Saturday, January 30, 2010

A title spotlight (book trailer, cover art & synopsis)

I am always curious about new debuts in the fantasy genre, but even more so about the new titles in fantasy from authors translated in English. One of the excellent examples is Andrzej Sapkowski with his very interesting Geralt the Witcher books. I would really like to see more such writers and series translated in English and an exploration of the fantasy genres from different cultures and countries around the world. I will have one of such chances this February when Tor Books will publish the first novel in the “Chronicles of Siala” trilogy, “Shadow Prowler” by Alexey Pehov. Alexey Pehov is a Russian author of fantasy and science fiction and his works are very popular in Russia. “Shadow Prowler” was published for the first time in 2002 as “Stealth in the Shadows” and is the first novel in a trilogy, being followed by the novels “Dganga Dance with Shadows” and “Blizzard of Shadows”. “The Chronicles of Siala” is a very popular series, recognized with awards and which inspired many role playing clubs, also with a computer game based on the books being developed. So I have many reasons to explore this series. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I share the same date of birth as Alexey Pehov, 30th of March, only I am a year older ;)

After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring.

An army is gathering; thousands of giants, ogres, and other creatures are joining forces from all across the Desolate Lands, united, for the first time in history, under one, black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.

Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the Kingdom of Siala. Harold will be accompanied on his quest by an Elfin princess, Miralissa, her elfin escort, and ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world…and by the king’s court jester (who may be more than he seems…or less).

Reminiscent of Moorcock's Elric series, Shadow Prowler is the first work to be published in English by the bestselling Russian fantasy author Alexey Pehov. The book was translated by Andrew Bromfield, best known for his work on the highly successful Night Watch series.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Rain" by Conrad Williams

Format: Paperback, 116 pages
Publisher: Gray Friar Press
The review is based on a bought copy of the book.

This is no ordinary storm ...
Ben and his family move in to a French house cloaked by storm clouds. The walls fail to keep out intruders. Warnings appear. There is an accident. There is death. There is rain. Much rain.

Conrad Williams has published eight novels and a collection of stories in his career so far, but also a novella released by Gray Friar Press in 2007, “Rain”.

Last year, one of the novels I enjoyed the most was Conrad Williams’ “One” and among the things that distinguish themselves in that novel is the feelings of the main character for his son. The same thing can be easily noticed in Conrad Williams’ novella, the feelings of the main character, Ben, for his son and his relationship with him, from here emerging the conflict and the denouement of “Rain”. Conrad Williams does an excellent job constructing this relationship, capturing every single feeling, memory and anguish of the main character and working them in favor of the plot. Ben grows with each page, as the story does, and the author leads me toward a path that seemed obvious until one point, when he twists the story in an unexpected turn and therefore giving his story even more power.

“Rain” is told from the first person point of view, everything is related to the main character’s experience, but it is also a family story because from these particular experiences Ben’s family is taking shape and brings its contribution to the story. In truth, everything in Conrad Williams’ story brings an important contribution to the story. The location and the weather have their role in the development of the plot, each element of the novella adding to the feeling of eerie atmosphere and unease. Conrad Williams masterfully brings them into his novella, making them feel sometimes like other living persons, close observers and strangely connected to the drama unfolding around them. All of these elements will help “Rain” not falter once and will make the story one that can’t be easily forgotten.

My first instinct after finishing Conrad Williams’ novella was to look for more of his works, because “Rain” is a short but strong story, as a summer storm, and it left a powerful mark on my mind.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cover art - "The Edge of the World" by Kevin J. Anderson

Although I didn’t get the chance to read the novel of Kevin J. Anderson, “The Edge of the World”, yet it is one of the books that is close to the top of my reading pile. But until then I found on Kevin J. Anderson’s blog the new cover design for the upcoming mass market paperback edition of “The Edge of the World”, due to be released on 21st of April. I like this design too, because it uses the same elements as the original cover of the novel and because it is focused more on these elements. It is a well made cover.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2009 Aurealis Awards

In a ceremony held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane, Saturday 24th of January, the winners of the annual Aurealis Awards were announced. The Aurealis Awards reward the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers and it is at its thirteenth edition.

