Author Archive

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

REVIEW SUMMARY: A debut that underpins a strong new voice in fantasy.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In Alt Coulumb, the death of the God of Fire and the disposition of his contracts and bargains brings together magicians, priests, servants of a lost goddess, intrigue and high action and adventure.

PROS: Strong multiple female characters (and primary protagonist); exciting, wild and innovative worldbuilding.
CONS: Breakneck pace can work against the novel; perhaps one too many complications and small details are made relevant.
BOTTOM LINE: A debut novel that confirms the author’s nomination for a Campbell Award and points to great things in his future.

The Gods of the Craftverse are very different than most fantasy universes. Sure they are embodiments of magic, of cosmic forces, and all that, but that’s just a surface detail. To get things done, like in the Exalted RPG universe, Gods have to make bargains, deals, and contracts with other gods, Magicians, and countries. These deals and contracts are binding and can make or break a God; they hold legal force, even if the unthinkable should occur. A contract unfulfilled can lead to fires going out, steam trains not working, and worse.

So, when a God in the Craftverse dies, death, as they say, is only the beginning.
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BOOK REVIEW: Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

REVIEW SUMMARY:The third novel in the Everness series continues to expand both the universe and its protagonists and antagonists alike.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Everett, Sen and the rest of the crew of the airship make a jump to a BDO (Big Dumb Object) inhabited by descendants of dinosaurs.

PROS: A BDO of engineering larger than a Ringworld! Good character development of both the protagonists and antagonists.
CONS: Perhaps a bit too brief in length, especially given the size of the locales and the amount of material covered.
BOTTOM LINE: The third novel in MacDonald’s series starts taking off the gloves and kicking things into high gear.

I’ve a big fan of Ian McDonald’s Everness series, which began with Planesrunner and Be My Enemy. I’ve avidly followed story of a teenage genius who unlocks his father’s most prized secret — the secret not only to visit the ten worlds of the Plentitude, but the entire multiverse. The series follows Everett’s quest to find his missing father, lost somewhere in that multiverse, and the efforts of those who follow Everett in order to capture the Infundibulum for themselves. In the third novel in this series, Empress of the Sun, the story follows (in separate plotlines) Everett (still with the crew of The Everness, the airship he encountered in Planesrunner), Everett’s double from another world of the Plentitude who was recruited to find him, and Charlotte Villers (the main antagonist of the series).

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BOOK REVIEW: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

REVIEW SUMMARY: The third book in the Shadow Ops trilogy is the strongest yet by Military Fantasy author Myke Cole.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Looking backward and forward, Cole gives an antagonist of the series, Harlequin, screen time as we learn his story and his place in the Shadow Ops history and universe.

PROS: Excellent delving into the character and motivations of a previous antagonist of the series; solid world building; action sequences alone are worth the price of admission.
CONS: A couple of beats could have been more clearly hit; a couple of intimations, if they are, are too softly invoked.
BOTTOM LINE: The final book of the Shadow Ops trilogy is the strongest.

[WARNING: Plot spoilers and general trilogy discussion ahead...]

Black Hawk Down meets the X-men. That’s the one-line high-concept that introduced me to Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series.
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BOOK REVIEW: Trucksong by Andrew Macrae

REVIEW SUMMARY: An inventive, unique and fresh Australian post-apocalyptic novel.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A first-person dystopian science fiction novel about lost love, AI trucks and the search for meaning in a post-apocalyptic Australia.

PROS: Inventive, strong point of view gives a tight focus on the world around the protagonist.
CONS: First-person narration sometimes works against it; some elements not fleshed out sufficiently; dialect and slang may put off casual, non-Australians readers.
BOTTOM LINE: A unique and fresh post-apocalyptic novel.

