civilizations—whether their new hosts like it or not. For the first time since the nuclear holocaust, Earth will be inhabited. Grass will grow, animals will run, and people will learn to survive the planet’s untamed wilderness. But their children will not be human. Not exactly.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.

Reading more female SFF authors


The SFF feminists and the PC police have often accused this blog and other speculative fiction online book-reviewing venues of sexism. Apparently, there is some sort of widespread conspiracy against female science fiction and fantasy authors, and I have been found guilty as charged of being part of it. I've never lost any sleep over this in the past. As I've said before, three of my favorite SFF writers of all time are women: C. S. Friedman, Katherine Kurtz, and Robin Hobb. Still, the low percentage of works written by female authors that I review each year essentially is damning evidence that I'm a sexist bigot who refuses to give these women a shot.

Having said that, my numbers, and probably those of many of my male book-blogging peers, tend to paint a not-so-nice picture in that regard. Overall, it's not so bad. Between January 2005 and December 2015, 89 reviews out of 477 were for books written or co-written by (or anthologies containing works by) female SFF authors. Which puts my numbers at about 19%. So one novel out of five or thereabout, which isn't that bad. However, certain years saw that average go down below 10%. . . So yes, seen in that light, it could be construed as a bias against female SFF writers.

As you are well aware, many of my peers perceive everything I say and do in the worst possible light and interpret it accordingly. That's the way love goes, so I don't sweat it. . .

I recently corresponded with someone who accused me of sexism and that person wanted to know how I selected novels that I would then read and review. If there was a thought process behind my decision. The long and the short of it is that, even though I've been doing this for more than a decade, the process has always remained the same. Like most speculative fiction book reviewers, I receive hundreds of novels every year. It's a good thing I don't consider self-published material, otherwise that number would grow exponentially. So every week I end up driving to the post office to get all those packages that didn't fit in my mailbox. When I get back home, I open them one at a time and I check the cover art and read the blurbs. At that moment, there are three options. Either that novel ends up in my "Books to read" pile. If I'm not sure but nevertheless intrigued by the premise, it will end up in my "Maybe" pile. If it fails to pique my curiosity, it goes directly into one of the cases of books I donate every couple of weeks to local libraries.

Every two or three months, I go through the "Maybe" pile again because this one keeps growing every time I receive new packages. At that time, I have no choice but to weed out those novels that fail to intrigue me and those works end up with the others waiting to be donated.

So why are there so few books written by women in the first two piles? I had never considered the question before, but last summer I gave it some thought and came up with the answer. Not surprisingly, female speculative fiction authors often write in subgenres that don't appeal to me. Between July and December 2015, over 80% of the works by female authors I received were either paranormal romance novels (which I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole), steampunk novels (which I don't really care for), YA novels (you know my policy, even if you hate me for it), or urban fantasy novels (which, for the most part, fail to catch my fancy). This means that all of those books immediately end up in those cases of books awaiting to be donated.

Perusing the forthcoming books' list on locusmag.com, it seemed evident that 2016 wouldn't be a banner year for me as far as female SFF authors were concerned. Of my favorites, only Hobb will release a book, the eagerly anticipated Assassin's Fate,  and I'm also looking forward to Naomi Novik's conclusion to the Temeraire series, League of Dragons. Other than that, only time would tell whether or not more speculative fiction works by women would ultimately pique my curiosity. Which, to be honest, what with only two sure things on my list, wouldn't be enough. For me AND the feminists and the PC police.

In the end, I've decided to do something about it. Not because I have a responsibility to do so, but because I want to. If there's one thing that reading the first two Kushiel installments by Jacqueline Carey has taught me, it's that I have awesome works of fantasy and science fiction awaiting my attention on my shelves. I have hundreds of novels that I haven't read and that number keeps growing every year. Interestingly enough, many of these were written by women. My objective is to hopefully read ten such books. As my annual average for reviewed novels usually turn around forty, that would put my numbers at 25% for 2016. With both the Hobb and the Novik locked in, it means that I need to read and review eight more works.

