Michael Whitehead: Legion Of The Undead: Rise and Fall (Review)

Michael Whitehead

Michael Whitehead was born in Liverpool, UK and did most of his growing up in Nottinghamshire. He now lives on the edge of Sherwood Forest with his wife and two children.

Growing up he was passionate about Liverpool FC and Heavy Metal. Not much has changed.

He has spent most of his working life as a truck driver, which means a fantastic amount of time spent listening to audio books.

Legion Of The Undead: Rise and Fall

Caught between the undead horde and civil war, the Roman Empire is on the verge of destruction.

Italy is in flames and Rome is under siege by the Risen, while Titus and Otho both lay claim to the title of Emperor.

Centurion Vitus Protus, Praetor Domitius, and their allies face a desperate choice. They must either stay and fight for the City of Rome or leave and survive in the wilderness left behind by the Risen.

Review:

I read Michael’s first book back in March and have to say i was pretty impressed, the story was well paced and despite it being Zombies had a decent level of reality to it with realistic characters. What it lacked was a bit of experience , feedback and editing.

Book Two Rise and Fall, Michael has taken all of that feedback on board, he has sought out a decent editor and between them they have made a very tight very fast paced tale. This book once again gives you all the flavour of the period but with that light historical touch so that you are not seeking the accuracy of historical fiction. His Zombies have more about them than the shambling walking dead who kill by weight of numbers, these bad boys are more along the lines of World War Z, they run they jump they attack. Couple that with Otho and his touch of Nero type madness and the story has quite a frenetic pace to see who will win the power battle for Rome, Titus, Otho… or the Undead. But the real win of this book is that while this cataclysmic tale is going on there is the more immediate/ Intimate family story of friends trying to escape and survive, to make it past the undead and soldiers and just get away from the madness.

I always like to find a new writer who can learn and grow very fast and am really impressed with the huge leap forward Michael has made in the space of 2 books….. i really am looking forward to book 3.

(Parm)

 

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Filed under Michael Whitehead, Supernatural

Steven Savile: Glass Town (Review)

author

Steven Savile is an international sensation, selling over half a million copies of his novels worldwide and writing for cult favorite television shows including Doctor WhoTorchwood, and Stargate. Now, he is finally making his US debut with Glass Town, a brilliantly composed novel revolving around the magic and mystery lurking in London.

GLASS TOWN

There’s always been magic in our world
We just needed to know where to look for it

In 1924, two brothers both loved Eleanor Raines, a promising young actress from the East End of London. She disappeared during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s debut, Number 13, which itself is now lost. It was the crime of the age, capturing the imagination of the city: the beautiful actress never seen again, and the gangster who disappeared the same day.

Generations have passed. Everyone involved is long dead. But even now their dark, twisted secret threatens to tear the city apart.

Joshua Raines is about to enter a world of macabre beauty, of glittering celluloid and the silver screen, of illusion and deception, of impossibly old gangsters and the fiendish creatures they command, and most frighteningly of all, of genuine magic.

He is about to enter Glass Town.

The generations-old obsession with Eleanor Raines’s unsolved case is about to become his obsession, handed down father-to-son through his bloodline like some unwanted inheritance. But first he needs to bury his grandfather and absorb the implications of the confession in his hand, a letter from one of the brothers, Isaiah, claiming to have seen the missing actress. The woman in the red dress hadn’t aged a day, no matter that it was 1994 and she’d been gone seventy years.

Long buried secrets cannot stay secrets forever. Hidden places cannot stay hidden forever.

The magic that destroyed one of the most brutal families in London’s dark history is finally failing, and Joshua Raines is about to discover that everything he dared dream of, everything he has ever feared, is waiting for him in Glass Town.

Review

Anyone who is a regular reader of my reviews will know that this book is way outside my usual reading material. But look at Savile’s resume so much great writing on so many great shows (and he wrote Slaine…. one of my all time fav 2000ad characters)… i mean… whats not to like.

