New Treasures: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Thursday, November 16th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Oathbringer-smallBrandon Sanderson is one of the most prolific writers in the genre. By any measure, he’s certainly one of the hardest working. Back in 2015 I estimated that he was producing, on average, 1,270 pages per year (not counting short stories and the like). His first novel of 2017, Oathbringer, the third novel in The Stormlight Archive, weighs in at a whopping 1,248 pages — and still manages to bring down his average.

Oathbringer is the sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling The Way of Kings (2011) and Words of Radiance (2014), both of which were over 1,000 pages in hardcover. The series is projected to be 10 volumes, over 10,000 pages, about ten times the length of The Lord of the Rings. Get a cozy reading nook for this one, you’re going to need it.

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together ― and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past―even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

Nice to see Michael Whelan do the cover art. The wraparound cover is quite striking; here’s a look at the entire piece.

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In 500 Words or Less … Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Friday, January 27th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Calamity Brandon Sanderson-smallCalamity
By Brandon Sanderson
Random House (432 pages, $18.99 hardcover/$10.99 paperback, February 2016)

To begin, let’s cue the music:

Finally, I made it to Calamity, which concludes Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while because it’s the only series of Sanderson’s that I’ve really taken to; The Stormlight Archive tired me out halfway through the second book, and I haven’t felt the urge to start Mistborn. But the Reckoners trilogy is just a blast. It’s superhero YA, pulpy and exciting and admittedly un-scientific (which is a sort of running meta-joke among the characters) but with the sort of excellent character work that I look for in fiction.

The final installment doesn’t disappoint with regard to the above. Narrator David Charleston is just as optimistic, determined and corny as before, though he’s grown out of his quest for vengeance against the super-powered Epics that destroyed the world. Now that he’s saved one (and started dating her) he’s out to save another, his friend and mentor Prof, to prove that the Epics can learn to fight their darker impulses, like Anakin turning from the dark side (except more successful, hopefully).

What seems like a pretty straightforward storyline – find Prof, save Prof, then destroy the source of the Epics’ powers – goes in some unexpected directions, eventually losing momentum. Realizing that the solution to the Epics is even more complicated and out of reach than it’s painted at the start of the novel added an extra layer of tension that kept me up one night finishing off the damn thing so I could get some sleep.

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Revisit the Fabled City of Brass: S. A. Chakraborty Wraps The Daevabad Trilogy with The Empire of Gold

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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It’s always a delight to watch a talented writer successfully wrap up a fantasy series.

And that’s especially true of S. A. Chakraborty’s The Daevabad Trilogy, which opened with one of the most popular debuts of the last few years. The City of Brass. Here’s what Brandon Crilly’s said in his enthusiastic review right here at Black Gate in 2018.

Chakraborty creates a world that’s nuanced and detailed. It has exactly the vivid freshness we continue to need in the fantasy genre, as a balance for the variations on the same Eurocentric worldviews that are still widely common…. But the novel is much more than its world – at the end of the day, my interest is always characters. Our two main protagonists, Cairo street urchin Nahri and immortal warrior Dara, are great counterparts; they’re equally passionate and protective, but in different ways, and both are seeking to find their place in the world… The City of Brass is excellent. It’s rare that I find a fantasy novel that’s so vividly detailed.

The Kingdom of Copper arrived last year; Kirkus Reviews called it “As good or better than its predecessor.” And now the concluding volume, the massive 784-page The Empire of Gold, arrives in hardcover; here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: Unreconciled, Book 4 of Donovan by W. Michael Gear

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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The Donovan series: Outpost, Abandoned, Pariah, and the forthcoming Unreconciled. Covers by Steve Stone.

W. Michael Gear knows his way around a science fiction series. He wrote the Way of Spider trilogy in the late 80s, the Forbidden Borders trilogy in the early 90s, and some, what, 20 novels in the First North Americans series, co-written with his wife Kathleen O’Neal Gear? This is a man who knows how to plot for the long haul.

His latest is the Donovan trilogy, which next week turns into the Donovan quartet with the arrival of the fourth novel, Unreconciled. The Dononvan trilogy (er, quartet) is a favorite here in the Black Gate offices. It opened with Outpost in 2018, which Brandon Crilly raved about right here.

