Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

This week brought four books that were complete surprises, and three of them are ones I really, really want to read right now, making me sad that I'm not capable of reading eight books simultaneously (since there are about five other books I want to be reading now). Actually, I already had the ARC of one and just got the finished copy in the mail this time, but I'd prefer to read the finished version anyway.

As far as the next review goes, I haven't been able to make much progress since I've been working on another interview in my spare time instead. The questions are almost ready to go, though, so I should be able to get back to finishing that review soon.

Lady Lazarus by Michele Lang

This is the first book in a trilogy by the same name, and it is on sale on August 31. It was actually one of the books on my list to look for at Book Expo America, but I missed it. Then it was a "maybe" book since it looked a little iffy to me from the blurb, but after looking through the actual book and reading the first couple of lines, I now really want to read the rest:
I damned my soul in the summer of 1939. I did it for the noblest reasons, the best ones -- to save the people I loved; to make a terrible wrong turn right.
After reading this, I can't help but want to know about how she damned her soul and what these reasons for doing so are.

Dark Victory, the second book in the series, is scheduled for release in 2011.

With the romance of Twilight, the suspense of The Dresden Files, and the delicious thrills of True Blood, the enthralling saga of Magdalena Lazarus unfolds. Descended from the legendary witch of Ein Dor, she alone holds the power to summon the angel Raziel and stop Hitler and his supernatural minions from unleashing total war in Europe. The Nazis have fighters more fearsome than soldiers, weapons more terrifying than missiles, and allies that even they are afraid of SS werewolves; the demon Asmodel who possesses a willing Adolf Hitler, and other supernatural creatures all are literally hell-bent on preventing Magda from possessing the Book of Raziel, a magical text with the power to turn the tide against Hitler’s vast war machine.

Magda, young and rebellious, grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Budapest, unaware of her family’s heritage. When her mother dies, Magda--ready or not--is the Lazarus, who must face the evil that holds Europe in an iron grip. Unready to assume the mantle of her ancient birthright, but knowing that she must fight, she sets out across Europe searching for the Book. Magda is desperate enough to endanger her soul by summoning the avenging angel Raziel. When she sees him in the glory of his celestial presence, her heart is utterly, completely lost…

Blameless by Gail Carriger

Blameless is the third book in the Parasol Protectorates series and it is supposed to be on sale August 31. I've been following this series ever since I got an ARC of the very first book, and I liked the second book even better than the first so I was very excited to open up a package and find this within. This should be fun!

I'm going to avoid posting the blurb for this one since it contains spoilers for both the first and second books. However, if you do want to read it, the blurbs for all three books are on this page on Gail Carriger's website.

Hell's Horizon by Darren Shan

This is the second book in The City series following Procession of the Dead. It will be released in hardcover in January 2011.

In the City, The Cardinal rules, and Al Jeery is a loyal member of his personal guard. But when Al is pulled from his duties at Party Central to investigate a murder, an unexpected discovery leads him in a new direction, where his loyalties and beliefs will be severely tested.

Soon he is involved in a terrifying mystery that draws in the dead, the City's Incan forefathers, the imposing figure of The Cardinal, and the near-mythical assassin Paucar Wami.

Wami is a law unto himself, a shadowy, enigmatic figure who can apparently kill anyone he chooses without fear of punishment or retribution. And Al is about to find out that he has a lot more in common with Wami than he could ever have imagined...

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

This is the first book in a new series, The Spiritwalker trilogy. It is supposed to be released in September, but Kate Elliott recently mentioned on Twitter that it is already in stock at Amazon. As I mentioned the first time when I got an ARC of it, I really like the sound of this one and I've wanted to read something by Kate Elliott for a while now so I'm looking forward to it.

From one of the genre's finest writers comes a bold new epic fantasy in which science and magic are locked in a deadly struggle.

It is the dawn of a new age... The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.

Cat and Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review of Naamah's Curse

Naamah's Curse is the second book in Jacqueline Carey's latest trilogy following Naamah's Kiss. Although this new series is set in the same world as the earlier Kushiel's Legacy books, it takes place a few generations after the end of the second trilogy. The final book, Naamah's Blessing, does not yet have a publication date, but Jacqueline Carey did mention in her August update on the home page of her website that she has turned in the manuscript.

Note: As this is the second book in a series, there will be spoilers for the first book, Naamah's Kiss, contained in the plot description. Skip the plot description and read the part below the horizontal line if you do not want to have parts of the first book spoiled but want to read the review.

