Tag Archives: Fantasy

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir : Review

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Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a good read. It’s engaging enough to be engrossing, and has enough character development and action to keep readers hooked. This review isn’t going to be pretty, but one thing for sure is that Sabaa Tahir can definitely write. I personally may have found some things lacking, but her prose was unfaltering. With some refinement that we’ll hopefully see in future novels, I think she could even be excellent.

That being said, I was disappointing in An Ember in the Ashes. I had high hopes for this title, and all the other reviews that I had read seemed overwhelmingly positive. I agree, in large part, with them. However, for me, An Ember in the Ashes wasn’t enough. For those of you whom have been reading fantasy (or really, any genre fiction) for any length of time, the love triangles, and almost all plot twists/major developments will be painfully predictable. I can see this as being a good read for someone who needs something “light” after reading a heavy series, or for readers just getting into the genre.

It’s odd to call this book light, when it’s set in a world with merciless killings, brutality, and the fact rape is used as a plot device to move the story along (I’m not opening that can of worms in this review though.) It still managed to feel like a lighter read though, due to the fact that we’re only told about the brutality of the world, never really shown besides for at the very beginning of the book. This — the telling and not showing, did lead to a disappointing lack in world building. I’m hoping it’s something that gets expanded upon in the sequel, and that we do get to see more of the world and get some actual descriptions; as it stands, it kind of felt flat, as though the backdrop of a play was changed and barely alluded to.

I don’t mean for this to sound all bad. I got through this book in a couple of sittings, and I will probably read the sequel when it comes out. I didn’t love this book, I didn’t think it was a sensational masterpiece, or even really innovative, but I did enjoy it. Based on other reviews, and the fact that Paramount optioned it in a 7-figure deal does clearly show that it’s a loved book, just not by me.


If you’re interested, we’ve included a brief sample of the audiobook:

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Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson : Review

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God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai’s world.

Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.

One of the things I have come to love about Brandon Sanderson is that he proves with every new release that he is not done growing as a writer and that he isn’t afraid to let his stories get a little weird.  And there is no denying how weird I found Perfect State to be, it is an odd combination of science fiction and fantasy. Throughout all the years that I have been a reader I have only ever found one author who can combine elements of science fiction and fantasy and not have it turn out horrible–Anne Mccaffrey. I probably shouldn’t be as surprised as I am that Brandon Sanderson nailed that combination so well with Perfect State.

In the last 300 years God-Emperor Kairominas has managed to conquer and unify all of his known world, and has managed to master all aspects of his Lancing ability except weather control, and one day he knows he will learn that as well. There is only one thing left in the world he has yet to do, and it has been determined it is time for Kai to find an appropriate mate and procreate. When you have the power of a god you would think that there would be nothing left that could scare you, but Kai is terrified.

Despite the fact that this is a non Cosmere novella– I haven’t been a big fan of the non Cosmere stories Brandon has released so far, Perfect State has turned out to be one of my favorites. Despite being another of his shorter novella’s, I found the world building of Perfect State to be surprisingly solid and detailed without feeling rushed or crammed. Plus, Brandon Sanderson almost wrote a sex scene…I almost dropped my book while I was reading it thinking he was going to take the scene to its conclusion, it’s a very risque book by Brandon’s normal standards!

I really hope Brandon continues the story of this novella in the same way that he has continued the story of Legion and that we really get to see exactly where Kairomina’s story ends up going.


Half the World by Joe Abercrombie : Review

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Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.
Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh
lessons of blood and deceit.
Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.
And weapons are made for one purpose.
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Half the World is the second book in Joe Abercrombies new Shattered Sea fantasy series. Set three years after the events of the first book in the series, Half the World follows two new characters as they struggle to survive the harsh lifestyle and political turmoil of the kingdom of Gettland.

Thorn Bathu wants nothing more than to be the greatest warrior Gettland has ever seen while avenging the death of her father. But being a warrior is not an easy thing to do on along the Shattered Sea when you are a girl. Brand is as strong as two men and is almost as good as Thorn with a sword, but he does not believe steel is always the answer, and has what the warrior see as the unmanly habit of seeking peace.

A tragic accident during Thorn’s final training session before she stands before her king and takes the warriors oath finds Thorn labeled a murderer and jailed to await execution by those who trained her. When Brand goes to Father Yarvi to tell him the true version of the events that lead to Thorns imprisonment he to finds himself unjustly accused by his trainers an denied his place as a warrior. Thorn and Brand soon find themselves thrown together as they follow Father Yarvi across half the world in search of redemption for themselves, and possible salvation for the Gettland and its people.

I enjoyed this story much more than I did the first book in the series, and I think the reason for that is the characters. In Half a King I found Yarvi and his group of misfits to be a rather unlikable lot, and struggled to really finish the story. That is not the case for Half the World, I loved the characters of Thorn and Brand and found their slowly budding friendship to be the backbone of the entire story.

The only thing I wish we had seen more of was the magic that exists in the world. In Half a King we get a glimpse of the elven ruins, but learn very little of where they came from or what their purpose was. While Half the World does a good job of keeping up this tradition, it does at least introduce us to the artifacts and the brutal blood magic that can be learned from there. I honestly found myself a bit queasy after the first scene in which the magic was introduced.

This is definitely a book you want to read if your a fan of Joe Abercrombie, or of coming of age stories, or if your just a fan of a really good fantasy story. I made the mistake again of starting my read when I had to work early the next morning, and found myself going to work with no sleep at all. It was well worth it.

This book was provided to me free for an honest review.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie is set to be released on Feb 17 2015 by Del Rey.

 


Must Read Urban Fantasy

I was sitting at my laptop the other day browsing through books to read, deciding what I wanted to reread when I realized that more and more these days I find myself leaning more towards urban fantasy over any other genre. I don’t know what it is about the genre that makes me love it so much, it can be difficult to find a decent book or series to read, and most seem to be erotica posing as fantasy. That got me wondering just what urban fantasy series there are out there that are fun to read, without being overly full of gratuitous sex and violence.

These are the top three or four authors and series I could think of who do an amazing job with the genre, and as I’m always looking for something else to read I would appreciate any other suggestions people may have for me.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher:

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Harry Dresden — Wizard Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.”

His name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden–conjure by it at your own risk. Harry is not just the only publicly practicing wizard in Chicago (look him up, he’s in the yellow pages), he’s also a licensed private eye, and an occasional consultant with the CPD. When the monsters decide it’s time to come out and play, it’s Harry Dresden who stands between them and the people of the city.

While I have heard people claim its rough getting through the first few books in the series, I can honestly say I never had any such problem. After I stumbled across these books while looking for something else at my local used book store, I burned through all 8 books that were available at the time in a matter of weeks, and was impatiently waiting for the next book in the series soon after. To me the Dresden Files has everything that’s needed for a great urban fantasy series.

First there are the characters. Harry Dresden is the wise-ass wizard who doesn’t know when to shut up or stand down. Time and time again he gets kicked in the teeth, but gets right back up again to face down the big bad monster threatening his beloved Chicago. Murphy is the mandatory tough as nails cop who has stumbled across the secret world that Harry lives in and is smart enough to know she can’t face it all on her own.

There are entire courts of vampires secretly trying to rule or destroy the world, a hidden world of demons and fae who live by morals and laws most mortals would struggle to understand, and a plot that links each book so subtly that you can only see the edges of it in the beginning of the series.

Unfortunately for me the Dresden Files has made it difficult for me to enjoy and other urban fantasy series as much as I probably would have if I had read it first.

The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs:

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“I was going to fight vampires, and my name wasn’t Buffy–I was so screwed.”