The story, Glass Town story is an observational mix of London life, old fashioned east end underworld and the supernatural/ mystic providing a backdrop for the dark tale of family secrets and obsession. the author has a intimate grip and feel for the location and also both the periods of this book. But the real win is  the characterization and observational descriptive in the book, it’s just excellent. At first i worried that the author was going to be a little windy in his descriptions, but very quickly i fell into the rhythm of the writing and found that rather than being too much the descriptive writing pulled me further into the plot and wrapped me tighter into the characters and the emotions that drove them.

The imagination behind the supernatural elements and the creatures that are conjured is just hugely impressive, but i should not be surprised for a man who wrote 2 Slaine books (serious… hero worship)… yeah he wrote a few other things as well… but Slaine!! sorry any way…..Glass Town, something fantastical, but yet written in such a way as to be highly believable and realistic.

Took me somewhere very new, and left me hugely impressed and as a dabbler at writing made me reassess my own descriptive writing.

Highly reccomended

(Parm)

 

Series
Slaine
1. Slaine the Exile (2006)
2. Slaine the Defiler (2007)
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Lazarus Initiative (with David Sakmyster)
1. N.D.E. (2011)
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Fireborn 
1. Each Ember’s Ghost (2012)
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Dane Maddock Origins
4. Dead Ice (2014) (with David Wood)
The Dane Maddock Origins Omnibus 1 (omnibus) (2016)(with Rick Chesler, Sean Ellis and David Wood)
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Infinite Frontiers
1. Stellaris (2016)
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Akiri (with Brian D Anderson)
1. The Scepter of Xarbaal (2016)
2. Sands Of Darkness (2017)
3. Dragonbane (2017)
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Byron Tibor (with Sean Black)
3. Winter’s Rage (2017)
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Ogimos: The Origins
Argo (2017)
Shining Ones (2017)
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Novels
Microfax Star Wars (1997)
The Sufferer’s Song (2000)
Secret Life of Colors (2000)
Similar Monsters (2001)
Houdini’s Last Illusion (2004)
Angel Road (2004)
The Fragrance of You (2005)
Laughing Boy’s Shadow (2010)
Last Angel (2010)
The Black Chalice (2011)
Hallowed Ground (2011) (with David Niall Wilson)
London Macabre (2012)
Immortal (2014)
Moonlands (2015)
Ritual (2015) (with Albert Johnson)
Sunfail (2015)
Parallel Lines (2017)
Glass Town (2017)
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Collections
Icarus Descending (1999)
Temple: Incarnations (2007)
eBooks at the Crossroad (2010) (with Ronald Kelly, Elizabeth Massie, Wayne Allen Sallee and David Niall Wilson)
The Forgetting Wood (2010)
Infinities (2011) (with Eric Brown, Garry Kilworth, Scott Nicholson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Anna Tambour)
Worlds Apart (2013) (with Jim Bernheimer, Lauren Harris, Matt Hilton, Laura Howard, Ashley Knight, Laura Bradley Rede, Liz Reinhardt, Aaron Rosenberg and David Wood)
Time’s Mistress (2014)
Crusader Kings II (2014) (with Scott Anderson, Lee Battersby, Luke Bean, Jordan Ellinger, James Erwin, Axel Kylander, Cory Lachance, James Mackie, M Harold Page, Aaron Rosenberg and Joseph Sharp)
Urban Enemies (2017) (with Kelley Armstrong, Amber Benson, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Caitlin Kittredge, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, C E Murphy, Joseph Nassise, Lilith Saintcrow, Craig Schaefer, Jeff Somers, Carrie Vaughn, Jaye Wells and Sam Witt)
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Novellas
For This Is Hell (2012) (with Aaron Rosenberg)
H.N.I.C. (2013) (with Albert Johnson)
King Wolf (2014)
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S