Moirin has left the emperor's daughter and the comfort of the palace at Ch'in to follow Bao, who died and was resurrected by transferring half of Moirin's diadh-anam to him. Once Bao discovered his new close connection to Moirin, he decided to leave to sort through his thoughts about it. He was not sure how to feel about sharing this bond with Moirin without her choosing it, even though she made it clear she wished for him to stay with her. Princess Snow Tiger reminded Moirin that she had the choice not to wait around for him to come back, so Moirin departed alone to try to catch up with him before winter.

Moirin spends some time traveling in Bao's footsteps, although she does end up having to wait through the winter before seeing him again. However, once Moirin finds Bao in Tatar, their joyous reunion does not last. Although Bao is happy to see her, he cannot leave without angering the Great Khan. The two devise a plan that would allow Bao to act freely, but they are betrayed and separated when Moirin is imprisoned by religious zealots eager to convert her to Yeshuite ways - and Moirin has completely lost track of Bao this time.

Naamah's Curse is a difficult book to review because it definitely had its flaws, but at the same time, I really enjoyed it and want to read the next book. (I also want to go back and read the five books in the original two trilogies I have yet to read, particularly since I thought Kushiel's Dart was a stronger novel than either book in this new trilogy.) Considering the length of Naamah's Curse, not a whole lot happened. It seems to be a case of middle book syndrome since it wandered off for a while and then eventually came back to setting up the final book toward the end. Also, so much of the first book was explained in detail that I kept feeling like I was reading the equivalent of a clip show a couple of times. Not only was a lot of it expounded on early in the book, but even more from the first book was described toward the middle when Moirin was thoroughly questioned about her past. Looking back on it with these issues, I can't help but feel that I shouldn't have found it nearly as compelling as I did. Yet I'd be lying through my teeth (er, keyboard?) if I said I didn't find it extremely readable in spite of these weaknesses - just like the first book, I found it went by much faster than I would have expected for such a long novel. It wasn't a book where I kept counting the number of pages left and wondering when it would end, but instead I devoured it since I could hardly put it down.

In some ways, Moirin does not seem particularly complex as a character. She's very kind to everyone and it seems as though the only people she encounters who do not love her are villains. Admittedly, with this great compassion, it makes perfect sense that she would be so well-loved, but at times it does seem a little overdone that just about anyone she encounters will go out of their way for her when they barely even know her. Every major action is dictated by Moirin's destiny as it is revealed to her through her diadh-anam, and the use of her fate to drive the plot does make some occurrences seem all too convenient. Yet in spite of feeling this way, I liked Moirin and her concise yet elegant narrative voice. The sadness resulting from her great destiny makes her easier to empathize with. For even though Moirin has been gifted with such a great capacity for love and compassion, she is constantly having her heart broken over and over again due to her role as a tool of the goddesses. She gets so attached to the people in her life, and then the will of the goddess keeps forcing her to leave them all behind.

In this novel, we get to see a lot of Asia with particular emphasis on Mongolian, Russian and Indian cultures with some Indian mythology integrated into the story. One of my favorite aspects of Naamah's Curse was visiting all the different places with Moirin and the way Carey handled all these diverse heritages. In the first book, Tatar (Mongolia) sounded like a fearsome country since Moirin spent some time in Ch'in, whose inhabitants did not get along very well with the neighboring nation. Once Moirin went to Tatar, though, she found the people to be like anyone else and Tatar was depicted as no worse than the previously visited Ch'in.

While weaker than the preceding volume in the series, Naamah's Curse was still very entertaining. It was too long, particularly since it recapped a lot of what already happened in the first book, and it did seem to meander away from the main plot at times. In spite of that, the blending of different cultures and mythologies, the writing, and the examination of the double-edged nature of Moirin's gift made it well worth reading.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a review copy sent by the publisher.

Reviews of other books in this series:
Other Reviews of Naamah's Curse:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

This week brought five books - one bought last weekend, one digital review copy, one won off Goodreads, and two I wanted to buy with the first one but ordered online instead because one was not in good condition and the other was more expensive at the bookstore. (Recently, we discovered we can get free Amazon Prime since my husband is a student so I got them in two days! With no shipping cost! This could be hazardous...)

As far as reviewing goes, I finished a review of Naamah's Curse today so that will be going up sometime early this week. Next I'll be working on a review of The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke.

On to the books.

Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

I was hoping to see this book when I took a trip to the giant bookstore last Sunday, and they had it so I snatched it up. It's the book I'm mainly reading now. Havemercy (review) was very enjoyable, and I've liked the first 60% of this one as well. It has four different main characters and takes place in a different setting, although two of the protagonists are from Volstov and were in Havemercy. I particularly like getting to read from the point of view of Caius.

From the widely acclaimed authors of Havemercy comes this stunning new epic fantasy, set in the chaotic aftermath of a hundred years of war. Here, amidst the treacherous dance of diplomacy and betrayal lie the darkest secrets of all…and a peace more deadly than war itself.