I struggled for years after finding the Dresden Files to find another book or series in the sub genre that didn’t pale in comparison, or feel like a cheap knock off to me. For me Moon Called by Patricia Briggs was that book and series. While most of the preternatural world can trace its origins back to Europe, shifters are rooted firmly in Native American myths and legends. As such they don’t always follow the same ancient rules and laws that govern the rest of the preternatural world.

Mercy Thompson is a Shifter who can take the form of a coyote at will. This series follows Mercy as she struggles to survive in a world of territorial and powerful werewolves, vampires and fae. All while attempting to keep her maintain her garage and keep her job as a mechanic.

For me the best part of this series is the world and culture that Briggs has built up around the werewolves. It’s so well thought out that it would be easy for me to believe that such a world is hiding in the shadows of society, waiting for the perfect time to come out to the public. Anyone who is a fan of vampire or werewolf fiction would absolutely love these books. Briggs even manages to balance the romance with the rest of the story, which I’ve noticed that not many urban fantasy authors can do.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews:

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“What kind of woman greets the Beast Lord with ‘here, kitty, kitty’?”

With the Kate Daniels series Ilona takes all the greatest trope of urban fantasy–the secret hidden world of magic, vampires, and shape shifters and completely throws it out of the window. Instead we get an alternate version of Atlanta where magic and technology come in waves, while one is active and working the other is not. During a magic wave you may see a banshee screaming from a telephone pole out in front of your house or a magical war being fought in downtown Atlanta, but you won’t have use of telephones, television or cars. When the technology is up you may not have access to your magic, but you can you’ll have electricity and and the telephones will work again.

In this bizarre alternate Atlanta most of the world is controlled or protected by various guilds and organizations. Kate Daniels works for the Mercenaries Guild, when the magic suddenly comes up and you have a giant fire-breathing lizard loose in your neighborhood, Kate Daniels is going to be the one who responds (For a reasonable fee!).

This is another series where for me the deciding factor was the amount of thought and detail put into the various preternatural groups that exist in the world. This time its not just werewolves who hide among us, but werebears, wererats, and any other type of lycanthrope you can think of. Vampires are mindless creatures being controlled by the People, a group of power hungry necromancers who mentally control the dead.

The only thing I didn’t really realize until I was through the majority of the first book is that this is mostly paranormal romance. By the time I realized that fact though it was too late to go back, I was already hooked, and I am more than glad for it. To me the Kate Daniels series is that anyone of the genre must read!

Honorable Mention: Mercedes Lackey

I was going to put Mercedes Lackey’s urban fantasy books on this list, but I quickly remembered she has four different series in the genre. The great thing about her four different series to me is that they all exist in a shared universe that spans hundreds if not thousands of years, and there are cameos from the same characters across all the various books set in her world.

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Audio Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Early in November, at the World Fantasy Convention, I interviewed a few authors. Below is my interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, my final one from that weekend. Mary spoke of everything from modeling naked, to impersonating Patrick Rothfuss, to zombie-Napoleon on a steam-powered wheelchair. With cannons. She also spoke of her writing, and her upcoming novel.

Take a listen, and I hope you enjoy!


Review: Dragons at Crumbling Castle (Special Edition), by Terry Pratchett

A deluxe, slipcase edition of Dragons at Crumbling Castle, complete with critical commentary, bonus stories and a beautiful limited-edition print.

Focus on a planet revolving in space… Focus in on a small country in the northern hemisphere — Great Britain.
Closer, closer… and on the western edge of London you can see the county of Buckinghamshire. Small villages and winding country roads. And if you could go back in time to the mid nineteen-sixties, you might spot a young lad on a motorbike coming down one such lane, notebook and pen in his jacket pocket.
This is me. A junior reporter for the Bucks Free Press, where I began writing stories for young readers that were published every week in the newspaper. The stories in this collection are a selection of those. There are wizards and mayors, carpet people and a monster in a lake, along with plenty of pointy hats. And some of these stories even spawned my later novels.

14 hilarious short stories by Terry Pratchett, perfect for anyone aged 8-108. Terry’s youngest writing yet — this collection will introduce a whole new generation of fans to the witty and wonderful world of Pratchett.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of short stories by Sir Terry Pratchett, intended for young children but great for any fans of his works. With sixteen stories, commentaries on each one by Suzanne Bridson, a rather lovely box, and an exclusive piece of art by the illustrator, the collector’s edition is a lovely addition to any bookcase.

The stories included were written when Pratchett was seventeen, and were written for the local paper in a section for children. They’ve been edited slightly since Pratchett was a kid, but are for the most part left intact, giving an interesting view of how he wrote in his early days. Certain elements – a general level of silliness, unusual characters, turtles – show up later in his Discworld series, and one of the stories became the basis for his first published novel, The Carpet People. Though different from what fans of Pratchett’s later works are expecting, the stories are quite well-written and very enjoyable. The stories are interspersed with illustrations by Mark Beech, adding colour and flavour to the already-rich text. The commentaries don’t add much to the stories, and are mostly just thoughts on what happens in the stories; to be perfectly honest, I would have much preferred if they were by Pratchett himself, to get his view on his early work (as much as he doesn’t like it). The occasional interesting tidbit can be found in them, however, and overall they’re not bad reading.

Though technically meant for kids, no one is too old for Dragons at Crumbling Castle. The whimsical stories bring you back to your childhood, and the amount of world-building and character Pratchett fits into such short stories is truly a testament to his skill as a writer. Whether a long-time fan of Terry Pratchett or just discovering his work, Dragons at Crumbling Castle will find a place on every bookshelf.

Overall writing: 5/5


Interview with Kenny Soward

Back at World Fantasy in November, I sat down with Kenny (Kennah) Soward, author of the GnomeSaga. We spoke of his upcoming projects, self-publishing, horse-sized ducks, zombies, and social media.

I highly encourage you to listen to the audio — lots of silliness and random discussions took place, but didn’t make it to the transcript below… and do ignore the fact that my voice completely changes near the very end of the audio.

Enjoy!

 

[K = Kenny, and R = Rebecca (me)]

R: Alright, so, I am here with Kenny Soward, author of the GnomeSaga. Can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

K: Yeah, I work in IT. That’s something a lot of people don’t know. I work with Linux OS support, so I’m familiar with mechanics and different things that enabled me to write those steampunky, (or “gnomepunky” as Joe likes to call them), items in Rough Magick/the GnomeSaga series.

R: Very cool.

For the readers unfamiliar with your novels, the Gnomesaga, could you tell us a tiny bit about them?

K: What I tell people that come up to me in bars is that it’s like Harry Potter on crack. It’s magic – your typical magic and epic fantasy, drawn from the eastern-European, you know the GRRM, Lord of the Rings, type stuff. But, with the gnomes as a character that’s never been covered by anybody, I don’t think. I’ve never seen any gnome books.

R: And is that why you chose gnomes?

K: Well, I started playing gnomes in D&D. Gnomes, and dwarves, and hobbits, because I felt sorry for them. No body else would play them, and I thought my personality was always very like… rock, solid. I was always a hard worker in school. I was never flashy, so I never wanted to play the big strong ogres. I was like: I want to play the dwarves. Those guys are solid, man, they’ve got their axes, and armour and stuff. And then I sort of evolved to EverQuest. I was fairly addicted to EverQuest for a while. I lost like 10 years of my life to that game.

One day, I got tired of my dwarf that I had. I was just tired of tanking constantly. So, I started this little gnome called Nikselpik. The smart-ass in me came out, and every time I ran into a zone, I would just shout crap to my guild members and I would get everybody laughing. They knew I wrote stories, so they said, “When are we going to read some Nikselpik stories?”, which made me think “Hm.. That might be interesting.”

R: So, I guess that’s the origin story of the GnomeSaga.

K: Yeah, kind of. I actually wrote the first draft of that in 2001 or 2002. It was a completely different book. So yeah, definitely origins.

