Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I hope you’ll have a 2010 as you wish to be and better than 2009. May the new year bring you health, joy and the fulfillment of all your wishes. And may you have an amazing journey through the 365 days of 2010.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dark Wolf's Awards for 2009

My 2009 top consists in a vast majority of titles released this year since I focused more on the new releases. I also included this year 4 more classifications for some of the reading aspects I enjoy the most in a book.

Top 10 of my 2009 favorite readings:

1. “The Angel’s Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed more “The Angel’s Game” than “The Shadow of the Wind”, but the fact that reading it with high expectations set by “The Shadow of the Wind” and all of them being fulfilled didn’t came as a surprise must have a role in my opinion. For certain though “The Angel’s Game” is the best book I read this year and the way Carlos Ruiz Zafón plays with emotions and the way he crafts his stories made me fall in love with his works. I just wonder what Carlos Ruiz Zafón has in store for me next?

2. “Gunpowder” by Joe Hill - Like I said it is impossible not to compare Joe Hill’s works with those of his father, but with pieces such as “Gunpowder” Hill proves that has his own path to follow and new and wonderful things to bring in the world of literature.

3. “Hater” by David Moody - “Hater” offered me from the first setting an exhilarating and thrilling reading. David Moody creates such a realistic scenario and a believable story that I believe that his novel can give reasons for nightmares.

4. “Twelve” by Jasper Kent - It is hard for me to set “Twelve” in a particular category, because the novel is an original one and its characteristics and setting can satisfy the readers of different genres. But it is easy for me to say that Jasper Kent proves great talent and imagination and its debut is an excellent and powerful one.

5. “Fall of Thanes” by Brian Ruckley - “Fall of Thanes” offered me a conclusion of “The Godless World” trilogy that it wasn’t expected by me, but which satisfied me in the fullest and which makes the waiting for a trilogy to unfold its events until the end worthwhile. From the first steps taken in my journey through “The Godless World” trilogy and until the last step of that journey I loved Brian Ruckley’s series.

6. “Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson - Wonderful world-building, with very interesting magic, political and theological system. And with voices like that of Brandon Sanderson I am certain that I will bath in titles from my favorite genre for a long time. Review to follow soon.

7. “Nights of Villjamur” by Mark Charan Newton - I was caught in the spell of “Nights of Villjamur” but the end of the novel didn’t bring my release and I was left wondering about the outcome of its story. Mark Charan Newton shows in his novel a great potential, for him as a writer and for his fantasy series, “Legends of the Red Sun”, and I believe that he can sit without question in the hall of the new names of epic fantasy writers and bring his contribution to a great new generation of such authors.

8. “The Riyria Revelations” by Michael J. Sullivan (“The Crown Conspiracy”, “Avempartha” and “Nyphron Rising”) - Michael J. Sullivan is not a surprise for me anymore, but an author that already established his place within the fantasy genre. “Nyphron Rising”, like Sullivan’s previous novels, offers an adventurous tale and a captivating story, returning to the roots and values of the classical fantasy.

9. “Yellow Blue Tibia” by Adam Roberts - The novel of Adam Roberts is garnished with action scenes, a steady and quick pace, very good humor and a unique love story, but above all “Yellow Blue Tibia” is one novel I wished it didn’t end.

10. “The Company” by K.J. Parker - I believe that K.J. Parker’s “The Company” is not the usual fantasy novel and will not appeal to every reader. I enjoyed quite a lot “The Company” for the great in-depth characterization and for its psychological aspects which brought me through the slow moving pace to the end of the story, an end which same as the novel will not appeal to every reader.

Best cover artwork:

1. Raymond Swanland - “An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat” by Glen Cook (Night Shade Books)

2. Marc Simonetti - “Le Trône de Fer” by George R.R. Martin (J'ai Lu)

3. Kekai Kotaki - “The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan (Tor Books)

4. Didier Graffet - “Jon Shannow” series by David Gemmell (Bragelonne)

5. Stephan Martiniere - “Desolation Road” by Ian McDonald (Pyr)

Best female character: Isabella Gispert (“The Angel’s Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

Best male character: Danny McCoyne (“Hater” by David Moody)

The fantastic city/nation/world I would love to visit: the Godless World (“Fall of Thanes” by Brian Ruckley)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review of the 2009 reading year

The end of year is also a time of drawing a line and making a balance. I set a few reading goals at the beginning of the year and now is the time to take a look at them. There weren’t many of them achieved but despite of this I am quite pleased with this reading year. I know that I didn’t manage to read as many books as I would have liked but I was close to my average. I finished 48 books in 2009, counting here Brandon Sanderson’s “Warbreaker” too, from which I have only 20 pages left and it will be finished until the end of the year. From the 48 books, 45 were reviewed on my blog and for the other 3, T.A. Moore’s “The Even”, Marian Coman’s “Nopti albe, zile negre” (White nights, black days) and Julio Cortazar’s “Bestiario” (Bestiary), I am not certain if I will write one. It was a very good year since from the 48 books I read with only 4 of them I was dissapointed.

At the beginning of 2009 I had a list of titles I was looking forward to read and from the list of 18 titles I read 8 of them (with 4 titles from that list not published this year). The goal I failed to achieve at any level is the work on my Pile O’Shame. Unfortunately once again I neglected those books and I failed to start reading these series. However I have to seriously consider the series list for the reading goals of 2010, but this time with a strong self push from behind to really start reading them.