Since I own about ten books written or co-written by Kate Elliott, originally I wanted to read an older title from this author. But her Black Wolves has been garnering a lot of positive reviews, so this will be the first one to appear. Though I struggled mightily with the first half (and would have given up if not for my objective), the going is now easier in the second portion of the book.

You can expect a review of Carey's Kushiel's Avatar in the not-so-distant future, as people maintain that it's even better than its predecessors. Depending on how she closes the show, I may read and review Kushiel's Scion, the first volume of the second trilogy, later this year. Now that Melanie Rawn is working on the third installment, and since I've been waiting for the series to be close to complete before starting to read it, I will review The Runes of Ambrai. Since I knew from the beginning that Janny Wurts was writing a huge series, I always told myself that I'd wait till she was done (or close to it) before reading The Wars of Light and Shadow. I bought Curse of the Mistwraith in 1994 and now, finally, I will sit down and give it a go! I also want to read Get in Trouble, the latest collection of short fiction by Kelly Link. I'm late to this party (again), but I also plan to read at least one of Kameron Hurley Worldbreaker books.

Hence, I'm now up to eight works by female SFF authors scheduled to be read in 2016. Add to that at least one installment from Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series, as well as possible additional volumes by Rawn, Wurts, and/or Carey, and hopefully a few 2016 titles that will pique my curiosity, and I should reach my objective. Maybe even surpass it!

Understandably, this has more to do with my getting up-to-date with several female writers' series and will do little to help promote newly released material. But I do what I can. . .

As a matter of course, I can't promise glowing reviews for all of these books. But I can only hope that they will all benefit from the exposure a review from the Hotlist can bring. =)

Avery Cates: The Pale


As I mentioned in my reviews of the previous short stories, with The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe), The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe), The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe), The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe), and The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe), Jeff Somers introduced us to Avery Cates, a not very likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Down on his luck most of the time and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the opening chapter of the very first volume.

As you should know by now, I've been pimping Somers' series as much as possible every time a new volume was published. Although it had been five years since the last installment, it was nice to be reunited with Avery Cates in "The Shattered Gears" and "The Walled City", the first two short stories chronicling the aftermath of the original book sequence.

The last volume, The Final Evolution, appeared to bring the overall story arc to an end and no further misadventures seemed to be forthcoming for our favorite gunner. But now, someone is looking for Cates. Someone set up a trap to capture him. And in "The Shattered Gears" we found out that the answers he's looking for might be in Moscow. Only Moscow got turned into slag during the war. In "The Walled City", Cates now knew that some people are indeed after him and he's trying to discover who they are and why they're searching for him. Problem is, first he needs to survive in a world where mankind seems to be on the brink of extinction.

Here's the blurb:

Continuing from The Shattered Gears and The Walled City, Avery tries to put distance between himself and The Angels and meets an old man with an unusual companion named The Pale. When they accompany Avery thinking he'll provide them protection on the road, they come to regret it. Because someone's hunting Avery.

The Pale and its sequel, The Iron Island, are novella-length installments following the tale which began in "The Shattered Gears" and "The Walled City." Jeff Somers had no idea that this tale would grow in the telling when he initially set out to write the first short story. Which is why he elected to self-publish them. As things stand, the author plans to group those two short stories and the four novellas (there are two more on the way) into a single novel when they have all been released. This book would act as the first volume in what Somers plans to be a new trilogy. Whether or not there is enough interest from Orbit (the imprint which published the original series) or other publishers will determine if this new series will be published the old-fashioned way, or if it will continue to be self-published. Only time will tell. . .