R: And it’s being rereleased by Rangarok?

K: Yes, I recently selfpublished it in 2013; Ragnarok wasn’t around at the time. It was just Joe Martin helping me edit the book. We were just doing it for fun and to see what we could do. We were encouraged by David Dalglish, who’d put out numerous titles, and then get signed with Orbit.

So yeah, that’s sort of how it started, and as Ragnarok developed, we just sort of said: “You need titles, and I need a publisher, so let’s just see how it goes.” So we put it together for that.

R: And the last book in that is actually coming out soon, Cogweaver. Do you have any plans after that? [It’s actually Tinkermage that’s coming out soon (i.e. today). Cogweaver will be out February 2015.]

K: Actually, it was an interesting conversation. I had wanted to get into some other things, some China Meiville type stuff, some sort of weird fantasy. I love China Meiville’s stuff. Another favourite of mine is Caitlín Kiernan. I love going down that weird fantasy route. I had a talk with Joe, and he said: “Why do you need to do anything different? You can fit in a lot of idea with GnomeSaga, or with your world of Sullenor. So why don’t you just be the gnome guy? Run with that.” I thought about it, and there are so many stories I want to write… and yeah, I’m going to do that.

The next series is going to be called The Order of Scorpion, and it’s going to be a GnomeSaga three-book series. I’m going to start working on that in January.

R: Cool! Will Nikselpik and Nikselbella be making appearances in that?

K: Definitely Nikselpik, but I can’t really talking about Nikselbella, because that would be giving spoilers as to what happens to her. It’s definitely more the adventures of Nikselpik and his band of wizards and odds-and-ends.

R: Fun. Also, you worked on the Dead West series with Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin.

K: Yes.

R: Which would be a better introduction to your writing? You know, if gnomes seem a bit far-out to some people, would that be a good leeway into your writing at all?

K: If you like violence, yes. They’re extremely violent. There’s not a lot of the taboo subjects like.. The women characters are strong characters, in fact, half of the people who read my books are females. Even the Dead West series. Specifically because of Nina and the other female characters.

Nina can shoot a colt navy quite well.

R: Nothing wrong with a badass female character who can shoot.

K: Absolutely. So, an introduction? Maybe, if you can handle violence.

R: Alright, and if they can handle violence, I think they might be able to handle gnomes.

K: It’s hard to tell. I’m feeling out the horror/fantasy fans to see what they like. You really get surprised sometimes. You think people will like something, then you start hearing: “Yeah… I don’t like that in my books.” You know, certain levels of sex or romance.

R: Yeah, I was at a panel last night on “How graphic is your novel?” Some people want the gore, other people they don’t want it, but they like some horror.

K: I think mixing them is what gets you into a little bit of trouble. I think if people know the book they’re getting into is a gorey book, they’re excited about it, because it’s what they want at the time. But in your epic fantasy, people don’t always want very hardcore sex scenes, or necessarily different types of violence, and certainly not a misogynist feel to the book. You have to be careful.

For my books, I just love the straight-up epic fantasy. There’s some romance, but I don’t have a lot of sex scenes or anything like that. I don’t think people want that. I think they just want to read a nice, cool adventure, with some cool battles, and some cool magic, and cool characters.

R: Yep, epic battles, epic worlds and that kind of thing.

K: Yeah, absolutely.

R: What’s your writing process like? Are you more of a discovery writing, an outliner, or..?

K: I used to be a discovery writer until I overwrote Tinkermage by 30k words. I rewrote it, and I rewrote sections of it, and I just thought “I can’t do this again. This is crazy.” So, since the summer, I started to outline and I looked around at the way people do their outlines. Just a basic three-act outline with three blocks per act. I’ve been doing that, and I actually like it a lot.

People think it holds you back from the creativity, but I don’t think so. It’s like a metronome. It keeps you on pace, but you can always play around with the time-signature, so to speak. The middle of my last book that I did for Cogweaver, the middle was only supposed to be three chapters according to my outline, but it ended up being six chapters. I stuck to the idea that it should be a build-up though.

You don’t have to follow it all the way, but definitely I’m outlining for now. I might come back in a year and tell you that I’m full of crap.

R: Yeah, “Screw outlining!” I’ve recently started outlining as well, and I’m doing a 5-act structure type thing. I’ve totally veered way off track with that.

K: Well, at least you tried. Maybe somehow you can bring it back and land on your feet, so to speak.

R: That’s the plan, assuming I finish it.

So, you mentioned that you’re a huge fan of China Meiville, but do you have any other favourite authors?

K: There are so many authors to choose from. For example, right now I’m re-reading Swan Song by Robert McCammon, The book is from the 80’s, I think, or 90’s even. His stuff is amazing. Sometimes if I’m interested, I’ll look into a Stephen King book, if it looks good. He has his fingers on the pulse of America, he gets those characters distinctions so well. I love reading his stuff, and it’s fun.

Caitlín Kiernan is probably my favourite contemporary author, and China Mieville, of course. Neil Gaiman, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in one sitting. I just blew through it. So, of course Neil. And Neil and Caitlin are close. I know Neil supports Caitlín a lot, so I’m kind of into all the weird fantasy stuff. I like the idea of not necessarily having roles placed on you, and on the world, like Rail Sea by China Mieville. It blows my mind.

A lot of my peers – Jeff Salyards is really good, Teresa Frohock is awesome, I kind of put Teresa and Jeff into the same level. They’re both highly skilled and imaginative. Just really solid fantasy. I can’t wait to read Moses Siregard’s next book… If he ever finishes it. Moses.

R: Yes. Finish that.

K: So, I guess, being a writer now, I do tend to read more of my peers’ stuff, so that’s kind of a thing.

R: And do you have any advice for anybody who’s looking to go into self-publishing?

K: That’s a really good question. I still want to self-publish. Even though we put the GnomeSaga series through Ragnarok, I thought that the next thing I did would be self-published… But then I saw the print edition of Rough Magick, and I don’t think I could ever have done that. I couldn’t have pulled together the resources. I couldn’t have gotten Arman Akopian to do the cover. Joe pulled that together for me.

If you find a good publisher, and they know how to get the artist, the resources to do it right… It’s hard to deny going through a publisher. What I think I’m going to do, is that I’m going to take everything I learn off of these guys and gals, and maybe self-publish stand-alone works occasionally. I was actually talking to Kirk Dougal about this last night – just do the series through the publisher, the stuff that’s going to take a lot of work and promotion… but if you want to do something weird that no one is going to want, or if you’re not sure there’s a market for it… Go ahead and get your artist, and your editor, and put it out yourself. Plus, you’re getting direct sales, which is pretty cool.

R: Definitely, and a lot of publishers now seem to be going through the self-published content on Amazon… Authors such as Anthony Ryan, Michael J. Sullivan, and Hugh Howey have all been picked up by a traditional publisher at some point in time because of their self-published work.

K: Absolutely. It gives you a chance to be a professional. Before, you didn’t even have that opportunity because you were automatically told: “You can’t join our club.” But now you can force your way in by just being good, and professional, and consistent. I think publishers are smart to do that, to look at these folks who are doing this, and picking them up.

R: Zombie apocalypse survival plan.

K: Well, probably perish quickly, is going to be mine.

We would probably do okay, I think. I kind of laugh with my girlfriend about it, because we do own guns, and we shoot occasionally. So, as far as guns and stuff, we would be okay. As far as the important stuff, like food… We would be pretty bad off. We would have to go around and offer our services of protection in exchange for beans and such.

I think that’s probably our plan, because we’re horrible preppers. We have no stocks or anything. We would probably starve in like two days.

R: Just stock up on Twinkies!

K: They last forever. And I’ll eat anything… So if it’s old or whatever, I’ll still eat it.

R: Yes.. Penicillin! That grows on moldy bread.

