New map - An Ember in the ashes

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tor shared the creation process for the beautiful map of Sabaa Tahir debut Fantasy novel, An Ember in the Ashes. The map is the work of the talented Jon Roberts. I think it could be a contender for best map of the year. The book was released on April 28th.


It was also added to the index!


The Providence of Fire review

Thursday, May 21, 2015


The Providence of Fire is the second novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series by last year debut author Brian Staveley. His first book, The Emperor's Blades received good reviews, your host included, tagging it a nice if classical Epic Fantasy story.  The first book was released back in January 2014 and the follow-up was out earlier this year, in January to be precise. The final novel of the trilogy, The Last Mortal Bond, should be out early next year.
The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over. 
Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy. Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.  
Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.
First, here's a recap of my review of Staveley's The Emperor's Blades:
To wrap things up, I would return to my opening statement, The Emperor's Blades is not the new thing that everybody will speculate about.  However, it offers interesting characters and even if the story and much of the "Medieval-themed" world building is conventional, it will quench the thirst of Epic Fantasy lovers in need of something familiar with some novelty here and there.  A commendable debut that will bring you back to old Fantasy we use to love.
As I hope you can gather, I liked the book enough to pick up the follow-up almost as soon as it was released. The best part about it is that the conventional epithet, a characteristic yielding a negative feeling more often than not, can almost be crossed out in the Providence of Fire. Staveley elevated his story, characters and writing to wrap it all out in a fascinating progression. With two books behind the belt, now Staveley's should be something more readers speculate about.

I would also note that Staveley's been quite present within the blogsphere, a fact I really appreciate in an author.  It must have helped in comparison with last year, when the full advertising machine was working for his debut (but the second book didn't seem to benefit from the same treatment).

The Emperor's Blade was an origin/coming of age story for both brothers, Valyn becoming the leader of a wing of Kettral, the 'shadowy' elite strike force of the empire and Kaden finding out what it means to be the emperor of the mighty Annurian Empire and being taught the ancient technique of the Shins, allowing him to go through the kenta gates. Meanwhile, Adare found out who the traitor behind the murder of her father really was. Taking it all into account, I thought that the Providence of Fire would feel like the standard bridging novel but the author really surprised me with a great plot, slower in the first half of the book and picking up pace to a suspenseful degree all the way to the end.

Still, not all of the threads are captivating at first. Adare is frustrating but not completely annoying. With three points of view and only one of them a woman, it could be an aggravating factor but even if women characters aren't the best proposition of the author's work, their presence is felt and they are not banal or clich├ę. That's mostly the case with Valyn's Kettral companions (Gwenna and Pyrre at the head of them) and the more interesting and mysterious Triste, who follows Kaden.  We knew the girl was more that she seems and she definitely but unwillingly proves it several times.

Hopefully, Adare finally meets up with fascinating new partners, the grumpy and unearthly Nira and her absent-minded brother (again, not what they seem) and the leader of the Sons of Flame, her new army. With a new title worthy of legend, Intarra's Prophet eventually reunites with her nemesis, Ill Thornja, and finds out that her late father's Empire is in peril and she has to put her fate in a traitor for its survival. However, she's doesn't really understand the forces at play and it will even put her at odds with her two brothers. Her ignorance, the side effects it creates and her actions atone for a less engrossing flight following the events of the first book.  The Unhewn Throne is up for grabs.

Meanwhile, lots of things are happening to the brothers. Even if Valyn's training is sadly over, his flight from the mountains housing the Shin's destroyed monastery couldn't have been more eventful. Taken prisoner by the new force gathering against Ill Thornja, the Urghul barbarian hordes (a little touch of vintage Fantasy here), he eventually finds himself chasing his father murderer while putting his partners at risk. The more interesting parts of Valyn's arc are all his errors (who would have thought) and the fact that he continues to run things with his reduced wing. The young leader is freshly out of training and it shows. That's how experience is gained and to see it happen to him first hand through all his mistake is gripping.

And then Kaden. Man... how could the young Emperor-to-be monk could turn out to be so compelling a protagonist in book 2? The hesitating Malkeenian heir, with the help of his new impassive observance of the world and people isn't getting overwhelmed when he meets with Rampuri Tan's fallen people. Even if they are holding one of the dangerous and now infamous Csestrimm. Escaping them, he finds new allies and with Triste and Kiel (a Csestrimm historian) and returns to the Annurian capital. That's when he slowly becomes a harbinger of change for the Empire he's supposed to inherit. Maybe even more so than the other true threats emerging from the darkness. Staveley's hid some cards his hands very well in his first book and it paid off.

Kaden hopelessly trying to create the laws of a new republic with the help of Kiel and being turned down created some nice scenes. There's also one factor stood out but with both brothers. Valyn and Kaden always think that Ill Thornja is planning everything surrounding their actions ahead of them. That naive obsession is restraining them more often than not but each time, their personal deliberations are welcomed (even if I admit that some occurrences may have stretched...).

Another interesting element of Staveley's second opus is the forces in play. Ill Thornja, the Macguffin villain becomes much more than an evil mastermind. The history of the world is way deeper than I thought (thanks mostly to Kaden's thread).  Things have grayed out.  Staveley didn't reveal the whole potential of his tale and world in The Emperor's Blade, maybe risking to be regarded as more simplistic and losing some potential readers but there was way more than meets the eye. The rich world building could hold off more story than this trilogy. Even the Gods are meddling and creating drama.