The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is a nice touch which continues to give the series its distinctive flavor. Though it boasts a bigger wordcount than the two short stories, being a piece of short fiction means that this aspect remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the tale itself. And yet, readers of the Avery Cates series will definitely feel on familiar grounds as they go through The Pale. Now that the entire world order has collapsed, powerful individuals are manoeuvering to carve up small kingdoms and city-states for themselves. With most technology no longer working, psionics are gradually coming into power around the world. And one of the most powerful psionics alive appears to be searching for Cates.

As always, the first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for an enjoyable reading experience. As I said numerous times, Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor sod.

Thankfully, you can always count on Cates to somehow find himself in deep trouble, even when he's not looking for it. And now that he's actually looking for it, you can be sure that he's going to find it! With former Stormers from the System trying to recruit him and what might be the strongest psionic left in the world attempting to capture him, it seems that fate is not through with Avery Cates yet.

Indeed, the gunner will find out the hard way that his freedom of choice is limited.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

As was the case with the first two short stories, you can download The Pale for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the book trailer:

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download the digital edition of Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villjamur for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Mark Charan Newton's City of Ruin.

Beneath a dying red sun sits the proud and ancient city of Villjamur, capital of a mighty empire where humans coexist with the birdlike garda race, the reptilian rumel who can live for hundreds of years, and the eerie banshees whose forlorn cries herald death. But now all life is threatened by an encroaching ice age. Throngs of refugees gather outside the city gates, while within, tragedy forces the Emperor’s elder daughter, Jamur Rika, to assume the throne. Joined by her younger sister, Jamur Eir, the new queen takes pity on the common people—and takes counsel from dashing teacher Randur Estevu, who is not what he seems. Meanwhile, a grisly murder draws rumel investigator Rumex Jeryd into a web of corruption—and an obscene conspiracy that imperils the lives of Rika and Eir and the future of Villjamur itself. But far north, where the drawn-out winter has already begun, an even greater danger appears, against which all the empire’s military and magical power may be useless—a threat from another world.


Once more, you can now download Arthur C. Clarke's classic, Rendezvous With Rama, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

An enormous cylindrical object appears in Earth's solar system, hurtling toward the sun. A ship is sent to explore the mysterious craft-which the denizens of the solar system name Rama-and what they find is intriguing evidence of a civilization far more advanced than ours. They find an interior stretching over 50 kilometers; a forbidding cylindrical sea; mysterious and inaccessible buildings; and strange machine-animal hybrids, or "biots," that inhabit the ship. But what they don't find is an alien presence. So who-and where-are the Ramans?

Often listed as one of Clarke's finest novels, Rendezvous With Rama has won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. A fast-paced and compelling story of an enigmatic encounter with alien technology, Rendezvous With Rama offers both answers and unsolved mysteries that continue to fascinate readers decades after its first publication.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 1st)

In hardcover:

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens is down four spots, finishing the week at number 6. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Karen Marie Moning’s Feverborn debuts at number 10.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes maintains its position at number 5.

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is down two spots, finishing the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is down two positions, ending the week at number 10.

THE DOORS OF STONE update

I'm not sure if some of you believe that Patrick Rothfuss actually confides in me, but every week I receive messages from fans asking me if I have a progress report regarding the eagerly anticipated The Doors of Stone. The answer is, of course, no.

But I do have news. . . Of sorts. . .

A lot of Rothfuss fans are speculating about whether or not the book will see the light in 2016. Some appear to believe that a good chunk of the novel has been written and that things are well under way. Which could be the case, no doubt about it.

And yet, I was corresponding with Rothfuss' editor, Betsy Wollheim, regarding another matter at the turn of the year and she has yet to see a draft of the manuscript. As of January 4th, she mentioned that, though Rothfuss has been writing this book for the last 5 years, she hasn't read a single word yet. As she wrote, Rothfuss might be almost done, he might still have loads to do, or anything else in between.

Hence, for those who thought that the editing process was progressing and the book could perhaps go into production in the near future, nothing indicates that this could be the case. There is still more than enough time for The Doors of Stone to be scheduled to be published this year, true.

