Future Treasures: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

When the Heavens Fall-smallI just received Tor’s Spring 2015 catalog and it’s crammed full of great-looking titles. I’ve only perused about a third, and I’ve already flagged some promising titles. Right at the top of the list is the opening volume in a new epic fantasy series featuring dark gods,  necromancy, and a very dangerous book….

If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy trilogy for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

When the Heavens Fall will be published by Tor Books on May 19, 2015. It is 544 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition.


Future Treasures: Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula-smallSometimes it seems that all my fifteen year-old daughter reads is manga (well, that and fan fiction.)

That’s probably not true — I spot her with paperbacks from time to time. But it is true that manga is still extremely popular, especially among teens. I’m seeing a lot more US comics mirroring the format, too — compact comic volumes that fit nicely in the palm of your hand. The latest is Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, a light-hearted gothic fantasy of an overworked princess of an underworld kingdom populated by ghosts, vampires, and werewolves.  Andi Watson’s deceptively simple artwork is well-suited to the tale. The only negative is that it won’t be available until February — a pity, as it would make a fine Christmas gift.

Princess Decomposia is overworked and underappreciated.

This princess of the underworld has plenty of her own work to do but always seems to find herself doing her layabout father’s job, as well. The king doesn’t feel quite well, you see. Ever. So the princess is left scurrying through the halls, dodging her mummy, werewolf, and ghost subjects, always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well.

Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. And then…more than friends? Maybe eventually, but first Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life. And with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed.

Andi Watson (Glister, Gum Girl) brings his signature gothy-cute sensibility to this very sweet and mildly spooky tale of friendship, family, and management training for the undead.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula will be published by First Second on February 24, 2015. It is 176 pages, priced at $19.99.


Future Treasures: Dungeon Master’s Guide from Wizards of the Coast

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dungeon Master's Guide-smallThe Dungeon Master’s Guide ships in less than two weeks, finally completing the rules set required to fully run Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition.

Truthfully, everything you really need to play is contained in the core rules, barely 25 pages of the Players Handbook (one of the reasons I think the new edition has been such a hit), but players have been waiting anxiously to complete the Fifth Edition rules set and enjoy the full scope of the game. The DMG contains magic items, optional rules, advice for Dungeon Masters, and a lot more.

The Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set was published July 15, 2014; Andrew Zimmerman Jones did a forensic analysis for us here. The Players Handbook was released on August 19; Andrew reviewed it for us a few days later. The Monster Manual arrived September 30; Andrew was all over it the day before it came out. I was going to review this one, but I’m pretty sure Andrew will beat me to it.

Why wait two months to publish the DMG? No idea, but there’s probably some kind of marketing strategy behind it. The tradition of publishing D&D rules sets in three volumes goes all the way back to Gary Gygax, and he took two years to produce all three (the first Players Handbook was published in 1977; the DMG didn’t show up until 1979.) So I guess we should consider ourselves lucky it’s showing up now, instead of 2016.

Everything a Dungeon Master needs to weave legendary stories for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides the inspiration and the guidance you need to spark your imagination and create worlds of adventure for your players to explore and enjoy. Inside you’ll find world-building tools, tips and tricks for creating memorable dungeons and adventures, optional game rules, hundreds of classic D&D magic items, and much more!

The Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide was written by the Wizards RPG Team, and will be published by Wizards of the Coast on December 9, 2014. It is 320 pages, priced at $49.95 in hardcover. There is no digital edition. Get more details at the WotC website.


Give a Warm Welcome to Saga Press, Launching This Spring

Monday, November 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Grace of Kings Persona City of Savages The Darkside War

There are a lot of books vying for your attention at the World Fantasy Convention. Publishers put free books in your convention bag, publicists place colorful flyers on the giveaway table, and hopeful authors hand out bookmarks and cards by the dozens. I always leave the con with my head brimming with promising new books, authors, and publishers.

Of course, I forget most of them within a day or two. Well, maybe it’s for the best. I couldn’t possibly read them all anyway.

It’s the ones that linger in my mind a couple weeks after the con that truly deserve my attention. Sort of a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest contest, taking place in the dusty corners of my brain. Good to know those brain cells are doing something, I suppose.

