Spotlight: Battlemage – Stephen Aryan

About the Book

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‘I can command storms, summon fire and unmake stone,’ Balfruss growled. ‘It’s dangerous to meddle with things you don’t understand.’


BALFRUSS is a battlemage, sworn to fight and die for a country that fears his kind.

VARGUS is a common soldier – while mages shoot lightning from the walls of his city, he is down on the front line getting blood on his blade.

TALANDRA is a princess and spymaster, but the war will force her to risk everything, and make the greatest sacrifice of all.

Magic and mayhem collide in this explosive epic fantasy from a major new talent.

Publication date: September 22nd, 2015 (Orbit)

 

 

About the Author

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I’m a lifelong fan of fantasy and science fiction. It started with The Hobbit, The Belgariad, the Earthsea books, the Shannara books and then David Gemmell, who was a huge influence on me and my writing. For most of that time I have also been reading comics. It began with superhero comics from DC and Marvel, but now I read comics across many genres and from a wide variety of comic book publishers.

I’m a writer and podcaster. I’ve previously written a comic book column and comic book reviews for Tor.com, developed intellectual property into comic book pitches for a media company, and self published a superhero comic. Since 2007 I have been co-hosting a comics and geek culture podcast. I have also spoken on panels at comic book conventions about comics and podcasting. I’m also working on several comic book projects.

Battlemage is being published by Orbit books in the UK and USA in September 2015 and it’s the first in the Age of Darkness trilogy. I am represented by Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group.

You can find me online on TwitterFacebookGoodreads.

The Silk Map – Gaunt and Bone #2 – Chris Willrich

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Release date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Pyr Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 445
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

At the end of The Scroll of Years, the poet Persimmon Gaunt and her husband, the thief Imago Bone, had saved their child from evil forces at the price of trapping him within a pocket dimension. Now they will attempt what seems impossible; they will seek a way to recover their son. Allied with Snow Pine, a scrappy bandit who’s also lost her child to the Scroll of Years, Gaunt and Bone awaken the Great Sage, a monkeylike demigod of the East, currently trapped by vaster powers beneath a mountain. The Sage knows of a way to reach the Scroll — but there is a price. The three must seek the world’s greatest treasure and bring it back to him. They must find the worms of the alien Iron Moths, whose cocoons produce the wondrous material ironsilk.

And so the rogues join a grand contest waged along three thousand miles of dangerous and alluring trade routes between East and West. For many parties have simultaneously uncovered fragments of the Silk Map, a document pointing the way toward a nest of the Iron Moths. Our heroes tangle with Western treasure hunters, a blind mystic warrior and his homicidal magic carpet, a nomad princess determined to rebuild her father’s empire, and a secret society obsessed with guarding the lost paradise where the Moths are found — even if paradise must be protected by murder.

 

Review:

‘The Silk Map’ is just as fun and entertaining as the previous book, ‘The Scroll of Years’. Grand scenarios, witty banter, magical creatures, curious objects everywhere and an exciting storyline make it hard to put this book down. Chris Willrich succeeds in continuing the unique tale he started in the first book, but introduces a whole new part of his world with its own colourful characters and cultures, keeping everything new and interesting.

 

The loss of their child in ‘The Scroll of Years’, the first novel after the Gaunt and Bone short fiction, weighs on Gaunt and Bone’s marriage and their careless banter more and more threatens to become a squabble. They are united in one goal though: finding and saving their son. Together with Snow Pine, whose daughter is also trapped in the scroll, they set out to find the powerful Great Sage, trapped in a mountain. If there’s someone who can point them to the Scroll, it’ll be her. But this demi-god doesn’t give away her secrets so easily. As a counter gesture, they have to bring her a couple of Silk worms that can make the powerful Silk Steel.
The only problem is that no one has ever found the place the last Silk Worms are hidden. There is a legend that talks about a map on a Silk gown that was worn by this mysterious girl. When she fled the land however, her gown was torn, and so was the map. To find the Silk worms, they have to find the pieces of the map and follow it to Xembala.