K: There we go! I’ll be healthy.

R: I have a really weird question. I asked it to Mark Lawrence and his answer was boring.

K: Okay, well shoot.

R: If you were a talking box of cereal, and a horse-sized duck wanted to eat you… How would you convince it not to?

K: Holy shit. Actually, it’s kind of a mathematical question in a way. I would plead merciless. I would just plead for my life. I’d be just like “Look, I have no arms or legs. I can’t defend myself. So, I’m just going to plead to your conscience and hope you allow me to live.” Then I would try to convince them that the cereal over there was much tastier. And that’s how I would do it.

R: When I originally asked this to Mark, I had it as “a horse-sized mercenary duck”. His response was along the lines of: “Well, I’m a talking box of cereal. I’m paying that thing to not eat me.”

K: Well, if he’s a good cereal I mean… It’s like publishing, you never know who’s going to like you.

R: A talking box of cereal though.

K: Yeah, you would have endorsement deals. You know, Mark is always straight to the point. He’s very quotable. I always look at his stuff, and there’s like a quote every page, and every paragraph… and my stuff is not quotable really.

R: You just need to wait until people start getting Gnome Saga tattoos!

K: I am making little promotional coins and stuff. It’s important to promote yourself… I don’t rely on publicists, they’re great and stuff, but I’m not the kind of guy that’s just going to sit and go: “Promote me! Why don’t I have 10,000 sales yet?” I like getting involved. I’m going to start doing giveaways for collectors’ sets, like the Gnome Saga collectors’ set will have a coin, which you can make into a necklace, or you can put a chain through the loop… You can also use it as an iPad charm. Mugs… Just little things. Bookmarks.

I like fridge calendars too, and magnets too. I like magnets. My favourite is kind of like JAWS but it’s a little kitten, and it’s swimming to the surface and it saws PAWS.

[We continued talking about magnets for a while. If you’re really intrigued, it’s around the 18-19 minute mark. Otherwise, I’m not including it here. We also discussed the fact that I’m secretly famous. I had a paper nameplate from a mass-signing the night before.]

K: This whole weekend has been interesting, because even sitting at the signing table yesterday – and I’ve noticed that we haven’t gotten a lot of traffic. They’ve sold some stuff, but I haven’t personally sold a lot. You get a lot of interest though, and people have come by, and they’ve taken pictures of the book. Last night, there was a lot of that. It’s interesting, and I realize that there’s a lot of competition.

It makes you humble, and it makes you understand that it’s very competitive… You just have to be as nice as you can.

R: Big thing I think here, and at other conventions, is for new authors to make the connections, go to conventions and conferences in your area. Just meet people.

K: I’m a little older now, where maybe I was more ambitious before… I’m still ambitious, but, I really do want to know what people are up to. I’ll go through Facebook if I have 15 or 20 minutes, I kind of want to know what everybody is up to, so I will go, and I’ll ‘like’ something, or comment on it. Social media is such an interesting thing, because a lot of people look at it as “It’s just me, throwing my crap out there”, but really it’s supposed to be interactive. I always reply to people who comment and post on mine. It’s more fun that way, and I think it’s great.

I would never have known half the people, or half the things going on, if I hadn’t just involved myself. So, it’s an eye-opener for sure. I’m definitely a Facebook, Google+ person. I haven’t tried Ello yet.

R: Alright. And do you have any other comments to add to your readers? Beginning writers? Horse-sized mercenary ducks? Zombies?

K: It’s a horse-sized duck, right?

R: Yeah.

K: Saddle that thing up, and ride it man. If it can fly…

R: Don’t even ask where that came from.

K: That would be my advice to writers, saddle that horse-sized duck, and ride it. Ride it as far as you can take, until you just get too old to type.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed our wacky, and hopefully interesting interview.

Tinkermage (Book 2 of GnomeSaga) was released TODAY. Go check it out!

tinker

Rough Magick on Amazon
Tinkermage on Amazon

If you’re not too sure about all this gnomish business, check out an excerpt from Rogue Magick here.


BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues — Only 7 days left!

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ROGUES. ASSASSINS. MERCENARIES.

Coin is their master, and their trade, more often than not, is blood. Something about these nefarious types appeals to the fantasy reader. Perhaps it is that they have abandoned the moral set that dictates what is socially acceptable in our world. In these tales, we live vicariously, intrepidly, and by our blades or our wits or a culmination of both to some degree. These are BLACKGUARDS.

If you haven’t already heard, Blackguards is the new anthology being put together by the guys over at Ragnarok Publications; the same people who did the Kaiju rising anthology. Their Kickstarter has only a week left, and they’ve already raised $27,000; when their original goal was $14,500. That is, as of me writing this post, they’re over185% funded. If that alone doesn’t speak for the anthology, check out their lineup, and take a look at their Kickstarter, using the link at the bottom of this post.

Their lineup includes stories by:

  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Shawn Speakman
  • Django Wexler
  • Carol Berg
  • Richard Lee Byers
  • Anthony Ryan
  • John Gwynne
  • Tim Marquitz
  • Jon Sprunk
  • Snorri Kristjansson
  • Paul S. Kemp
  • David Dalglish
  • Lian Hearn
  • James Enge
  • Peter Orullian
  • Joseph R. Lallo
  • Cat Rambo
  • Anton Strout
  • Laura Resnick
  • Mark Smylie
  • Kenny Soward
  • Jean Rabe

They also have opening for 1-2 others! You can join this amazing lineup by checking out their open submissions.

They’ve got a fantastic lineup, and a lot of great backer rewards to choose from. Take a look, check it out, and you’ll be sure to find something that interests you! They just unlocked their t-shirt add-on stretch goal as well!

Find their Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1089607742/blackguards-tales-of-assassins-mercenaries-and-rog

Remember, there’s only one week left. Get in before it’s too late!

 


The High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks : Review

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Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life—until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world . . . and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him—and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.

 

The High Druid’s Blade (Book one of The Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks is the first book in the second last trilogy of the Shannara series. Reading this novel with that knowledge made it bittersweet. For over a decade now, I’ve been following this series, there’s always been another book to look forward to, another adventure of the Ohmsfords, Leahs, Elessedils, and the druids. However, the world has moved on past the Ohmsfords — a family which has been the focal point for the series, yet, besides for being mentioned in passing, none make an appearance, and they’ve all died, and/or moved away; no longer residing in their homelands. As well, the Leah’s are no longer kings, queens, nobles or have any sort of distinctions such as that either.

That being said, The High Druid’s Blade takes place around 150 years after The Dark Legacy of Shannara, and follows Paxon Leah, a descendant of both the Ohmsford and Leah families. This novel is very much a coming-of-age story, with Paxon being a hero in the making.

My feelings toward this latest installment in the Shannara world are mixed. As aforementioned, this is going to be a bittersweet trilogy to get through. Brooks’ novel was an engrossing read, and he managed once again to make the world seem alive. The High Druid’s Blade is an action-packed read, filled with magic, intrigue, twists and turns (some of which were a tad predictable). In this installment, Brooks’ seems to have taken a step back from the complex plots and instead focuses more on the two main characters — Chrys and Paxon. However, the new villain — Arcannan is wonderfully complex, and I’m hoping we see much more of him in the next two books.

This story in many ways felt like it was targeted more towards readers new to the Shannara series, as well as to those a bit younger. To me, it had the feel of a story on the brink of being YA. While I did enjoy it, for me, it certainly doesn’t rank among my favourites in the series. The first 1/3 or so of the story is pretty slow-going, and it lacks some of the edginess that earlier novels contained (it does have some dark moments though), and seemed to even fall flat at times. It was never boring, just it wasn’t particularly a spectacular read either.