Led to victory by its magic-fueled Dragon Corps, Volstov has sent a delegation to its conquered neighbors to work out the long-awaited terms of peace. Among those sent are the decorated war hero General Alcibiades and the formerly exiled magician Caius Greylace. But even this mismatched pair can’t help but notice that their defeated enemies aren’t being very cooperative.

The truth is even worse than they know. For the new emperor is harboring a secret even more treacherous—one that will take every trick in Alcibiades’ and Caius’ extensive arsenal to unveil. And once it is revealed, they may still be powerless to stop it.

With their only ally, an exiled prince, now fleeing his brother’s assassins, the countryside rife with treachery and terror, and Alcibiades and Caius all but prisoners, it will take the most powerful, most dangerous kind of magic to heal the rift between two strife-worn lands and unite two peoples against a common enemy…shadow magic.

The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

Tia Nevitt, who runs the Debuts & Reviews blog, has her own debut coming out from Carina Press next month. The Sevenfold Spell is a novella based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty and is the first in a series of fairy tale retellings called Accidental Enchantments. There are plans for stories based on Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. I love retold fairy tales so I'm looking forward to this one.

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?

Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P. N. Elrod

I had no idea I'd won this off Goodreads until a surprise copy showed up in my mailbox on Monday. I was very glad I won it since I really, really want to read the story by Ilona Andrews but probably never would have bought this book myself for one small part of the collection. It's about how Kate met Saiman so it should be very interesting. I haven't read anything by any of the other authors in this book other than Carrie Vaughn's contributions to the Wild Card books so it will be fun to get sample these writers. In particular, I'm looking forward to more by Vaughn as well as the Jim Butcher and Rachel Caine stories since I've heard a lot about them but have yet to read anything by either.

They’re the last defenders of humanity, the lone wolf bad boys— and girls—who do dark deeds for the right reasons. Modern day knights who are sexy, funny, mad, bad and dangerous to know because they do what most of us only dream about…and get away with it. In this all-star collection, nine of today’s hottest urban fantasy authors bring us original stories of supernatural, modern day knights that will have readers clamoring for more!

The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts

I've now heard enough about this book that I'm really curious about it. It's supposed to be a little hard to read but excellent so I'll save it for sometime when I'm on vacation or just have more time to read for some reason. At over 800 pages long, it's also not a short book so I definitely think I'll need some time for this one.

The stunning first volume in Janny Wurts's epic tale of two half-brothers cursed to life-long enmity, now re-released with a striking new cover. The world of Athera lives in eternal fog, its skies obscured by the malevolent Mistwraith. Only the combined powers of two half-brothers can challenge the Mistwraith's stranglehold: Arithon, Master of Shadow and Lysaer, Lord of Light. Arithon and Lysaer will find that they are inescapably bound inside a pattern of events dictated by their own deepest convictions. Yet there is more at stake than one battle with the Mistwraith -- as the sorcerers of the Fellowship of Seven know well. For between them the half-brothers hold the balance of the world, its harmony and its future, in their hands.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

So I'm probably one of the few people left in the world who hasn't read this, further evidenced by the fact that this is currently #20 in books on Amazon, the sequel Catching Fire is at #14 and the newly released Mockingjay is at #1. I suppose I should remedy this, especially since it sounds very interesting.

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview with Ginn Hale

Today I am pleased to present an interview with Ginn Hale. Her work includes Wicked Gentlemen, the newly released Lord of the White Hell: Book One and the novella Feral Machines. Wicked Gentlemen (review) was one of my favorite books from last year and I enjoyed Lord of the White Hell: Book One (review) even more. For more information about Ginn Hale and her books, visit her website or read her journal.

Fantasy Cafe: Currently, you are working on Lord Foster’s Devils, a sequel to Wicked Gentlemen. How much time has passed since the end of Wicked Gentlemen at the beginning of the new book? Will it also be split into novellas with one from Belimai’s perspective and one from Harper’s third person perspective?

Ginn Hale: It’s always tough to talk about current projects because the stories are still so fluid while they’re being written. I try not to make any promises until the story is done.

That said, what I’ve written so far takes place two years after the end of the first book. Harper’s inheritance of the Foster estate has been contested by a distant relative. He and Belimai return to the capitol to secure their home but soon become entangled in the political maneuvering of ruling powers, blackmailers and prodigal crime lords.

It’s all one story but moves back and forth between Harper and Belimai’s points of view, since they each play separate parts and move in different circles as they attempt to protect each other and themselves.

FC: On your site, you had mentioned that originally the sequel to Wicked Gentlemen was supposed to take place at least 10 years afterward with different main characters before you decided to write a direct sequel instead. Are there still plans to write this book or any others set in the same world without Harper and Belimai as the primary characters?