It’s been over two weeks since the 2014 World Fantasy Convention now, and I’m already having trouble remembering what city it was in. (Some brains are more skilled at forgetting than others. My brain is an expert.) But a handful of books I glimpsed at the con have managed to stay with me, and a surprising number of them are from the brand new publisher, Saga Press. In fact, I’d venture to say that Saga had perhaps the most impressive slate of upcoming titles I saw at the con — and that’s saying something.

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Future Treasures: The Wide World’s End by James Enge

Friday, November 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wide World's End-smallTurn off the television, unplug the phone, and disconnect the wireless. We just received an advance proof of The Wide World’s End, the latest Morlock novel from James Enge and our friends at Pyr Books. Don’t bother us for two days, okay? Unless you’re going to send food.

The tale of the early days of Morlock Ambrosius — master of all magical makers, wandering swordsman, and son of Merlin — concludes!

From beyond the northern edge of the world, the Sunkillers (undying enemies of everything that lives and breathes and is an individual) are reaching into the sky of Laent to drain out its light and warmth. Their hope is to scrape sky, land, and sea clean of mortal life and return to where they once dwelled, before the first rising of the sun. Against them stand only the Graith of Guardians, defenders of the peaceful anarchy of the Wardlands. But the agents of the Sunkillers are abroad even in the Wardlands: plotting, betraying, murdering among the Graith.

Married now for a century, Morlock Ambrosius and Aloê Oaij will take different paths to counter the threat. As Aloê ferrets out the enemy within the Graith, Morlock joins forces with his sister, the formidable Ambrosia Viviana, and crosses the monster-haunted plains of the deep north to confront the Sunkillers in their own realm. Morlock and Aloê think their parting is temporary, but it is final. They may or may not save the world, but they will not save each other, or themselves.

The Wide World’s End is the third volume of A Tournament of Shadows, the origin story of Morlock Ambrosius. It follows A Guile of Dragons (2012) and Wrath-Bearing Tree (2013). James’s tales of Morlock first appeared in Black Gate magazine, starting with BG 8.

The Wide World’s End will be published by Pyr Books on February 17, 2015. It is 409 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Steve Stone.


Future Treasures: Sustenance, A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Monday, November 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sustenance Chelsea Quinn Yarbro-smallI was pleased to be at the Awards ceremony at the World Fantasy Awards last weekend when Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Yarbro virtually invented the vampire romance, perhaps the most popular fantasy sub-genre of the past decade, with her popular Count Saint-Germain novels, the tales of gentleman vampire Saint-Germain and his adventures down through the centuries, beginning with Hôtel Transylvania in 1978. Sustenance, the 27th novel in the series, which finds the Count caught up in Cold War politics in 20th Century Europe, will be released next month.

Just after World War II, Saint-Germain travels throughout Europe, determining what of his business and properties survived the war, and offering what comfort and aid he can to refugees. Charis Treat, an American writer, academic, and professor, is one such. Persecuted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Charis has left her husband and young sons in the United States and fled to Paris, falling in with a community of expatriate intellectuals.

When they meet, Saint-Germain is taken by Charis’s intelligence and by her grace under pressure, and they soon begin an affair. She introduces him to the other expats, and in so doing, brings him under the scrutiny of the fledgling CIA, who are determined to squelch Communist sympathizers at home and abroad. Such close examination might expose the vampire’s true nature, but Saint-Germain has long practice at convincing duplicity.

The expats are not so lucky. Illniss, accidents, and death begin to winnow their numbers, Saint-Germain wonders if the accidents are truly accidents, or if there is a traitor in their midst. In an international game of cat and mouse, it’s difficult to determine who is the prey and who is the predator.

We previously covered Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s novels To The High Redoubt and Night Pilgrims. Sustenance will be published on Dec 2 by Tor Books. It is 480 pages, priced at $29.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. Read an excerpt here.


Future Treasures: Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Archivist Wasp-smallOne of the great things about the World Fantasy Convention — or any decent convention, really — is the opportunity to attend readings. Just think about that for a second. You get to sit back in a comfortable chair in an intimate setting, while some of the finest fantasy writers in the field personally read their stories to you. Why would you waste your time doing anything else? (Except trolling the Dealer’s Room, of course.)