Series contributed to
Warhammer : Von Carstein
1. Inheritance (2006)
2. Dominion (2006)
3. Retribution (2007)
Vampire Wars (omnibus) (2008)
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Doctor Who : Short Trips
Destination Prague (2007)
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Warhammer
Curse of the Necrarch (2008)
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Torchwood
Hidden (2008)
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Primeval
1. Shadow of the Jaguar (2008)
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Stargate SG-1
15. The Power Behind the Throne (2009)
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Ogmios Team Adventure
1. Silver (2010)
2. Solomon’s Seal (2012) (with Steve Lockley)
3. Wargod (2012) (with Sean Ellis)
4. Lucifer’s Machine (2013) (with Rick Chesler)
5. Crucible (2014) (with Steve Lockley)
Ogmios (omnibus) (2013) (with Rick Chesler, Sean Ellisand Steve Lockley)
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Stellar Guild
1. Tau Ceti (2011) (with Kevin J Anderson)
Stellar Guild Box Set One (omnibus) (2017) (with Kevin J Anderson, Eric Flint and Charles E Gannon)
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Latchkeys
1. Unlatched (2012)
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Arkham Horror (with Steve Lockley)
The Sign of Glaaki (2013)
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Kindle Worlds : Shadow Ops
1. Embracing the Shadows (2015)
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Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with Robert Greenberger)
Murder at Sorrow’s Crown (2016)
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Anthologies edited
Scaremongers 2 (1998)
Elemental (2006) (with Alethis Kontis)
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Non fiction
Fantastic TV (2010)
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Anthologies containing stories by Steven Savile
Scaremongers (1998)
Scaremongers 2 (1998)
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Marcus Sakey: Afterlife (Review)

Marcus Sakey

Author Site

Marcus Sakey is the author of The Blade Itself, a thriller Publishers Weekly called “brilliant…a must read.” To prepare for the novel he shadowed homicide detectives, learned to pick a deadbolt in sixty seconds, and drank plenty of Jameson. Born in Flint, Michigan, he now lives in Chicago with his wife.

Afterlife  (2017)

An instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. Soon to be a major motion picture from Imagine Entertainment and producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

Between life and death lies an epic war, a relentless manhunt through two worlds… and an unforgettable love story.

The last thing FBI agent Will Brody remembers is the explosion – a thousand shards of glass surfing a lethal shock wave.

He wakes without a scratch.

The building is in ruins. His team is gone. Outside, Chicago is dark. Cars lie abandoned. No planes cross the sky. He’s relieved to spot other people – until he sees they’re carrying machetes.

Welcome to the afterlife.

Claire McCoy stands over the body of Will Brody. As head of an FBI task force, she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. A terrorist has claimed eighteen lives and thrown the nation into panic.

Against this horror, something reckless and beautiful happened. She fell in love… with Will Brody.

But the line between life and death is narrower than any of us suspect – and all that matters to Will and Claire is getting back to each other.

Review:

Ex Marine Will Brody , now Special Agent Brody is at the latest murder scene of a Spree-killing Sniper, his Boss and lover is Claire McCoy head of the FBI task force.

The author spends time building these two characters, making them and their relationship real and well formed, putting them in place to truly drive the plot forward. The more you believe in these two and their dialogue the more you can believe the plot, allowing the author then take the story into more and more normally implausible and strange places, to bend the plot across genres a touch of romance here, a dollop of supernatural, a spoonful of sci-fi and a whole load of thriller. The story abounds with tension, and suspense that will hook you in and pull you all the way to the end in a very short space of time. (prepare for a book that gets you thinking…. this is a mind bender of a book)

Its no wonder this is set to be a major Ron Howard motion picture.

(Parm)

 

 

Series
Brilliance Trilogy
1. Brilliance (2013)
2. A Better World (2014)
3. Written in Fire (2016)
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Novels
The Blade Itself (2007)
At the City’s Edge (2008)
aka Accelerant
Good People (2008)
aka Too Good To Be True
The Amateurs (2009)
aka No Turning Back
The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes (2011)
No Rest for the Dead (2011) (with Jeff Abbott, Lori Armstrong, David Baldacci, Sandra Brown, Thomas H Cook, Jeffery Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, Andrew F Gulli, Lamia Gulli, Peter James, J A Jance, Faye Kellerman, Raymond Khoury, John Lescroart, Jeff Lindsay, Gayle Lynds, Alexander McCall Smith, Phillip Margolin, Michael Palmer, T Jefferson Parker, Matthew Pearl, Kathy Reichs, Jonathan Santlofer, Lisa Scottoline, R L Stine and Marcia Talley)
Afterlife (2017)
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Collections
Scar Tissue (2010)
Thriller 2.2 (2016) (with Phillip Margolin and Carla Neggers)
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Novellas
As Breathing (2010)
The Days When You Were Anything Else (2010)
The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away (2010)
Gravity and Need (2010)
No One (2010)
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Miles Cameron: Fall of Dragons (review)

