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Future Treasures: Resurrection, by Mandy Hager

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Resurrection Mandy Hager-smallThere’s no question that the hottest trend in fiction right now isn’t vampire romances, zombies, or even superheroes. It’s young adult dystopias. The trend didn’t begin with The Hunger Games, but for sure that’s the series that kicked it into high gear. Wander the young adult section of your local bookstores and you’ll see what I mean — you’ll find dozens of volumes advertising a grim future for our young folk. It would be depressing, except for the cheery sound of a cash register ringing.

There’s been such a flood of new dystopian fantasy that it’s made it tough for a quality new series to get noticed. Mandy Hager’s Blood of the Lamb trilogy — beginning with The Crossing (January 2013) and Into the Wilderness (January 2014) — has quietly been accumulating excellent reviews and new readers, and the arrival of the third book next month is sure to launch this one into the spotlight. Pick up the first two books now, while there’s still time.

When Maryam arrives back at Onewēre and tries to loosen the Apostles’ religious stranglehold by sharing the miraculous remedy for Te Matee lai, she finds herself captured once again — prey to the Apostles’ deadly game. The ruling elite manipulate her return by setting in motion a highly orchestrated ritual before a hysterical and brain-washed crowd. Somehow Maryam must get the islanders to listen to her plea that they start thinking for themselves — hoping to stir the independence in their hearts, even as she finds herself on the brink of death.

Resurrection will be published on August 12 by Pyr Books. It is 365 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the ebook.

The Series Series: The Night of the Swarm by Robert V.S. Redick

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Night of the Swarm Robert VS RedickIt’s one of the classic dilemmas all fantasy readers face: When the last volume in a series finally comes out, do you go back and reread from the start so you can reach the end with all the grace notes and loose ends fresh in memory as the author ties them off? Or do you dive in immediately because you’ve been longing to resolve the suspense of the last volume’s cliffhangers?

If you’ve been reading Robert V.S. Redick’s delightful series, The Chathrand Voyage, you face this decision again with the arrival of the final book, The Night of the Swarm. The opening volume, The Red Wolf Conspiracy, was Redick’s debut novel, so we’ve never seen him bring a series to closure before. The first three books were delicious, but will he pull off the conclusion well enough to justify the time it takes you to reread the whole set?

Yes. Do it. Go find your copy of The Red Wolf Conspiracy, or buy a new one if you’ve mislaid it. I’ve just finished The Night of the Swarm, which I dove into without reacquainting myself with the earlier books, and though it was immensely satisfying, I will definitely be rereading the whole series.

And if you’re a newcomer to The Chathrand Voyage, oh, you are in for such a treat. Get all four books at once, turn the ringer off on your phone for a few weeks, and set up an auto-response for your email, because you won’t want to leave the battered, glorious world of Alifros until you’ve seen its struggles through.

Our young heroes Pazel, Thasha, and Neeps — along with a ship’s company of fanciful, and sometimes frightening, supporting characters that Charles Dickens might have come up with if he’d been trying to adapt his favorite techniques from George R.R. Martin — have only been at sea for a year, but what perils they have weathered! They have resisted a madman whose army of followers worship him as a god, rescued Thasha from political assassination, fled by sailing ship across an almost unimaginably large and wild ocean, and rediscovered civilizations no one from their continent has seen in centuries.

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Balance of Power

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

People of the Black Circle-smallFantasy is generally about power. Who wields it, who wants it, and the price they pay for it. Magic (the supernatural world) is often the metaphor used for power in fantasy lit. But there are plenty of other kinds, such as fighting prowess, political power, and so on, that can also be incorporated.

In fact, what a fantasy story says about power is usually one of the most important elements to me.

In Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, Conan represents the superiority of the barbarism over decadent civilization, and also the power of the individual against society. He is the fulcrum that swings the balance of power away from the rich nations by the force of his will and the strength of his arm. Until, of course, he eventually comes to rule one of those soft civilized nations….