As for my blog, I know that in the last couple of months weren’t any posts about fantasy art, but due to some hectic time at work and some interviews that are still waiting for their answers, I didn’t manage to keep them posted. But this will certainly improve and the fantasy art posts will come back next year, in full force I hope. Also I have in plan a few interviews with some wonderful writers and hopefully those will be successfully made. But I’ll post about all my reading and blogging goals for the next year at the beginning of 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cover art & synopsis - "The Map of All Things" by Kevin J. Anderson

One of the novels I wanted to read this year and got neglected in the end is Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Edge of the World”. I hope that this situation will be corrected soon because the novel’s synopsis picked my curiosity, and still does. I also liked the cover of the novel, with the artwork made by Lee Gibbons. Next year Orbit Books will release the second novel in the Kevin J. Anderson’s series “Terra Incognita”, “The Map of All Things”, and the synopsis of the second novel also pushes me to start reading the series. I like the cover for this novel as well, even a bit more than the first one, and I love that the publisher keeps the line set with the cover artwork of “The Edge of the World”. I really like the design, especially the top image which promises great things within the novel.

After terrible atrocities by both sides, the religious war between Tierra and Uraba has spread and intensified, irreparably dividing the known world. What started as a series of skirmishes has erupted into a full-blown crusade.
Now that the Uraban leader, Soldan-Shah Omra, has captured the ruined city of Ishalem, his construction teams discover a priceless ancient map in an underground vault - a map that can guide brave explorers to the mysterious Key to Creation. Omra dispatches his adoptive son Saan to sail east across the uncharted Middlesea on a quest to find it.
In Tierra, Captain Criston Vora has built a grand new vessel, and sets out to explore the great unknown and find the fabled land of Terravitae. But Criston cannot forget his previous voyage that ended in shipwreck and disaster . . . and the loss of his beloved wife Adrea, who - unbeknownst to him - fights to survive against palace intrigues and constant threats against her life in far-off Uraba. For Adrea is now the wife of the soldan-shah and mother of his adopted son . . .
The Map of All Things continues Kevin J Anderson's epic fantasy of sailing ships, crusading armies, sea monsters and enchanted islands.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas! May you enjoy amazing holidays and have a wonderful Christmas. And may Santa be generous with you. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"The Kill Crew" by Joseph D'Lacey

"The Kill Crew"
by Joseph D'Lacey
Format: Paperback, 80 pages
Review copy received through the courtesy of the author, Joseph D'Lacey

Barricaded into a city block called The Station, two hundred souls have survived the apocalypse. So far. Was it a bomb? A biological attack? Phase one of an invasion? No one knows. The Long Silence has begun. After dark, thousands of the city's inhabitants - neither living nor dead - prowl the streets snatching survivors. The Station is under constant threat. Each day a lottery decides the seven members of The Kill Crew - a night shift of civilian soldiers. Their mission is simple: Extermination. Sheri Foley, a nobody in the days before the Long Silence, discovers she has the heart of a survivalist. She becomes one of the toughest members of The Kill Crew. But there are enemies inside the Station too. The evils of the old world persist and Sheri Foley must fight them all.

I make no secret that the debut novel of Joseph D’Lacey, “Meat”, didn’t sit well with me and failed to meet any of my expectations. Therefore I was rather reluctant to read his novella, “The Kill Crew”, but as anybody deserves a second chance I picked it up eventually for a reading.

Joseph D’Lacey’s “The Kill Crew” is a post-apocalyptic story and after turning the pages of the novella it is obvious that the author doesn’t do anything groundbreaking for this particular type of genre. His story isn’t new, an unknown event puts an end to the world as we know it and divides the survivors into two groups, the Stoppers and the Commuters. The Commuters, in a zombie-like state, try to turn the other survivors in a similar existence while the Stoppers try to fight and survive them. The story felt for me at this level very much like “I Am Legend” or “28 Days Later” with the exception that the Commuters don’t attack the other survivors with the specific goal to eat or kill them. Joseph D’Lacey’s story offers moments of tension and action, but it has its gaps. However, since the story is the background for the deeper levels of the novella and the gaps within the story are minor they didn’t represent a major obstacle for me.

“The Kill Crew” doesn’t excel when it comes to the story, but when it comes to the psychological and emotional aspects than the novella turns into something very different. Joseph D’Lacey focuses on three characters, with preponderance on Sheri Foley, following the trials they pass through on the psychological and emotional level and the challenges they face because of their new situation. He follows the human nature on its survival mode, the human capacity to adapt and to change, or not, to a new deadly situation. Sheri Foley, because the story is told in the first person and only rarely shifts from the main character perspective, struggles with emotions and none of them seem to be artificial, because they are present with reason and logic. The only thing that Joseph D’Lacey’s novella left me wondering is how such an event will affect me (not that I would like to find out).

