August releases

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I'm just back from my annual camping trip, where I couldn't read for I was always running after my 18 months old little girl but I'm just in time for August 2015 Fantasy releases. This month, my spotlight is quite short...


First, from the list of 2015 coming up titles I posted in January, here's what has changed for this month:

The Spider's War (The Dagger and the Coin book 5) by Daniel Abraham was pushed to 2016.
Black Heart (The Barrow book 2) by Mark Smylie was pushed to November.
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (The Song of the Shattered Sands book 1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu was pushed to September.
Fall of Light (Kharkanas trilogy book 2) by Steven Erikson was pushed to 2016.


The Fifth Season
The Broken Earth book 1
N.K. Jemisin
August 4th
This is the way the world ends. Again. 
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze—the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years—collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. 
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

The Fool's Quest
The Fitz and the Fool trilogy book 2
Robin Hobb
August 11th
Acclaimed and bestselling author Robin Hobb continues her Fitz and the Fool trilogy with this second entry, following Fool’s Assassin, ramping up the tension and the intrigue as disaster continues to strike at Fitz’s life and heart. 
After nearly killing his oldest friend, the Fool, and finding his daughter stolen away by those who were once targeting the Fool, FitzChivarly Farseer is out for blood. And who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained and deadly former royal assassin? Fitz might have let his skills go fallow over his years of peace, but such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten. And nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose…

on the AFR Radar

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

River of Stars was my favorite novel of 2013 and I awaited eagerly the announcement of Guy Gavriel Kay next work. Even if I really liked the book, I must admit that the Chinese background used as a setting for his Fantasy story isn't my cup of tea. When I learned that the author's new novel, Children of Earth and Sky was to be inspired by Renaissance Europe, the book instantly came up to the top of my reading pile. Barnes and Nobles unveiled the cover and blurb.

What do you think?

Here's the blurb:
The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide. 
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy. 
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming. 
As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

Guest post - The Charts of Tomorrows and Norwegian fairy tales by Chris Willrich

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In The Chart of Tomorrows, my ongoing sword-and-sorcery characters, the poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone, at last track down their lost son, to a fantastical version of Scandinavia.

In a way I’m surprised it took this long to work Scandinavia into the series. My mom’s side of the family has a strong connection to Norway, on both sides of her family tree. In fact her father, who died before I was born, was a first-generation immigrant. Bits and pieces of Norwegian-American culture were always part of the background when I was growing up — lefse at Christmas, pewter Vikings, dragon-ships in artwork, and books of troll stories. It seemed fitting to eventually bring the rogues to a fantasy version of Scandinavia.

Art by Richard Benning

There was a challenge here though. Scandinavia has long been a big influence on fantasy fiction. Not only have there been many fantasy versions of Vikings, but the modern genre owes a huge debt to J.R.R. Tolkien’s interest in Norse stories. How to give it something new?

It seemed to me that while Scandinavian mythology and the adventures of the Vikings are pretty familiar to readers, the folk tales I got hints of while growing up might be less widely known (maybe with the exception of “The Billy Goats Gruff”). So one of the threads I drew upon were those troll-tales I read as a kid.

In The Chart of Tomorrows, Gaunt and Bone meet Inga Peersdatter and Malin Jorgensdatter, inspired by the 19th Century Norwegian folklorists Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. (I pay tribute to these Norwegians with the last names of the characters). Like the Brothers Grimm, Asbjørnsen and Moe gathered stories told in the countryside, in many cases saving tales that might have been lost. My version of the two folklorists makes them larger than life (and female). Inga is a troll-child left with a human family as a changeling. Her best friend Malin, a young woman with an unusual mind, gets called a “changeling” by villagers simply because they find her strange. Malin and Inga, two outsiders thrown together, become a sort of Holmes and Watson of fairy tales — if Holmes were a brilliant folklorist and Watson capable of felling trees with his bare hands.