I had a blast reading Outpost, the start of W. Michael Gear’s Donovan trilogy… The setting is very Deadwood meets Avatar, set on a frontier colony that hasn’t been resupplied in almost a decade, on a planet filled with bizarre creatures and plants ready to kill the careless or unfortunate. Add in a bunch of new arrivals when the next resupply ship finally shows up, and what you get is an immediate clash of cultures between the freedom-loving colonists and the representatives of the Corporation, which basically runs Earth back home (maybe there’s some Firefly in here, too). Overall, the running idea with a lot of the main characters is the possibility of either losing yourself or remaking yourself in the frontier, with arcs that are diverse and often surprising…

The world-building is amazing, there are echoes of contemporary political and economic conflicts, and an air of mystery that doesn’t take away from a story that feels complete. I really want to find out what’s going to happen on Donovan in Gear’s next book, which is slated for November 2018.

Mystery! Monsters! Freedom-lovin’ colonists! Killer plants! Evil corporations! An alien frontier! This series checks so many boxes it’s ridiculous. I may have to buy it twice.

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The Story Bright Should Have Been: The Carter Archives by Dan Stout

Saturday, April 4th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Chris McGrath

Dan Stout’s novel Titanshade was one of the breakout hits of 2019. W. Michael Gear called it “A masterpiece of a first novel,” John DeNardo picked it as one of the Best Books of March, and Black Gate columnist Brandon Crilly selected it as one of his Top Five of the year, saying:

Titanshade is the story Bright should have been. Stout provides this fascinating, pseudo-dieselpunk world populated by unique creatures instead of orcs and elves. It has everything I loved about Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys without the problematic bits, centered on truly engaging and dynamic characters. And I just found out we’ll be getting a sequel in April 2020!

Brandon was right about the sequel. Titan’s Day arrives in hardcover next week, returning us to the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner. Here’s the publisher’s description.

The city of Titanshade pulses with nervous energy. The discovery of new riches beneath its snowfields has given residents hope for prosperity, but it also means the arrival of federal troops, along with assurances that they are only there to “stabilize the situation.”

Newcomers flood the streets, dreaming of finding their fortunes, while in the backrooms and beer halls of the city, a populist resistance gains support, its leaders’ true motives hidden behind nativist slogans. And in an alley, a gruesome discovery: the mutilated body of a young woman, a recent immigrant so little-regarded that not even her lovers bothered to learn her name. But in death, she’s found a champion.

Detective Carter single-mindedly pursues the killer as he navigates political pressures and resists becoming a pawn in the struggles tipping the city toward anarchy. But when more innocent lives are lost and time runs short, he’s forced to decide if justice is worth sparking all-out war in the streets during the biggest celebration of the year: Titan’s Day.

Titan’s Day will be published by DAW on April 7, 2020. It is 432 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Chris McGrath. Read an excerpt from the first novel Titanshade here, and get all the details on the series at Dan Stout’s website here. See all our recent cover of the best new fantasy series here.

Monsters, Pirates, and Ghosts: The Revenger Series by Alastair Reynolds

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover designs by Blacksheep and Lauren Panepinto

The Revenger series is one of the most successful SF series in recent memory. Opening novel Revenger (2017) was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and won the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book; SFX called it “By far the most enjoyable book Reynolds has ever written.” Sequel Shadow Captain arrived last year, and quickly won over critics; the Guardian called it “A swashbuckling thriller — Pirates of the Caribbean meets Firefly.” What’s it all about? The Daily Telegraph summed up the first two volumes expertly:

Returning to the universe of Revenger, award-winning author Alastair Reynolds delivers another thrilling tale set among the stars. Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres… and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking — and there’s hoards to loot and treasures to find in the darkest reaches of space. But the rules are also more relaxed out on the fringes, as they’re about to discover… A rollicking adventure yarn with action, abduction, fights, properly scary hazards, very grisly torture and even ghosts of a sort.

Pirates, monsters, ghosts…. that’s a whole lot in one package. Everyone knows that all the best series come in threes, and sure enough the third volume in Alastair Reynolds’ series arrives next month. Here’s the details.

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io9 on All the New SF & Fantasy You Need to Know About in February

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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As the months go by I feel the loss of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog keenly. It shut down on December 16th of last year, firing all freelancers and halting production of new content. That included Jeff Somers’ monthly survey of the best genre books, which I’d grown to depend on to keep me reliably informed. Fortunately there are fine other resources for book junkies, like Cheryl Eddy’s monthly new book column at io9/Gizmodo. This month Cheryl looks at 43 new titles from Seanan McGuire, Alastair Reynolds, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Ken Liu, Ben Aaronovitch, Katharine Kerr, Gareth L. Powell, R.E. Stearns, C.L. Polk, Sarah Gailey, Melissa de la Cruz, Justina Ireland, Cate Glass, and many others.

Here’s a few of the highlights. First up is the sequel to The Lost Puzzler, Eyal Kless’ tale of a lowly scribe sent out in world full of puzzles, tattooed mutants, and warring guilds, which we covered last year.