I do believe that readers both new, and those familiar to his prior books will enjoy reading The High Druid’s Blade. Those new to his series should have no issue starting with this book, though, there are many allusions to events in past books.

Already, I eagerly look forward to The Darkling Child (Book two of The Defenders of Shannara), and I’ll undoubtedly be reviewing that as well.

The High Druid’s Blade is set to be released July 8th by Del Rey

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


The Wurms of Blearmoth by Steven Erikson: Review

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Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants thrive in palaces and one-room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct and propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery.

But leave all that behind and plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind, and in the ragged wake of the tale told in Lees of Laughter’s End, those most civil adventurers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their suitably phlegmatic manservant, Emancipor Reese, make gentle landing upon a peaceful beach, beneath a quaint village at the foot of a majestic castle. There they make acquaintance with the soft-hearted and generous folk of Spendrugle, which lies at the mouth of the Blear River and falls under the benign rule of the Lord of Wurms in his lovely keep.

Make welcome, then, to Spendrugle’s memorable residents, including the man who should have stayed dead, the woman whose prayers should never have been answered, the tax collector everyone ignores, the ex-husband town militiaman who never married, the beachcomber who lives in his own beard, the now singular lizard cat who used to be plural, and the girl who likes to pee in your lap. And of course, hovering over all, the denizen of the castle keep, Lord—Ah, but there lies this tale.

 

As a friend pointed out, the title of this short novella by Steven Erikson sounds like the name of a disease. But Spendrugle from Blearmouth is in fact a backwater town in West Elingarth and this is where Bauchelain and Korbal Broach along with our favorite man-servant Emanicipator Reese (Many the Luckless) find themselves in after their ship, Suncurl, is wrecked.

Lord Fangatooth, a sorcerer takes over this town after ousting his brother as a tyrant. And takes pride in it. He has a scribe recording all his words who I feel is mocking him but Lord Fangatooth is too proud to notice it and sees it as a praise only. The town has a whole host of other memorable characters not the least the inn-keeper with very interesting and strange additions to her anatomy. Then there is the ex-tax collector who brings out a kind of political commentary on the whole tax regime in our civilised world. The towns sheriff if you can call it who just wants to follow his Lords orders to arrest every newcomer who comes to the town. The man sentenced to death by hanging who just refuses to die.

But all of them are woefully unprepared to deal with our trio (well the duo, Mancy is just along for a ride to get away from his wife). They are taken to the Lord of the towns keep directly as they arrive on the island. Here Bauchelain indulges in some philosophical debate over tyranny with Lord Fangatooth while Korbal Broach indulges himself with some food and a dead body (not eating it of course). All the while fending off poisoning attempts made by their host. As with other novellas involving these three, there is plenty of bloodletting. Starting with the rag-tag army of the very aptly named (sarcrasm) Tiny and his band.

Well, enough with the summary. This book started out with a better premise than other B & KB books but sadly, i was disappointed with the end result. The climax had no sense of surprise except being too simple. Maybe Im just used to a much higher level of writing from SE or maybe novellas are not my thing. I like my reading complex and elaborate. This was neither. Chcharacterizationas well done. Premise was set very well. It was the conclusion which left me a bit cold. But all said, if you havent yet started with the epic Malazan Book of the Fallen, these short stories involving the necromancer, demon-conjurer and their man-servant can be a very suitable entry point for you. They are full of humor underneath all that dark sounding stuff. There are moments of pure joy where you will laugh out aloud. Like when the inn-keeper introduces the ex-tax collector to her (ahem!) assets who (or which?) can talk. Ill leave you with that image for now.

Conclusion: Its a fun read and takes the legend of B & KB forward with Elan but it could have been better.

Rating: 3.5/5

Release Date: July 8th

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review

Review by Kunal Garg

 

 


My interview with Patricia Briggs

First off — I would like to apologize. I conducted this interview back in April, the same weekend as the Steven Erikson one. I’ve been out of the country, and haven’t really had the time to sit down and prepare this.

Back at Ad Astra in Toronto, I had the chance to chat with the lovely Patricia Briggs, where she spoke of convincing her husband that she was a serial killer, her future projects and imaginary friends, research, coyotes and a myriad of other topics.

I hope you enjoy the listen!

One thing that I’ve noticed from the stats of previous interviews I’ve posted, is that the audio gets listened to much more than the transcripts get read. That being said, unless it’s requested, I won’t be posting the transcripts.

[Note — I don’t mind making up the transcripts, but it does take a couple hours. If it’s something people want, I’m perfectly happy doing it. Just that if it’s not necessary.. I won’t.]


A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish : Review

A Dance of Cloaks

Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Marshalling the thieves’ guilds under his control, he declares war against the Trifect, an allegiance of wealthy and powerful nobles.

Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since birth to be Thren’s heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.

Guilds twist and turn, trading allegiances for survival. The Trifect weakens, its reputation broken, its money dwindling. The players take sides as the war nears its end, and Thren puts in motion a plan to execute hundreds.

Only Aaron can stop the massacre and protect those he loves…

Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

At a time when assassin stories have invaded bookstores everywhere A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish stands out as an example of what all assassins tales should be. It tells the story of Thren Felhorn, his son Aaron, and the war being fought between the thieves’ guilds and the merchant elite. Full of brutal action, strong characters, and political intrigue this is a story that grabs your attention from the beginning and never lets you go.

As someone who is not a huge fan of the dark fantasy setting that is common with these types of books I found myself unable to put this book down. Dalglish gives us a dark and grim setting without using rape to let us know just how dark and grim the world is. The violence is not needless or gratuitous and every kill or bit of torture serves to move the story along and further the plot.

There is not a single character in the book that I did not enjoy in some way. Thren Felhorn, the leader of the Spider Guild and one of the antagonists was a dark and unforgiving character who a different side of himself when it came to his son or his trusted advisers. Aaron, the protagonist, has already become one of my favorite fantasy characters. He grows and matures throughout the book and decides just who he wants to be. The rest of the characters are as well thought out and believable, easy to hate or love as they all evolve and change throughout the story.

The only parts of the book I found truly disappointing was the magic system which does not appear to be well thought out or explained in any way. It only makes an appearance when someone needs a handy way to escape jail or danger in some way. As well as the politics of the city, which left me slightly confused. I’m still not 100 percent sure exactly who the Trifect are, how they control so much of the country, and why the thieves’ guilds are waging war against them. I can honestly say I will gladly purchase the rest of this series in addition to finding out what other books David Dalglish has to offer.

I received a free copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.


The Treasury of the Fantastic edited by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman : Review

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The fantastic, the supernatural, the poetic, and the macabre entwine in this incomparable culmination of storytelling. Imaginative stories of wit and intelligence weave through vivid landscapes that are alternately wondrous and terrifying. Bringing together major literary figures from the 19th and 20th centuries—from Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edith Wharton to Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde—these masters of English and American literature created unforgettable tales where goblins and imps comingle with humans from all walks of life. This deftly curated assemblage of notable classics and unexpected gems from the pre-Tolkien era will captivate and enchant readers. Forerunners of today’s speculative fiction, these are the authors that changed the fantasy genre, forever. Description from Goodreads

The Treasury of the Fantastic is truly that, a comprehensive collection of fantastical literature from throughout the many years covering the romanticism era to the early twentieth century. Bringing classics such as The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, Morte D’ Arthur by Alfred Tennyson, The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain and dozens of others all within the bounds of a single book.

This collection contains many of the essentials, the well-known stories we’ve all read or heard reference to growing up, to ones that have fallen into the dark clutches of obscurity. With the great diversity of these tales, readers are sure to feel the stirrings of familiarity, of nostalgia, and of wonder. Readers of both classical and fantasy literature will feel right at home within these pages. I personally loved most of the tales, though there were of course some that I struggled through; with forty-four stories in this collection, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

This treasury isn’t one that you’ll be able to read through quickly, many of the stories are not light reads, and require careful reading to fully process and appreciate the writing. While it’s an exquisitely curated collection, and most certainly worth the read, it’s best read in multiple sittings. As well, I do recommend reading the foreword, I know it’s something some people skip over, but it explains why some stories were included, and others not.