As a kid I often encountered Asbjørnsen and Moe’s work without knowing it. Tales of trolls with various numbers of heads, or of cow-tailed hulder women ready to lure young men to their dooms, or of poor farm boys who tangle with kings or supernatural creatures and win, often had their sources in their groundbreaking collections. These stories painted my picture of Norway, a country I’d never seen for real (and still haven’t, alas) but which seemed to me something like my Pacific Northwest surroundings magnified by a factor of ten and embroidered with monsters and other spooky characters in the shadows, with the odd Viking brooding here or there. Although I’ve tried to put a sheen of history on it all, it’s really that imaginary childhood dream-Scandinavia that Gaunt and Bone travel to.

And so their son, lost in the Bladed Isles, gets the nickname “Ash-lad,” the literal name of a hero — also known as “Askeladden” among other names — who keeps popping up in Norwegian folktales. The Ash-lad’s a sort of action-hero Cinderella, a plucky boy from poor circumstances who has the courage and insight to take on the most dangerous challenges and win. And so, armed with this nickname, Gaunt and Bone’s son encounters otherworldly hulder-folk (called uldra in my version) and maniacal trolls, on the way to finding out who he is and what side (if any) he’s on.

The trolls in particular were great fun to imagine. The ones in the stories might be smaller than people, but just as easily could be the size of hills, with trees growing out of them. They could have multiple heads, and might live under bridges or behind waterfalls. They’re a strange combination of awesome strength and dreamlike mutability. In the story “The Trolls in Hedale Wood,” two brothers encounter three trolls with a shared eye, and the elder boy gets the better of the trolls and looks through the eye, seeing darkness as though it were day. In another story, “The Giant Who Had No Heart,” an immense being, surely kin to the trolls, is unbeatable because he has hidden his heart away from his body. Naturally it’s the Ash-lad who overcomes him. 

The Ash-lad of the old stories is surely a cousin of all heroic fantasy characters, who likewise keep taking on foes seemingly too big for them. And the landscape he moves through is moody and mysterious in a way that rivals Lankhmar or the Hyborian Age, a place to get lost in.

“And as a literary artist this is his [Asbjørnsen’s] highest praise, that he has contrived to lay the peculiarities of Norwegian landscape before his readers with a subtlety of touch such as no other poet or proseman has achieved — not by description so much as by a series of those sympathetic and brilliant touches which make us forget the author, and fancy we are walking in the body through the country of his affection.”

— Edmund W. Gosse, introduction to Peter Christen Asbjørnsen’s Round the Yule Log, translated by H.L. Brackstad, 1881 (quoted in Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales, edited by Claire Boos, New York, Avenel Books, 1984.)

Any fantasy reader who’s loved being swept off to another world will understand the sentiment. Whether or not you ever read The Chart of Tomorrows, I hope you’ll track down some of those old stories yourself, and get away from it all, east of the sun, west of the moon.


Written by Chris Willrich

Chris Willrich (Mountain View, CA) is a science fiction and fantasy writer best known for his sword-and-sorcery tales of Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone. Until recently he was a children’s librarian for the Santa Clara County Library System, in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Gate, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Flashing Swords, The Mythic Circle, and Strange Horizons.

The Chart of Tomorrows
Gaunt and Bone book 3
Chris Willrich
Released on July 7th 2015
The poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone had sought only to retire from adventuring and start a family, but they never reckoned on their baby becoming the chosen vessel of the mystical energies of a distant Eastern land. With their son Innocence hunted by various factions hoping to use him as a tool, they kept him safe at the cost of trapping him in a pocket dimension of accelerated time.  
Now free, the thirteen-year-old Innocence has rejected his parents and his "destiny" and has made dangerous friends in a barbaric Western land of dragon-prowed ships and rugged fjords. Desperately, Gaunt and Bone seek to track him down, along with their companion Snow Pine and her daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who was once trapped with Innocence too.  
But as the nomadic Karvaks and their war-balloons strike west, and a troll-king spins his webs, and Joy is herself chosen by the spirit of the very land Innocence has fled to, Gaunt and Bone find themselves at the heart of a vast struggle -- and their own son is emerging from that conflict as a force of evil. To save him and everything they know, they turn to a dangerous magical book, The Chart of Tomorrows, that reveals pathways through time. Upon the treacherous seas of history, Gaunt and Bone must face the darkness in each other’s pasts, in order to rescue their future.

July 2015 releases

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A nice list of Fantasy releases just in time for the summer reading! What will pique your interest this month?