“The Kill Crew” works on the affection level and this is what makes it stand out from the usual apocalyptic or zombie-like fiction. With it Joseph D’Lacey convinced me not to look with reluctance on his next work I’ll find.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cover art - "John Shannow" by David Gemmell

I am convinced that the French readers are truly privileged. I’ve seen this year the excellent work made on the cover artworks of the titles that are published on the French market so I thought to end the year in the same tone. Next year Bragelonne will cuddle its readers with new amazing cover illustrations and it will start from January when the David Gemmell’s John Shannow novels, “Wolf in Shadow” (or “The Jerusalem Man”), “The Last Guardian” and “Bloodstone”, will be published, with the first two of them on their second French edition. I find the book covers of these Bragelonne editions are really amazing, powerful, with excellent color tones and suggestive illustrations. These excellent works are made by the French artist Didier Graffet and they left me in awe. I think that if it would be possible for me to have all the book editions I love for their cover artwork I would need a castle where to host my library. I should truly start to play more often at the lottery ;)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cover art - "Nights of Villjamur" by Mark Charan Newton (US edition)

I’ve seen this cover artwork today on Aidan’s A Dribble of Ink and Mark Charan Newton’s blog and I can’t help myself not make a post about it too. The reason for this is that I loved Mark Charan Newton’s novel, “Nights of Villjamur”, one of the best I read this year and which will make an appearance on my top 10 at the end of the year (I still don’t know on which position though ;)) and because I was caught by Mark’s series and I am looking forward to see how it will develop. There were quite a few discussions around the cover artwork for Mark’s novels or the different editions of his “Nights of Villjamur”. Speaking of “Nights of Villjamur” though I know that I am very subjective, I read the novel and I know what hides between the covers, so it is impossible for me to separate the story from the book cover. Therefore I admit that I like more the cover artwork for the first edition, published in hardcover by Tor UK, because it catches the best the image and atmosphere of Villjamur. A multilayered city, with its bridges and levels, covered in snow and with a dark atmosphere. The cover for the US edition published by Bantam Spectra next year goes for a similar image, but it doesn’t work for me that much. The city walls are good, a bit repetitive but good, a snow covered landscape and wonderful ice flowers behind the title. But the image of the city misses its core (as it is depicted on the UK cover) and the atmosphere seems to be too light and relaxed in the context of the story. So, once again I have to say that for me Tor UK comes with the best cover artwork for “Nights of Villjamur”. But I also have to say that despite the artwork featured on the cover “Nights of Villjamur” fully deserves to be read, because it is a very good novel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The David Gemmell Award wants you!

Last year a new award for the Fantasy genre was founded, The David Gemmell Legend Award, and as I've seen so far I believe that it was received with interest and excitement. The first winner, announced this year, for the best Fantasy novel of 2008 is Andrzej Sapkowski for his novel in the Geralt saga, “Blood of Elves” (the one I voted for and that I reviewed on my blog). I find the award even more interesting because its mission statements appeal to me greatly:
- raise public awareness of the Fantasy genre
- celebrate the history and cultural importance of Fantasy literature
- appreciate & reward excellence in the field
- commemorate the legacy of David Andrew Gemmell and his contribution to the Fantasy genre
and because the readers play an important part in choosing the nominees and the winner of the David Gemmell Award.
As I mentioned on my blog earlier this autumn from this second edition the David Gemmell Award has two new categories, “The Morningstar Award for Best Newcomer” and “The Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art” (I love the introduction of this one). So with these two new categories and with the approach of the next year there is a lot of work made at the awards' website, especially around the nominations for the three awards. And among the excellent work they do, the award administrators have a new objective for this year too, reaching a number of 1000 members until the end of the year. So, if you want to be a member and play a part in the nomination process, discus the nominated titles and authors and cast your vote for your favorites you can sign up at The David Gemmell Award website. I am happy to say that I am a member since the last year and I am having a pleasant time there. If you sign up I hope to see you there too :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide" website

I’ve started to work on my top readings of 2009 and also on my list of books I am looking forward to read in 2010. One of those titles is William Hussey’s “Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide”. Last week I posted about the cover artwork of the novel, an excellent one and which I really like, and now I want to tell you that “Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide” has a website. And although there are not many features at the moment on the site, the two posted can give a better idea about the upcoming Bill Hussey’s novel, a video teaser where Bill reads from “Witchfinder” and the opportunity to read the first chapter of the novel. You can find both at My curiosity reached new heights :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"The Magic Thief: Lost" by Sarah Prineas

"The Magic Thief: Lost"
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
The review is based on a bought copy of the book.

Conn's quest to save his city's magic has become urgent: his power stone is lost and Shadowmen, ruthless assassins, are stalking the city's people. But when Conn blows up Wizard Nevery's beloved home, he is banished by his own master. Determined to return and save Wellmet, he travels to Desh, a glittering city in the desert, home to the Shadowmen and run by a mysterious Sorcerer-King...

I returned a bit this year to my childhood years with the reading of the children’s novel with which Sarah Prineas made her debut, “The Magic Thief”. Now my memory time travelling was continued with the second novel of the series, “The Magic Thief: Lost”.

I’ll start my review by saying that for the readers unfamiliar with the first novel it is better to start with “The Magic Thief”, because “The Magic Thief: Lost” holds many threads linked with the first novel of the series. But for those who read and enjoyed the previous novel “The Magic Thief: Lost” offers a return to the familiar setting and characters. Obviously, in the center of the story I found Connwaer, the young pickpocket thief who became a wizard’s apprentice and who discovers a new link with the magic. Conn begins a new journey in this novel, a bit darker and dangerous than the previous one, and with deeper connections within the first story. So, the story line becomes more complex, but with it the Conn’s character becomes stronger. It is true that Conn is quieter than in “The Magic Thief”, but he remains the same fresh character and his emotions reach new limits.