Image result for christian cameron

Christian/ Miles Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

The Fall of Dragons  (2017)
(The fifth book in the Traitor Son Cycle series)

book cover of The Fall of Dragons

The Red Knight’s final battle lies ahead…but there’s a whole war still to fight first.

He began with a small company, fighting the dangerous semi-mythical creatures that threatened villages, nunneries and cities. But as his power – and his forces – grew, so the power of the enemy he stood against became ever clearer. Not the power of men…but that of gods, with thousands of mortal allies.

Never has strategy been more important, and this war will end where it started: at Lissen Carak. But to get there means not one battle but many – to take out the seven armies which stand against them and force Ash, the huge black dragon, to finally take to the field himself….

Review

The Traitor Son Cycle has been Miles Cameron’s fantasy debut, with so many amazing Historical fiction titles written and read by many proving the quality and power of his writing, for me this was always going to be a case of how good can this get, how can it compare to the many accomplished fantasy series out there, how will the plot cope with the freedom beyond the structure of history?

Miles Cameron has since book one given us an astounding series, one filled with a new and highly intelligent and in-depth magical system, a total world spanning societal structure based on varying real world empires and a code of chivalry that underpins the fighting force of the red Knight, one that we can truly believe, because Christian himself lives this code himself, fights in the amour and knows the history. Most of all it has given us a deeply involved plot that employs all of the research and all of the knowledge of a great writer.

Fall of Dragons is the culmination of this wonderful series, and for me the linchpin of the series, if you fail to tie the knots of a series so full and complex you fail the series. At times Christian/ Miles has cast his net of plot far and wide, sometimes worryingly so, but slowly carefully and with great precision he has pulled those differing views, plots, perspectives and locations together back into the main sort arc, giving a series and book that absorbs you utterly with all its twists and turns. More complex and yet with none of the waffle when compared to series like Game of Thrones, for me this blows away GRRM’s work, because it keeps the plot on point, nothing is there just to appear smart, its there for a reason and you can feel the tension mounting as the author takes you on this majestic and massive journey.

Most of all for me, the series had an ending, one that’s hugely satisfying and really powerfully done. The author doesn’t save himself for a another book or a further series, he powers towards the promised ending and leaps into that void with the reader no character is safe. Couple that with the utterly relentless pace of this book, which is essentially 560 pages of battle , journey to battle, preparation for battle and then more battle…. yet written with true heart and passion, taking account of the lives and travails of all involved, lost and celebrated in this war to end all wars.

I cant give this any higher recommendation…. i doff my cap sir!!

(Parm)

Series
Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2014)
4. A Plague of Swords (2016)
5. The Fall of Dragons (2017)
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Masters & Mages
1. The Master (2018)
Christian Cameron
Series
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
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Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
5. Salamis (2015)
6. Rage of Ares (2016)
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Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
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Chivalry
1. The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
2. The Long Sword (2014)
3. The Green Count (2017)
4. Sword of Justice (2018)
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Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade
1. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part One (2014)
2. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Two (2014)
3. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Three (2014)
4. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Four (2015)
5. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Five (2015)
6. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Six (2015)
7. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Seven(2015)
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Tom Swan and the Last Spartans
1. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part One (2016)
2. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Two (2016)
3. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Three (2017)
4. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Four (2017)
5. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Five (2017)
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Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
A Song of War (2016) (with Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turneyand Russell Whitfield)
Tudor Knight (2018)
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Omnibus
Songs of Blood and Gold (2017) (with Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, Libbie Hawker, Ben Kane, E Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turney and Russell Whitfield)
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Filed under Christian Cameron, Fantasy, Miles Cameron

Angela Slatter: Corpselight (Review)

Angela Slatter's picture

Angela Slatter
Specialising in dark fantasy and horror, Angela Slatter is the author of The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and Black-Winged Angels, as well as Midnight and Moonshine and The Female Factory (both with Lisa L. Hannett). She has won five Aurealis Awards, one British Fantasy Award, and a World Fantasy Award, as well as being a finalist for the Norma K. Hemming Award.