Just don't get your hopes too high until you hear it from Patrick Rothfuss himself. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download Justin Cronin's international bestseller, The Passage, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's a blurb:

'It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.'

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear - of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he's done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey - spanning miles and decades - towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Win a copy of Charlie Jane Anders' ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY


I'm giving away a copy of Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

From the editor-in-chief of io9.com, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

Follow this link to read an extract from the novel.

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

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Ian Tregillis' The Mechanical for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina -- but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn't long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world's sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men -- flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne.

Win a copy of Peter Straub's GHOST STORY


I have three copies of Peter Straub's Ghost Story up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Berkley. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past…

What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?

In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.

But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury the past forever…

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

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can download a combo of James S. A. Corey's excellent Leviathan Wakes and Daniel Abraham's The Dragon's Path for only 1.99$ here!

Here's the blurb for Leviathan Wakes:

Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe
.

And here's the blurb for The Dragon's Path:

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war
.

Two full-length novels for 1.99$??? It doesn't get much better than this! ;-)

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.


You can now download Glen Cook's A Shadow of All Night's Falling, opening chapter in the first Dread Empire series, A Cruel Wind, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Across the mountains called Dragon's Teeth, beyond the chill reach of the Werewind and the fires of the world's beginning, above the walls of the castle Fangdred, stands Windtower. From this lonely keep the Star Rider calls forth the war that even wizards dread, fought for a woman's hundred-lifetime love. A woman called Nepanthe, princess to the Stormkings...

Quote of the Day

All warriors needed to remember what they were fighting for, but it didn't change what the warrior had to do to win the fight. War was monstrous. To win, you had to be a monster.

- MYKE COLE, Javelin Rain (Canada, USA, Europe)

Just finished this one and it's pretty damn good!

Avery Cates: The Walled City


With The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe), The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe), The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe), The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe), and The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe), Jeff Somers introduced us to Avery Cates, a not very likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Down on his luck most of the time and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the opening chapter of the very first volume.

If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you probably remember that I promoted Somers' series as much as I could every time a new novel was released. And though it's been five years since the last installment, it was fun to be reunited with Avery Cates in "The Shattered Gears", the first short story that chronicles the aftermath of the original book sequence.

The last volume, The Final Evolution, appeared to bring the overall story arc to an end and no other misadventures seemed to be forthcoming for our favorite gunner. But now, someone appears to be looking for Cates. Someone set up a trap to capture him. And in "The Shattered Gears" we found out that the answers he's looking for might be in Moscow. Only Moscow got turned into slag during the war. Now in "The Walled City", Cates knows that some people are after him and he's trying to discover who they are and why they're searching for him. But first, he needs to survive in a world where mankind seems to be on the brink of extinction.

Here's the blurb:

Continuing Avery Cates' story from "The Shattered Gears," "The Walled City" sees the aging Gunner tangle with a psionic who has set himself up as a City Lord in the crumbling remnants of civilization.

As usual, the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is a nice touch giving the series its own flavor. This being a piece of short fiction means that this facet remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the tale itself. Still, readers will definitely feel on familiar grounds. Now that the entire world order has collapsed, powerful individuals are manoeuvering to carve up small kingdoms and city-states for themselves. With most technology no longer working, psionics are gradually coming into power around the world.

The first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for an enjoyable reading experience. As I mentioned before, Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor sod.

You can always count on Cates to somehow find himself in deep trouble, even when he's not looking for it. And now that he's actually looking for it, you can be sure that he's going to find it! Add an extremely gifted psionic and his henchmen, as well as former Stormers from the System, to the mix, and you have the habitual recipe for disaster for Cates. Which bodes well for us!