The Path of Gods
The Valhalla Saga book 3
Snorri Kristjansson
July 2nd
Reunited, Audun and Ulfar have a new sense of purpose: to ensure that the North remains in the hands of those who hold with the old gods. To do this, they must defeat the people who seek to destroy all they have ever known with the new White Christ. But these are powerful enemies and if they have any chance of victory, they must find equally powerful allies. 
In Trondheim, King Olav, self-appointed champion of the White Christ, finds that keeping the peace is a much harder test of his faith than winning the war. With his garrison halved and local chieftains at his table who wish him nothing but ill, the king must decide how and where to spread the word of his god. 
And in the North, touched by the trickster god, something old, malevolent and very, very angry stirs…

A.F.E. Smith
July 2nd
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place. 
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line? 
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved. 

The Chart of Tomorrows
Gaunt and Bone book 3
Chris Willrich
July 7th
The poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone had sought only to retire from adventuring and start a family, but they never reckoned on their baby becoming the chosen vessel of the mystical energies of a distant Eastern land. With their son Innocence hunted by various factions hoping to use him as a tool, they kept him safe at the cost of trapping him in a pocket dimension of accelerated time.  
Now free, the thirteen-year-old Innocence has rejected his parents and his "destiny" and has made dangerous friends in a barbaric Western land of dragon-prowed ships and rugged fjords. Desperately, Gaunt and Bone seek to track him down, along with their companion Snow Pine and her daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who was once trapped with Innocence too. 

But as the nomadic Karvaks and their war-balloons strike west, and a troll-king spins his webs, and Joy is herself chosen by the spirit of the very land Innocence has fled to, Gaunt and Bone find themselves at the heart of a vast struggle -- and their own son is emerging from that conflict as a force of evil. To save him and everything they know, they turn to a dangerous magical book, The Chart of Tomorrows, that reveals pathways through time. Upon the treacherous seas of history, Gaunt and Bone must face the darkness in each other’s pasts, in order to rescue their future.

The Floating City
Shadow Master book 2
Craig Cormick
June 2nd
The Floating City is in turmoil. The magical seers who protect it are being killed by fearsome Djinn that rise out of the canals at night. Members of the city’s Council of Ten are being assassinated by masked fanatics. Refugee ships are arriving, bringing plague. Othmen spies are infiltrating everywhere. New power blocks are battling for control of the city. 
And the three Montecchi daughters, Giuliette, Disdemona and Isabella, are struggling with love and loss – and trying to write their own destinies. And moving amongst them all is the mysterious and deadly Shadow Master, who seems to be directing everyone like players in a game. But some things in this game may be beyond even his control.

Queen of Fire
Raven's Shadow book 3
Anthony Ryan
July 7th
“The Ally is there, but only ever as a shadow, unexplained catastrophe or murder committed at the behest of a dark vengeful spirit. Sorting truth from myth is often a fruitless task.” 
After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep. 
Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious Ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…

The Mortal Tally
Bring Down Heaven book
Sam Sykes
July 7th
The heart of civilization bleeds. 
Cier'Djaal, once the crowning glory of the civilized world, has gone from a city to a battlefield and a battlefield to a graveyard. Foreign armies clash relentlessly on streets laden with the bodies of innocents caught in the crossfire. Cultists and thieves wage shadow wars, tribal armies foment outside the city's walls, and haughty aristocrats watch the world burn from on high. 
As his companions struggle to keep the city from destroying itself, Lenk travels to the Forbidden East in search of the demon who caused it all. But even as he pursues Khoth-Kapira, dark whispers plague his thoughts. Khoth-Kapira promises him a world free of war where Lenk can put down his sword at last. And Lenk finds it hard not to listen. 
When gods are deaf, demons will speak.

The Darkling Child
 The Defenders of Shannara book 2
Terry Brooks
July 7th
Paxon Leah has joined the Druid Order as a paladin, tasked with protecting the Druids with the aid of his magical sword. But Paxon’s toughest assignment will come when he must track down a young musician with newly-manifested magic before a rival sorcerer can corrupt the boy.