I received a free copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.


Interview with Steven Erikson

Last weekend at Ad Astra, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series. We talked about his future publications, Malazan, art, his favourite novel and more. It’s fairly lengthy, but I suppose that’s rather appropriate!

As I did with the interview I did last year at Ad Astra, I’m also providing the audio recording to the interview I did with Mr. Erikson. If you can forgive both my awkwardness and the background noise, I encourage you to take a listen! There’s a bit more in there than there is in the transcript — just some of the small off-topic remarks and such like that.

 

 

[As per usual, R = Myself, and S = Steven Erikson]

R: Hello, I’m here with Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

S: I used to be an archaeologist, working for about 20 seasons in the field in central Canada, mostly, as well as Central America (and the States). I was in a Masters program for archaeology when I dropped out to take a writing program at the University of Victoria. From there, I went onto a writing program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Curiously, I think I learned more in the undergraduate at University of Victoria than I did in Iowa. But Iowa gave me two more years in which to write, which was great.

I was not writing fantasy – the closest thing I came to writing in terms of fantasy would be what they call magic realism. Beyond that, I’ve been writing full time for about 15 years, and by last count, I had 22 books published.

R: Very nice.

So, has your experience as an archaeologist at all influenced your writing?

S: Massively, yes. The Malazan world is actually co-created between myself and Ian C. Esslemont, or Cam as I know him. We were both archaeologists, and we met on a project in north-west Ontario. We became close friends, and ended up sharing a flat in Victoria, and we gamed a lot. In the gaming, we started to build this secondary world, this Malazan world, and its history. We did that for years.

We played through a lot of characters, and it certainly gave some depth to the world we were creating. As archaeologists and anthropologists we were both interested in a kind of realistic portrayal of this other world, so the geography, geology, history, cultures, everything’s based on what we knew about the dynamics of social evolution.

R: Very interesting.

And you wrote your magic realism under your real name, so why ‘Erikson’?

S: My second book was published when I was in the UK, and it’s been re-released under Erikson, it’s This River Awakens. At the time though, it was published under Steve Lundin. And then I signed for publishing Gardens of the Moon with a different publisher, and the publishers of the original book, This River Awakens, contacted my agent and said “Well, we don’t want the same name for this genre versus contemporary fiction”, so I had to come up with a pseudonym.

R: Alright

S: Which I did, which was my mother’s maiden name.

R: That works.

So, it was Gollancz that approached you right?

S: You mean for the original book?

R: Yes.

S: No, I’d written Gardens of the Moon eight years previously, and I could not find a publisher. I’d tried, I sent it (without an agent) from Canada to New York to Del Rey, Tor, and a number of others. It would sit there for 12-18 months, and then it’d come back to me.

So I shelved it, and went back to contemporary fiction. But then, when I was living in the UK, I sort of polished it up, and got it to my agent. He started marketing it, and Bantam UK picked it up. It was after that, when I was finishing the second book, that I had one of my first conventions I ever went to, my Bantam editor could not come. So I was left on my own, basically, at the convention… So the people at Gollancz kind of took me up under their wing and took me out for Chinese, or whatever it was. In the course of that evening, I was asked when Bantam was publishing the second book. So I said “Well, I don’t know, they haven’t signed it yet.” That’s when the rival bid came in, pretty much the next day.

R: That’s sweet.

S: Yeah, but I stayed with Bantam… They matched the bid. That signed me up for nine years and nine books.

R: Alright.

You were part of a writing group, I believe…

S: Very early on, yeah.

R: Have any of them had any success? Who was in it?

S: Two have had fair success. Ian Ross, who is one of them, he’s known throughout Canada… and David Keck has published his first two books through Tor of his fantasy series, and I think he’s hoping to finish the third and final one this summer.

R: Ah, alright.

Now, I’ve mostly been trying to steer away from Malazan questions—but there are a couple—because I know you’re pretty much inundated by those questions all the time… but what are your thoughts on it ever being adapted to the small or big screen?

S: It’s a huge series, with a lot of characters… and I actually think it’s probably impossible. It’s unlike, for example, Game of Thrones which is kind of inwardly focused on a particular group of characters, which is a very manageable approach to a storyline… mine just sprawls. It sprawls across continents, multiple cities, it’s absolutely massive.

The only time I thought it could actually make it, would be to turn every novel into a trilogy of films, and then film like crazy and produce (and release) ten films a year, for three years. That would do it… In terms of television, it would be a challenge.

R: Alright, I was just wondering, because a couple of your works were optioned, weren’t they, at one point?

S: No not really, I’ve had screenplays optioned, and rights sold… Not really any of the Malazan stuff.

R: Ahh, okay.

What are you planning on writing in the future? I know you’ve got your Kharkanas trilogy, what else is there for you?

S: I’m presently writing the second book of the Kharkanas trilogy, and it is just taking longer than any of the other books I’ve ever written. Stephen Donaldson talks of not ‘writer’s block’, but of ‘life block’. It’s basically other things in your life getting in the way of the actual writing process. When I sit down and write, it comes out just fine, but I’ve had so many other unexpected barriers to actually sitting down to write. I’m hoping to get it done by the end of this summer though.

If my agent or my editor hears this, he’s going to be screaming and tearing his hair out. It is running late, but it’s just what it does. And, I did take a break from it because I felt I needed it. So, I wrote a 75,000 word science fiction spoof called Willful Child, which is coming out in November. [Read the first chapter here] I had so much fun with that, I’m certainly planning on more volumes in that.

R: So that’s more humour based?

S: Oh yeah. I’m paying homage to Star Trek specifically. Especially The Original Series. I had a lot of fun with it.

R: Does sound like it could be a fun one.

Do you think the second Kharkanas book will end up being postponed? Or do you still think it’ll be on target for the 2015 release date?

S: I hope we can get it out for the 2015 release date.

R: Alright.

Also, would you suggest that readers, who haven’t read any of your Malazan, start with that?

S: It’s hard to say, I mean, I was hoping that with the first one, Forge of Darkness, that somebody new to my writing would be able to step in. I don’t know how many people have done that. Most of my readers, from what I can understand, are coming from the Malazan series. So, it’s hard to say. I mean, it’s written so that you could just step in, if you wanted to.

R: Ah, cause yeah, your writing is known for being intimidating, and for being hard to get into. So, I’m guessing it could also just be people who haven’t started reading your writing yet, may be a bit wary..

S: Maybe. It might be… But my sense is that a lot of people waited for me to finish the series, and they’re buying the Malazan series now, because it is done.

I don’t blame them. I mean, there are a lot of writers out there who have begun series but for whatever reason have not, or could not finish… and that’s hard for a reader, because you invest so much into it. So, I’m relieved that I could finish the series more or less on time. Now it’s there for anyone to pick up and read.

R: Yeah, and with the trilogy it’s also easier to just wait for it to be done and pick it up then.

S: I think that’s what’s going to happen. Have you read Forge of Darkness?

R: Yep.

S: It’s a very different style, wasn’t it?

R: Quite.

S: And I am signed for three more after that, which will return us to the Malazan world, and the story of Karsa Orlong.

R: Well, that answers my two next questions.

S: Yep. Three books, picking up where we left off with Karsa, more or less. And of course, Cam has signed for (I think) three books to do the early empire stuff.

R: Alright, so you’re not at all finished with that universe or anything.

S: No, I don’t think so. Though, I could never do another ten book series. Even three books may end up proving more of a challenge than I expect. It’s a world that still has room for exploration.