GH: Yes, my original idea for a sequel followed Nick Sariel and Bastard Jack as they collided and collaborated in Hells Below. It focused quite a lot on arms smuggling and the thin line between crime and freedom fighting.

I very much liked the way the outline came together, so even if the story doesn’t end up being written about Hells Below, I think I will still write it in some form.

FC: After Lord of the White Hell: Book Two is released in September, what is your next story that will be released?

GH: Well, my novella, Feral Machines will be released digitally and be on sale at Weightless Books in the very near future. This novella was originally published in Tangle (Blind Eye Books) but the digital book is a standalone. Then there’s The Rifter, which will also be a Blind Eye Books digital release, also for sale at Weightless Books. It’s a ten book serial fiction that follows two men who are transported from modern America to a theocratic world in the throes of a revolution. There’s lots of witchcraft, battles, forbidden love and snow.

I’ve also been batting around an idea for an urban fantasy anthology of linked stories featuring agents working for the State Department and dealing with a multitude of unearthly, magical realms. Irregulars, is what I call them, because it has a nice euphemistic ring to it. (Also I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes and like to make references to the stories when I can.)

Anyway, Josh Lanyon, Nicole Kimberling, and Astrid Amara have all expressed interest. So that might be showing up in the next year or so.

FC: Your forthcoming short story “Blood Beneath the Throne” is about escaping a job as an assassin for Shakespearean fairies, which makes me think of nothing more than fairfolk mafiosos. What is it like to work for the fairy mafia and what kind of measures do they take to ensure no one leaves their employ?

GH: Heh. I’m not sure I can answer that question without spoiling the story. I can say that it was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream wherein Oberon cheats, casts spells and resorts to blackmail to get his hands on an orphaned child. And he’s pretty explicit about what he wants the boy for, “…a little changeling boy to be my henchman.”

I built the story from there, trying to stay true to both fairy lore and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while also bringing something of my own to it. It’s a little odd and at times violent but I’m pretty fond of the story all the same.

I’m hoping Lethe Press will release the anthology that it is in soon.

FC: How is work on The Rifter going? I’m curious about the process of building a serial novel; why did you choose to structure the story in that way?

GH: The serial structure was a result of the story itself. The idea for The Rifter–a story of two people moving back and forth through the timeline of each other’s lives and how, as they alter the past, they draw one another inexorably closer to their fates—came to me about eight years ago. I knew it had to be as vast, dark, and mysterious as the series of dreams that inspired it.

But even as I was visualizing the monasteries of holy assassins and armies of witches and reanimated bones, I realized that the story would be impossible to get published, and nearly impossible to even write. It was just too big.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it and dreaming about it.

So, one evening I spread an 18x24 sheet of newsprint across the floor and started laying out the two timelines that make up the plot. Steadily, I refined and tightened the story to ensure that I really knew what I was doing at every point.

One timeline followed John, (the modern American ecologist who discovers that in another world he’s the destroyer incarnation of a god), and the other followed Kahlil, (the holy assassin who’s hunting John). I worked out a cast of secondary characters who would link up both timelines and become pivotal when the two lines converge at the end.

Once I had the entire plot completely nailed down I broke it into smaller story arcs, each of which had its own sub-plot that moved the overall story closer to the conclusion. Then I cut those apart and pasted them down so that the two timelines would play off each other and keep the reader entertained and informed.

And then I spent five years writing the entire thing.

Amazingly, it only took a couple years to find a publisher and I’m now in the midst of edits.

FC: Which of your characters do you empathize with the most and why?

GH: I try to empathize with them all to some extent just so I don’t create villains and secondary characters who act like they know they’re bits of fiction in a book that isn’t about them. I like background characters with their own plans and desires—even it they aren’t touched upon in the course of the story.

But as for the main characters I empathize with most, that’s hard to really say, because it changes with each project. I try not to get fixated upon any one character after a book is done. I do sometimes wonder what Belimai’s paintings look like. And it makes me smile to myself to think of how excited Kiram might be after constructing a vacuum pump. He’d be beaming.

FC: You have written a lot of short form science fiction but your longer work has been fantasy. Is that for a particular reason or it just how things have happened? Have you ever thought about writing a science fiction novel?

GH: I hadn’t noticed that before, but you’re right.

Maybe it’s because most of my thoughts about science fiction center on a technology (such as the idents in Feral Machines) that lends itself to a simple single conflict. When I write a fantasy novel I’m usually pondering social dynamics and those generally require a longer form to fully explore the variety of conflicts involved.

FC: Which author do you admire so greatly that praise from them about your book would keep you sleepless with excitement for weeks?