Angelas short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror (Stephen Jones, ed.), The Years Best Dark Fantasy and Horror (Paula Guran, ed.), The Best Horror of the Year (Ellen Datlow, ed.), The Years Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, eds.), and The Years Best YA Speculative Fiction (Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, eds.).

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships.

Her novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (from Tor.com), and Ripper (in the Stephen Jones anthology Horrorology, from Jo Fletcher Books) will be released in October 2015.

Angelas urban fantasy novel, Vigil (based on the short story Brisneyland byNight), will be released by Jo Fletcher Books in 2016, and the sequel, Corpselight, in 2017. She is represented by Ian Drury of the literary agency Sheil Land.

blog tour poster (2)

Corpselight  (2017)
(The second book in the Verity Fassbinder series)

book cover of Corpselight

Life in Brisbane is never simple for those who walk between the worlds.

Verity’s all about protecting her city, but right now that’s mostly running surveillance and handling the less exciting cases for the Weyrd Council – after all, it’s hard to chase the bad guys through the streets of Brisbane when you’re really, really pregnant.

An insurance investigation sounds pretty harmless, even if it is for ‘Unusual Happenstance’. That’s not usually a clause Normals use – it covers all-purpose hauntings, angry genii loci, ectoplasmic home invasion, demonic possession, that sort of thing – but Susan Beckett’s claimed three times in three months. Her house keeps getting inundated with mud, but she’s still insisting she doesn’t need or want help . . . until the dry-land drownings begin.

V’s first lead in takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful.

Review

Book one in this series was an utter delight and surprise, Something i hadn’t looked for or expected that fell into my lap and was an instant hit, a debut that you feel no fear in recommending to all, crossing genres as “just a great read”, with wonderful characters.

What the author needs to do after such a splendid debut is to follow it up, sounds obvious but often this is the hurdle where many fall. Slatter and Corpselight is not one of those. While the book is undoubtedly different to Vigil it is still a splendid piece of character writing with a plot that is both emotional and introspective and yet builds to a powerful, energetic, fast paced plot. Fastbender is as always no wallflower, even when heavily pregnant, add into the mix all the other characters near and dear to her and us the reader, and the Angela Slatter has so much more scope to delve into the emotional drivers and experiences of all her leading charcters, the plot and the world already exist, its just bringing it all to life that’s needed, and if you loved Vigil then you will not be disappointed at all with the highly charged action packed emotional roller-coaster. Myth and reality blended at its finest, right up there with my annual Aaronovitch treat.

recommended read

(Parm)

Series

Verity Fassbinder
1. Vigil (2016)
2. Corpselight (2017)
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Novels
Finnegan’s Field (2016)
Black-Winged Angels (2016)
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Collections
The Girl with No Hands (and Other Tales) (2010)
Sourdough and Other Stories (2010)
Willow Pattern (2012) (with Steven K Amsterdam, Christopher Currie, Rjurik Davidson, Nick Earls, Simon Groth, Krissy Kneen, Geoff Lemon and PM Newton)
A Ghostly Gathering (2012) (with Stephen Jones and Thana Niveau)
Midnight and Moonshine (2012)
The Bitterwood Bible (2014)
The Female Factory (2015)
Four Dark Tales (2015)
Four Horrifying Tales (2015)
A Feast of Shadows (2016)
A Feast of Sorrows (2016)
Winter Children and Other Chilling Tales (2016)
Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2016 (2017) (with Nina Allan, Charlie Jane Anders, Aliette de Bodard, Tara Isabella Burton, Monica Byrne, Rebecca Campbell, Cixin Liu, P Djeli Clark, Indrapramit Das, Alix E Harrow, N K Jemisin, Margaret Killjoy, Melissa Marr, David Nickle, Laurie Penny, Daniel Polansky, Lettie Prell, Delia Sherman, Caighlan Smith, Lavie Tidhar, Rajnar Vajra, Genevieve Valentine, Carrie Vaughn and Alyssa Wong)
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Novellas
The Burning Circuis (2015)
Home and Heath (2015)
Of Sorrow and Such (2015)
Ripper (2017)
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Anthologies edited
Dead Red Heart (2011) (with Russell B Farr)
A Book of Horrors (2011) (with Stephen Jones)
Canterbury 2100: pilgrimages in a new world (2013) (with Dirk Flinthart)
Fearie Tales (2013) (with Stephen Jones)
Sprawl (2014) (with Alisa Krasnostein)
Corvidae (2015) (with Rhonda Parrish)
Damnation and Dames (2015) (with Liz Grzyb and Amanda Pillar)
Focus 2014 (2015) (with Tehani Wessely)
Cthulhu’s Daughters (2016) (with Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R Stiles)
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Filed under Angela Slatter, Fantasy