In The Black Company, Glen Cook creates an epic saga about a company of grunts trying to survive during a massive war between supercharged sorcerers. Not only do the soldiers of the Black Company survive, they manage to thwart the wizards and witches who try to use them, showing that the common man and woman are the true shapers of history.

Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen features a stunning array of factions and individuals across many levels of society, many of them jostling for power and some just trying to stay out of the way.

My own Book of the Black Earth series has only just begun, but already in the first book I’ve laid down the underlying conflict of rival powers. Religious cults vie with secular government. City-states compete for regional power. Individuals strive against the institutions of slavery and caste in a world where sorcery is the province of the ruling class.

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New Treasures: Resistance by Samit Basu

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Resistance Samit Basu-smallIs it just me, or did I miss the literary trend where superhero novels suddenly became a thing?

Sure, superhero novels were always around, but now it seems they’re a thriving sub-genre. Just recently we’ve covered Michael R. Underwood’s superheroes-in-a-fantasy-city Shield and Crocus, V.E. Schwab’s super-villainous Vicious, Andrew P. Mayer’s steampunk Society of Steam trilogy, Jacqueline Carey’s werewolf novel Santa Olivia, and After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn, featuring the unpowered daughter of two famous superheroes, just to name a few. Maybe it’s all those billion-dollar Marvel movies, I dunno. But something’s made superheroes hot all of a sudden.

I missed Samit Basu’s first book from Titan, the well-reviewed superhero novel Turbulence. Which is a pity, because the premise sounds very intriguing: in 2009, all the passengers on flight BA142 from London to Delhi wake up the next morning to discover they have developed extraordinary abilities. His new novel Resistance picks up the tale a decade later, as a silent killer begins to pick off the supers one by one…

How would you adapt to a world full of superhumans? And how far would you go to stop them destroying it?

In 2020, eleven years after the passengers of flight BA142 from London to Delhi developed extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires, the world is overrun with supers. Some use their powers for good, others for evil, and some just want to star in their own reality show.

But now, from New York to Tokyo, someone is hunting down supers, kidnapping heroes and villains both, and it’s up to the Unit to stop them…

Resistance was published by Titan Books on July 8, 2014. It is 400 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital edition.

Pat Murphy’s Three Books of Adventures

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

There and Back AgainThere was an extended period of time in the 1990s and the first decade of this century when I didn’t read much science fiction or genre fantasy. I started reacquainting myself with these fields a few years ago and I’m still in the process of learning what I missed. It’s not uncommon for me to only now find out about an author who established themselves during those years. Which brings me around to Pat Murphy.

A little while ago, I stumbled on three books by her that make up a highly distinctive sort of trilogy: There And Back Again, Wild Angel, and Adventures in Time and Space With Max Merriwell. They were published one a year from 1999 to 2001. They don’t really share a plot or setting, though some characters cross over from one to another. They’re linked by concepts both metafictional and science-fictional, which is a surprisingly unusual pairing, and while each can easily be read alone, the third book ties them all together with surprising effectiveness. ‘Surprising’ because at first the links between the books aren’t obvious. But by the end of book three, you realise what Murphy was driving at, and why these things had to be done in this particular way.

So what are these books? There And Back Again is a futuristic sf story about Bailey Beldon, a simple ‘norbit,’ a human inhabitant of an asteroid, who gets tied up with an oddball wanderer named Gitana and a family of thirteen clones. The clones have a map that’ll lead to a treasure with a fearsome guardian — and Gitana has decided that Bailey will accompany them on their quest. It is, in fact, a science-fictional and somewhat gender-flipped version of The Hobbit, and extremely effective. Similarly, Wild Angel is a story set in nineteenth-century California of a girl whose parents were killed when they came west to look for gold; the girl’s raised by wolves in exactly the same way Tarzan was raised by apes. But it’s the third book where things get really strange.