GH: Honestly, I’ve been stunned and flattered to receive praise from every author who has been kind enough to write to me. I’m always surprised at how generous these people can be. Lynn Flewelling, Marjorie M. Liu and Josh Lanyon were all incredibly encouraging to me. Both Nicole Kimberling and Astrid Amara are writers whom I admire and they were immensely supportive when we worked together on the Hell Cop anthologies.

But I have to admit that even as giddy as I felt after being contacted by each of those authors, I did eventually fall asleep.

Hmmm. I haven’t quite answered your question, have I?

If Mary Renault—who passed away in 1983— were to rise up from the shadows of my bookshelf and place her misty, cold hand on my heart and then tell me that she had been reading my work and enjoyed it, that would certainly keep me up for days, even weeks. That might freak me out too much to ever sleep again… Though I think eventually I might start badgering her ghost to write another book like The Charioteer, or at least autograph my copy.

FC: Which book do you remember most fondly as being the one that made you a reader and why?

GH: I had very few books available to me as a child. The ones I remember most clearly are The Riverside Shakespeare, an I Ching, the tattered paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a battered dictionary.

If I had to say which one really made me a life long reader I’d have to honestly say it was the dictionary.

I can still remember pouring over the entries and simply loving the sensation of all that information unfolding from black letters and lighting up my mind. That was my first real awareness of how powerful reading could be. It felt like magic.

FC: Maybe it’s just me, but I kept wondering: why is the white hell a specific color? Are there hells of different colors other than white? What do the other hells do that is different?

GH: Good question. I wasn’t sure if anyone would notice that or not.

The multiple hells in Cadeleonian theology are a Cadeleonian re-interpretations of older religions that are foreign to them. The red hell, for example, is a Mirogoth Witch’s Forge, which produces a blood red flash when it is passed from one witch to another.

I chose the color white for Javier’s hell, (which is really a Bahiim shajdi), because I wanted to evoke a luminous purity existing between life and death. I also wanted it to be a color that is powerful but also readily polluted, something that could represent Javier himself at his best and worst.

FC: In both Wicked Gentlemen and Lord of the White Hell, it seems like you set up a pair of opposing monocultures and then look at how they collide. Is your intention to focus on those societies, or are the societies intended to be tools used to create certain characters?

GH: As a rule I begin with the major social structures that will be in conflict in my novels and then ask myself who, within these societies, would be the most interesting to follow. Who would cross lines and stir up the kind of trouble that makes for an exciting book?

Thank you so much for sharing your questions. I hope my responses didn’t ramble on too long.

FC: No, not at all - I found your answers very interesting. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review of Lord of the White Hell: Book One

Lord of the White Hell: Book One
by Ginn Hale
362pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: N/A
LibraryThing Rating: 5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.73/5

Lord of the White Hell: Book One by Ginn Hale was just released on August 15. Fortunately, there is not a long wait for the conclusion to this fantasy duology - Lord of the White Hell: Book Two is scheduled for publication only a month later on September 15. The first book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger so this is very good indeed, especially since book one is absorbing enough that I added the finished copy to my wish list.

Kiram, a gifted seventeen year old, is the first full-blooded Haldiim accepted into the prestigious Cadeleonian Sagrada Academy due to his work with machinery. It is an honor to be chosen as a hopeful for winning the Crown Challenge, but it is also difficult as Kiram must contend with prejudice and superstition from the beginning of his time at the school. None of the other boys dare sleep in the same room with a heathen Haldiim, which leaves him sharing space with Javier Tornesal, a duke who commands the white hell and is therefore also not a desirable roommate. One of Javier's ancestors traded his soul and opened the white hell to destroy some invaders, and those of the Tornesal family still keep the pact. While Javier is generally well-liked and respected, no student wants to have his soul exposed to the white hell while sound asleep.

Fortunately for Kiram, he does not believe in the hells or Javier's lack of a soul and instead avoids Javier because he thinks he is taunting him with his flirtatious behavior. Homosexuality is forbidden by the strict Cadeleonian religion, and although Kiram finds Javier attractive, he does not want to be deemed responsible for corrupting a Cadeleonian. Soon the two do strike up a friendship due to their mutual fondness for Javier's simple-minded cousin Fedeles, who used to be a normal young man until the familial curse of the white hell is said to have changed him. As Kiram and Javier become involved in a more complicated relationship, Kiram learns more about Javier's situation and realizes just how much danger they may all be in - and wonders if there is some way he can save both Javier and Fedeles from their cursed fate.