Ed McDonald: Blackwing (guest post)

Ed McDonald has spent many years dancing between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives with his wife in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration, where he works as a university lecturer. When he’s not grading essays or wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes.

Ed’s debut novel Blackwing is the first part of The Raven’s Mark trilogy. Blackwing will be published on July 20th 2017 by Gollancz in the UK, and October 2017 by Ace in the United States. German, Spanish, French, Hungariann and Russian translations will be available from 2018.

 

Blackwing  (2017)
(The first book in the Raven’s Mark series)

Buy signed copy

book cover of Blackwing

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some 80 years ago, thanks to Nall’s Engine, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a no-man’s-land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch.

Galharrow escapes only because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery, a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Guest Blog:

Relationships in Fantasy & Toxic Male Sexual Identity in Media

 

Blackwing is a book about magic, swords and power.

It’s also a story about a relationship, love, and the need for closure. Hopefully, a reader will feel that the way that the characters interact over the course of the book is believable, given the situations that they find themselves in, and the way that life has treated them before. I wanted to write a relationship narrative that more accurately mirrors the way that I feel that adults behave. The key characters aren’t 15 years old, they’re people who’ve experienced life, and I wanted them to behave like those kinds of people. I also wanted to show a man with difficult feelings not acting like a complete and utter pillock.

When I was growing up in the 1990s, I learned about relationships from watching Friends on the TV. The best bit of Friends was Ross and Rachel and their on/off status, because it got across a lot of feeling. But, it’s only with hindsight that I can look back at Friends and see how damaging it was to my own sexual identity as a young man learning about how to behave around women, what women wanted from a heterosexual relationship, and how relationships form.

Friends eventually turned into British sitcom Coupling, then How I Met Your Mother (it’s incredible how many plots got reused) and then the same issues appear in Rules of Engagement and more besides. There’s an easy set of jokes that can be made that go like so:

Woman suggests remote possibility of sex. Man loses his head and falls over trying to get to the bedroom.

The message in these shows is that men are sex-obsessed and willing to do anything to get into a woman’s knickers. This wasn’t my experience of being a teen/adult male, and never has been. But I always kind of felt that to be a real man, that’s how I ought to feel. Even after I settled into a stable relationship in my late twenties, I felt that I had to be primed and ready to go at the shortest notice. It has taken a lot of reflection and honesty to realise that I’m not an over-inflated balloon ready to explode. A real man can barely control himself, right?

There’s a lot that’s wrong with this media picture. It tells men that it’s OK to be only just in control. It tells men that women are the gatekeepers and that they control everything about the flow of sex in a man’s life. It tells them that society expects them to be ‘horn dogs’ and that to behave like that is OK. It’s all very toxic. This is so often portrayed in fantasy books as well. A very silly bit in one book by an author that I greatly respect in all other ways involves a (mild mannered, polite, kind) character throws himself into a patch of stinging nettles because he’s just so horny. The villains of most books are portrayed in the same manner, and grimdark is often especially blatant for it. We absorb the messages that we read. We emulate our heroes. Getting this stuff right is important.