Best science fiction novel: "Wonders of a Godless World" by Andrew McGahan (Allen & Unwin)

Best science fiction short story: "Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens" by Peter M. Ball (Apex Magazine May 2009)

Best fantasy novel: "Magician's Apprentice" by Trudi Canavan (Orbit)

Best fantasy short story - joint winners: "Father’s Kill" by Christopher Green (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24) & "Once a Month, On a Sunday" by Ian McHugh (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40)

Best horror novel: "Red Queen" by Honey Brown (Penguin Australia)

Best horror short story - joint winners: "Wives" by Paul Haines (X6) & "Slice of Life - A Spot of Liver" by Paul Haines (Slice of Life, The Mayne Press)

Best anthology: "Eclipse 3" edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books)

Best collection: "Oceanic" by Greg Egan (Gollancz)

Best illustrated book/graphic novel: "Scarygirl" by Nathan Jurevicius (Allen & Unwin)

Best young adult novel: "Leviathan Trilogy: Book One" by Scott Westerfeld (Penguin)

Best young adult short story: "Seventeen" by Cat Sparks (Masques, CSFG)

Best children's novel: "A Ghost in My Suitcase" by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Books)

Best children's short fiction/illustrated work/picture book: "Victor's Challenge" by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Kim Gamble (Walker Books Australia)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

International cover art - "King's Dragon" by Kate Elliott (French edition)

I am afraid that now I have only high expectations from the French cover artworks, although I don’t think I expect beautiful cover illustrations only from them. As the French publishing market used us, here is another excellent cover. I have a weakness for medieval weaponry, armory and heraldry and it was this section that attracted me the most in my history school books. Well, as you can see, this cover illustration satisfies my little pleasure in the fullest. The illustration is made by Didier Graffet for the French edition of Kate Elliott’s “King’s Dragon” (Le Dragon du Roi), the first novel in her “Crown of Stars” series, and released by Milady on 15th of January.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In the mailbox

Not many review books received around holidays, but after all that was a time for relaxation and presents. However, the year started in style with a wonderful surprise found in my mailbox.

- "Under the Dome" by Stephen King (through the courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton).

Celebrated storyteller Stephen King returns to his roots in this tour de force featuring more than 100 characters – some heroic, some diabolical – and a supernatural element as baffling and chilling as any he's ever conjured.
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mills, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as “the Dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when – or if – it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens – town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a selectwoman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing – even murder – to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry.
But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.
With some of the most spectacularly sinister characters King has ever imagined and a driving plot, UNDER THE DOME is Stephen King at his epic best. This book will thrill every reader who's ever loved a novel by King.

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Kell's Legend" by Andy Remic

"Kell's Legend"
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Review copy received through the courtesy of the administrators of the David Gemmell Awards

The land of Falanor is invaded by an albino army, the Army of Iron. A small group set off to warn the king: Kell, ancient hero; his granddaughter, Nienna and her friend, Katrina; and the ex-Sword Champion of King Leanoric, Saark, disgraced after his affair with the Queen.
Fighting their way south, betrayal follows battle follows deviation, and they are attacked from all quarters by deadly albino soldiers, monstrous harvesters who drain blood from their victims to feed their masters, and the twisted offspring of deviant vachine, the cankers. As Falanor comes under heavy attack and crushing invasion, only then does Nienna learn the truth about grandfather Kell – that he is anything but a noble hero, anything but a Legend.

The David Gemmell Award was established last year and started with a debut year that gathered fans and critiques of the fantasy genre alike around it. In the second year of the awards, looking over the nominees it is easy to spot one title, Andy Remic’s “Kell’s Legend”, because of the homage it pays to the author who names the awards, David Gemmell.

“Kell’s Legend” is a worthy praise offered to its source of inspiration, fully packed with action and fighting scenes and flavored with an amount of violence and gore that will put even some of the horror novels to shame. The pages fly past the reader, because Andy Remic sets a very fast rhythm from the first chapter of the novel. Speaking of chapters, each one of them ends in a peak of action teasing my curiosity to the point that I could hardly resist not to jump over pages just to find out the conclusion of that action sequence. And that is the case with the end of the novel as well, the final page leaving the characters frozen in a battle scene until the next novel of the series will put them into motion.

The central stage of the Andy Remic’s novel is occupied by Kell, as the title suggests it. Together with Kell I could follow three other characters, but also a few characters from the other side of barricade and also on a few places we shift the perspective to the king and queen of Falanor. However, I have to be totally honest and say that besides Kell and Anukis, who plucked moments of sympathy from me, the other characters fell heavily under my attention and I ended up not carrying too much about any of them. Kell and Anukis are not perfect characters either, but they show feelings and memories that make them more vivid and interesting for me. I really liked however the relationship between Kell and Saark and the resulting dialogues of this relationship. These dialogues offered me delightful ironies and welcomed effervescent moments between blurring motioned scenes.