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Vintage Treasures: The Song of Mavin Manyshaped by Sheri S. Tepper

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The song of Mavin Manyshaped-smallI think I’m finally starting to figure out Sheri Tepper’s 9-volume magnum opus The True Game (believe me, it took some work.)

I accidentally started (as usual) in the middle, with Dervish Daughter, which I didn’t even realize was part of a series, much less the eighth frickin’ volume. However, I overcame this as, after many decades of reading fantasy, I have mad reader skillz. Dervish Daughter isn’t really the eighth volume anyway, it’s actually the middle volume of the last trilogy, known as The Books of the True Game: Jinian.

The first trilogy, The Books of the True Game: Mavin Manyshaped, was written second, after the middle trilogy, which was composed of King’s Blood Four, Necromancer Nine, and Wizard’s Eleven, which were collectively gathered in a one-volume edition as The True Game. Which isn’t at all confusing. Still with me?

Forget it, I’m lost again. Let’s start over. The Song of Mavin Manyshaped is the first book in the first trilogy of The True Game. Mavin is a shapeshifter, and this opening trilogy tells the story from her point of view.

It is never easy growing up as a shape-shifter, learning to control the wild Talent for changing into any shape at all — a winged dragon, a pillar of stone, another human being, a creature from a nightmare. But for Mavin Manyshaped — one of only two she-shifters in her tribe, and recklessly headstrong by nature — coming of age is both exhilarating and terrifying. Little does she know she is destined to become the most notorious shape-shifter in all the lands of the True Game.

I bought The Song of Mavin Manyshaped as part of a jaunty collection of seven Sheri S. Tepper paperbacks on eBay for $10.50. They’re not all part of The True Game… I think. Anything is possible.

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Scott Taylor’s A Knight in the Silk Purse Now Available

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

A Knight in the Silk Purse-smallScott Taylor’s latest anthology, A Knight in the Silk Purse, the sequel to his blockbuster, Tales of the Emerald Serpent, is now available.

If you’re a regular Black Gate reader, you’re familiar with Scott’s popular Art of the Genre column. But Scott is more than just a blogger and writer — he’s also an accomplished editor and publisher, with seven successful Kickstarter publishing projects under his belt. Inspired by classic shared world anthologies like Thieves World, Scott created the Free City of Taux, a sprawling fantasy port of “cursed stones, dark plots, and rich characters who share space inside the infamous Black Gate District,” and invited some of the genre’s most popular writers to tell its stories — including Lynn Flewelling, Juliet McKenna, Martha Wells, Julie Czerneda, Harry Connolly, and many others.

The result was Tales of the Emerald Serpent, one of the most acclaimed anthologies from last year. Lou Anders, editorial director at Pyr Books, said “I’m very impressed… it’s a smart, good looking package with some real gems of fiction inside.”

As we reported last year, Scott launched another successful Kickstarter to fund a sequel and A Knight in the Silk Purse was born — featuring virtually all of the writers from TotES, plus Dave Gross, Elaine Cunningham, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. Fans have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the second volume and now the wait is over.

Here’s the book description.

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Future Treasures: Scarlet Tides by David Hair

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Scarlet Tides David Hair-smallI keep discovering interesting series with the second volume. I think it’s some kind of curse. When I was born, three fairies attended my christening. The first said, “Oh, crap. I didn’t bring a gift. Um, tell you what, John will be blessed with a love of reading.” And the second said, “That’s a good idea. And tell you what, he’ll always be surrounded by books.” And the third, whom my parents had clearly offended somehow (seriously, who can figure out fairies?) said, “I curse this brat. He shall always discover great fantasy series with the second volume.” Fairies. Don’t invite them to parties and your life will go a lot easier.

My latest discovery is The Moontide Quartet by David Hair, which began last year with Mage’s Blood. Which I only learned recently, after I started reading the Advance Proof for the second volume, Scarlet Tides. Somewhere, a fairy is laughing.

In the exciting second volume of The Moontide Quartet, a scarlet tide of Rondian legions is flooding into the East, led by the Inquisition’s windships flying the Sacred Heart (the bright banner of the Church’s darkest sons). They are slaughtering and pillaging their way across Antiopia in the name of Emperor Constant. But the emperor’s greatest treasure, the Scytale of Corineus, has slipped through his fingers and his ruthless Inquisitors must scour two continents for the artifact, the source of all magical power.

Against them are arrayed the unlikeliest of heroes. Alaron, a failed mage, the gypsy, Cymbellea, and Ramita, once just a lowly market-girl, who have pledged to end the devastating cycle of war and restore peace to Urte.

East and West have clashed before, but this time, as secret factions and cabals emerge from the shadows, the world is about to discover that love, loyalty, and truth can be forged into weapons as powerful as sword and magic.

Mage’s Blood was published by Jo Fletcher Books last September; Tor. com called it “An outstanding start to a series which promises to recall epic fantasy’s finest.”

Scarlet Tides will be published in the US by Jo Fletcher Books on October 24, 2013. It is 657 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover.

New Treasures: The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shadow Throne-smallGood morning, campers! And welcome to another marvelous Saturday morning. It’s raining here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters in downtown Chicago, but that’s okay. The city could certainly use the rain — even if it did mean we had to scramble to put umbrellas over all the desks.

We don’t know the meaning of the word ‘weekend’ here at Black Gate. Our tireless quest to bring you the latest news, reviews, gossip, and innuendo means that the office has been packed all morning (and most of the previous night). Ottawa correspondent Derek Kunsken has assembled a stack of Katherine Kurtz paperbacks (and, curiously, an old issue of Dragon magazine) and is putting the finishing touches on his Saturday afternoon column. Matthew David Surridge is here — but then, that guy is always here. And Connor Gormley is over in the corner, making notes on a bunch of video games. I’m sure we’ll see the fruits of their labor in the next few days.

As for me, I’m just here to pick up some of the mail before driving back home to St. Charles. I have a Dungeons and Dragons game with my kids scheduled after lunch — the same campaign I wrote about last summer. They’re deep in the heart of Gary Gygax’s G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and it looks like the final battle against the mighty giant Chief Nosnra could finally occur today. Don’t wanna be late for that.

But there’s a handful of eye-catching new releases in the mail and I’m tempted to take a few home. The most interesting to me is Django Wexler’s The Shadow Throne, the sequel to The Thousand Names.

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Future Treasures: The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Causal Angel-smallTwo years ago, Matthew David Surridge posted a review of The Quantum Thief, the first novel in Hannu Rajaniemi’s far future adventure trilogy. We focus on fantasy at Black Gate, but the magical and baroque setting Rajaniemi created seemed more science fantasy than SF and it caught my attention. Here’s how Matthew summed up the book:

Centuries in the future, Jean le Flambeur is a master thief, imprisoned in a virtual-reality jail: every day he makes choices, and dies, and is reborn. Until he’s freed by a violent woman named Mieli from the edge of the solar system, and taken to Mars. There, he must regain old memories he locked away from all possible recovery when he was literally a far different person than he is now. A youthful detective, hi-tech superheroes, and posthuman intelligences are waiting to complicate his task, which seems to have ramifications on an interplanetary scale…

It’s primarily, I think, within a lineage that goes back at least to Arthur C. Clarke, fusing precise language and dramatic plots with a sense of the sublime clothed in scientific theory… it also plays with another lineage, older than sf, one at least as old as Robin Hood: the righteous outlaw thief.

The second volume, The Fractal Prince, was published in hardcover in November 2012. I just received a copy of the third (and final?) volume: The Causal Angel, which goes on sale next week. The blurb promises this volume contains “the ultimate fates of Jean, his employer Miele, the independently minded ship Perhonnen, and the rest of a fractured and diverse humanity flung throughout the solar system.” Sign me up.

The Causal Angel will be published by Tor Books on July 15th. It is 292 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Kekai Kotaki.

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