With Conn I found his old friends, Nevery, Benet and Rowan, but this time Nevery and Benet play a smaller part and they are only scarcely present. Still Nevery remains the same grumpy and beautifully shaped wizard, while Benet is still the same quiet bodyguard with a few surprising but amusing preoccupations. However, the magic doesn’t suffer a downfall and the child in me, and not only him, was fully satisfied by it. Once again Sarah Prineas brings the magic language into play, making from this a very interesting and attractive aspect. There are a few more spells found in “The Magic Thief: Lost”, but I was glad to find again the Embero spell. And this time it offered a different outcome, but as pleasant as the first time I’ve seen it.

As I said the story becomes a bit more complex and although the first half of the novel seems a bit slow Sarah Prineas kicks the things into motion in the second half and the novel benefits from more action. Further on, the world of “The Magic Thief” books becomes wider, the reader stepping outside the main setting of the first novel, Wellmet, and travelling to new locations. Also a new negative character enters the scene, who proves to be more challenging for Conn and who is darker and more cruel than the previous ones (with a particular scene that I find to be too violent and vicious for children).

I really enjoyed “The Magic Thief” and I am happy to say that I found “The Magic Thief: Lost” to be even better than its predecessor. Sarah Prineas wrote a novel that I would have loved if I have read it in my childhood, but which I truly enjoyed as much as an adult too. It remains only to see what adventures await Conn in the next novel.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cover art - George R.R. Martin

I remain on the French publishing market for two other amazing cover artworks, made for one of the best fantasy series ever, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”. The series is republished by J’ai Lu, in an integral form and in a new format, with the first two volumes being available from January 2010. The novels benefit from two amazing artworks on their covers made by the French artist Marc Simonetti and I am very happy to say that I had the pleasue to interview Marc Simonetti here on my blog and to discover that he continues to create wonderful works. I also have to say that the work put by the French publishers behind the cover artworks is praiseworthy and I would certainly like to always delight myself in book covers such as these two.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cover art - Pamela Freeman

I will be completely honest and admit that I am not familiar with the Pamela Freeman’s works. More so, despite the fact that I’ve read some interesting reviews of her Castings Trilogy novels, “Blood Ties” and “Deep Water”, and I’ve noticed the release of the third one, “Full Circle”, this month I didn’t feel the need to dig further on or to read the synopsis of the novels. And believe me not all my reasons are very clear. But, being a passionate of fantasy art and looking over a few book covers this week I’ve noticed the cover artwork for the French edition of Pamela Freeman’s novels and they certainly picked my curiosity. I am very much aware that being attracted by the cover artwork is not the most solid argument for picking a book, but it offers a strong start and plays quite a role in that. It worked very well for me in this case. The cover artworks for the Pygmalion editions of the Pamela Freeman’s novels are made by Miguel Coimbra (above: Le Dit du Sang – Blood Ties) and by Alain Brion (below: Le Dit de l’eau – Deep Water). Both of the covers look impressive and are a great example how can an excellent cover artwork work in favor of the novel. It certainly worked for me, it only leaves me to see what the story is about.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In the mailbox

It has been a while since I’ve posted about the review copies received, so here are the latest books arrived in my mailbox. These two months have been very good for the books I bought too, with almost 50 ordered from the Book Depository and with a few more that will arrive in time for Christmas.

- "Heart's Blood" by Juliet Marillier (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan);

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious, wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan’s family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.
For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free.

- "Hyddenworld: Spring" by William Horwood (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan);

The adventure of a lifetime is just beginning . . .
It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation.
But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident ¬– it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.
Their journey begins with Spring . . .

- "The Gabble and other stories" by Neal Asher (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan);

In the eight years since his first full-length novel Gridlinked was published by Pan Macmillan, Neal Asher has firmly established himself as one of the leading British writers of Science Fiction, and his novels are now translated in many languages. Most of his stories are set in a galactic future-scape called ‘The Polity’, and with this collection of marvellously inventive and action-packed short stories, he takes us further into the manifold diversities of that amazing universe.
No one does monsters better than Neal Asher, so be prepared to revisit the lives and lifestyles of such favourites as the gabbleduck and the hooder, to savour alien poisons, the walking dead, the Sea of Death, and the putrefactor symbiont.

- "Halo: The Cole Protocol" by Tobias S. Buckell (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan);

In the first, desperate days of the Human-Covenant War, the UNSC has enacted the Cole Protocol to safeguard Earth and its inner colonies from discovery by a merciless alien foe. Many are called upon to rid the universe of lingering navigation data that would reveal the location of Earth. Among them is Navy Lieutenant Jacob Keyes. Thrust back into action after being sidelined, Keyes is saddled with a top secret mission by ONI. One that will take him deep behind enemy lines, to a corner of the universe where nothing is as it seems.
Out beyond the Outer Colonies lies the planet Hesiod, a gas giant surrounded by a vast asteroid belt. As the Covenant continues to glass the human-occupied planets near Hesiod, many of the survivors, helped by a stronghold of human Insurrectionists, are fleeing to the asteroid belt for refuge. They have transformed the tumbling satellites into a tenuous, yet ingenious, settlement known as the Rubble—and have come face-to-face with a Covenant settlement of Kig-Yar . . . yet somehow survived.
News of this unlikely treaty has spread to the warring sides. Luckily for the UNSC, this uneasy alliance is in the path of the Spartan Gray Team, a three-man renegade squad whose simple task is to wreak havoc from behind enemy lines in any way they see fit. But the Prophets have also sent their best—an ambitious and ruthless Elite, whose quest for nobility and rank is matched only by his brutality. . . and who will do anything to secure his Ascendancy and walk the Path.