Following on the heels of "The Shattered Gears", "The Walled City" shows that even though Avery Cates is an old man past his expiration date, and even though it appears that this is mankind's final generation on this Earth, it looks as though fate still has a lot in store for him. Whether he likes it or not.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

You can download this piece of short fiction for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the book trailer:

Musical Interlude



I've always had an interest in the Pacific War, an interest that increased last year when I visited the Philippines, and even more so this year when I visited Pearl Harbor. I've been meaning to watch the HBO mini-series The Pacific for quite a while now, and I've begun doing just that when I returned from Hawaii last weekend.

As usual, the Hans Zimmer soundtrack is amazing! And the intro is so haunting, so beautiful.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

For the first time ever, award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan has assembled the best science fiction and the best fantasy stories of the year in one volume. More than just two books for the price of one, this book brings together over 200,000 words of the best genre fiction anywhere. Strahan's critical eye and keen editorial instincts have served him well for earlier best of the year round-ups in the Best Short Novels, Science Fiction: Best of and Fantasy: Best of series, and this is his most impressive effort yet.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 25th)

In hardcover:

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens is down one spot, finishing the week at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down four positions, ending the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Dean Koontz’s Ashley Bell is down two spots, finishing the week at number 17.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is up one spot, finishing the week at number 5.

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is down one spot, finishing the week at number 8 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is up two positions, ending the week at number 8.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is up one position, ending the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


Mistborn: Secret History, a new novella by Brandon Sanderson, can be downloaded for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Mistborn: Secret History is a companion story to the original Mistborn Trilogy.

As such, it contains huge spoilers for the books Mistborn (The Final Empire), The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. It also contains very minor spoilers for the book The Bands of Mourning.

Mistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best.

In short, this isn't the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy--but it has been a while--you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.)

Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story's existence is, in a way, a spoiler.

There's always another secret.

Alan Dean Foster contest winner!

This lucky guy will receive my copy of Alan Dean Foster's The Force Awakens! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Jonathan Tucker, from Albany, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Neal Stephenson's excellent Quicksilver, first volume of The Baroque Cycle, for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe, in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

It is a chronicle of the breathtaking exploits of "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe -- London street urchin turned swashbuckling adventurer and legendary King of the Vagabonds -- risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox.

And it is the tale of Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent Europe through the newborn power of finance.

A gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive novel that brings a remarkable age and its momentous events to vivid life, Quicksilver is an extraordinary achievement from one of the most original and important literary talents of our time.

And it's just the beginning ...

The Rogue Retrieval (reviewed by Kay Kenyon)


Kay Kenyon recently got in touch with me to inquire if I'd be interested in a guest review for a soon-to-be-released SFF debut. I was intrigued by Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval, so I was happy to oblige. As a big fan of Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose, I encourage you to give it a shot ASAP! The series is comprised of Bright of the Sky, A World Too Near, City Without End, and Prince of Storms.

And since Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval just came out last week, the timing was perfect to post this review.

Here's the blurb:

Sleight of hand…in another land.

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into this debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

Enjoy!
----------------------

An appealing mix of fantasy and science fiction, The Rogue Retrieval offers up a Las Vegas magician, corporate power brokers, and a high-tech team trying to pass as indigenous wayfarers on a world where magic is real.

One night on the Las Vegas strip, showman Quinn Bradley receives an offer he can't refuse from a CIA-like duo: a hard-nosed woman named Kiara, and her sizable partner, Logan, a big man with obvious military chops. Lured by an extravagant fee, Quinn learns they work for CASE Global, a company preparing a mission to extract a rogue executive from an area they consider their private domain. That real estate happens to be another world accessed through a portal that only the company knows about and commands.

CASE wants Quinn because he has a skill that will round out the mission in a way only a seasoned magician can--with slight-of-hand expertise and an instinct for dramatic magic tricks. Once the team is assembled on a secret island in the Pacific-- where the portal (somehow) exists--Quinn is trained in hand-to-hand fighting and tech-enhanced magic displays. There he learns that the mission's goal is to exfiltrate from CASE's private reserve--a land called Alissia--a researcher who went rogue, crossing through the portal. Quinn's role is to bolster a three-person team and its cover as they penetrate potentially hostile territory and bring the employee back.