There you have it. The Providence of Fire is a praiseworthy follow-up to a commendable debut. With Staveley's world, narrative and characters expanding considerably, The Last Mortal Bond now has more weight on its shoulders but I'm more than hopeful that Brian can deliver another entertaining Epic Fantasy novel.

Cover: Richard Anderson strikes again. It's not as gorgeous as The Emperor's Blade cover illustration but the style is amazing and it looks good.
Release date: January 13th 2015
Map: Indeed, of the Annurian Empire and environs
Number of pages: 608 pages hardcover edition
Acquisition method: Physical copy courtesy of Tor
Other: A short appendix

I liked...Was disappointed by...
The world building and deeper historyAdare's first half of the book
Kaden's evolution and Valyn's  hardships denouementSome dumb moves by the 'villains'
The new forces in play revealed
The pace,  overall writing and the story itself


The Providence of Fire review rating :


Miles Cameron's The Dread Wyrm cover, blurb and date

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gollancz unveiled today the cover art for the UK edition of the upcoming third novel in the Traitor Son cycle series by Miles Cameron, The Dread Wyrm.


Moreover, they posted the blurb and the release date, October 15th, 2015 (UK).

SOME ARE BORN TO POWER
SOME SEIZE IT 
AND SOME HAVE THE WISDOM NEVER TO WIELD IT 
The Red Knight has stood against soldiers, against armies and against the might of an empire without flinching. He’s fought on real and on magical battlefields alike, and now he’s facing one of the greatest challenges yet. 
A tournament. 
A joyous spring event, the flower of the nobility will present arms and ride against each other for royal favour and acclaim. It’s a political contest – and one which the Red Knight has the skill to win. But the stakes may be higher than he thinks. The court of Alba has been infiltrated by a dangerous faction of warlike knights, led by the greatest knight in the world: Jean de Vrailly – and the prize he’s fighting for isn’t royal favour, but the throne of Alba itself. 
Where there is competition there is opportunity; the question is, will the Red Knight take it? Or will the creatures of the Wild seize their chance instead . . .
Sound interesting.

Here are the previous UK and US covers for Miles books:


A Round of Covers

Sunday, May 10, 2015

First up is the cover for the third and final book in Brian Staveley's trilogy, the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, The Last Mortal Bond (Tor and it's also the title reveal...). The talented Richard Anderson is again behind the work and created a great illustration including a kettral bird! Nice cover art!


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Next is a contender for my "Best cover art with an infamous hooded assassin" of the year (Cormick previous book won last year), The Floating City by Craig Cormick (Angry Robot Books). Why not go for three hooded figures instead of one!


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Next is another work by Richard Anderson. It was revealed some time ago but I didn't share at the time (maybe the title alone put me off...). Here's another nice looking cover art for Victor Milan's The Dinosaur Lords!


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Finally, why not conclude with a Unicorn (kind of...)! Here's the cover for A.F.E Smith debut Fantasy novel, Darkhaven. I like the illustration and colors but I hope that a Pegasus with a horn is included in the book since it would have looked better without the horn...


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What do you think of this round?

May releases

Monday, May 4, 2015

May the force be with you!  On this Star Wars day, let's celebrate... other things not Star Wars. Here's my spotlight for May 2015. What will you read this month?

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The Vagrant
Peter Newman
May 1st
The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.
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Sword of the North
Grim Company book 2
Luke Scull
May 5th
Some legends never die... 
In The Grim Company, Luke Scull introduced a formidable and forbidding band of anti-heroes battling against ruthless Magelords and monstrous terrors. The adventure continues as the company—now broken—face new dangers on personal quests….  
As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady’s victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned—or exiled to darker regions—leaving the White Lady’s rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters: Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger.
Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman. And in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own.
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Lord of Ashes
Steelhaven book 3
Richard Ford
May 7th
FIGHT TO THE DEATH... 
The queen of Steelhaven has grown in strength. Taking up her dead father's sword, she must defend the city from the dread warlord Amon Turgha and his blood-thirsty army now at the gates. A vicious, unrelenting four-day battle ensues, the most perilous yet. 
...OR BOW TO THE ENEMY 
No side is immune from danger as all hell breaks loose, with the threat of coups and the unleashing of the deadliest and darkest magick. Loyalty, strength and cunning will be put to test in the quest for victory. What fate awaits the free states?
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The Sword of Destiny
Andrzej Sapkoski
May 21st
A collection of stories in the world of Geralt the Witcher, introducing some of the most loved characters from this universe. A must-read for fans of the novels and games alike. 
Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. He roams the country seeking assignments, but gradually comes to realise that while some of his quarry are unremittingly vile, vicious grotesques, others are the victims of sin, evil or simple naivety. 
In this collection of short stories, following the adventures of the hit collection THE LAST WISH, join Geralt as he battles monsters, demons and prejudices alike...
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Trial of Intentions
Vault of Heaven book 2
Peter Orullian
May 26th
The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god—and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortalkind—in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures. 
But there is dissent. One king won’t answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse. 
Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war.  
And his choices may reshape a world . . . .
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