Australia after the apocalypse is a hell of a place in Andrew Macrae’s debut novel Trucksong. The great metropolises (Gigacities in the parlance of the book) have all fallen, leaving a remnant population of humans, and things more and less than human. That last includes semi-trucks, with artificial intelligence, the ability to symbiotically bond with humans, and the seemingly dominant species left in Australia. Above it all, an ancient satellite named The Watcher sends cryptic messages to those who can hear them, including a young man determined to free the girl he loves, and break the power of the strongest truck on the roads, The Brumby King.
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BOOK REVIEW: Book of the Dead Edited by Jared Shurin

REVIEW SUMMARY: Another anthology from Jared Shurin’s Jurassic London imprint satisfyingly takes on yet another unexpected subject.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Mummies get their due in an anthology with strong stories from Paul Cornell, Gail Carriger, Maria Dahvana Headley and more.

PROS: Mummies! A wide range of tone, subject, and style gives something for every taste; good use of illustrations.
CONS: A couple of the stories don’t quite reach the high standard of the real highlights.
BOTTOM LINE: A solid and strong anthology of stories in an underexplored corner of the fantastic.
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BOOK REVIEW: Heartwood by Freya Robertson

REVIEW SUMMARY: The first volume in the Elemental Wars series is a promising start from new fantasy writer Freya Robertson.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A society of knights dedicated to protect a Yggdrasil like tree quest across the land in order to save it and oppose enemies known and unknown.

PROS: Excellent misc-en-scene and detail; egalitarian society at heart of novel most welcome.
CONS: Several coincidences and turns of plot are awfully convenient; some character arcs feel like missed opportunities; a repeated typographical error was more than a little annoying.
BOTTOM LINE: An imperfect but entertaining start to a new epic fantasy writer.

A tree at the center of creation, an egalitarian set of knights set to protect it, and a ghastly attack that threatens the health of the world are the stakes in Heartwood, a debut epic fantasy novel from Freya Robertson.

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MIND MELD: Our Favorite Dragons in Fantasy

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

With the arrival of The Desolation of Smaug on movie screens, We asked this week’s panelists about the most iconic of fantasy creatures: Dragons.

Q: What makes dragons appealing? How do you use dragons in your own writing? What are your favorite depictions in fantasy?

This is what they said…

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7 Questions for Tom Lloyd, Author of MOON’S ARTIFICE

Tom Lloyd is a British Novelist best known for his Twilight Reign series, comprised of The Stormcaller, The Twilight Herald, The Grave Thief, The Ragged Man, The Dusk Watchman as well as the collection The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign. His new novel, Moon’s Artifice, begins a new series in a brand new world. You can find him at his webiste, on Facebook and on Twitter as @tomlloydwrites.

Tom consented to answer some questions about his new work.

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BOOK REVIEW: Moon’s Artifice by Tom Lloyd

REVIEW SUMMARY: Lloyd convincingly begins a new fantasy universe of Gods, noble houses and an attempted apotheosis.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the Imperial City, the heart of the Empire, a lowly investigator gets entangled in a conflict between Noble Houses and the Gods themselves.

PROS: Rich, deep world building (almost to excess); dverse set of protagonists; excellent action scenes.
CONS: A concordance would have helped illuminate the wave of information thrown at the reader; some character elements out of central casting.
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining and strong entry into a new fantasy universe that reads like the fantasy equivalent of a technothriller.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: The third in Ian Sales Apollo Quartet sees a more alternate historical mode to his story of astonauts and spy satellites.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In an alternate world where the Korean War dragged into an endless meatgrinder, a female-led space program ties in with a black ops spy satellite program

PROS: Solid research into dark and strange corners of the space program, both in terms of people and technology; three-dimensional characters whose depth belie the shortness of the work.
CONS: Not all aspects of the alternate history are as plausible as others; divergent time points in the alternate history could have been bound more tightly together.
BOTTOM LINE: An impressive depth of research combined with a love of space programs is aptly married to excellent writing.

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BOOK REVIEW: Wrath-Bearing Tree by James Enge

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second volume of Wrath-Bearing Tree continues to expand the scope of Morlock’s life and world.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following the events of the Dragon-Dwarf War, the religious nation of Kaen is the battleground in the continued conflict between the Ambrosii and the Gods of Fate and Chaos.