The other character that drew my attention is Anukis and she is the one that introduces to the story the vachine society. I really liked how Andy Remic imagined and pictured this side of the world, but in the end is this part that left me disappointed. The combination between a religious society, isolated by mysterious mountains and with heavy clockwork involved in its ranks and members appealed greatly too me. But, and there is a but, I felt only teased by the image of the vachine society present in “Kell’s Legend” and I was left with a great number of “whys”. As mentioned in the novel the vachine is a religious society with its structures and rules, but not even once a deity is mentioned or why it is structured that way. How did this society come to exist? Why the connection between the vachine, the albino army and the Harvesters? Why the Black Pike Mountains that surround Silva Valley are so dangerous and mysterious? Add to this the questions raised by Kell’s past and regrets and I was left wondering if not too many whys unanswered would not make me indifferent to the answers that might come in the sequels of the novel.

On one hand I have “War of the Worlds” meets David Gemmell’s “Legend” in a clash of action, violence and bloodshed. On the other hand I have some aspects and ideas that do not reach half of their potential. So, in conclusion although rarely I end up with a reading that leaves me totally neutral, such is the case with Andy Remic’s “Kell’s Legend”. And I can only ask myself if I pick the next novel in the series would my opinions change?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cover art - "The Adamantine Palace" by Stephen Deas (US edition)

Usually, I find the covers for the UK editions of certain novels to be better than those of the US editions, but that doesn’t mean that the US market doesn’t have excellent cover artworks. One such case is with the cover for Stephen Deas“The Adamantine Palace”, which has a simple and effective illustration on the UK edition, a very beautiful illustration on the French edition and, now, an excellent artwork nonetheless on the US edition, due to be released by Roc on 2nd of February. I love this cover because the dragon and its rider look very good and because the scenery is an excellent one. I don’t know exactly who the artist is, although I tried to find out, but she/he is a talented one.

Synopsis of the Roc edition:
The power of the Realms depends on its dragons. With their terrifying natures, they are ridden by the aristocracy and bred for hunting and war. But as dangerous political maneuverings threaten the complacency of the empire, a single dragon has gone missing. And even that one dragon-returned to its full intelligence and fury-could spell disaster for the Realms...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book trailer - "Mr. Shivers" by Robert Jackson Bennett

One of the debut novels due to be published this year and which picked my interest as soon as I read its synopsis is Robert Jackson Bennett’s “Mr. Shivers”, released this month by Orbit Books. But not only because of the novel synopsis I am interested in “Mr. Shivers” but also because of its trailer. It is a very good trailer and I like it quite a lot, especially since it has an eerie atmosphere and because together with the synopsis promises a few interesting things from Robert Jackson Bennett’s “Mr. Shivers”. It only remains for me to read the novel and to discover more about “Mr. Shivers”.

It is the time of the Great Depression. The dustbowl has turned the western skies red and thousands leave their homes seeking a better life. Marcus Connelly seeks not a new life, but a death - a death for the mysterious scarred man who murdered his daughter. And soon he learns that he is not alone. Countless others have lost someone to the scarred man. They band together to track him, but as they get closer, Connelly begins to suspect that the man they are hunting is more than human. As the pursuit becomes increasingly desperate, Connelly must decide just how much he is willing to sacrifice to get his revenge.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

International cover art - "Furies of Calderon" by Jim Butcher (German edition)

With many character focused cover illustrations lately and with quite a few hooded characters, let’s see such a cover outside the English language publishing market. Here is the cover artwork for the German edition of Jim Butcher’s “Furies of Calderon”(Die Elementare von Calderon), the first novel in the Codex Alera series, and published last year by Blanvalet. I have to say that I really like this cover, made by Chris Rawlins if I am not mistaken, and it is one that appeals greatly to me. I like the central figure, because it is not an overly detailed character and it has a certain mystery surrounding it. Or maybe because it reminds me of Robin Hood, and that is a character I love from childhood. The color tones are pleasant and add to the atmosphere imposed by the cover. But above all I really like the work on the title (although it is a bit too big), the coat of arms style is an excellent choice and it will make me pick the book up for further information just for this simple fact.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A new very interesting anthology on the horizon

These days I can’t stop wondering what George R.R. Martin wants to do to my budget. Because as I read on his journal George R.R. Martin makes another attempt on my personal account with a new anthology edited together with Gardner Dozois, “Songs of Love and Death”. I am just kidding, because I am very happy to see that after “Warriors”, the upcoming anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois and due to be released by Tor Books in March, another such promising collection of stories is being made. “Songs of Love and Death” doesn’t have a publication date yet, but we can find information about the anthology and its line-up on George R.R. Martin's Not a Blog. “Songs of Love and Death” is a cross-genre anthology with stories that blend fantasy, science fiction and romance, four of these stories being linked with series of their authors, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Melinda M. Snodgrass’ Imperials. And like “Warriors”, the other anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois I mentioned here, this one has an all-stars line-up as well:

- Jim Butcher - "Love Hurts"
- Jo Beverly - "The Marrying Maid"
- Carrie Vaughn - "Rooftops"
- M.L.N. Hanover - "Hurt Me"
- Cecelia Holland - "Demon Lover"
- Melinda M. Snodgrass - "The Wayfarer's Advice"
- Robin Hobb - "Blue Boots"
- Neil Gaiman - "The Thing About Cassandra"
- Marjorie M. Liu - "After the Blood"
- Jacqueline Carey - "You and You Alone"
- Lisa Tuttle - "His Wolf"
- Linnea Sinclair - "CourtingTrouble"
- Mary Jo Putney - "The Demon Dancer"
- Tanith Lee - "Under/Above the Water"
- Peter S. Beagle - "Kashkia"
- Yasmine Galenorn - "Man in the Mirror"
- Diana Gabaldon - "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Grey Seer" by C.L. Werner

"Grey Seer"
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Publisher: Black Library
The review is based on a bought copy of the novel.

When the noxious artefact known as the Wormstone is discovered, only one being in the insidious skaven Under-Empire is vicious and ruthless enough to dare harness its awful power: Grey Seer Thanquol. But when the artefact is stolen by smugglers, Thanquol must recover it. Not only that, but a mysterious wizard and his band of henchmen are also trying to stop him. Only by finding the Wormstone, avoiding the murderous attentions of his treacherous subordinates and dodging the displeasure of his superiors in Skavenblight will Thanquol realise his plan to bring the kingdoms of both man and ratkin to their knees...

Among my reading pleasures is the exploration of a couple of long running series of novels set in gaming universes and one of these series is Warhammer. However, it has been a while since I journeyed through the universe of Warhammer and when I decided to return to it the first novel that fell into my hands was C.L. Werner’s “Grey Seer”.

Going farther into the Warhammer universe I have to say that the novels that offer me the most entertaining and interesting moments are those that deal with the negative sides and characters. Such is the case with “Grey Seer” because C.L. Werner deals in his novel with one of the Warhammer races least dealt before in this series of novels, the skaven. “Grey Seer” reflects a small image of the vast universe where the novels are set, with its events unfolding in the city of Altdorf, the Imperial capital, and not only there, underneath it too. The fans of Warhammer universe will find a familiar setting, but that doesn’t mean that the readers that didn’t explore it in the detail before would be lost. Although there are not many explanations in terms of races, locations, magic or religion the new readers will have a foothold and manage to move around the novel’s events.

The main character of “Grey Seer” is the skaven Thanquol, but he is not at his first presence in a Warhammer novel. Thanquol appeared for the first time in the long running Warhammer series Felix & Gotrek, but in it is only here where he takes the central stage. With the spotlight set on Thanquol, C.L. Werner’s novel will also catch an image of the skaven race, exploring its society and featuring many ratmen characters. However, the novel shifts between the grey seer Thanquol and a group of human characters, both with the same interest in the artifact named the Wormstone. I have to say that all the human characters didn’t work for me, being either the initial group of thieves or the later human characters that enter the stage. They seemed rather flat, vaguely outlined and without an in depth motivation. And these motivations, honorable or not, failed to make a mark on me. Instead Thanquol, with his megalomaniac nature and his story, was more interesting for me and I delved myself more eagerly in this side of the novel. More so, Thanquol and the skaven surrounding the grey seer offer a few humorous situations that add to the entertainment of the novel.

The plot of the “Grey Seer” is a simple one, Thanquol and his kin are in search of the long lost artifact, the Wormstone, but due to a coincidence a group of human thieves will stumble upon the same artifact. From here will emerge a conflict between the two groups, but also that of the story. This conflict along with Thanquol and the skaven machinations within their own race will offer many tense moments which lead to action and fighting scenes. The magic will play its role within the story, with not only Thanquol using his magic abilities, but a human wizard too. These action scenes help the novel move in a fast pace reaching its highest point in a final major action-packed battle. C.L. Werner builds scenes that can turn out to be quite violent and grotesque images, but I wonder if not some of the scenes involving the skaven are not offering crude images and are not too graphic for everyone liking.