The second, opposite way that these stories lie to us about relationships is that they tell us that The Changing Friendzone is a real thing. It’s the idea that if you like someone, and they don’t fancy you, that their feelings will change over time, as long as someone performs lots of small acts of kindness. All of the men I grew up with at school seemed to believe this as well. Why not? We identified with Ross. It’s the plot of every rom-com out there. When I got to university, everyone believed it there too. But then, through life, I’ve yet to see a single example of this play out. I wasted years pining over girls that I thought I loved, imagining that they’d somehow change their minds about me if I was just a good friend for long enough. Fantasy is very guilty of this. One of the biggest books in the genre is effectively a big friend-zone story. It’s a device to draw out a romance into a long and tortured ordeal, where we can root for the characters over time. Maybe we enjoy this story because secretly we’ve all loved a friend in this way. But I’d so much rather read a story where someone goes through this and then meets someone that actually likes them instead.

To me, it’s all a little disingenuous. Our expectations of reality are affected by the stories that are told to us, and as an author, I wanted to write a relationship that I felt better matched my experiences of the way that experienced adults behave. People in their thirties are both honest and dishonest. Love is selfish; it’s also about giving. It’s hard, and it hurts at times, and you’re not always sure that you want it, even when you can’t bear to let it go. It takes into account that there are other things going on in life, and that much as you might want something, there are always going to be other concerns to get in the way.

For me, the human element of a fantasy story is what makes all those swords, magic blasts and doomsday weapons matter. Hopefully I pulled it off.

Raven’s Mark
1. Blackwing (2017)
2. Ravensworn (2018)

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Jane Johnson: Court of Lions (Extract + Review)

AUTHOR

Jane Johnson is from Cornwall and has worked in the book industry for over 20 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer. She is responsible for the publishing of many major authors, including George RR Martin.

In 2005 she was in Morocco researching the story of a distant family member who was abducted from a Cornish church in 1625 by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa, when a near-fatal climbing incident caused her to rethink her future. She returned home, gave up her office job in London, and moved to Morocco. She married her own ‘Berber pirate’ and now they split their time between Cornwall and a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. She still works, remotely, as Fiction Publishing Director for HarperCollins.

book cover of Court of Lions

COURT OF LIONS

JANE JOHNSON 

Publication Date: 6th July 2017    Price £18.99

An epic saga of romance and redemption. Court of Lions brings one of the great turning points in history to life, through the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada.

 Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

Court of Lions brings one of the great turning-points in history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

Extract:

It was approaching eleven by the time she’d walked up to the Calle Charca to drop her laundry off with Rosita, a cheerful, tubby Spanish woman whose husband made the deliveries to the bodega and who washed three times a week for those with no machines, like Kate. Picking up fresh laundry a day later was one of Kate’s pleasures. Nothing smelled as nice as sheets that had been dried in the Albayzín sun: it seemed to imbue them with a whiff of the incense of ages past, with bitter oranges and spiced brandy. Then it was on to the little supermarket on the Calle Panaderos and the market in the square for beautifully organic fruit and veg. And still Jess hadn’t rung!

As Kate was making her way back home with her groceries, she thought she heard the muezzin at the mosque, the Mezquita Mayor, just a few streets away, starting to call the Muslim faithful to prayer. She strained her ears toward the fragile sound, but a truck came rattling along the narrow street, making her flatten herself against the rough wall, and by the time its roar had passed, the muezzin had fallen silent. The mosque had been constructed less than twenty years ago, the city finally bowing to the pressure to provide its significant North African population with somewhere to worship other than out of sight in garages and private houses. Catholic Spain might have expelled its Moors at the end of the fifteenth century, but it seemed they had been allowed to return more than half a millennium later, and be woven back into the rich warp and weft of the country they had done so much to civilize. Even if they hadn’t been permitted to give the muezzin a loudspeaker.