PROS: Strong fusion of sword & sorcery and epic fantasy.
CONS: Some parts do not mesh well together, leading to a less smooth reading experience
BOTTOM LINE: New characters and new conflicts deepen and to flesh out the origin story of Morlock.

Wrath-Bearing Tree is second in James Enge’s series A Tournament of Shadows, following A Guile of Dragons. The series serves as an origin story for his character Morlock Ambrosius (previously seen in A Blood of Ambrose, This Crooked Way and The Wolf Age)

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BOOK REVIEW: Lost Covenant by Ari Marmell

REVIEW SUMMARY: Marmell continues to explore the growing up of a teenage thief with a God in her head as she is on the run outside her home city.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: On the run from her deeds in her hometown, a young thief finds that aiding a branch of her old patron’s family is far trickier than she thinks.

PROS: Excellent voice and interaction between Widdershins and Olgun; fun, relatively light action not afraid to go darker at key moments; good development of the character’s long term arc; Offers expanded look at the world; excellent cover art.
CONS: Plotline taking place back in Davillion does not feel as well integrated as it might be.
BOTTOM LINE: Another solid entry in the continuing story of Widdershins from Marmell

Ari Marmell’s Lost Covenant, the book that follows Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant, picks up with Widdershins on the road. Not content to lie completely low, her information gathering and fortune lead her to the distant city of Lourveaux, where she discovers that the last branch of the Delacroix family is under threat from a rival House. Widdershins’ sense of obligation to her old mentor and adoptive parent leads her on to seek to help of the last of that House, to deal with the threat against them. Since the aristocratic Delacroix knows nothing of who or what Widdershins is besides an obviously common-born girl of no merit whatsoever, this is not going to be easy at all for Widdershins to manage.

(Note: From this point on, spoilers for Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant are inevitable.)
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BOOK REVIEW: Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong collection of short fiction that shows the author’s versatility and range at shorter lengths. (”The Things“ opens a strong selection of the best of an underrated writer.)


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of fourteen stories written by Peter Watts.

PROS: Excellent stories that highlight the author’s versatility and strengths in writing science fiction.
CONS: Story order might have been rejiggered to better impact.
BOTTOM LINE: A chance to delve into Watts’ work and find out what the fuss is all about.

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

We asked this week’s panelists about series fiction in genre.

Q: Everywhere you go in genre, series seem to predominate over single novels. How do you read a series differently as compared to singletons? Have you ever given up on a series, or returned to one after a long absence?

Here’s what they said…

Sally Qwill Janin
Sally ‘Qwill’ Janin is the founder and EIC of The Qwillery, a speculative fiction blog. She is a recovering attorney having practiced IP and telecommunications law for too long. She’s been reading genre fiction since her older brother hooked her on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when she was a pre-teen.

Ah series. As you point out, they are everywhere in genre. I do read the first book of a series differently than I read a standalone novel. I certainly have different expectations. For a standalone, the story must resolve major (and most minor) plot points and come to a satisfying conclusion. When I read the first novel of series, I don’t usually expect more than some minor issues to be resolved, maybe an occasional major issue. I expect the main characters (at least for that part of the series) to be introduced. I also expect all sorts of threads will be left dangling to spur me on to continue reading the series. I don’t even mind cliffhangers. I also expect world building and events that will move the series along. I even read Paranormal Romance series differently than other series in that there should be an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HEA for now along with world building. However, if the story is not interesting and I don’t care about the characters in a series, why should I continue to invest time into what may ultimately be horribly disappointing?
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An Interview with HEARTWOOD Author Freya Robertson

New Zealand author Freya Robertson is the author of Heartstone, the first in the Elemental Wars series out from Angry Robot Books. You can find her online at her website,, on Facebook, and on Twitter as @EpicFreya.

Freya was kind enough to answer a few questions about her and her work.

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AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second novel in the tales of Egil and Nix significantly ups the stakes and showcases Kemp’s skills in writing Sword and Sorcery.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Adventurers Egil and Nix novel face off against a mobilized Thieves Guild with a deadly agenda.