The Price of Valour
The Shadow Campaigns book 3
Django Wexler
July 9th
In the latest Shadow Campaigns novel, Django Wexler continues his “epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict”* following The Shadow Throne and The Thousand Names, as the realm of Vordan faces imminent threats from without and within. 
In the wake of the King’s death, war has come to Vordan. 
The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia Orboan, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. But she did not help free the country from one sort of tyranny to see it fall into another. Placing her trust with the steadfast soldier Marcus D’Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history. 
As the hidden hand of the Sworn Church brings all the powers of the continent to war against Vordan, the enigmatic and brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich offers a path to victory. Winter Ihernglass, newly promoted to command a regiment, has reunited with her lover and her friends, only to face the prospect of leading them into bloody battle. 
And the enemy is not just armed with muskets and cannon. Dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic, have infiltrated Vordan to stop Janus by whatever means necessary…

Chaos Unleashed
Chaos Born book 3
Drew Karpyshyn
July 14th
Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create. 
Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king. 
Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

Half a War
Shattered Sea book 3
Joe Abercrombie
July 15th
Words are weapons
Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright. 
Only half a war is fought with swords 
The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death. 
Sometimes one must fight evil with evil 
Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

The Dinosaur Lords
Victor Milan
July 28th
A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden – and of war. Colossal planteaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meateaters like Allosaurus and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from batsized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons. 
Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…and the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where we have vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engaged in battle. And during the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac – and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

Tower Lord mini review

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tower Lord is the second book in Anthony Ryan's A Raven's Shadow series.  This is the follow-up to Blood Song, a stellar debut that Ryan had to publish himself before it was finally picked up by Ace and became a success. The third book in the series, Queen of Fire will be released next month, July 7th. This is a mini review since I read the book some time ago but I still wanted to share my thoughts.
Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more.  
Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm. But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do.  
The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.
Blood Song was the story of Vaelin Al Sorna. The origin story of one of the most notorious, dangerous and extraordinary man alive. From the start, my expectations were great and Ryan delivered a compelling and serious tale of a conflicted youth growing up in the isolated monastery of a military order. There was a lack of woman presence and the world was mostly traditional medieval scenery but the prophecy, the legend of the man himself, the open threads at the end of the book and even the magical elements made it a strong Epic Fantasy book with eagerness to sell for the follow-up.

Sadly, for me, Tower Lord was mostly a letdown. With the coming of age out the way and Vaelin already at the top of his game, opportunities were emerging at first but the pace and the overall story evolution was dragged down heavily. The split of points of views could have helped but the other threads didn't draw me in and didn't tie in cohesively, a hard assessment of the breakdown from the first opus. The additions are Reva, a young manipulated woman who wants to kill Vaelin and Princess Lyrna and brother Frentis from the previous book. New enemies had to come up and it seems that for the author, the political situation needed a significant development but the bad side effects of a bridging novel expanding the world appeared.

'Tower lording' seemed like a bore for a while, poor Vaelin, and I almost put the book down for good a couple of times. Still, I admit that the novel had some few interesting moments. Brother Frentis' storyline is captivating in some instances, due to his particular situation as a slave. There's also the addition of female protagonists in the spotlight, a missing element from Blood Song but the addition itself isn't enough. Moreover, even Verniers whereabouts lack mystery and intrigue. Why did the author throw out of his follow-up that many essential and successful features from one book to another?

Will I pick up the third book? Maybe... but I ought to be convinced by a lot of arguments... aside from judging by the outcome of Blood Song, I know that Ryan can be a good writer but I think he has to come up with a tightly woven story, concentrated on Vaelin and few of the other characters instead of the world situation and the boring life of a Tower Lord in the deep North.

Cover:  Nice, probably one of the best featuring an archer I've ever seen.
Release date: July 1st 2014
Map: Several nice maps giving more details of the different regions
Number of pages: 602 pages hardcover edition
Acquisition method: My own audiobook purchase
Other: No...

I liked...Was disappointed by...
Parts of Frentis' journey and insights as a slaveThe new PoVs

The life as a Tower Lord seems boring

The pace and the story itself surrounding the political situation

The difference between the narrative and writing choices between Blood Song and Tower Lord

The distance created from Vaelin's legend building

Tower Lord review rating :

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