 

The Gaunt and Bone novels shine in the depth of their characterization. Every character is another great contribution to the story and all have this penchant to get under your skin, positively or negatively. Especially Gaunt and Bone are a joy to read, their interaction is one of the best thing about these books. I’m glad we get to see both the ups and the downs in their relationship, making it even more relatable and realistic.
There are a lot of new characters introduced in this sequel to ‘The Scroll of Years’, as the story has shifted to the desert lands. New cultures and new beliefs give this book a fresh touch and take you further into the fascinating world Willrich has created.

 

I marveled at the rich descriptions and the wonderful worldbuilding. Willrich truly takes you deep into new territory and you can’t help but get lost in it. In ‘The Silk Map’ Gaunt and Bone go on an epic quest with the ultimate goal to save their son. Action, adventure and intrigue is interspersed with tales and poems to give some background for the environment and the mythology.

 

I definitely have a soft spot for the Gaunt and Bone novels now and I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book, ‘The Chart of Tomorrows’. There is something unique about these books, an atmosphere I have rarely encountered in other books. They are fun and colourful, but also have a lot of depth. The storylines seem spectacular and wild at a glance, but when you take a closer look there is a lot more woven through them. If you’re looking for something different to spice up your reading, take a look at these books, you won’t be disappointed.

Spotlight: If Then – Matthew de Abaitua

About the Book

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In the near future, after the collapse of society as we know it, one English town survives under the protection of the computer algorithms of the Process, which governs every aspect of their lives. The Process gives and it takes. It allocates jobs and resources, giving each person exactly what it has calculated they will need. But it also decides who stays under its protection, and who must be banished to the wilderness beyond. Human life has become totally algorithm-driven, and James, the town bailiff, is charged with making sure the Process’s suggestions are implemented.

But now the Process is making soldiers. It is readying for war — the First World War. Mysteriously, the Process is slowly recreating events that took place over a hundred years ago, and is recruiting the town’s men to fight in an artificial reconstruction of the Dardanelles campaign. James, too, must go fight. And he will discover that the Process has become vastly more sophisticated and terrifying than anyone had believed possible.

Publication date: September 3rd, 2015 (Angry Robot)

 

About the Author

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My first novel is The Red Men, shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award and reissued by Gollancz.

The Red Men is currently in development as a feature film by directors Shynola and produced by Film4 and Warp Films. The teaser short film Dr Easy, adapted from the first chapter of The Red Men, can be watched for free on Vimeo.
The American and foreign rights to publish The Red Men are available.

My second book is The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars, published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin. The Economist made it one of their books of the year. It was widely and positively reviewed in the national press. I have a site dedicated to camping.

My second novel IF THEN is complete and has just been delivered to my agent Sarah Such.

Website

Twitter

Spotlight: Twelve Kings – Bradley Beaulieu

About the book

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In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she’s never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It’s the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother.

As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools-they’ve ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she’s ready to face them once and for all.

Publication date: September 3rd, 2015 (Gollancz)

 

About the Author

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Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but in the way of these things, it was set aside as life intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn’t going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing several novels and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, Michael Swanwick, Kij Johnson, and many more.

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Marked – The Soulseer Chronicles #1 – Sue Tingey

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Release date: May 7th, 2015
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: (Young) Adult
Pages: 346
Format: ARC
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

With no family and very few friends, Lucky’s psychic ability has always made her an outcast. The only person she can rely on is Kayla, the ghost girl who has been with her since she was born.

But Kayla is not all that she appears.

And when Lucky is visited by a demonic assassin with a message for her friend, she finds herself dragged into the Underlands – and the political fight for the daemon king’s throne.

Lucky, trapped in the daemon world, is determined to find her way home… until she finds herself caught between the charms of the Guardian Jamie, the charismatic Daemon of Death Jinx – and the lure of finding out who she really is.

Review

I have been excited about this book since last year’s World Science Fiction Convention, or Loncon3. There, I got a little booklet with the first chapter of the book and I read it that very evening, hooked from the start. I had to wait almost a year to get to read the rest of the book. It was just as great as that first chapter promised.

 

‘Marked’ starts out as a tale about a young woman who can see ghosts. She leads an isolated life because of that and even her best friend is a ghost who has been by her side since she was young. Don’t be fooled though, there is so much more to the book than you’d think at first.
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Your Servants and Your People – The Walkin’ Trilogy #2 – David Towsey

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Release date: November 6th, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 321
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In a dystopian future the dead don’t always die – they are the Walkin’, but there are those that will not suffer the wicked to live . . .