R: Definitely. When you create a vast world like that, I think there’s always going to be more room for exploration.

Do you have any new publications coming out under Steve Lundin?

S: No, I’ve pretty much stopped that. Most of the stuff I’d written under that name has now been reissued under Steven Erikson.

R: Alright… and your Warren’s magic system, what was the process of creating that? Or the inspiration for that? It’s very different.

S: It was a very organic creation between Cam and myself through the gaming systems. We started out very early on doing D&D, and we abandoned it and picked it up on GURPS (the Generic Universal RolePlaying System), Steve Jackson’s system, which we found much more flexible. Using their magic system as it stood, worked fine in the games, but we actually wanted to create more options. So we thought of the notions of rather than having four elements, have multiple elements. Some of those elements would be light, shadow, darkness, life and death… So all of these became the aspect of Warren’s that the characters could draw from, in terms of building up a list of spells.

It was generated out of the need of gaming, more than anything else. It also suited very well in what we were doing when we finally sat down to write in that world. It seemed to be a very good system. And the other thing was to just use it, and don’t explain it. That keeps the mystery.

R: Yeah, and I feel like that does make it a bit more real. Like, you don’t explain why light’s work, when you turn on a light switch… It’s just there, it’s part of the culture, and everything.

Alright.. and the ‘evil’ question. What is your favourite book?

S: Probably Grendel which is written by John Gardner, primarily for what it did for me when I first read it. Because I was in the University of Victoria. I was struggling with all the demands it placed on writing and how you actually find your voice, and how you find your way through it, and how you manage language. I was having a hard time with that.

Well, my instructor, Jack Hodgins, directed me towards John Gardner’s writing, and his non-fiction, what he called “moral fiction”, which moved in opposition to William Gass’s position. Where Gass would say that you have no responsibility towards your characters, and that they can do whatever they want; there’s no moral or ethical framework with which to create a story.

It was John Gardner who said it was actually the other way around, and that you have an immense responsibility toward your characters, and towards your story, and by extension to that, the audience. I really took to that.

One of his books deconstructed the opening of Grendel, in terms of use of language, and sentence patterns, sentence rhythms, cadence, and reading that was an utter revelation to me. Because, it showed me what was possible with the language. That you could actually frame a sentence… if you have a sentence describing an awkward thought, you can frame it awkwardly, which I really like. Once I realized that you’re free to do these things and that you can mess with language to that extent, it just set me on my way basically.

The novel then just holds that place for me in my heart. This is where my eyes opened, it’s my book of revelations.

R: Definitely sounds good. It’s a good reason.

S: Have you read it?

R: Nope, I’ll look it up later though.

S: It’s a short book that’s utterly brilliant.

R: Alright, I’m always looking for more book recommendations. Especially since I’ve got a long flight coming up in a few days.

S: Oh, right! Well, it’s basically Beowulf from the point of view of the monster. It’s the monster’s voice. It’s Grendel’s voice.

R: Fantastic.

You know, I’m used to a more “How could you ask that question?” response to that question, ‘what’s your favourite book’. Most don’t like it at all.

S: Really? Interesting.

I mean, we grow up with certain books that for whatever reason, they reach us at the right time. For a lot of fantasy fans, that would have been Tolkien in their teens, or Jordan, or anything along those lines. Those become our gateway drugs. And it’s funny because if you go back, when I first started reading, really. It was Burroughs’ Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars, and mostly I actually bought books originally because of the covers which were painted by Frank Frazetta. Phenomenal art. I started as an illustrator, so I was interested in the art rather than the content.

I was of that age though, 12 or 13, that I got caught up in the romantic adventures that Burroughs was writing really took me. But you go back to it, it’s very difficult to read now. And I was talking with a podcast for Gary Wolfe and Ian MacDonald, and we were talking just about this… about going back to the early works that inspired us. It occurred to me, that when we go back and read these things, we’re actually (and we’re often disappointed by what we’re reading) because what inspired us when we were 13 or 14, now we get to see the bones of the construction of the story or whatever. But what I think what we strive to go back towards, and the reason for rereading all of it, involves a nostalgia for a sense for wonder and discovery. So that’s what we keep trying to find again, and when new books arrive and we go into the bookstore, you’re hoping to capture that sense of discovery all over again in a new book.

Because going back, as much as you’ve read something that’s familiar from when you were 13 or 14, you can capture it, but it’s a very nostalgic sense. But I think that’s what drives us to buy new books again and again. It’s that sense of discovery.

R: Yeah, because even if it’s the same basic plot line, and everything it’s still.. a new book, a new world, and anything can happen.

Do you have any favourite authors? Other than Gardner?

S: Well, Glen Cook definitely… He was a huge inspiration for me. Stephen Donaldson was probably the biggest because I came to it in my late teens, early twenties… the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and suddenly it was as if, with that series, fantasy had grown up. It was no longer straddling YA sort of approach to the genre. With Donaldson, it really grew up. So those two definitely were huge inspirations for me.

R: And did you attend any conventions before you became an author?

S: One, David Keck, myself and Ian Ross – that little writing group, we did the World Fantasy Awards Con when it was in Winnipeg. We published a little chapbook, in that, there’s actually a scene from Gardens of the Moon. It’s a very early scene, on the rooftops.

R: Cool. Have you noticed your experience at conventions changing as you’ve become more well known, or just gotten more experience going to them?

S: I suppose. Once you start arriving as a guest of honour, everything changes. But I’ve been going to the WFC for many years, just as a writer. I don’t think that’s changed in a huge respect. It’s just you now meet writers and you can sit and chat with them. It’s great fun.

R: Authors do tend to be good people, from what I’ve noticed.

S: We certainly try. It’s important to pay attention – and it goes back to what Gardner said about respecting your audiences… You do have to respect your audience. If you don’t, it shows. It shows in the stories you write, and that can burn you in the long run.

R: You’ve been inundated by questions for years now, but are there any questions you’ve been wanting to have been asked, or topics you’ve been wanting to explore in interviews, but haven’t been asked about?

S: I don’t think so. I mean, I do like Q&A’s and stuff after I’ve done a reading, and when people want to talk about the process of writing. I’ve written on that on a site called lifeasahuman.com. All about the process and mechanics of writing.

Workshops and programs for writing, they’re not to create talent, it’s what you bring to it. Your proclivities. It’s all about craft. Once you sort of understand the terminology for narrative structure, then that’s when you can come to realize the potential of what you can do with your story. So, I like those kind of questions, deconstructive questions, on the language that you can use.

R: Alright. I figured those would be among the main questions that you’d always be asked.. The process of writing, outlining and everything.

S: Outlining, yes. But I’ve never really had in a Q&A someone reading back a line I’d written, and have them say “How did you put that together?”

R: Well then! Let’s see….

S: Obviously find an evocative line..

R: Not just “Quick Ben entered the room beyond.”?

S: No.

R: You’ve got great imagery, so it’s like, how to choose one?

S: Well, I’m very cinematic because I started as an illustrator. But I found that most of my artwork had an inherent narrative of some form. So I had a thought, well, maybe I’ll go into comic books. Back then though, comic books and comic book art was hard. You needed the equipment. There was stuff out there that I just couldn’t get a hold of, and couldn’t afford even if I wanted to. So that sort of got me into just writing it instead of illustrating it.

The creative process though is exactly the same, it’s very visual. I become a camera, and I’ll sit on someone’s shoulder or whatever and enter into any scene. It’s not a question of relaying every detail we see in a room. Those details you choose have to serve the story. Not only the details you choose, but the details you choose not to mention serve the story. Because by choosing certain details in a room, you’re actually putting a lot of emphasis on them, so they need to serve more than one function generally.

R: Are comic books something you’ve considered going back to, or ever thought of, now that it’s a bit more accessible and there’s more ways to do it?