First time novelist Dan Koboldt shows us a Star Gate-type portal and the land beyond. Worldbuilding is not a strength of this story, with its generic medieval culture of rival feudal kingdoms. The most interesting feature of the world is that here, magic is real. Thus The Rogue Retrieval straddles the land between science fiction and fantasy in a quirky, pleasing blend that freshens the milieu. Koboldt obviously is having fun exposing the likable team--especially Quinn--curious, ironic and determined to put on a good show--and the sarcastic, likable Logan. The fun of this story is watching the team dodge, lie and fight their way across a medieval world where their charade could cost them their lives.

We suspect that a Las Vegas showman will chafe at military and corporate protocols, and it's exactly the case. Bradley Quinn is used to running his own show, and true to form, he rankles authority, takes unauthorized risks, and begins to put together an agenda of his own. His main strength is his instinct for gullible marks, and he uses this talent to hoodwink the locals and hold his own on the covert mission--all enjoyably tongue-in-cheek, as he's clearly saving his own hide as well. Even as he earns the team's grudging respect, he knows there's plenty he's not being told. What exactly does CASE have to fear from Richard Holt? What are CASE's plans for the new world, and how far are they willing to go to achieve it? And perhaps the most interesting question, one that Quinn alone can explore: Can a knack for illusion deepen into true magic?

Obvious set ups signal that a sequel is coming. One could hope that future installments will answer the larger questions such as what is this world, and what is the implication for other worlds, portals, and inter-dimensional travel? For now, these issues are airily ignored, as is the question of how the Alisians happen to be human. A few clues to these mysteries would have made the story more memorable, but Koboldt has chosen to defer them. With his science background, this author might have some intriguing answers in store.

As it stands, The Rogue Retrieval is a fast-paced, engaging read with an appealing hero and a solid ensemble cast that grows deeper with every challenge.

--Kay Kenyon

---------------------

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

You can read a sample from the novel here.

I don't know for how long, but right now you can download the digital edition for only 2.99$ here!

Kay Kenyon is the author of twelve science fiction and fantasy novels. Her latest novels are the fantasies Queen of the Deep, about an enchanted ship, both a colossal steam vessel and a Renaissance kingdom; and A Thousand Perfect Things, about a Victorian woman's bid for forbidden powers in an altered India of magic. She is currently working on a paranormal espionage novel.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Kate Elliott's A Passage of Stars for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

In the crackling first book of Kate Elliott’s Highroad trilogy, strong-spirited Lily Ransome leaves her home planet—and the life she’s always known—to rescue an abducted friend.

Willful as well as physically brave, Lily Ransome is dissatisfied by the options available to her on Unruli: She can either join her family’s lucrative mining business or begin procreating. When Heredes, her beloved martial arts instructor, tutor, and father figure, is kidnapped by alien bounty hunters, Lily spurns the expectations of her home planet and ventures into space to find him. Befriending a persecuted minority class of humans called the Ridani, she becomes involved in an intergalactic rebellion and finds love in an unexpected place—as well as true strength within herself.

A Passage of Stars is the first book of the Highroad trilogy, which continues with Revolution’s Shore and The Price of Ransom.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 18th)

In hardcover:

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is down three positions, ending the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

George R. R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is up two positions, ending the week at number 14.

Dean Koontz’s Ashley Bell is down two spots, finishing the week at number 15.

In paperback:

Andy Weir's The Martian is down one position, ending the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes is up two spots, finishing the week at number 6.

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is down one spot, finishing the week at number 7 (trade paperback).

Andy Weir's The Martian is down eight positions, ending the week at number 10.

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Musical Interlude



Watched Straight Outta Compton again on one of the flights home from Hawaii, so now I have to post Ice Cube's original NWA diss!