Despite my time away C.L. Werner helped me re-discover the Warhammer universe with an easy, fun and relaxing reading offered through his novel “Grey Seer”.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New header

I am not a big fan of blog aspect changes, maybe because of my conservative side or maybe I like to concentrate on the content and try to do my best there. However, one thing that I desired for my blog in aspect terms was a header. Well, my dream came true due to the lovely and talented artist Kirsi Salonen, with whom I had the pleasure to make an interview for my blog and who allowed me to use one of her wonderful paintings. I absolutely love world-building in my fantasy readings and I am happy to see a fantastic city on the header of my blog. The city illustrated in this painting is called Cetanrui Banka (also the name of the painting) and is part of one of the latest Kirsi’s projects, her own fantasy novel illustrated with her art works. I also had the pleasure to have Kirsi as a guest with a post about her fantastic world, Ordera, here on my blog. But since then Kirsi Salonen has worked on a website dedicated to her fiction work and fantastic world, The World of Ordera, and you can find more details there. I am truly looking forward to read her fantasy work, although I have to wait a bit until then. Luckily I will have her art works to keep me company.

Thank you very much, Kirsi!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cover art - "The Emerald Storm" by Michael J. Sullivan

Last year I enjoyed a lot the first three novels in the Michael J. Sullivan’s series “The Riyria Revelations” and therefore among the titles I am looking forward to see published this year are his next two novels in the series, “The Emerald Storm” and “Wintertide”. “The Emerald Storm” is due to be released in April and we already can see the cover artwork for the novel. Speaking of the cover art this is one of the things I noticed at “The Riyria Revelations” series, the artwork for the books is made by the author himself. Michael J. Sullivan does a very good job with his covers, keeping a similar line in the illustrations, with a different color scheme, but after all I understand that this is his intention for the entire series. The cover of “The Emerald Storm” promises new adventures and from the look of it these adventures will take us in a sea voyage. The same promise is found in the novel synopsis:

Ex-mercenary Hadrian Blackwater sets a course on a high seas adventure to find the true heir of Novron but finds himself traveling to a past he hoped to leave behind forever. Royce Melborn knows all too well the folly of challenging the cunning and ruthless Merrick Marius who stands in Hadrian's way and joins his ex-partner for one last mission.
Meanwhile Princess Arista sets off on her own quest to find the heir which leads her into the very heart of the newly formed Novronian Empire which is battling external assaults while trying to hold control over their own half-mad puppet heir.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In the news - Tim Lebbon

In the last couple of years Tim Lebbon is one of the authors that I found with pleasure among my readings and if he continues in this direction he will become one of my favorite writers. The signs seem to point that way, especially with the latest news regarding Tim Lebbon.

Orbit Books UK announces on its website that the publishing house has acquired two new novels of Tim Lebbon. These are new dark fantasy stand-alone novels that are scheduled to be released in the UK and Commonwealth in Summer 2011 and Spring 2012. The first novel is entitled “Echo City Falls” and has a blurb that promises a few very interesting things:

It hides below Echo City, a threat that has been growing over generations deep beneath the streets. The corrupt wheels of commerce, the murky cycles of political rise and fall and the rivalries of religious and military sects have intersected efficiently over the ages, filling specialised niches in a rigidly organised society. But this is about to change. As darkness stirs in the depths, a stranger arrives from across the desert that isolates Echo City from the rest of the world. Watchers have long whispered of the destruction of their city and search for something that will keep them from it. Madmen and spirits of the dead have foretold disaster and looked for a saviour. But no one expected either in this lifetime.
Labyrinthine, steeped in violent history and hiding horrors far below, the city starts to unravel as the plot gathers momentum to reach a dramatic and compulsive conclusion.

But this doesn’t stop here, Tim Lebbon announces on his site that he also sold other two novels to the new imprint of Constable & Robinson, Corsair. The two titles are horror novels with the first one, “Coldbrook”, due to be published in the UK in Spring 2011. The novel is presented by Tim Lebbon in a few words on his site:

COLDBROOK is my biggest, longest, most ambitious novel to date. It’s an apocalyptic zombie novel with science fictional elements, a tale of the zombie plague and its aftermath in this world and beyond.

I am looking forward to see the new works of Tim Lebbon, although 2010 just started and I am already making lists for 2011 :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Warbreaker" by Brandon Sanderson

Format: Hardcover, 592 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Tor Books

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.
Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.
By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.

I’ve discovered Brandon Sanderson through his debut novel, “Elantris”, but since then he built quite a name for himself. Brandon Sanderson worked on two series, “Mistborn” and “Alcatraz” (a young adult series) and is working at the final novels in the Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series, but also published another stand-alone fantasy novel, “Warbreaker”.