S: No. Illustrating, drawing, painting… I think it’s similar to writing in the sense that if you get out of practise, you get out of practise. I’d basically have to stop writing. They come out of the same creative well. If I’m painting, for example, I’m not writing. And when I’m writing, I’m certainly not painting.

So, I’d have to go back and spend 2-3 years becoming familiar with drawing and illustrating in and of it self. Again, it’s not something I’ve really thought of doing, I’m having too much fun with writing.

R: Going back to your imagery, I do like this sentence… “Her laughter had been the final punctuation to all his dreams.” It’s a beautiful sentence.

S: Hm.. What can I say to that one? Well, so much of what I’m sort of obsessed with in a sense is point of view. By anchoring the point of view to a specific character, you’re closing a lot of doors, but you’re also creating a situation whereby you can actually tell and show far less than you would have to if your point of view was an omniscient one. Then you start playing games like “What does this character know?” and “What does the character believe?” And if you stay close to it, you realize that every point of view is an unreliable source of narration.

Once you’ve created all these characters with their own points of view, that’s how you build your world. With each character though, it’s a limited and sometimes erroneous view of the world. I mentioned last night in a panel that it’s as if you’ve got this invisible rock, and in order to give it shape, you slap clay on it. And that’s what all these points of view are. Underneath all that, your rock remains invisible. That’s the world itself. All I’m doing is slapping clay on it from various angles, points of views, and thickness. In terms of sensibility and sensitivity of the characters, and that’s what creates that world. I think the effect it has is to actually make the world seem bigger and much more filled with detail. Even though you don’t have to provide all that detail. You echo it, you create connotation rather than the denotation.

R: Yeah, because everyone has a different perspective on the world, different view points…

S: Of course, with that close point of view, you sit on their shoulder, you can dip into their heads and then slip back out. So long as you’re consistent, and you do a one point of view per character kind of thing.

R: You close doors, but open windows, kinda thing.

S: In a way, yeah.

R: So, are your next three, that are going to be set in this universe… are they going to be much the same style, where you either love it, or can’t get through it?

S: I think they will fall back to the 10 book style. Because what I’m doing with the Kharkanas trilogy is quite self-contained. It’s a bit more Shakespearean. There’s an intensity to the language, a poetic bias to it. Which is well suited to what I’m doing right now, but would not be suited to Karsa Orlong. It’s a bit more headlong.

R: Ah, yeah, there’s a bit of a steep learning curve for when you’re getting into the series. I remember when I first picked Gardens of the Moon up, and I read the introduction.

S: It’s a perennial question. In a sense, Gardens of the Moon is a kind of instruction manual as well on how to read me, and how to immerse yourself in the world. I guess in that respect, it’s the litmus test for the reader. You either stay with it, or you don’t. Might as well find out in the first book, rather than five books later.

R: Yeah… That would be a bit tough, getting five books then…

S: It’s important for me that people are prepared… you know, if I’m going to reach out, I want to take their hand and guide them through this. We’ll come out the other side, and that’s a promise because I finished the series. I expected there would be people stopping half way, or part way through or whatever… but it’s a loss for me, in the sense that I could not keep hold of that reader.

R: It’s inevitable to happen though, with any series… But you know, if people do stick through it to the end, it is worth it.

S: I hope so!

R: Well, as a reader and reviewer, I do say it’s worth it.

And… Veering way off topic from what we’ve been talking about for the past 10 minutes or so.. What are your thoughts on the digital revolution, ebooks, and e-piracy and all that?

S: The e-piracy is always going to be frustrating for an author, because, from what I understand… writers these days, who can make a living at writing is down to about 1-2%. And yet, the desire for original material is bigger than ever. So, those who feel entitled to just pick up whatever they want and pay nothing for it are shooting themselves in the foot, because they’re going to run out of their writers.

It’s a tough one. It’s one area that we really need to… I don’t know how you’d fix it, to be perfectly honest. Because the notion of the value you place on things in our society, our civilization, is a bit skewed to begin with. The fact that we pay bankers enormous amounts of money, but not child care workers, just tells you how skewed the whole thing is. So how do you fight that sense of entitlement? I don’t know.

As for ebooks in general, I have a Kindle, but I’ve never actually used it. I think I have some books on there, but the hardcovers, or actual physical books to hold in my hand is wonderful.

R: Alright, and one last question… The audiobooks, what did you think of the pronunciations and such?

S: Well, it was a bit strange because they switched readers I think at House of Chains, and the original reader never contacted me regarding pronunciation. So he set up his standard. The new reader, they got in touch with me very early on, so we’ve had to decide whether we’re going to hold on to some of convention set up by the first reader, and we’ve had to do that in some areas..

But all new characters, and new terminology now is now properly pronounced from my position. The irony is of course, is that some of Cam’s pronunciations are different from mine. He’s left-handed though, that’s my excuse. I’ve had fans tell me that I’m pronouncing things wrong. So, it just is how it is.

R: Yeah, that’s one thing I’ve noticed in general in fantasy. Names in general tend to be a point of contention for pronunciation.

Anyways, I think that’s it. So, thank you very much! It was a pleasure and I hope you enjoyed yourself.

S: Yep, I was losing my voice but I knew that was coming.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading! Thank you again to Mr. Erikson for taking the time to answer these questions.

 


Prince Thief by David Tallerman : Review

(This is the 3rd book in a series. My review for book two, Crown Thief can be found here.)

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Altapasaeda, capital of the Castoval, is about to be besieged by its own king – and where else would luckless, somewhat reformed thief Easie Damasco be but trapped within the city’s walls?  Faced with a war they can’t win and a populace too busy fighting amongst itself to even try, the Castovalian defenders are left with one desperate option.  Far in the northern lands of Shoan, rebels have set up the young prince Malekrin as a figurehead in their own quest to throw off the king’s tyrannical rule.  One way or another, the prince must be persuaded to join forces.

Once again, all hope lies with Damasco and his sticky-fingered approach to problem solving, along with his long suffering partner, the gentle giant Saltlick.  But this time it’s a human being that needs stealing, with his own desires and opinions, and events only grow more complicated as Damasco realises that he and the rebellious young prince have more in common that either would admit. 

Prince Thief (Book 3 from The Tales of Easie Damasco) by David Tallerman is an enjoyable and fast-paced read. Continuing off where he started in Giant Thief, and built upon in Crown Thief, we return to find Damasco, Alvantes, and Estrada once again in the midst of chaos.

One thing that stood out to me in particular is how much growth and development the characters have gone through. Prince Thief has a different feel to the earlier books in the series, it being a bit more serious in tone, with the city being on the brink of war, and Damasco having matured over the course of the series. On the other hand, and perhaps due to this, I didn’t find myself getting into the book as much as I had in Giant Thief. I’m not entirely sure why it was exactly, but it didn’t make for quite as engaging of a read as the earlier ones.

As well, with the series leading up to events in this book, I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit anti-climatic after the grand-scale event that it had been building up to be. Though, despite this, Tallerman did manage to wrap up loose-ends, and provide a satisfying conclusion.

While I know the review sounds like a bit of a mixed bag, I found Prince Thief to be enjoyable, intriguing and well-written. If you’re looking for an easy and fun read, I recommend picking up this series. With action, humour, adventures, and giants, The Tales of Easie Damasco is an enjoyable series which fans of fantasy and heist stories are sure to enjoy.

(Also, some words of wisdom: when I first read Crown Thief (book 2), I had made the mistake of not reading the first in the series, so there was a bit of confusion there for me. While I was still able to understand what was going on for the most part, I do recommend you start this series at the beginning to avoid any such confusion and to be able to appreciate Prince Thief more. ;) )

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Prince Thief is set to be released September 24th.


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