Seven years after Thomas returned as a Walkin’, the McDermott family are pursuing a new life as they run from Barkley to the remote outpost of Fort Wilson. But the teachings of J.S. Barkley are not so easily forsaken – there are those that would see the sinners dead, and they are slowly closing in.

 

Review:

If you read my review for ‘Your Brother’s Blood’, the first book in the Walkin’ trilogy, you might know that I really enjoyed David Towsey’s approach of the zombie genre. ‘Your Borther’s Blood’ is an unconventional zombie story that doesn’t focus on the gore or the horror, but on the emotional struggle to be accepted by the society they once were a part of. I was especially fond of the strong father-daughter relationship that was portrayed there. Obviously I was very curious to see how the story would continue.
In ‘Your Servants and Your People’ we make a time-jump of several years.

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Spotlight: ‘The Chart of Tomorrows’ by Chris Willrich

Earlier this month the third book in the Gaunt and Bone series by Chris Willrich was published by Pyr and yet again I was blown away by the amazing cover art by Kerem Beyit. The first two books, ‘The Scroll of Years’ and ‘The Silk Map’ have a special place on my bookshelf. Not only are the books a joy to read, but they all look very pretty as well. I can’t wait to read about Gaunt and Bone’s adventures again and have this beauty on my shelf next to the others!

 

About the book

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The poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone had sought only to retire from adventuring and start a family, but they never reckoned on their baby becoming the chosen vessel of the mystical energies of a distant Eastern land. With their son Innocence hunted by various factions hoping to use him as a tool, they kept him safe at the cost of trapping him in a pocket dimension of accelerated time.

Now free, the thirteen-year-old Innocence has rejected his parents and his “destiny” and has made dangerous friends in a barbaric Western land of dragon-prowed ships and rugged fjords. Desperately, Gaunt and Bone seek to track him down, along with their companion Snow Pine and her daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who was once trapped with Innocence too.

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

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About the author

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

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Update: April – June

It’s been a while since I wrote a post like this. I’ve been busy working on my thesis and the day before yesterday I finally graduated from University here in Belgium! It’s been a long road but I’m so glad I made it to the end. Now I have 3 months of summer to do nothing but travel and read. You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to this! So it’s about time I do an update post again to close off the first part of the year and start the summer with a clean slate.

Read and Currently Reading

I’ve read quite a few books since my last post, all of them books I really enjoyed.

First up I finished ‘Signal to Noise’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Set in Mexico, it tells the story of Meche at two different points in her life: in 1988 and in the present. Slowly we learn why Meche left Mexico and is reluctant to go back and what happened to her close friendship with Sebastien. Woven through it is a breeze of magic that gave this story full of emotions a little bit of spice.

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I read ‘Wolfhound Century’ by Peter Higgins next and though I was confused at first and didn’t really thing the book would fit me, it turned out to be a powerful, grim and beautiful story. I’m glad I looked past my earlier doubts and read on.

Next was ‘Blades of the Old Empire’ by Anna Kashina, a book that had been on my to-read list for quite a long time. At first when I started reading I thought this was a book with a bit too many clichés, but the twists and the action kept me reading. Ultimately all the clichés I thought were there were cleverly avoided by introducing plot twists and outcomes to story lines I wasn’t expecting. Conclusion: ‘Blades of the Old Empire’ really surprised me and I’m happy I finally decided to read it.

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I also read ‘Hexed’ by Michael Alan Nelson, a Young Adult book based on the Hexed comics. I’d never read the Hexed comics, so I started with no previous knowledge of the characters or the story. The book can however easily be read without any previous knowledge. ‘Hexed’ is a YA book that avoids being ‘one of the many’ beautifully. A strong and wilful heroine, a story full of demons and ghosts and a love story with a surprising outcome. I loved it!

I was absolutely thrilled to receive an ARC of ‘Marked’ by Sue Tingey some time ago and I read it right away. I adored it! A beautifully crafted tale that brings your from our familiar world and an encounter with a very creepy demon to a whole other world that is in every way very different than our own.

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‘The Pyre’ by David Hair I already reviewed last week and I can only repeat that it was an amazing read. It is set in India and uses elements of Indian mythology and history to create an exciting story about reincarnation and old debts that need to be paid. Read it!