Lord of the White Hell: Book One had the same strengths that made me enjoy Ginn Hale's earlier work, Wicked Gentlemen - compelling characters facing a clash caused by belonging to two very different social groups. In Wicked Gentlemen, there was a dissonance between Belimai's demon ancestry and life in Hells Below and Harper's role as a part of the Inquisition. Lord of the White Hell features a pair of young men who come from completely different cultures. As a Haldiim, Kiram was brought up in a matriarchal society that is open-minded about sexuality and does not follow strict religious rules. Javier and the rest of the Cadeleons tend to be very devout (or at least concerned with appearing to be devout) about practicing their religion. They must atone for their shortcomings through penance, only show interest in the opposite sex and uphold certain standards. As the two are attracted to each other, their different attitudes about socially acceptable behavior provide a source of conflict.

Although there is focus on the relationship, it is certainly not the only source of contention in this novel. Kiram faces many challenges common to young people, especially those leaving home for the first time to go to college - being accepted, making friends, becoming independent, and struggling with subjects one may not be as good at. While Kiram excels at mathematics and science, he does have difficulty with sword-fighting and horseback riding, mainly due to a lack of exposure (and I did appreciate that whenever he did improve, he did so at a realistic pace and was not suddenly the master of everything in the known universe and beyond). Other challenges are not as common - there's also the mystery surrounding the white hell and Kiram's desire to save his friend Fedeles from his curse.

Kiram was very easy to feel sympathy for. He's a young man leaving his home to go to a distant school in a foreign land and a lot of hopes on his shoulders since he's supposed to have the potential to win the Crown Challenge for the academy. From the moment he thought one of his new teachers didn't like him too much, probably because his first impression of this supposed great thinker was his falling out of a carriage into the mud, I felt for Kiram. The other characters were also wonderful - Javier with his mix of charm and arrogance he used to cover up any vulnerability, the artist Nestor with his kind-hearted good nature and Fedeles with his childlike sweetness. It is an all-male school and there are almost no female characters and none of the few there are appear for very long.

As this is the first half of the story, there is a cliffhanger ending that left me desperately wanting the next part of the book. It was one that wormed its way into my heart and made me really care about these characters and what happened to them, making it rather difficult to have it end without knowing how everything wrapped up.

Lord of the White Hell: Book One made me eager to read the second book. Spending time with the characters in their world was an enjoyable experience, and I look forward both to discovering more about the white hell and finding out what happens to Kiram, Javier and Fedeles.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was an ARC from the publisher.

Other Reviews:

Tomorrow there will be an interview with Ginn Hale discussing topics including her upcoming projects, some of her favorite books from childhood, the thought process behind the cultures she creates and the role of empathy in writing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

Since I'm going on a shopping trip on the day I'm posting this and there's a book I may get to read soon, this week's edition may actually be longer than what is below. I'll have to save it for next week if I do, though, because I don't expect to have much time to get this post ready on Sunday and am therefore writing it beforehand.

So for this week, I have two review copies (one of which I will be reading very soon).

Killbox by Ann Aguirre

This would be the book I'll be reading pretty soon. This fourth book out of six total in the Jax series will be released on August 31 (according to Amazon) or September (according to Ann Aguirre's website). I really enjoy this series because it is just so much fun - fast-paced space opera adventure that maintains a great balance between action and character development plus some romance (more in some books than others). The first chapter is available online.


Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

Factotum by D. M. Cornish

This is the third book in the Monster Blood Tattoo series. It's coming to Australia and New Zealand in October and the United States on November 11. I've had the first book in this YA series on my TBR for a little while. I have to admit the series name put me off a bit since it sounds gory to me, but the reviews I've read (which have all been very positive) seem to indicate this is not the case.

Rossamund Bookchild stands accused of not truly being a human at all, but of being a monster. Even the protection of Europe, the Branden Rose the most feared and renowned monster-hunter in all the Half-Continent might not be enough to save him. Powerful forces move against them both, intent on capturing Rossamund whose existence some believe may hold the secret to perpetual youth.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Republic of Thieves Excerpt

An excerpt from The Republic of Thieves, the next Gentlemen Bastards book by Scott Lynch is available online. However, consider yourself warned - it ends on a horrible cliffhanger and the book is not supposed to be out until next year!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More CryoBurn News

You know how I mentioned yesterday that CryoBurn, the next Miles Vorkosigan novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, was to be released in its final hardcover format in November? Lois McMaster Bujold announced today that the publication date has actually been moved forward to October 19. She also said that she will be starting the book tour on Saturday, October 16 at Uncle Hugo's in her hometown of Minneapolis.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

News and An Announcement

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that regular blogging will resume soon. There's a lot of unpacking to do, but at least it doesn't look like complete chaos in here anymore. In the meantime, here is some news I found as well as a preview of what is coming up next week.