- "Servant of the Dark God" by John Brown (through the courtesy of John Brown and Tor Books);

The launch of a towering new fantasy series introduces an elaborate new world, a strange and dark system of magic, and a cast of compelling characters and monsters. Young Talen lives in a world where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought, and stolen. Only the great Divines, who rule every land, and the human soul-eaters, dark ones who steal from man and beast and become twisted by their polluted draws, know the secrets of this power. This land’s Divine has gone missing and soul-eaters are found among Talen’s people.
The Clans muster a massive hunt, and Talen finds himself a target. Thinking his struggle is against both soul-eaters and their hunters, Talen actually has far larger problems. A being of awesome power has arisen, one whose diet consists of the days of man. Her Mothers once ranched human subjects like cattle. She has emerged to take back what is rightfully hers. Trapped in a web of lies and ancient secrets, Talen must struggle to identify his true enemy before the Mother finds the one whom she will transform into the lord of the human harvest.

- "The Apex Book of World SF" edited by Lavie Tidhar (through the courtesy of Apex Book Company).

The world of speculative fiction is expansive; it covers more than one country, one continent, one culture. Collected here are sixteen stories penned by authors from Thailand, the Philippines, China, Israel, Pakistan, Serbia, Croatia, Malaysia, and other countries across the globe. Each one tells a tale breathtakingly vast and varied, whether caught in the ghosts of the past or entangled in a postmodern age.
Among the spirits, technology, and deep recesses of the human mind, stories abound. Kites sail to the stars, technology transcends physics, and wheels cry out in the night. Memories come and go like fading echoes and a train carries its passengers through more than simple space and time. Dark and bright, beautiful and haunting, the stories herein represent speculative fiction from a sampling of the finest authors from around the world.

Thank you all very much!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Nyphron Rising" by Michael J. Sullivan

"Nyphron Rising"
Format: Paperback, 362 pages
Publisher: Ridan Publishing
Review copy received through the courtesy of the authors' publicity agent, Robin Sullivan

A puppet is crowned. The true heir remains hidden. A rogue's secret could change everything.
War has come to Melengar. To save her kingdom, Princess Arista runs a desperate gamble when she defies her brother and hires Royce and Hadrian for a dangerous mission.
As the power of the Nyphron Empire grows, so does Royce's suspicion that the wizard Esrahaddon is using the thieves as pawns in his own game. To find the truth, he must unravel the secret of Hadrian's past…what he discovers could change the future for all of Elan.

When it comes to the titles that most probably I would have missed if it weren’t for the access to information offered by the Internet, Michael J. Sullivan’s novels would be in one of the top spots of the list. “Nyphron Rising” is the third novel of “The Riyria Revelations”, and with it, the series reaches its half way point.

The first two novels in “The Riyria Revelations” series came as a totally unexpected and very pleasant surprise, but that is not the case with the third novel, “Nyphron Rising”, because after reading “The Crown Conspiracy” and “Avempartha” I already established personal expectations for the Michael J. Sullivan’s works. “Nyphron Rising” rises to those standards and made me travel with joy once again into the fantastic world built by the author, the world of Elan. I discovered, with pleasure, familiar places and characters, but also new ones and a few unanticipated twists and turns.

One of my greatest delights when reading fantasy novels is the world building process and the discovery of the worlds imagined and born from the authors’ pens. Although Michael J. Sullivan doesn’t spend so much time in the world building process compared with the more extended fantasy works his world has a clear shape and is a vivid one. In “Nyphron Rising” the world of Elan develops further on, reaching new limits and dimensions. Local and imperial politics play a more important role in the novel and this makes the world of Elan even more interesting and captivating. However, a wider and an obvious evolution can be seen in the main characters of the novel, and of the series, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn. The novel offered me another meeting with the two characters, feeling very much like a meeting with old friends, also offering me a new image of the characters, a deeper insight of their past and personalities.

The story of “Nyphron Rising”, as those of the previous novels, comes with a page-turner adventure, with quite a lot of action, amusing dialogues and situations, with tension, intrigue and a few twists on its side. Still, although the story of the novel is resolved within its pages, in my opinion “Nyphron Rising” doesn’t stand as much on its own. It is true that a reader can find enjoyment on the novel, but there are several parts and aspects that leave those unfamiliar with “The Crown Conspiracy” and “Avempartha” clueless about them. So, I believe that although the first two novels can be enjoyed very much on their own “Nyphron Rising” works much better if the reader explored the same two novels. “Nyphron Rising” continues to work on the general plot of the series and therefore it brings a slowing in the pace set by the first two novels and preparing it for the conclusion that awaits it in the next novels of the series. I have to say that compared with its predecessors this novel feels a bit weaker, but it offers a pleasant reading nonetheless. I also have a small issue with it, in particular with a recovery of a character after a heavy flailing that occurs too fast in my opinion and for my liking.

