Thursday, March 26, 2015

Title spotlight - "Sharia" by Roxana Brînceanu, Romanian 2nd edition

Does this look like “Planet of the Apes”? Based on the cover and the synopsis it certainly does, but Roxana Brînceanu’s “Sharia” has nothing to do with the notorious novel and movies. Perhaps they are a source of inspiration, but I am not willing to bet on that since I have no way of knowing that without making a wild guess. “Sharia” is Roxana Brînceanu’s debut novel, catalogued at the time of its first publishing, in 2005, as a high-tech urban fantasy. In 2008 “Sharia” was awarded with the Vladimir Colin Award, one of the very few awards recognizing the speculative fiction in Romania, and although this might not say much considering the amount of controversies and debates such prizes gather around them here, apparently more than anywhere else, it is still an interesting achievement for Roxana Brînceanu’s novel. This year Millennium Books releases a reprinted edition of the novel and since I’ve missed the first edition published in 2005 now I have a good chance to see if “Sharia” is as good as it appears to be at a first glance. Not only that the synopsis sounds very appealing, but Roxana Brînceanu’s “Sharia” is backed by strong recommendations, seeing it printed again by Millennium Books, one of the best promoters of Romanian speculative fiction, is a form of guarantee on itself, while a favorable critique from Michael Haulică is always something that cannot be easily ignored. Top all these with a catchy cover, replacing the unimpressive, bland one of the first edition, and the fact that seeing a Romanian speculative fiction writer being published, even in reprint, is a very welcomed sight these days and you’ll see why I am so thrilled by the re-release of Roxana Brînceanu’s “Sharia”. And with the risk of repeating myself on a loop I am keeping my fingers crossed for this novel, as well as others, to be translated into English someday.

The citizenship is awarded based on the IQ and families can be formed by humans, chimpanzees and dolphins. The gorillas might accuse you of racism, but you could escape by taking a new identity, changing your identification chip with someone else’s. Returning to nature is a dissident act and the rock groups are made by dogs and humans. Welcome to SHARIA, Roxana Brînceanu’s fantastical world!

“You read a chapter, than another, you want to go to sleep or to attend other things and, like any normal person, you should close the book, continuing its reading the next day. But, these days, who is normal anymore? Obviously you peek on the first page of the next chapter, to reassure yourself, to find out with a few hours earlier what happens with the character… And so you are sinning and end up reading another chapter. Dynamite!”
Michael Haulică

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cover art - "Chains of the Heretic" by Jeff Salyards

“Bloodsounder’s Arc” trilogy started good, with a solid entry in form of “Scourge of the Betrayer”, and continued in the best possible way with “Veil of the Deserters”. With already two very good novels Jeff Salyards’ trilogy has become one of my favorite fantasy series and made “Chains of the Heretic”, the final volume of “Bloodsounder’s Arc”, one of my most anticipated future readings. Although I still have to wait until February 2016 to see how the desperate run of the characters ends, they escaped Sunwrack in quite a hurry at the end of “Veil of the Deserters”, and if the answer for breaking the dreadful connection between Captain Braylar Killcoin and his cursed flail Bloodsounder can be found beyond the Godveil. I have no problem with waiting until February next year, I don’t feel ready to part ways with Braylar Killcoin, Arki, Hewspear, Vendurro and Mulldoos, especially since in a recent interview published at Grimdark Alliance Jeff Salyards says that “Chains of the Heretic” will end the story of these characters. They might still have a cameo appearance in Jeff Salyards’ future novels, as he says in the same interview, but they will not take central stage again beyond the “Bloodsounder’s Arc” trilogy. There is no synopsis for “Chains of the Heretic” yet, but we can admire the cover. One that I like quite a bit, the fighting scene promises plenty of action while the creature Braylar Killcoin, holding his Bloodsounder, faces hints at something in the line of what Jeff Salyards did excellently with the ripper in “Veil of the Deserters”. I am convinced that “Chains of the Heretic” will consolidate the position of Jeff Salyards’ “Bloodsounder’s Arc” trilogy among my favorite fantasy series.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Excerpt - "Savages" by K.J. Parker

“Despair is manageable. It's hope that tears you apart.