This year was especially rewarding, as I got to attend readings by Frederic S. Durbin, the delightful Liz Argall, Helen Marshall, Nathan Ballingrud, Christopher Barzak, Peter V. Brett, Guy Gavriel Kay, Tiffany Trent, Sharon Shinn, Bradley Beaulieu, Jeffrey Ford, Mike Allen, Elwin Cotman, Kathryn Sullivan, Andy Duncan, Kelly Link, and many others. But the reading that surprised and delighted me the most was by a new writer named Nicole Kornher-Stace, who read from her upcoming novel to be published by Small Beer this spring. A fast-paced and beautifully written story of ghosts, a mysterious post-apocalyptic world, and a young woman of extraordinary bravery, I predict Archivist Wasp will make a major splash when it arrives next May.

Wasp’s job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-lost ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They’re chosen. They’re special. Or so they’ve been told for four hundred years.

Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won’t survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.

Archivist Wasp will be published by Small Beer Press on May 12, 2015. It is 256 pages, priced at $14 in trade paperback and $9.95 for the digital edition.


Future Treasures: The Very Best of Kate Elliott

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Very Best of Kate Elliott-smallKate Elliott is the bestselling fantasy author of Crown of Stars and Crossraods series, the Spiritwalker trilogy, and many other popular novels. Her first short fiction collection has been long awaited.

The Very Best of Kate Elliott showcases two decades of her best work, including many short stories that are long out of print, four essays appearing for the first time, and a brand new Crossroads story.

Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars, Crossroads). Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends.

In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.

Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

The Very Best of Kate Elliott will be published by Tachyon Publications on February 10, 2015. It is 501 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is by Julie Dillon.


Future Treasures: Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Covenant's End Ari Marmell-smallAri Marmell has been making a name for himself as a gaming writer and as a novelist for the past decade. He’s co-authored several excellent D&D releases, including Complete Mage (2006), Heroes of Horror (2005), Cityscape (2006), the Neverwinter Campaign Setting (2011), and the 4th Edition Tomb of Horrors (2010). Anyone who can adapt Gygax’s diabolical player-killer Tomb of Horrors and make it playable has serious cred in my book.

But it’s his recent fantasy novels that have really begun to get a lot of attention, including The Goblin Corps (2011), Hot Lead, Cold Iron (2014), and The Conqueror’s Shadow (2010), which John Ottinger III reviewed for us here. Perhaps his most successful series has been his YA novels featuring the thief Widdershins, starting with Thief’s Covenant (Feb 2012), False Covenant (June 2012), and Lost Covenant (Dec 2013).

Next year,Ari brings us a fourth Widdershins novel, with the rather ominous title Covenant’s End. Is this the final book in a much-loved series? You’ll have to wait until February to find out.

The thief Widdershins and her own “personal god,” Olgun, return to their home city of Davillon after almost a year away. While Shins expects only to face the difficulty of making up with her friends, what she actually finds is far, far worse. Her nemesis, Lisette, has returned, and she is not alone. Lisette has made a dark pact with supernatural powers that have granted her abilities far greater than anything Widdershins and Olgun can match.

Together, Widdershins and Olgun will face enemies on both sides of the law, for Lisette’s schemes have given her power in both Davillon’s government and its underworld. For even a slim chance, Shins must call on both old friends — some of whom haven’t yet forgiven her — and new allies.

Even with their help, Widdershins may be required to make the hardest sacrifice of her life, if she is to rid Davillon — and herself — of Lisette once and for all.

Covenant’s End will by published by Pyr on February 3, 2015. It is 273 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Jason Chan.


Judges Guild Premium Editions Coming

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

JudgesGuild_KelnoreWhen I began playing Dungeons and Dragons in the late seventies, I was a Judges Guild fan. My friend, who had more money, would buy shiny TSR modules. And I would get the cheaper-covered Judges Guild products. F’Dech Fo’s Tomb, Ravenscrag, Inferno (with a real cover), City State of the World Emperor, Wraith Overlord… I loved reading those things.

Frontier Forts of Kelnore guarded the border of my kingdom of Troya, ruled by the great warrior, Astyannax (I got more creative over the years). I even subscribed to Pegasus magazine, right up to the day it was discontinued.

Now, I liked those Judges Guild modules and supplements, but looking back, many did not age well (though a few did). Gaming has changed a lot over the years and reading them is kind of like watching an early talkie from the thirties. They’re out of place.

Having said that, they can still be interesting. I recently considered updating Glory Hole Dwarven Mine to work with Forge of Fury as a Pathfinder dwarven adventure. However, converting those old AD&D/Universal modules would take a LOT of work.

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