She dropped into the Internet café to send Jess an email. Hicham, not Saïd, was on duty, and he did not meet her eyes when she greeted him, or hold his hand out for the money, but instead waited for her to put the coins down on the counter, as if her touch might contaminate him. The place was usually stuffed with young men, but when Saïd was here, she never felt uncomfortable coming in on her own. The way Hicham treated her, though, made her clumsy. Trying to fiddle her change back into her bag, she dislodged a slip of paper, which spun across the melamine countertop toward him. Hicham stopped its progress with a stab of his finger.

“Sorry,” she said automatically. Then added, “Perdón.” She reached out to take it back, but he put his hand flat over it. His black eyes challenged her.

“Why you have this?”

“What?”

He repeated the question. Flummoxed, she shrugged. “Sorry, it’s just a bit of rubbish. I should have put it in a bin. But there’s never one around when you need one, is there?” She laughed awkwardly. Had she unleashed some sort of obscure insult: dropping a bit of waste paper in front of a Muslim man? She had no idea.

“If it just rubbish, why you want it back?”

There was no answer to this. She watched Hicham pick up the paper to scrutinize it. Then she realized what it was. The scrap of paper that she’d winkled out of the wall in the palace gardens yesterday. “Oh. Please, I do want that back.”

Hicham’s lip curled. “I don’t think so. It not yours.”

For a brief, embarrassing moment Kate thought she might burst into tears. What on earth was the matter with her? When had she become so pathetic? He was only a local café worker playing a game with her. A rather nasty, dour little game, exercising a bit of power over a woman: she should recognize that sort of thing by now. And really, did it matter so much? All this fuss over a scrap of rubbish. She rallied herself. “Keep it, then.”

For a moment he looked confused. Then he shoved the paper back across the counter at her. “You don’t trick me like that.” He turned and made for the back room, his mobile phone already to his ear.

She slid the scrap back into her bag. Hicham had truly rattled her; how dare he be so rude? Saïd was always so nice, so easy to talk to, even a bit flirty. He had a Spanish girlfriend, though, a handsome woman called Pilar, who worked at a museum. At least, she thought Pilar was his girlfriend. Did men from his culture even have girlfriends, or were they expected to marry to have a relationship? Really, what she knew about Muslim men—indeed, any sort of men—she could fit on the back of that sweet wrapper, or whatever it was.

She found an unoccupied monitor along the back wall between a group of giggling teenagers and a quiet young man who swiftly angled his body to shield the screen of his monitor from her. As if she cared that he was looking at pornography at midday on a Friday. Except … it seemed she did care. Unwelcome images swam up from the depths of her memory, cutting through dark wate

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Review

I have been wanting to review a book for Jane Johnson for quite a long time, i make no secret of the fact that she is just the most helpful, kind and talented person i have met in the world of books, and has always helped out this woeful reviewer. But all that said i would do an injustice if i didn’t give the book a fully fair review at the same time (and i think she would tell me off)….. so phew… its brilliant. I’m not normally one for the mushy books…. and to be honest this isn’t. While its a romantic book, essentially a love letter to the city of Granada, it is also and more importantly a deeply insightful well researched passionate piece about the the Granada War of the 1400’s , its culture and the people who existed there.

The author expands the story further using multiple perspectives, differing opinions and understanding. The main perspective being a young woman (Kate) a lady who finds herself immersed in a mystery that allows her to escape her own life and her counter part, Blessings who loves the young Sultan.

Jane Johnson weaves her tale with exceptional skill and such a delicate touch, providing some exceedingly real and complex characters. The author uses a real talent for knowing people to push the plot back and forth between past and present taking the reader through a roller coaster of emotions.

As i suspected and hoped Jane Johnson has written something wonderful, handling a delicate cultural plot-line, doing so with such passion for all areas of the book and its people.

Very Highly Recommended

(Parm)

Series
Eidolon Chronicles
1. The Secret Country (2005)
2. The Shadow World (2006)
3. Dragon’s Fire (2007)
Legends of the Shadow World (omnibus) (2010)
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Moroccan
1. Crossed Bones (2008)
aka The Tenth Gift
2. The Salt Road (2010)
3. The Sultan’s Wife (2012)
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Novels
Maskmaker (2010)
Goldseekers (2011)
Pillars of Light (2016)
Court of Lions (2017)
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