I made the mistake of reading the excerpt from K.J. Parker’s upcoming novel, “Savages”, posted on Subterranean Press’ website. There is nothing wrong with it, but if I wasn’t already eagerly waiting K.J. Parker’s novel now I can barely keep in check my desire to read “Savages”. This little excerpt is merciless, in heightening my anticipation and also in the scene unfolding in it. It is just a very small sample but I already am intrigued by the main character of this excerpt, one that bares the unmistakable, masterful mark of K.J. Parker, and I have a monstrous curiosity to see what happens with him next and how the event transforms him. Unless I am presuming the outcome wrong and he doesn’t survive this scene.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Table of contents - "The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015" edited by Paula Guran

Another series of year’s best anthologies going strong is Paula Guran’s “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror”, published by Prime Books. The 2015 edition is the sixth volume of this collection of yearly anthologies and once again “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror” comes with a very strong table of contents.

No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession—or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror be your annual guide through the mysteries and wonders of dark fiction.

“The Screams of Dragons” by Kelley Armstrong (Subterranean Press Magazine, Spring 2014)
“The End of the End of Everything” by Dale Bailey (, 23 Apr 2014)
“(Little Miss) Queen of Darkness” by Laird Barron (Dark Discoveries #29)
“Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle” by Elizabeth Bear (Dead Man’s Hand, ed. John Joseph Adams)
“Sleep Walking Now and Then” by Richard Bowes (, 9 July 2014)
“Only Unity Saves the Damned” by Nadia Bulkin (Letters to Lovecraft, ed. Jesse Bullington)
“A Wish From a Bone” by Gemma Files (Fearful Symmetries, ed. Ellen Datlow)
“Mr Hill’s Death” by S. L. Gilbow (The Dark #4)
“The Female Factory” by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter (The Female Factory)
“Who Is Your Executioner?” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Nightmare Magazine, Nov 2014)
“The Elvis Room” by Stephen Graham Jones (The Elvis Room)
“The Cats of River Street (1925)” by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Sirenia Digest #102)
“Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying” by Alice Sola Kim (Monstrous Affections, eds. Kelly Link & Gavin Grant/Tin House #61)
“Children of the Fang” by John Langan (Lovecraft’s Monsters, ed. Ellen Datlow)
“Combustion Hour” by Yoon Ha Lee (, 10 Apr 2014)
“The Quiet Room” by V. H. Leslie (Shadows & Tall Trees: 2014, ed. Michael Kelly)
“Running Shoes” by Ken Liu (SQ Mag, Issue 16, Sept 2014)
“Resurrection Points” by Usman T. Malik (Strange Horizons, 4 August 2014)
“Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” by Helen Marshall (Lackington’s, Issue 1, Winter 2014)
“Dreamer” by Brandon Sanderson (Games Creatures Play, eds. Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner)
“Emotional Dues” by Simon Strantzas (Burnt Black Suns)
“The Still, Cold Air” by Steve Rasnic Tem (Here with the Shadows)
“Kur-A-Len” by Lavie Tidhar (Black Gods Kiss)
“Fragments from the Notes of a Dead Mycologist” by Jeff VanderMeer (Shimmer #18)
“Water in Springtime” by Kali Wallace (Clarkesworld, Issue 91, Apr 2014)
“The Floating Girls: A Documentary” by Damien Angelica Walters (Jamais Vu Issue Three, Sept 2014)
“The Nursery Corner” by Kaaron Warren (Fearsome Magics, ed. Jonathan Strahan)
“And the Carnival Leaves Town” by A. C. Wise (Nightmare Carnival, ed. Ellen Datlow)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cover art - "The House of Shattered Wings" by Aliette de Bodard