Michael J. Sullivan is not a surprise for me anymore, but an author that already established his place within the fantasy genre. “Nyphron Rising”, like Sullivan’s previous novels, offers an adventurous tale and a captivating story, returning to the roots and values of the classical fantasy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cover art - "Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide" by William Hussey

One of the authors I discovered through my blog and who impressed me since his debut is Bill Hussey. I enjoyed in the fullest his two published novels, “Through a Glass, Darkly” and “The Absence”, and I am looking forward to see how his writing career develops. For the moment it looks that I don’t have to wait too long for his next project, the first book in a dark fiction trilogy for children, “Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide”. I am very curious to see what Bill Hussey pulls out from his sleeve, especially since this project is a bit different from his first two. Until then I will delight with the wonderful and evocative cover artwork made by David Wyatt. And also until March 2010 when Oxford University Press will release the novel here is a blurb from the publisher’s website:

Evil waits behind the door . . .
Jake Harker is an outsider, a loser whose nose is always in a horror comic. That is until horror stops being fiction and the Pale Man and his demon Mr Pinch stop Jake on a dark, deserted road. That night, under a tree called the demon's dance, Jake will learn the true meaning of terror . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Aurealis Awards finalists

The finalists for the 2009 Aurealis Awards have been announced. The Aurealis Awards were established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis magazine, to recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers. Award winners of the 2009 Aurealis Awards will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts in Brisbane on Saturday 23 January 2010. The finalists are:

Best science fiction novel:

- Andrew McGahan - "Wonders of a Godless World" (Allen & Unwin)
- Sean Williams - "The Grand Conjunction, Astropolis Book Three" (Orbit)

Best science fiction short story:

- Peter M. Ball - "Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens" (Apex Magazine May 2009)
- Peter M. Ball - "To Dream of Stars: An Astronomer's Lament" (Apex Magazine October 2009)
- Christopher Green - "A Hundredth Name" (Abyss & Apex Magazine #31)
- Greg Mellor - "Defence of the Realm" (Cosmos #25)
- Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn - "Soulmates" (Asimov's September 2009)

Best fantasy novel:

- Peter M. Ball - "Horn" (Twelfth Planet Press)
- Trudi Canavan - "Magician's Apprentice" (Orbit)
- Glenda Larke - "The Last Stormlord" (HarperVoyager)
- K.E. Mills - "Witches Incorporated" (HarperVoyager)
- K.J. Taylor - "The Dark Griffin" (HarperVoyager)

Best fantasy short story:

- Christopher Green - "Father’s Kill" (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24)
- Ian McHugh - "Once a Month, On a Sunday" (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40)
- Tansy Rayner Roberts - "Siren Beat" (Roadkill/Siren Beat)
- Angela Slatter - "Words" (The Lifted Brow #5)
- Lucy Sussex - "Something Better than Death" (Aurealis #42)

Best horror novel:

- Peter M. Ball - "Horn" (Twelfth Planet Press)
- Honey Brown - "Red Queen" (Penguin Australia)
- Stephen M. Irwin - "The Dead Path" (Hachette Australia)
- Tracey O’Hara - "Night's Cold Kiss" (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
- Kaaron Warren - "Slights" (Angry Robot Books)

Best horror short story:

- Felicity Dowker - "Jesse's Gift" (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40)
- Christopher Green - "Having Faith" (Nossa Morte, February 2009)
- Paul Haines - "Wives" (X6)
- Paul Haines - "Slice of Life - A Spot of Liver" (Slice of Life)
- Andrew J. McKiernan - "The Message" (Midnight Echoes)

Best anthology:

- Alisa Krasnostein (editor) - "New Ceres Nights" (Twelfth Planet Press)
- Keith Stevenson (editor) - "X6" (Coeur de Lion Publishing)
- Jonathan Strahan (editor) - "Eclipse 2" (Night Shade Books)
- Jonathan Strahan (editor) - "Eclipse 3" (Night Shade Books)
- Jonathan Strahan (editor) - "The New Space Opera 2" (Harper Eos)

Best collection:

- Deborah Biancotti & Alisa Krasnostein (editors) - "A Book of Endings" (Twelfth Planet Press)
- Greg Egan - "Oceanic" (Gollancz)
- Paul Haines & Geoff Maloney (editors) - "Slice of Life" (The Mayne Press)
- Robbie Matthews & Donna Hanson (editors) - "Johnny Phillips Werewolf Detective" (Australian Speculative Fiction)

Best illustrated book/graphic novel:

- Nathan Jurevicius - "Scarygirl" (Allen & Unwin)
- Bruce Mutard - "The Silence" (Allen & Unwin)
- Emily Rodda & Marc McBride - "Secrets of Deltora" (Scholastic Australia)
- Madeleine Rosca - "Hollow Fields" (Seven Seas Entertainment)

Best young adult novel:

- Kate Forsyth - "The Puzzle Ring" (Pan Macmillan)
- Cassandra Golds - "The Museum of Mary Child" (Puffin Books)
- Glenda Millard - "A Small Free Kiss in the Dark" (Allen & Unwin)
- Scott Westerfeld - "Leviathan Trilogy: Book One" (Penguin)
- Sean Williams - "Scarecrow" (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

Best young adult short story:

- Joanne Anderton - "Dragon Bones" (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #39)
- Sue Isle - "Paper Dragons" (Shiny #5)
- Ian McHugh - "Once a Month, on a Sunday" (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40)
- Tansy Rayner Roberts - "Like Us" (Shiny #5)
- Cat Sparks - "Seventeen" (Masques)

