Award-winning photographer Lauren Zurchin has created a fantasy photography calendar with fourteen world-famous authors: Holly Black, Gail Carriger, Cassandra Clare, Tessa Gratton, Lauren Kate, Gregory Maguire, Brandon Mull, Lauren Oliver, Christopher Paolini, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Tad Williams, and Brenna Yovanoff.
Each month features a photograph of a different author (or authors, in one case) dressed in custom costumes made by Lauren, and placed in unique locations with one-of-a-kind props. The overall effect is sometimes dark, sometimes ethereal, sometimes whimsical, and completely fantasy.
It’s almost a given these days, especially with fantasy books–you open up the front cover and an enormous map sprawls out before you, denoting various continents, kingdoms, murky forests, coastal ports, and all the other bits and jots composing the world. Sometimes these locales have colorful names, such as Shadowlands of the Dark Lord, Bottomless Pit of Apathy, and Do-Not-Go-Here-istan. Other times, they’re a gibberish of glottal coughs and apostrophes.
However they’re named, though, so often these maps and representative lands are simply indicative of where the story happens rather than what the story is about. They’re just a reference point for those readers who dearly want to know if the heroine’s quest to save a hapless prince from a dragon took her through the pleasant town of Orcsg’utyo’u or not.
What if we tried a different perspective? Let’s strap on our Boots of Anti-Blistering, grab a wizard’s walking stick, and head off across worlds where the geography is as integral to the plot as the main characters themselves.
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If you could get a new Wheel Of Time short by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, new stories from Shannara, Word/Void, Riyria, Demon Cycle, Vault of Heaven, Temeraire, Broken Empire, and more all in one collection, what would you say?
Well, if you haven’t heard of Shawn Speakman, perhaps you’ve heard of his website: The Signed Page where he makes available signed copies of new releases for fans who can’t make it to events where their favorite author appears in person. Or maybe you know him from Suvudu.com, the Random House speculative fiction blog where he’s a regular contributor or from the websites he runs for authors like Terry Brooks and Naomi Novik.
What you may not know is that Shawn suffers from Hodgkins lymphoma. Diagnosed in 2011 and without health insurance, his treatment has left him with thousands in medical bills. Faced with filing bankruptcy, Shawn sought another way out. A way he could make it through without dealing with the 10 year nightmare a filing would bring. Then his friend Terry Brooks offered him a short story Shawn could sell to help alleviate those bills and an idea came to his head. What if he did an anthology from some of the many author friends he’d made over the past few years from both Suvudu, The Signed Page and his other activities?
Here’s the description:
Brandon Sanderson’s Legion is available for FREE for a limited time only.* Enjoy and share the link to this novella with a friend before time runs out.
Brandon Sanderson is one of the most significant fantasists to enter the field in a good many years. His ambitious, multi-volume epics (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive) and his stellar continuation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have earned both critical acclaim and a substantial popular following. In Legion, a distinctly contemporary novella filled with suspense, humor, and an endless flow of invention, Sanderson reveals a startling new facet of his singular narrative talent, read by Audie Award-winning narrator Oliver Wyman.
Stephen Leeds, AKA ‘Legion,’ is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his ‘aspects’ are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society. The action ranges from the familiar environs of America to the ancient, divided city of Jerusalem. Along the way, Sanderson touches on a formidable assortment of complex questions: the nature of time, the mysteries of the human mind, the potential uses of technology, and the volatile connection between politics and faith. Resonant, intelligent, and thoroughly absorbing, Legion is a provocative entertainment from a writer of great originality and seemingly limitless gifts.
*Free offer ends 12/31/12 at 11:59pm EST
Visit Audible to get your freebie…
Once upon a time, in fantasy stories far far away, magic was a mysterious force that affected the characters and world in mostly unknown ways. If a character ever wondered how something impossible happened…magic. How’d we blip across an entire continent in mere moments? Magic portal. How does this steel sword burst into flames without melting? Magic weapon. How’d my head suddenly transpose with my buttocks? Transmorgrifying magic spell. (Or a particularly severe wedgie at the hands of a barbarian warlord.)
Nowadays, many fantasy novels have turned magic into, well, a form of science–in some ways creating a whole new form of physics or imagining alternate worlds where the laws of thermodynamics not only apply to entropy but also to the mass transference of shapeshifting dragons.
Let’s explore the properties of several fantasy novels that get downright textbook with magic systems and see which one is worth studying up on.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, nears the last battle. To save the world he will break the seals and release the greatest evil upon the world that there has ever been. Wherever he walks, light and life push back darkness and death from the Dark One’s ever-expanding touch upon the world.
PROS: Culminating plot points we have waited eons for; every scene with Rand.
CONS: Prose; inconsistency; rushed scenes.
BOTTOM LINE: For fans of the Wheel of Time this is an obvious must-read. The only question is when and where. For everyone else, start at Eye of the World and if you’re hooked, we’ll see how long you last. This one thing I can promise you: if you make it through the slow books, you will be rewarded.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Roshar is a fascinating land of strange cultures, animals and even plant life where magically-enhanced knights wielding fearsome Blades rule. Follow a thief, a highprince and a surgeon-turned-soldier as they go through the struggles of life to protect their family, hold together their kingdom and fight for what’s right on a path that is fraught with peril and leading to more.
PROS: Character, diversity, battle scenes, MAGIC!
CONS: Too much fluff, and too many extra pages added as a result. Book occasionally drags.
BOTTOM LINE: For those that like their books gigantic and epic, this is your book (i.e. Wheel of Time fans).
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Warbreaker is an epic story of a kingdom in peril, a god that is more AND less than what he seems, a sister’s love and jealousy, magical breath, and an army of the walking dead (and running, and slashing, and stabbing…).
PROS: Magic and a cool blood-thirsty sword, strong characters with conflict.
CONS: Intrigue and betrayal are sold short; antagonists’ motivations are priced well, but I don’t buy.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite a strong start, the story meandered for the rest with some good points and bad, until reaching for the sky towards the end. It’s engaging, enjoyable, but it stumbles.
My recent and long overdue discovery of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories made me wonder about other good sword and sorcery stories, so this week’s panelists were asked:
Check out their excellent suggestions…(and share some of your own!)
I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of sword and sorcery, including the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series, and Robert E. Howard’s Dark Agnes stories. One of my earliest favorites was Charles Saunders’ Dossouye stories, which first appeared in the anthologies Amazons! and Sword and Sorceress in the early 80s. When I read the first one, “Agbewe’s Sword,” I was about fifteen years old and desperately looking for strong female protagonists. The setting of an alternate version of Africa, using cultures and myths that I wasn’t familiar with, also really set the stories apart for me. The stories are available now in a collection titled Dossouye, and I highly recommend it.
I also loved Tanith Lee’s sword and sorcery, like The Storm Lord and Vazkor, Son of Vazkor, the sequel to The Birthgrave, and her Cyrion stories, which had the main character solving magical mysteries during his adventures. The settings are so lush and rich and detailed, with the feeling of starting out in a strange place, only to follow the characters somewhere much stranger.
Harriet McDougal, Brandon Sanderson, Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk talk about the process behind The Gathering Storm, Book 12 of the beloved and international bestselling Wheel of Time and the first of three books to conclude the magnificent series based on notes and materials left behind by the late great Robert Jordan. The Gathering Storm releases Oct. 27th, 2009.
More after the jump..
We’ve already covered first science fiction books, now it’s time to flip the coin with this week’s panelists. So we asked them:
Check below to see their responses. And tell us what book got you hooked!
Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. That book, The Gathering Storm will be available in October 2009 and can be sampled on Tor.com.
The first fantasy I was ever given was Tolkien. For many, perhaps, that would be the end of the story. But I wasn’t a terribly good reader at the time, and though I read and enjoyed the The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings was like a big brick wall. I slammed right into it and couldn’t get past the barrow scene.
And so, I figured fantasy was boring stuff and went back to video games. (Atari 2600–state of the art.)
The real breakthrough came when I hit 8th grade. A teacher assigned me to do a book report, and I tried with all my conniving little heart to get her to let me do mine on one of the Three Investigators novels (which I’d enjoyed reading in second or third grade.) The result of this little power struggle was me, sullenly slinking to the back of the room where she kept her cart of books, bearing the instructions that I HAD to pick one of those to read.
And there, sitting in full Michael-Whelan-Covered-Glory, was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I think angels might have sung (though it was probably the school choir class next door.) Anyway, that was beginning of the end for me. I LOVED that book; and right next to it in the card catalogue at school was a listing for Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey.
Eddings, Melanie Rawn, and Williams came next. I was thoroughly a fantasy super-geek by the time 1990 rolled around, and Eye of The World was published.