I’ve talked a couple of times about Aliette de Bodard’s new novel coming this year, “The House of Shattered Wings”, and my eagerness to read it. My excitement grows further with the recently released cover artwork for the US edition of “The House of Shattered Wings”. Roc Books, the imprint of Penguin Group, publishing the US edition, chose the Spanish artist Nekro, who previously created covers, among others, for David Barnett’s US editions of “Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl” and “Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon”, E.D. deBirmingham’s “Siege Perilous” (the fifth book in the Mongoliad Cycle) or Kendare Blake’s “Anna Dressed in Blood”, for the cover of Aliette de Bodard’s novel. And the end result is excellent, a great match for the details of the novel surfaced so far. Although the sense of a post-apocalyptic setting is not in the face, Paris seen in the background doesn’t look exactly like a city in ruins, the feeling of destruction is felt through the crumbled walls and ruined floor presented to the fore, by the burning feathers falling to the ground and the gloomy and oppressive clouds covering the sky. The crumbling wall, the falling, burning feathers and the wrecked throne with the carved angel (I love a lot this detail) hit other aspects of the synopsis, these elements can find an easy connection with the downfall of one of the Great Houses of the story and with two of the characters, a fallen angel and an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, mentioned in the novel presentation. I believe that Nekro’s cover gives an excellent face to Aliette de Bodard’s “The House of Shattered Wings”.

In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cover & synopsis - "City of Blades" by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett, after publishing four standalone books, “Mr. Shivers”, “The Company Man”, “The Troupe” and “American Elsewhere”, writes for the first time a series of novels, following this year his excellent “City of Stairs” with another, “City of Blades”. Actually, the UK edition of Robert Jackson Bennett’s “City of Blades” is scheduled to be released this year, on 6th August through Jo Fletcher Books, the US edition published by Broadway Books, with the cover seen above, has the release date of 26th January 2016. Nonetheless, by the looks of the synopsis “City of Blades” seems to be as awesome as “City of Stairs” is.

The city of Voortyashtan was once the home of the goddess of death, war and destruction, but now it's little more than a ruin.
General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to find a Saypuri secret agent who's gone AWOL in the middle of a mission.
But the ghosts of past wars have followed her there, and soon she begins to wonder what happened to the souls in the afterlife when the gods were defeated by her people, the Polis. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cover art - Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black novels

One of the great joys of this digitized era is the easy access I have to the multitude of excellent works done by so many talented artists, plenty of them at the top of their game. I have a very large list of favorites and you’ll certainly find Joey Hi-Fi included there. I love Joey Hi-Fi’s works a lot and I have a great admiration for his original take on art, especially when I see it on book covers. It’s not easy to match Joey Hi-Fi’s book covers, not for the lack of other very talented artists, but because of its unique approach. This task can be attempted, but the results are dependent on various factors, including a comparison with what Joey Hi-Fi previously did. Well, Saga Press had confidence in tackling the matter, the imprint will release this year new editions of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black novels, “Blackbirds”, “Mockingbird” and “The Cormorant”, all with new covers. Now, Joey Hi-Fi’s covers done for the editions of Chuck Wendig’s novels published by Angry Robot Books are top notch. They were an instant hit for me, the initial impact of the larger picture leading me straight to digging for all the little details encompassed within worked to perfection in my case. Saga Press went for a different approach and although I’ll always have Joey Hi-Fi’s covers in mind the end result is excellent. Going in a different direction was a good initiative, like I said, matching Joey Hi-Fi’s artwork could only lead to an inevitable comparison and I am not sure how advantageous that can be. So, Saga Press commissioned Adam S. Doyle for the new covers and they hit the jackpot. There are no smaller details this time, only one impacting image with a very interesting style. Adam S. Doyle’s artworks are very attractive, the contrast between the colors (or non-colors depending on how one wishes to address the issue) of the background and the painting has the desired effect and the art pieces make me think of charcoal drawings, which is an amazing technique when it’s done right. The only complaint I have is about the lettering, from its positioning more exactly. I find those to be too big and covering too much of the artwork, fracturing it as a whole. I would have liked it more if the lettering didn’t interfere as much with the artwork. In the end Chuck Wendig is now the proud owner of not one, but two excellent series of covers for his Miriam Black books and we, as readers and art lovers, have nothing but to gain from this. Of course, in my case I’ll have more to gain if I actually manage to catch up with the novels as well, but I’ll certainly do my best to achieve that.