Best children's book:

- Deborah Abela - "The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen" (Random House Australia)
- Kate Constable - "Cicada Summer" (Allen & Unwin)
- Jen Storer - "Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children" (Penguin/Viking)
- Gabrielle Wang - "A Ghost in My Suitcase" (Puffin Books)

Best children's illustrated book/picture book:

- Graeme Base - "Enigma" (Penguin/Viking)
- Anna Fienberg (author), Kim Gamble (illustrator) - "Tashi and the Golem" (Allen & Unwin)
- Pamela Freeman (author), Kim Gamble (illustrator) - "Victor's Challenge" (Walker Books Australia)
- Dan McGuiness - "Pilot and Huxley" (Omnibus Books)
- Gregory Rogers - "The Hero of Little Street" (Allen & Unwin)

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Friday, December 4, 2009

"The Cardinal's Blades" by Pierre Pevel

"The Cardinal's Blades"
by Pierre Pevel
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Publisher: Gollancz
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Gollancz

Paris, 1633. Louis XIII reigns over France . . . and Cardinal Richelieu governs the country. One of the most dangerous and most powerful men in Europe, Richelieu keeps a constant, sharp eye on the enemies of the Crown to avoid their assassination attempts, thwart their spies and avert their warmongering. But he's up against people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even going so far as to forge alliances with France's oldest and deadliest enemies. Spain, and the Court of Dragons.
The nobility keep tiny dragonnets as pets; royal couriers ride tame wyverns, and lethal man-shaped scaled dracs ropam the country. But the power rising from the Court of Dragons is anything but mundane; the Black Claw sect draws on dragons as they once were: ancient, terrible, utterly merciless . . . and poised to move against France.
Faced with the growing threat from Spain, Richelieu summons Captain la Fargue, an exceptional swordsman, devoted officer and brilliant leader. If he's to turn aside the Black Claw's schemes, La Fargue and his legenday company of swashbucklers and rogues must be persuaded to once again risk their lives, fortunes and reputations for Richelieu, and for France.
It's the biggest challenge yet for The Cardinal's Blades - and they'll need to be sharp . . .

Pierre Pevel is considered one of the best French fantasy authors, publishing seven novels so far and being rewarded with two awards, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in 2002 and Prix Imaginales in 2005. “The Cardinal’s Blades” is the first novel in a fantasy series and also the first one to be translated in English.

My childhood and teenage years were fueled with dreams of great adventures, duels and historical and political intrigues in great measure by the wonderful novels of Alexandre Dumas, especially his musketeers’ series of novels. I still enjoy and find comfort in these novels that enriched my reading experience. Through time I fell in love with the fantasy genre and the fantasy fiction became the main source of my readings, but I never forgot the pleasure offered by Alexandre Dumas’ novels. Therefore when Pierre Pevel’s “The Cardinal’s Blades” came along you can imagine how easily reached my soft spot with its blend of historical and fantasy fiction.

The novel is set in the 17th century France and Pierre Pevel manages to capture the atmosphere of the period and makes from the setting an important part of the novel. But this aspect is not the only one that contributes to the atmosphere of “The Cardinal’s Blades”, the reader will find himself deep within political schemes, mysteries and intrigue. The novel left me with a pleasant sensation that each chapter reveals as much as casts a new shroud of mystery on the plot, the final chapter as its peak, resolving the novel’s plot but unveiling a new enigma that leaves the series on the edge and prepares the second novel. And that is not all, the novel is full of action, fighting scenes come in no small amount and the fans of swashbuckling adventures will not be disappointed. However, the novel is a blend of historical and fantasy fiction, but the fantasy elements of “The Cardinal’s Blades” are rather scarce. There is the presence of the dragons in their different forms and they play a role within the story, but that role is rather small and their presence weak. Therefore the novel feels much more like a historical adventure.

The beginning of the novel, almost half of it actually, can be a bit confusing. Pierre Pevel introduces a great number of characters in the beginning chapters and I lost track for a few times of them until I got used to every single character and his place in the story. From the half way forward though the plot takes charge and everything about the novel’s character will be clearer (except the mysteries surrounding them and imposed by the story). There are quite a range of characters as well, with different personalities and attitudes. I liked some of the characters more than others, but I have to say that none of them are developed in the fullest. I believe that because of the presence of so many characters there is no room left for none of them to truly develop and therefore every single one of them will suffer of a lack of depth in their characterization. Still, I was sympathetic with a few of them.

As an avid reader and an admirer of the Alexandre Dumas’ works I found in “The Cardinal’s Blades” a novel very much on my liking. Although the fantasy elements are rarely seen the Pierre Pevel’s novel offers a fast moving story, full of action, intrigue and swashbuckling adventures.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cover art - "The Dragon Reborn" by Robert Jordan

As you know and as I mentioned in a previous post Tor is releasing Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” novels in ebook format and for these editions they commissioned 14 artists to create new covers for the series. After the first two novels with covers illustrated by David Grove and Kekai Kotaki, Irene Gallo reveals on her blog the cover for the third novel, “The Dragon Reborn”, illustrated by the great artist Donato Giancola. Once again I wonder if someday I will see these wonderful covers on physical copies of the novels, because I would certainly like to have them. I am also eagerly looking forward to see the cover for the next novel, “The Shadow Rising”, which will be illustrated by Sam Weber.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Black Quill Awards 3rd edition nominees

Dark Scribe Magazine announced the nominees for its 3rd Annual Awards, Black Quill Awards. The Black Quill Awards honor the works of dark genre literature from both mainstream and small press publishers, each category awarding two winners with the Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice. Any registered reader can vote for his favorites from now until January 24th, 2010, when the voting is closing. The winners will be announced on February 2nd, 2010.

Dark genre novel of the year:

- "Audrey's Door" by Sarah Langan (Harper)
- "Castaways" by Brian Keene (Leisure Books)
- "Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn (Shaye Areheart Books)
- "Drood" by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and Company)
- "The Little Stranger" by Sarah Waters (Riverhead Hardcover)
- "The Unseen" by Alexandra Sokoloff (St. Martin's Press)

Best small press chill:

- "As Fate Would Have It" by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)
- "Frozen Blood" by Joel Sutherland (Lachesis Publishing)
- "Kelland" by Paul G. Bens Jr. (Casperian Books)
- "Last Days" by Brian Evenson (Underland Press)
- "The Harlequin and the Train" by Paul G. Tremblay (Necropolitan Press)
- "Valley of the Dead" by Kim Paffenroth (Cargo Cult Press)

Best dark genre fiction collection:

- "Martyrs & Monsters" by Robert Dunbar (DarkHart Press)
- "Monstrous Affections" by David Nickle (ChiZine Publications)
- "Pumpkin Teeth" by Tom Cardamone (Lethe Press)
- "The Haunted Heart and Other Tales" by Jameson Currier (Lethe Press)
- "Ugly Man" by Dennis Cooper (Harper Perennial)

Best dark genre anthology:

- "Dark Delicacies III: Haunted" edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb (Running Press)
- "He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson" edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
- "Lovecraft Unbound" edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Comics)
- "Midnight Walk" edited by Lisa Morton (Darkhouse Publishing)
- "Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe" edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
- "Shivers V" edited by Richard Chizmar (Cemetery Dance Publications)

Best dark genre book of non-fiction:

- "Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues" edited by Loren Rhodes (Scribner)
- "Stephen King: The Non-Fiction" by Rocky Wood and Justin Brooks (Cemetery Dance Publications)
- "The Stephen King Illustrated Companion" by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)
- "Writer's Workshop of Horror" edited by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)

Best dark scribble:

- "Flatrock Sunners" by Sarah Totten (Black Static #12 / Print)
- "Following Marla" by John R. Little (Horror World, February 2009 / Virtual)
- "Night Nurse" by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-In, July 2009 / Virtual)
- "The Loyalty of Birds" by Rachel Sobel (Clarkesworld #30 / Virtual)
- "The Man in the Mirror" by Jameson Currier (Icarus #1 / Print)
- "The Mind of a Pig" by Ekaterina Sedia (Apex Magazine, March 2009 / Virtual)

Best cover art & design:

- "As Fate Would Have It" / Artwork: Peter Mahaichuk; Cover Design: César Puch (by Michael Louis Calvillo from Bad Moon Books)
- "The Estuary" / Artwork: Johann Bodin; Cover Design: Jacob Kier (by Derek Gunn from Permuted Press)
- "The Haunted Heart and Other Tales" / Artwork by: Richard Taddei; Cover Design: John Molloy (by Jameson Currier from Lethe Press)
- "The Pilo Family Circus" / Cover Design by: Heidi Whitcomb (by Will Elliot from Underland Press)

Best dark genre book trailer:

- "Audrey's Door" / Production by JT Petty (Author: Sarah Langan)
- "Far Dark Fields" / Production by John Palisano (Author: Gary Braunbeck)
- "Isis" / Production by Circle of Seven (Author: Douglas Clegg)
- "The Lifeless" / Production by Coscom Entertainment (Author: Lorne Dixon)
- "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" / Production by Seth Dalton and Ransom Riggs (Author: Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters)

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cover & synopsis - "Dog Blood" by David Moody

The end of the year is almost knocking on the door and as always December is very much a month of looking in retrospective, but also a month of looking with hope into the future. I am not writing my top of the year book list already, but I am certainly working on the shopping list for the next year (although I think I’ve started working on it from the beginning of this year). Balancing the both sides I have to say though that one of this year’s titles that with certainty will be present in my end of the year top is David Moody’s “Hater” and this makes me look forward to his next novel in the Hater series, “Dog Blood”, which will be released by Gollancz next year in June, if I am not mistaken. But until then I have to wonder what David Moody has in store for his story looking over the cover and the synopsis of “Dog Blood”.

The world has suffered a catastrophe of unknown cause, dividing humankind into two: the Haters and the Unchanged. Each group believes the other to be the enemy; each group is fighting for survival. Only by working together can the enemy – whoever that enemy is – be defeated. There are no other choices. Danny McCoyne has managed to break free, and after days of indiscriminate fighting and killing, he is determined to make his way home, to recalim the only thing of any value to him in this strange new world: his daughter Ellis. Unlike his wife and son, Ellis is like him, and he knows, in his heart of hearts, that she is not dead. His dearest wish is for Ellis to be fighting for the world at his side – but Danny soon discovers his daughter is worth far more than just another fighting body. Others like him have discovered that children are absolutely vital to the cause. They are strong, small, fast, and they have no inhibitions. They are pure Haters…