‘Grudgebearer’ by J.F. Lewis was the next book I read and what an amazing book that is! It is complex without being too confusing and tells such an richly detailed story you can’t help but keep flipping the pages. For a link to my full review, scroll down!

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The last book I finished was ‘Path of Gods’ by Snorri Kristjansson, the third book in the Valhalla Saga. I have enjoyed every book in the Valhalla Saga and this one wasn’t any different. Reunited with my beloved Vikings I embarked with them on a trip to fight off two different evils. Bloody, snow-covered action lead to a satisfying ending for the characters I had become so familiar with.

Full reviews of these books will be posted on the blog throughout the summer!

 

So what am I currently reading?

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I started in ‘Oathkeeper’ by J.F. Lewis a few days ago to continue the story that was started in ‘Grudgebearer’. So far the pace is rather slow, but I’m still enjoying the imaginative world and cultures I got the know in Grudgebearer.

I’m also reading ‘Uprooted’ by Naomi Novik. I had heard a lot of good things about this book on twitter and various blogs, so I decided to request it on NetGalley. If I have to put a label on it, I’d say it feels like reading a fairy tale, but it is so much more. I absolutely love the main character and how fiercely loyal she is. I can’t wait to read more of this!

 

Movies and Series

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I finally got to watch ‘Interstellar’ last week and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was really good, even though the ‘inside-the-black-hole’ thing was a bit weird. It’s freaky to think about time being so relative out there in space and that even though only an hour or a bit more has passed for you, years might pass on Earth. I’ve always been fascinated by things like that so I guess this movie was right up my alley.

In other news, I started watching ‘The Musketeers’! I have only watched three episodes so far, but I can already conclude that I really like what I’ve seen so far.

 

Posts in April – June

Grudgebearer – The Grudgebearer Trilogy #1 – J.F. Lewis

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Release date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: Pyr
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 415
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Kholster is the first born of the practically immortal Aern, a race created by the Eldrennai as warrior-slaves to defend them from the magic-resistant reptilian Zaur.  Unable to break an oath without breaking their connection with each other, the Aern served the Eldrennai faithfully for thousands of years until the Sundering. Now, the Aern, Vael, and Eldrennai meet every hundred years for a Grand Conjunction to renew their tenuous peace.  

While the tortures of slavery remain fresh in Kholster’s mind, most of the rest of the world has moved on. Almost six hundred years after the Sundering, an Eldrennai prince carelessly breaks the truce by setting up a surprise museum exhibit containing sentient suits of Aernese armor left behind, never to be touched, lest Kholster kill every last Eldrennai. Through their still-existing connection with their ancient armor, the Aern know instantly, and Kholster must find a way to keep his oaths, even those made in haste and anger. While Kholster travels to the Grand Conjunction with his Freeborn daughter and chosen successor Rae’en, his troops travel by sea, heading for war. 

Review:

‘Grudgebearer’ is a layered and complex story with multifaceted characters that is perfect when you want to immerse yourself in a whole new world and its rich history. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the book when I first started it, but after finishing it I can’t help but really love it.

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The Pyre – The Return of Ravana #1 – David Hair

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Release date: June 4th, 2015
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: (Young) Adult
Pages: 325
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Mandore, Rajasthan, 769 AD: Ravindra-Raj, the evil sorcerer-king, devises a deadly secret ritual, where he and his seven queens will burn on his pyre, and he will rise again with the powers of Ravana, demon-king of the epic Ramayana. But things go wrong when one queen, the beautiful, spirited Darya, escapes with the help of Aram Dhoop, the court poet.

Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2010: At the site of ancient Mandore, teenagers Vikram, Amanjit, Deepika and Rasita meet and realize that the deathless king and his ghostly brides are hunting them down. As vicious forces from the past come alive, they need to unlock truths that have been hidden for centuries, and fight an ancient battle . . . one more time.

 

Review:

Set in India, the present as well as the past, and exploring the culture, mythology and history of the country ‘The Pyre’ seemed the perfect book to continue my list of books with diverse settings. No surprise then that I was very excited to start this book when it came in the mail and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed at all! Once you start this book it’s very hard to put down. Both the events set in the present and those in the past kept me flipping the pages, wondering what would happen next.

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