“Warbreaker” is told from the point of view of a few different characters found in a city and a nation in the brink of war. The story takes place in a single location, T’Telir, the capital of Hallandren, but through its characters it captures the interests and perspectives of the both nations found on the threshold of war since Siri and Vivenna are two princesses of Idris and who come into the city for their own reasons. The idea behind the war is quite simple, but there are wars in our real world fought for equal or lesser motivations. Still, later on Brandon Sanderson weaves more aspects that will veil the story in a mystery, which will be solved only in the final part of the novel. The novel doesn’t offer much in terms of action, but that doesn’t drag it down or makes it less good. It just offers to “Warbreaker” the time and space to develop into a beautiful story.

What made “Warbreaker” to work in the fullest for me, besides the mystery surrounding the story, is the way Brandon Sanderson uses his talent to build interesting characters, a very strong magic system and a wonderful and captivating with catchy political and theological aspects. The characters work in the favor of the story, offering through their personal interests the possibility to see the story from almost all of its angles. I liked that all of the characters have their uniqueness on their side, their behavior backing up their personality. Some of the characters get more time in the spotlight than the others, but that doesn’t falter the story. For instance, Vasher is not present on many of the pages of “Warbreaker”, but still he plays an important role in the story and he plays it right within the space given to his character. From all the characters I must say that I liked Lightsong the most, mainly because his humor and an apparently shallow behavior, but who offers an exploration within the actions and mind of a god. Besides the humor of Lightsong Brandon Sanderson uses hilarious dialogues and situations through a minor character, Denth, and a talking sword, Nightblood, and I found full delight in them.

The strongest element of the novel is by far the magic system. Brandon Sanderson creates a magic system that is unique, strong and logic. With each page turned the use of magic becomes clearer until I was perfectly familiar with almost every little detail of the magic system of “Warbreaker”. Through the use of Iridescent Tones and BioChromatic breath the magic wielders can turn colors and things in their favor and can feel life and other people in a more accurate way. I can say that for me the magic system not only that rises a bit above the other aspects of the novel, but also is one of the best I’ve met in my reading experience.

With an interesting story, very pleasant characters and a strong magic system an author can turn a novel in a success, but Brandon Sanderson makes one more firm step in that direction with the world-building of “Warbreaker”. The story is set in only one location, the city of T’Telir, the capital of Hallandren, but this thing doesn’t minimize the complexity of the world. The author works on details that will provide a strong background to the city, but also offers an insight into the political and theological aspects of T’Telir and kingdom that will inflict life in his world. There are also many elements behind the political and theological systems that lead me to a reflection upon the same systems of our real world. A plus is found within the theological aspects, because it is here where Brandon Sanderson offers an insight image and he raises a few questions as well. It is true that there is little in the case of history and past conflicts of the world and only the minimum necessary to support the present war motives, but there is nothing in this case that will make the novel falter in any way.

Brandon Sanderson crafts a wonderful novel using ingredients such as pleasant characters, beautiful world-building and captivating magic, political and theological system in the proper amount. The conclusion of the mysteries of “Warbreaker” will be delivered within its pages through catchy twists and turns making it one of stand-alone fantasy novels not to be missed.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cover art, international edition - "Mistborn" trilogy by Brandon Sanderson (German edition)

Among this year’s resolutions I said that I would like to make more interviews with authors and artists, but also that I have a few ideas for some new posts. One of these ideas is about the cover artworks outside the UK and US market. I know that this is not exactly new and that I showed cased cover illustrations from European publishers last year when I got the chance, but I was thinking to give a bit more attention to a cover art post in an international edition. I am a great admirer of excellent cover artwork and that is what I want to show, beautiful illustrations of book covers, without exaggerating of course or otherwise I would become boring :). To start these type of posts I went for the German editions of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy novels. The German editions are published by Heyne with the second novel “The Well of Ascension” (Krieger des Feuers) released this month and “The Hero of Ages” (Herrscher des Lichts) due to be released in May. I really like that these covers follow the same design and that the central illustrations is quite simple, but effective. They are not giving away much from the illustrations details but they would certainly make me to pick the books up if I see them on a bookstore shelf.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cover art - "The Bastard Son" by Rowena Corey Daniells

Solaris Books on its website and blog kicks off the new year in style with the preview of the cover art for one of the titles the publishing house has in its schedule for 2010. The novel is the first one in a new fantasy series, “King Rolen’s Kin”, is entitled “The Bastard Son” and is written by Rowena Corey Daniells. I’ll admit that the author’s name doesn’t say anything to me, but the artwork worked its magic and I went immediately in search of information. I discovered on the Rowena Corey Daniells’ website more information about the author and her series. “King Rolen’s Kin” series will have three books, each one following the lives of three of King Rolen’s children. On the author’s website I found a presentation of the novel, but also of the next two novels in the series, “The Uncrowned King” and “The Usurper”. I quote the first one here and the other two, as well as the first, you can find Rowena Coreu Daniells presentation of the series.

Cloaked in silent winter snow the Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours spread of new Affinity Seeps, places where untamed power wells up. By royal decree, all those afflicted with Affinity must serve the Abbey or face death. Meanwhile, King Rolen plans his jubilee, unaware that danger threatens those he loves.
Sent to the Abbey because of his innate Affinity, the King’s youngest son, Fyn, trains to become a warrior monk. Unfortunately, he’s a gentle dreamer and the other acolytes bully him. The only way he can escape them is to serve the Abbey Mystic, but his Affinity is weak.
Fiercely loyal, thirteen year-old Piro is horrified to discover she is also cursed with unwanted Affinity. It broke their mother’s heart to send Fyn away, so she hides her affliction. When Fyn confesses his troubles, Piro risks exposure to help him.
Even though Byren Kingson is only seven minutes younger than his twin, Lence, he’s never hungered for the Rolencian throne. When a Seer predicts that he will kill Lence, he laughs. But Lence Kingsheir sees Byren’s growing popularity and resents it. Enduring loyalty could be Byren’s greatest failing.

As for the cover art, I said before that I am not a big fan of the characters featured on the cover. But with some conditions met I am willing to make exceptions from that rule and this is one of those cases. I like this cover because the character featured on the cover it is not a detailed one. I mean that his face it is not overly detailed, leaving much on the readers’ imagination. I like his clothes and weapons and together with the scene behind the character they make me curious about the story and the setting of the novel. The artist of the cover is Clint Langley, an artist who caught my eye with the covers he made for Malus Darkblade novels.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In the mailbox

Fortunately, during the holidays my mailbox didn’t go completely dry, so I still received a few books in my mail. Also, the presence of that silver box in the photo is no mistake, it contains a book. I was surprised to see it in the mailbox, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless :)

- "Dragonheart" by Todd McCaffrey (through the courtesy of Corgi Books);

When Fiona, the only surviving member of Lord Holder Bemin's family, Impresses a queen dragon, she doesn't begin to realize the perils and privileges that come with her new role.As she grows into a young woman and her dragon reaches her full growth, Fiona faces not only the possibility of losing her dragon to the sickness that has claimed so many others but also the challenges of becoming a Weyrwoman in her own right. What, she must ask herself, is she willing to give up in order to become a queen rider?And, although the marvellous queen dragon has chosen her, is she really suited to the life of a queen rider?
As the injured dragons at Fort Weyr begin to outnumber those fit to fly against Thread, Weyrleader K'lior comes up with a desperate plan - to send the least injured and the older weyrlings back in time, so that they can grow strong enough to fight Thread in the past and then returnto help the Weyr.But will only twelve older weyrlings and thirty lightly injured riders be enough to save Fort Weyr?Forced to stay behind because her dragon is still too young, Fiona must confront a life-and-death choice.

- "Kell's Legend" by Andy Remic (through the courtesy of the David Gemmell Awards administrators);

The land of Falanor is invaded by an albino army, the Army of Iron. A small group set off to warn the king: Kell, ancient hero; his granddaughter, Nienna and her friend, Katrina; and the ex-Sword Champion of King Leanoric, Saark, disgraced after his affair with the Queen.
Fighting their way south, betrayal follows battle follows deviation, and they are attacked from all quarters by deadly albino soldiers, monstrous harvesters who drain blood from their victims to feed their masters, and the twisted offspring of deviant vachine, the cankers. As Falanor comes under heavy attack and crushing invasion, only then does Nienna learn the truth about grandfather Kell – that he is anything but a noble hero, anything but a Legend.

- "Wormwood, Nevada" by David Oppegaard (through the courtesy of St. Martin's Press);

Tyler and Anna Mayfield have just relocated from Nebraska to the sun scorched desert town of Wormwood, Nevada. They find themselves in a strange new landscape populated with old school cowboys, alien cultists, meth dealers, and doomsday prophets. Loneliness and desperation pervade Wormwood, and when a meteorite lands in the center of town, its fragile existence begins to unravel as many believe the end of the world is near, while others simply seek a reason to believe in anything at all.