PROS: High quality action scenes; excellent chemistry between the main characters; real choices with real consequences; immensely entertaining; excellent audiobook narration.
CONS: Some more specifics on one of the main characters would help drive the themes of the novel even more strongly.
BOTTOM LINE: This second Egil and Nix novel improves upon the first.

Thieves Guilds are nothing but trouble. Even when they aren’t sucking the lifeblood of a city like Dur Follin, they are scheming amongst themselves for status. When a coup against the head of the Thieves Guild leaves their friend a eyewitness to be eliminated, adventurers Egil and Nix find themselves wrapped up yet again in matters way above their heads. Taking on an entire Thieves Guild? That’s going to be the easy part. The soul-sucking magical alleyway in Dur Follin and the deadly swamp down river? Now those are going to be the real problems for the duo.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Diamond Deep by Brenda Cooper

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second half of the Ruby’s Song duology continues the weighty themes of the first novel and continues the focus on character drama.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Creative Fire, generation ship and home to Ruby and her fellow crew, returns back to its home solar system and finds itself embroiled in power struggles on the eponymous space station.

PROS: Continues the strong character-based fiction and evocation of themes of the previous novel; stands well on its own despite being the second part of a duology.
CONS: Some world building elements feel underdone.
BOTTOM LINE: A fitting end to Ruby’s Song.
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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Numenera by Monte Cook

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

This time out, we look at the other large-scale Dungeons and Dragons-influenced game, but one that offers a particularly different environment. That ‘sorcerer’ that fires lightning at you is doing so because she controls ancient nanotechnology to harness the power of electricity. That “+1 sword” Saladin’s character Amil found is really an ancient monofilament sword from thousands of years ago. Howard’s character Morias breaks into places and steals stuff without a sound because he carries an ancient device to draw all sound around him into it and dampen it. And just why is that gigantic amber monolith floating in the sky, thirty miles from town? Technology? Magic? Does the difference even matter?

Welcome to the Ninth World. Welcome to Numenera.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Prince of Lies by Anne Lyle

REVIEW SUMMARY: The ending to the Alchemist of Souls trilogy decisively builds on the foundation of its predecessors.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The story of Mal, Coby, Ned and Gabriel leads to final confrontations over the future of England, and themselves.

PROS: Evolving and complicated relationships between the protagonists; convincingly complicated landscape of characters; memorable action scenes.
CONS: Focus and subject matter slightly unexpected; long time frame of novel, while realistic, dilutes story impact.
BOTTOM LINE: A good ending to what will hopefully be the first of many trilogies from the author.

Guisers, why did it have to be guisers?

The Alchemist of Souls, the debut novel from Anne Lyle, reads like an urban fantasy set in a alternate historical London. The Merchant of Dreams, its sequel, reads like an epic fantasy set in a range of locations from London to Venice, expanding the story and world of The Alchemist of Souls. Now, The Prince of Lies finishes Lyle’s trilogy.

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BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A collection of fantasy stories from voices familiar and unfamiliar that explores the titular theme in diverse ways.

PROS: Some relatively strong stories; an anthology theme that despite previous volume still has a lot of story potential; extremely character-focused fiction; a good collection of authors both familiar and unfamiliar.
CONS: A fair proportion of the stories did not work for me; the collection might be overlong.
BOTTOM LINE: A an overall good collection of fantasy short stories.

The epic battle to save the world has been won. The ancient evil has been defeated. The cursed artifact has been thrown into the elemental pole of fire. The enemy army has been vanquished. The opposing horde has been fought to a stalemate, and an status quo ante bellum has been reached. Or perhaps, for all of their heroism, the hero has failed and has to live with the personal and public consequences of that failure.

What happens now? Can a hero really go home again? With the transformative experience of their adventure, their heroism, their act of bravery or sacrifice, their success, draw or defeat, do they even fit at home anymore? And what happens when those worlds collide?
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