The Puzzler’s War by Eyal Kless (Harper Voyager, 560 pages, $17.99 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, February 4, 2020)

This follow-up to sci-fi adventure The Lost Puzzler finds a variety of characters — including an assassin, a warlord, and a mercenary — tracking down a teenage boy who may the only person able to save the world by solving the ultimate puzzle.

My underground contacts tell me The Puzzler’s War is the second novel in what’s being called The Tarakan Chronicles.

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What Happens After the Greatest Con in History: The Quantum Garden by Derek Kunsken

Monday, October 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Justin Adams

Derek first appeared in Black Gate in issue 15 with his short story “The Gifts of Li Tzu-Ch’eng.” He’s been our regular Saturday evening blogger since 2013, producing nearly 150 articles on diverse topics such as web comics, Alan Moore, Star Trek, New York ComicCon, Percy Jackson, Science Fiction in China, and much more.

His first novel, The Quantum Magician, was published by Solaris on October 2, 2018. In his Black Gate review Brandon Crilly said,

The worldbuilding here is intricate, compelling and absolutely fascinating. From the moment concepts were introduced I wanted to know more, especially the different subsets of humanity that Künsken presents, each the product of generations of genetic manipulation. I mean, an entire population of neo-humans nicknamed Puppets because of their diminutive size, who double as religious zealots worshipping their divine beings’ cruelty? Or an intergalactic political hierarchy based on the economics of patrons and clients, complete with the inequalities and social issues you might expect?…

The core plot is a con game perpetrated by a team of ragtag scoundrels, trying to sneak a flotilla of warships through a wormhole controlled by another government… but don’t ask me to explain more than that. Künsken does an amazing job of presenting a bunch of quirky protagonists who play off each other well, but the characters that stand out do so powerfully; between that and the rich worldbuilding of things like the Puppets, I forgot about that flotilla and the original aim of the con for a good third of the novel, until they came back into focus.

Much as I rooted for protagonist Belisarius (who would be the Danny Ocean of these scoundrels) and his partner/love interest Cassandra (who I suppose is Tess and Rusty from Ocean’s Eleven combined), the secondary characters stole the spotlight for me, particularly AI-on-a-religious-mission Saint Matthew and the creepily dangerous Scarecrow hunting these scoundrels down.

Solaris releases the sequel The Quantum Garden tomorrow. Here’s a look at the back cover.

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In 500 Words or Less: The Privilege of Peace by Tanya Huff

Friday, February 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

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The Privilege of Peace (Peacekeeper #3)
by Tanya Huff
DAW Books (352 pages, $7.99 paperback, $12.99 eBook, June 19, 2018)

I’ll often come back to one of my favorite lines from Peter Capaldi’s run as The Doctor:

Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again, too, and that’s always happy.

It’s one of those simple quotes that applies to a lot in life, and guess what – it applies to writing and reading, too. As much as we clamor for the next book in a favorite series, eventually every series comes to an end (unless you decide to write Harry Bosch books into perpetuity or something) and then there’s a void, like a friend has gone away and you’re never going to see them again.

(Okay, yes, you can always reread the series again, but I’ve reread maybe three books in my life, so just work with me here.)

Last year, DAW Books released the last of Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr novels (at least as far as she’s indicated), finishing the Peacekeeper trilogy with The Privilege of Peace. And man has this been a ride. I came to Tanya’s writing very late, when she was a Guest of Honor at Can*Con a few years ago, and devoured both the Confederation books and the Peacekeeper follow-up.

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Wordsmiths: An Interview with Waubgeshig Rice

Friday, February 8th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly


A while back at Can*Con 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting author and journalist Waubgeshig Rice for a panel discussion on post-apocalyptic fiction and First Nations perspectives in Canada. The panel came together partly because Waub was beginning to promote his then-forthcoming novel Moon of the Crusted Snow, which released in 2018 from ECW Press (and I reviewed a little while ago here). Despite being incredibly busy with different projects, Waub was game for a one-on-one interview to discuss Moon and some of his other work, which I’ve included in full below. Before that, here’s a little more information about Waub, courtesy of his website:

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. His first short story collection, Midnight Sweatlodge, was inspired by his experiences growing up in an Anishinaabe community, and won an Independent Publishers Book Award in 2012. His debut novel, Legacy, followed in 2014. A French translation was published in 2017.

He got his first taste of journalism in 1996 as an exchange student in Germany, writing articles about being an Anishinaabe teen in a foreign country for newspapers back in Canada. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002. He currently works as a multi-platform journalist for CBC News in Sudbury, where he lives with his wife and son. In 2014, he received the Anishinabek Nation’s Debwewin Citation for excellence in First Nation Storytelling.

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