- "Secrets of the Sand" by Leona Wisoker (through the courtesy of Mercury Retrograde Press);

When Cafad Scratha was a child, someone murdered his entire family. People have questioned his sanity ever since.
As the last Scratha, he's dedicated his life to catching the murderers. Now a desert lord, one of the mysterious elite of the southlands, he stands above every mundane political imperative and rule of courtesy--or so it seems until the king of the northlands tries to bring Scratha to heel. Scratha's bizarre reaction throws the independent southlands into chaos: he hands temporary control of his family lands over to the king, takes on an assumed name, and sneaks out of the city.
The king sends Alyea, a young noblewoman, to hold the ceded prize: but while she understands kingdom politics, she's quickly out of her depth in the byzantine world of the southlands. What she thought was a quick ticket to power turns out to be a dangerous assignment that may well lead her to a literal dead end.
Just as trapped is Idisio, the orphaned street-thief sent by a chance encounter into Scratha's service. As his new and throughly unstable master goes undercover, Idisio finds himself drawn into the mysterious world of the desert lords and their secrets. Idisio's growing comprehension of the world he's stepped into doesn't just change his beliefs; it leads him to an unsuspected truth about himself that will change his life forever.

- "E-Force: State of Emergency" by Sam Fisher (through the courtesy of Pan Macmillan).

E-FORCE: Six gifted, super-fit, highly trained individuals
MISSION: Specialist rescue in times of global emergency
The Emergency Force team - including former marine Mark Harrison, shuttle pilot Michaela Buchanan and cyber genius Tom Erickson - employs some of the most highly advanced equipment on the planet, from Mach-10 jets to incredible cybersuits that make them almost super-human.
They'll need all gadgetry they can get for their first mission - to save the life of US Senator Kyle Foreman, an ecological, Obama-like politician taking the world by storm.
As Foreman gave a speech in LA, two bombs ripped through the huge conference centre where he and thousands of his supporters had gathered. Many have died. Miraculously Foreman has survived - except, as fires rage and floors collapse, he's trapped inside.
As E-Force plan, and battle their perilous route into the devastated building to rescue him, so too does the Dragon, a psychotic assassin, who will let nothing - but nothing - get in his way to complete his deadly mission.
The high-octane, action-packed race is full on...

Thank you all very much!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My blog is nominated for the Readers' Poll

Last year among the things that took me by surprise and brought me great joy was the nomination of my blog for the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll. I am happy to see that this year Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews is nominated once again in the Review sites category. There are also many interesting categories that honor print & electronic publications and the short stories published in 2009. You can cast your vote for your favorites until January, 14th. The final standings of the Readers’ Poll will be announced in February.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Reading & blogging goals

After a few lazy days the time has come to start the new year. I would certainly like to win the lottery this year to assure myself of more reading time, but since this is not a very valid goal especially because I don’t buy many lottery tickets I will settle for other goals ;). For the start I’ll try to state a few reading and blogging goals for 2010.

It will be a busy year, at least it looks like this for now, with also the football (soccer) World Cup played this summer so I am not certain how much reading time I’ll have. But this year I will not set a specific goal in the number of books read, instead I’ll be happy to reach once again my average. But as specific goal I will certainly do my best to start Steven Erikson’s Malazan series from this January. Also this year I’ll try to read some of the older titles I didn’t read until now and to read a few books from two of my favorite settings, Forgotten Realms and Warhammer.

For the blogging goals, I would certainly bring back the fantasy art posts, or I hope to do so. I know that the end of 2009 lacked these posts, but I will do my best to bring them back in any rhythm possible. I also have in plan interviews with two of my favorite authors and I hope that these will turn out successfully, but it is no guarantee. Still, I will have new interviews with authors throughout the year. For some time I have a few ideas lingering in the back of my mind for a few new posts on my blog but for the moment they are only in the planning stage. Hopefully at least one will become reality and I can start posting it.

Here is a list of 10 of the most anticipated books for me published this year, in alphabetical order:

Peter V. Brett – “The Desert Spear”

Joe Hill – “Horns”

Guy Gavriel Kay – “Under Heaven”

Jasper Kent – “Thirteen Years Later”

George R.R. Martin – “A Dance with Dragons”

David Moody – “Dog Blood”

Mark Charan Newton – “City of Ruin”

K.J. Parker – “The Folding Knife”

Brandon Sanderson – “The Way of Kings”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón – “The Prince of Mist”

May all of you have a marvelous 2010!