I just read my second Howard Andrew Jones novel: Plague of Shadows (2011), which was the first of his two Pathfinder novels (I read them out of order). In my review of Stalking the Beast (2013) for Black Gate, I raved that it delivered everything I crave from such a tale. It did so with skill and panache, introducing me to characters who have stayed with me. So I was pleased to go back and read the true introduction to Elyana, the Forlorn elven ranger raised by humans, and Drelm, the half-orc who values honor and loyalty more than most humans (let alone most orcs) do.
Knowing that it was a first outing, I went in expecting it to be not quite as good — not as polished or assured, maybe — as its follow-up (indeed, I gave Stalking the Beast a perfect 5-star rating, arguing that sword-and-sorcery RPG tie-in novels just don’t get any better than that).
But then I finished the book: And I felt that peculiar sense that only certain works of art engender, as the last sentence echoes away or the curtain falls or the credits roll. It has impressed itself upon you, and you feel enriched but tinged with a bittersweet sadness — the characters have left, and you miss them. The characters have, in some sense, become more real; they have joined your own personal pantheon. With this second visit, Elyana and Drelm grew from being fun, engaging characters in a standalone book into characters about whom I want to read many books!
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Joseph McCullough is the author of one of the most popular articles in Black Gate history, “The Demarcation of Sword and Sorcery,” which today is considered one of the defining texts on the genre. He’s published fiction in BG and elsewhere, and is currently Project Manager for Osprey Adventures.
His latest project is the wargame Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City, coming in July from Osprey. In support of the new game, Osprey is also publishing Frostgrave: Tales of the Frozen City, a new anthology edited by Joe which contains ten original stories telling the tale of wizards and other adventurers, as they venture into the ruins of the Frozen City.
Long ago, the great city of Felstad sat at the centre of a magical empire. Its towering spires, labyrinthine catacombs and immense libraries were the wonder of the age, and potions, scrolls and mystical items of all descriptions poured from its workshops. Then, one cataclysmic night, a mistake was made. In some lofty tower or dark chamber, a foolish wizard unleashed a magic too powerful to control. A storm rose up, an epic blizzard that swallowed the city whole, burying it deep and leaving the empire as nothing more than a vast, frozen wasteland. The empire shattered, and the magic of the world faded. As the centuries came and went, Felstad passed from history to legend and on into myth. Only a few wizards, clinging to the last remnants of magical knowledge, still believed that the lost city had ever actually existed. But their faith was rewarded.
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Black Gate blogger Derek Künsken has a big novella in Asimov’s Science Fiction this month, and it’s already getting great reviews. Clancy Weeks at Tangent Online had this to say about it:
I love a good mystery, and “Pollen From a Future Harvest” by Derek Künsken is indeed a good mystery. Some of that mystery is in parsing the twists and turns related to time travel, along with the prose itself, but it is rewarding nonetheless. Major Okonkwo, of the Sixth Expeditionary Force of the Sub-Saharan Union, is a military auditor — a bookkeeper — and she has been given the open-ended task of auditing the entire base. There are layers, sub-plots, and twists here, but the main issue is dealing with a possible “grandfather paradox” associated with time travel… Something has happened up the line, and Okonkwo needs to find out why, and if it is related to the recent death (some would say murder) of her senior husband. There is an amazing amount of backstory we learn along the way, and rich, multi-layered world-building… a very good and entertaining read.
Derek made the cover this month, for the second time (the first was for his novelette “Schools of Clay” in the February 2014 issue.) I had the chance to meet Derek for the first time at the Nebula Awards weekend here in Chicago from June 4-June 7, where we talked space opera, writing, and conventions. He’s a remarkably astute observer of the field, and has a very keen eye on short fiction markets. He also brought me up-to-date on the state of fandom in my home town of Ottawa, which I greatly appreciated. His detailed summary of the Nebula weekend is here.
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C.S.E. Cooney, Black Gate‘s website editor emeritus, signed with Mythic Delirium Press for her first short fiction collection, Bone Swans, and it’s already gathering rave reviews in advance of its July release. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying:
Cooney’s brilliantly executed collection of five stories is a delicious stew of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, marked by unforgettable characters who plumb the depths of pathos and triumph. In “Life on the Sun,” sacrifice and rebirth are explored in a fantastical desert where future tech and wizardry mingle, as a mystical pharaoh-like figure forces a young rebel fighter to stoically embrace her fate. Children bravely battle to survive an adult-free, post-apocalyptic Earth in “The Big Ba-Ha,” even though they know their demise — hungrily anticipated by the ghoulish creatures that now share their world — is inevitable… Cooney’s magical prose elicits laughter even as gruesome scenes induce shudders, and her expert pacing breathlessly buoys the reader to each story’s conclusion. All of these stories could easily serve as the foundation for novels while also working beautifully at their current length. These well-crafted narratives defiantly refuse to fade from memory long after the last word has been read.
Bone Swans will be released next month, but if you can’t wait you can read some of the stories in their original online appearances, including right here at Black Gate: ”Life on the Sun,” (from Black Gate), ”Martyr’s Gem“ (from Giganotosaurus) and ”How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One” (from Giganotosaurus).
Bone Swans will be published by Mythic Delirium Press on July 7th, 2015, with an introduction by Gene Wolfe. It is 224 pages, priced at $5.99 for the digital edition. Get more details on their website.
Black Gate readers may remember we published a popular short story by David B. Coe, “Night of Two Moons,” in Black Gate 4. In a fascinating article written for us last year, The Life and Times of a Midlist Author, David B. Coe wrote:
Writing now as D. B. Jackson, I am the author of The Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. The first two books, Thieftaker (Tor Books, 2012) and Thieves’ Quarry (Tor Books, 2013), have been received very well critically and did well enough commercially that Tor bought two more books from me. The first of these, the third in the series, is called A Plunder of Souls and it drops on July 8, 2014. (Please buy it. In fact, feel free to buy a few copies; they make great gifts and come in an attractive package complete with artwork by Chris McGrath. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post…)
The fourth Thieftaker novel, Dead Man’s Reach, will be out next summer.
In addition, David (as D.B. Jackson) interviewed his main character Ethan Kaille, the Thieftaker, in a funny and very insightful post for us in July of 2013.
The fourth novel that David mentioned in his article last year, the highly anticipated Dead Man’s Reach, is finally due from Tor Books next month. It is a stand alone story, and can be enjoyed separately from the others in the series.
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TALL EAGLE has arrived.
Last month Black Gate ran an exclusive preview of Chapter 1 from THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE from Ragnarok Publications.
The book is now available in PAPERBACK and EBOOK formats.
Here’s what people are saying about it:
“TALL EAGLE is myth-making of epic scope. Fultz has rapidly matured into a major fantasist.”
– Laird Barron, Author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
“Surefooted, mythic, and compelling: Fultz delivers the goods.”
– Howard Andrew Jones, Author of The Desert of Souls
“An addictively readable blend of adventure fantasy à la Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Moorcock and classic western pulp from authors like Max Brand, THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE takes two tried-and-true categories (adventure fantasy and western fiction) and creates something utterly delectable…seamlessly fuses together elements of fantasy, western, horror, and even a powerful romance.”
– Paul Goat Allen
“Fultz blends swords-and-sorcery fantasy with elements that echo Native American mythology and culture to create a memorable hero-tale. Fans of his Books of the Shaper trilogy will certainly find the same vivid characterizations and thrilling action scenes that marked his debut work, this time in service to a story that intriguingly plays against the traditional faux-European inspirations of so many fantasy writers. The influence of Fultz’s literary hero, Robert E. Howard, is certainly evident in the brawny, frontier ethos of his characters; the harsh, danger-filled setting in which they struggle for life and for love; and the pervasive sense of impending, creeping doom… A thrilling rollercoaster of a read!” – Mark Smylie, Author of The Barrow and Artesia
Things you’ve probably noticed if you’re a regular Black Gate reader:
- When one of the Black Gate bloggers has a new book out, there’ll be posts here about it. Many posts, and that’s a good thing.
- We bloggers like to cheer each other on. Writing can be a discouraging business, but celebrating each other’s good news is one of its great pleasures.
- I will tell you straight up what I think a book’s virtues and shortcomings are, even if the book is by a fellow Black Gate blogger. I do give the occasional gushing review, but not indiscriminately.
I lay it out like that because there’s exactly one thing I wish were different about M. Harold Page’s new book, Shieldwall: Barbarians!, and it’s something I fully expect the next volume in the series will satisfy.
So, on to the story:
A brother chases warbands, and then armies, across the ragged edges of the Roman Empire, right into a city besieged by Attila the Hun, because that’s what it will take to rescue his sister from slavery. On the way, young Prince Hengest’s own warband doubts his readiness to lead them. Can a boy fostered among Romans ever truly become a man of the Jutes? And as their odds of finding Princess Tova look slimmer and slimmer, why should they keep risking their lives far from home against foes they have no quarrel with? The man who was to marry Tova, hoping to claim Hengest’s crown for himself, feeds those doubts. That insubordination will end in blood, sooner or later.
Hengest is too civilized for his barbarian kinsmen, too barbaric for the fading nobility of the empire, and too late to side with Attila, whose army encampment spreads as far as the eye can see. The young Jutish prince and his men will take the job the doomed city of Aurelianum offers them. Doomed — for Aurelianum cannot possibly stand against Attila, can it? What Hengest must do is find his sister, wherever her captors have hidden her in the city, and get her out through the carnage when at last Aurelianum falls and releases him from his oath to protect it.
Good thing Hengest is a master of improvisation, because nothing plays out as he expects.
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Black Gate blogger Sarah Avery has been nominated for the 2015 Mythopoeic Award for her novel Tales from Rugosa Coven, published in 2013 by Dark Quest.
The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature is given to the fantasy novel, series, or collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies “the spirit of the Inklings,” the Oxford literary discussion group that included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The winners will be announced during Mythcon 46, held July 31 – August 3, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Congratulations to Sarah, and all the nominees!
Sarah’s short story “The War of the Wheat Berry Year,” a slender and deceptively simple fantasy featuring The Traitor of Imlen, was published in Black Gate 15. The complete list of nominees for the 2015 Mythopoeic Awards follows.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature
- Sarah Avery, Tales from Rugosa Coven (Dark Quest)
- Stephanie Feldman, The Angel of Losses (Ecco)
- Theodora Goss, Songs for Ophelia (Papaveria Press)
- Joanne M. Harris, The Gospel of Loki (Gollancz)
- Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key series (IDW Publishing)
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Chris Willrich is one of the shining stars of modern sword & sorcery. His story “The Lions of Karthagar,” set in the world of Gaunt and Bone, appeared in the last issue of Black Gate. Forrest Aguirre, author of Heraclix and Pomp, reviewed the story on his blog:
I was also impressed by “The Lions of Karthagar,” by Chris Willrich. The main characters in this tale, the Weatherworkers Blim the Damp and Miy Who Sing Storms, whose friendship develops against the background of an invasion of an incredibly rich country by their armies, each of which seeks to take possession of the golden land. Poetic and even touching, this story tugged at my emotions like most Sword and Sorcery does not.
Chris’s heroes Gaunt and Bone have appeared in five stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Beneath Ceaseless Skies (including the novelette “The Sword of Loving Kindness,” which you can read for free at BCS here).
But they have gained serious attention recently with the publication of two novels, The Scroll of Years (2013) and The Silk Map (2014), both from Pyr. Of the former, BiblioSanctum said, “I cannot remember the last time I came across a book like this. Highly recommended for readers of fantasy who love a good action-adventure tale.”
Now the third novel featuring Gaunt and Bone is set to be published in early July by Pyr. In The Chart of Tomorrows, the two find their plans to retire interrupted when their son becomes the chosen vessel of a powerful spirit…
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The first volume in Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, The Hum and the Shiver, was named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. The second, Wisp of a Thing, was called “A chilling mix of fantasy, realism, and a touch of horror” by Booklist. The long-anticipated third volume in the series finally arrives this week.
In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.
Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.
The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?
Alex Bledsoe is also the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny and Wake of the Bloody Angel), the novels of the Memphis vampires (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood), and Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel, written with Tara Cardinal (read a sample chapter here.)
Long Black Curl will be published by Tor Books on May 26, 2015. It is 382 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover photo is by Elisabeth Ansley.