Lois McMaster Bujold's blog has some information on how to get a taste of CryoBurn, the new Miles Vorkosigan book coming out in November, before it is published. The first five chapters are available to read on Baen's website. Also, there is an e-ARC for sale - basically, you can read the unfinished version early for $15 and since this is a program run by the publisher, the author still receives royalties from the sale (as opposed to ARCs on eBay).

Now for the announcement I've been wanting to make for weeks now but didn't want to mention too early. On Monday, I will be posting my review of Lord of the White Hell: Book One by Ginn Hale. On Tuesday there will be an interview with Ginn Hale, who very kindly agreed to answer some questions when I emailed her in a state of oh-my-goodness-I-loved-this-book shortly after finishing the first half of Lord of the White Hell. She'll be talking some about other stories she is working on (including the sequel to Wicked Gentlemen!) as well as some of her favorite books from childhood, the thought process behind the cultures she creates, and the role of empathy in writing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

This was a very good week for new books as I'm very interested in all the books that showed up and one is a definite must read since I already read the first book and loved it.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism
is the first book in the Lightbringer series and will be released in hardcover on August 25. The first three chapters can be read online and there is also going to be a book tour that covers some of the western US as well as Texas and Florida.

I liked the first book in the Night Angel trilogy by Weeks (although not quite enough to read the next two immediately as I haven't even gotten them to add to the giant to-read pile yet). This one sounds very compelling - the description has me pretty intrigued since just the first paragraph makes me ask so many questions that I would like to know the answers to:

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

Lord of the White Hell: Book Two by Ginn Hale

Lord of the White Hell: Book One will be released later this month on August 15, and this second half of the story will be published one month later on September 15. I read book one a couple of weeks ago and loved it (enough that I want to buy the final version since I have the ARC) so I really cannot wait to read the rest of it. The review for part one is in progress now so I can put it up right around the release date.

Kiram fought his family and Cadeleonian bigots to remain in the Sagrada Academy to prove himself as a mechanist and to dispel the deadly shadow curse that threatens to destroy his upperclassman, Javier Tornesal. But when his efforts provoke retaliation, Kiram's family and home are endangered. Both Kiram and Javier risk everything in a desperate gambit to combat the curse. But they never imagined their battle with come so soon, or that it would be lead by the one person they trust most of all.

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

This is a rarity for a review copy - it is is not a book that just came out or is coming out soon. It was originally published in 1952 and this particular edition is 5 years old. It sounds like a delightful fairy tale and sometime when I'm closer to caught up on reviews I'll have to read it (it shouldn't take that long to read - it's fairly short). Oh yes, and the endorsement on the book by Ursula K. Le Guin doesn't hurt, either.

A young woman is transformed by a magical journey from the dark ages to modern times, from brooding medieval forests to bustling Constantinople. Halla is turned out of her father’s castle by her new stepmother. Her nurse transforms herself into a bear to look after Halla. This is just the first of the wondrous and natural changes in Naomi Mitchison’s magical 1952 novel. Travel Light will appeal to fans of the Harry Potter series and Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, as well as to readers of Ursula K. Leguin and T.H. White.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Elizabeth Bear's Running a Giveaway!

Elizabeth Bear is giving away two ARCs of The White City on her blog. Simply leave a comment amusing enough to make her want to give it to you and you could get a hold of a copy of this novella, which is being published by Subterranean Press in December. She is accepting entries until August 11.

I'm not going to enter because I think this sounds like a good one to have as a signed limited edition. It's Elizabeth Bear! And Subterranean Press! And the description makes it sound really, really good:

For centuries, the White City has graced the banks of the Moskva River. But in the early years of a twentieth century not quite analogous to our own, a creature even more ancient than Moscow's fortress heart has entered its medieval walls.

In the wake of political success and personal loss, the immortal detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa has come to Moscow to choose his path amid the embers of war between England and her American colonies. Accompanied by his court--the forensic sorcerer Lady Abigail Irene and the authoress Phoebe Smith--he seeks nothing but healing and rest.

But Moscow is both jeweled and corrupt, and when you are old there is no place free of ghosts, and Sebastien is far from the most ancient thing in Russia...

Friday, August 6, 2010

July Reading

July was a slight improvement - four books read! Two of them were actually fairly long so I was happy with that number, especially considering nearly every weekend in July was taken up by new home related things. Now if only I were caught up on reviews...

Books read in July are:

27. The Devil in Green by Mark Chadbourn (Review)
28. Lord of the White Hell: Book One by Ginn Hale
29. Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey
30. The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke

Favorite book read during July: Lord of the White Hell: Book One - which is pretty decent considering I really enjoyed Naamah's Curse. I'm working on a review of the former now, but it will not be posted until closer to the release date of August 15. I liked it well enough that I added the finished copy to my wish list, though.

So what did you read this month? Anything good?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review of The Devil in Green

The Devil In Green
by Mark Chadbourn
368pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 6.5/10
Amazon Rating: 3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.94/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.79/5

The Devil In Green is the first book in The Dark Age trilogy by Mark Chadbourn. The Dark Age follows the Age of Misrule trilogy, which tells of the sudden appearance of magic in the world and how it affected humanity. Even though The Devil In Green was just released at the end of May, the middle book (The Queen of Sinister) is already available and the final book in the trilogy (The Hounds of Avalon) is scheduled for publication on July 27 of this year in the US (these books are already out in the UK). There will also be a third trilogy that ties in to the rest of the series.

In the previous trilogy, magic entered the world suddenly and without explanation, disrupting the modern world. People found themselves staring up at strange flying beasts, surrounded by the supernatural and in the midst of a battle of the gods from ancient mythologies. Humanity was forced to adapt to a completely different role in the universe - one in which mere survival was a struggle in a Dark Age where magic, not technology, was the source of power.

In England, the Christian church has responded by joining together several denominations to work together by reinstating a new order of the Knights Templar. Many people have reacted to the appearance of gods by leaving the church and the number of dedicated Christians is dwindling. A man running from his past, Mallory, has decided to travel to Salisbury to become a knight even though he has a rather cynical view toward faith and God. However, he figures it's a decent job since they'll take care of food and board and they'll be willing to take anyone, even someone who doesn't attempt to hide his disbelief. On the way to the church, Mallory saves a man named Miller from an attack by dangerous creatures. Miller is also on his way to join the Knights Templar, but unlike Mallory he wants to give something back to people and the Christian God he has come to believe in so strongly.

It doesn't take long for Mallory to become suspicious of this new church with its secrecy surrounding the knowledge contained in its library and the mysterious missions the elite knights undertake. As he encounters more supernatural forces, he becomes more unsure of what is happening and his role in events.

From the opening pages, Mark Chadbourn establishes a very dark atmosphere. Magic has entered the world, but unlike in a lot of contemporary fantasy, it didn't integrate easily with the supernatural and humans occupying the world and learning to live with each other. Rather, the emergence of gods and magical creatures destroyed the modern world, leading to a new dark age. Many urban fantasies I've read try to establish a government agency to regulate magic, but The Devil In Green does not go this route; the supernatural is too chaotic for that and anarchy reigns. None of the creatures seem close to human - even if the mythical beings do not all seem malevolent, they have an otherworldliness about them. Remnants form the modern age are strewn here and there, such as the occasional car, but since fuel is no longer easy to obtain, most people travel by walking or horse. The worldwide communication that has become so much a part of everyday life is no more, and people are unsure of what is happening throughout the nation in which they live. This new age feels very bleak and dangerous and not very much like the times we live in at all.

Occasionally I felt like I probably would have gotten more from this novel if I had read the previous trilogy. This is not to say it was difficult to follow what was happening, but I did get the impression that certain parts would have had more relevance had I been familiar with the other books, particularly some references to characters that I guessed had been in the first trilogy (and some research showed that they were in fact in it).

While I found the world very intriguing, there were times that the book seemed to move very slowly and I had some trouble really immersing myself in it. This may have been at least partially due to the fact that I just didn't have much time while I was reading it and ended up sometimes reading 5 pages at a time whenever I could snatch a few moments, which never makes for the best reading experience. Plus I never found myself all that attached to any of the characters, although I liked them well enough. The contrast between Mallory's cynicism and Miller's optimism made for some interesting conversations, and with Mallory's vast knowledge about everything from history to philosophy it really made me want to know more about his past (and I still do because by the end I still wasn't sated when it came to details about where his life before traveling to Salisbury to become a knight).

This is not a book I'd recommend to someone easily offended by dissection of Christian beliefs. Although Miller is completely dedicated to his faith, he's portrayed as someone who does not really understand the way in which the world works. Nor is the church painted in the best light, although there were a few people who seemed both devout and honest. It does seem to have a rather dismal view of organized religion and leadership in general, which is further enhanced by Mallory's negative response to just about anything:
"You're obviously an educated man. But don't confuse the Church with the people who claim to administer God's Word," James cautioned. "Humans are fallible."

"Pardon me for pointing it out, but you seem to have had a fair share of the fallible in your history," Mallory countered, unmoved. [pp. 33]
The Devil In Green excels at its portrayal of a world in which the presence of magic resulted in destruction leading to a very different way of life. The weaving of Celtic mythology with the history of the Knights Templar into the plot was also well done, although the story did seem to be moving fairly slowly at times. While the main characters were well drawn, they weren't terribly easy to relate to since both were on one side of an extreme, but they were intriguing personalities.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I picked it up at the Pyr booth at Book Expo America.

Other Reviews: