New Treasures: The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Heart of the Circle-small The Heart of the Circle-back-small

Cover by Francesca Corsini

There’s lots of shortcuts you can take while deciding where to spend your precious book dollars. If you’re lucky enough to have friends who read — and read the same things you do — you can trust their recommendations. You can trust reviewers. Or if you’ve been around long enough, you can come to trust editors. I’ve been around long enough now that I’ve learned to trust the editorial team at Angry Robot, who’ve taken a lot of chances on new and emerging writers. Those bets have paid off over the years, and Angry Robot has gradually developed a reputation for both a keen editorial eye and cutting edge taste.

They’ve published some very fine books in the last 12 months from Kameron Hurley, Christopher Hinz, Tim Pratt, Tyler Hayes, Anna Kashina , Cameron Johnston, and many others. So when they introduce an author I’ve never heard of, I pay attention. That was the case with The Heart of the Circle, the first English language release by Israeli author Keren Landsman, which just won the 2019 Geffen Award. Here’s Dr. Dann Lewis from his review at Grimdark Magazine.

Set in an alternate reality whereby magical users (sorcerers) exist, The Heart of the Circle follows the protagonist Reed, an empath, who becomes the next target of the religious extremist group, the Sons of Simeon after a brutal march for equal rights. This is further complicated by a burgeoning romance and the lackadaisical efforts of protection by the government… Landsman not only delicately reinforces the state in which her sorcerers live, but the merciless conditions in which they are treated. I was enthralled with this line and of course, this is indicative of Landsman’s writing throughout. Her skill with the world-building of this alternate reality is masterful…

Landsman’s novel is exceptionally paced and full of intriguing characters and concepts. I do appreciate that this is situated in a vastly different part of the world… Landsman expertly weaves social and political commentary.

The Heart of the Circle was published by Angry Robot on August 13, 2019. It is 391 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Francesca Corsini. Read the complete first three chapters (36 pages) at Issuu, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


Orbiting Colonies, Giant Mechs, and Child Soldiers: War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

Monday, January 20th, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Brett

War Girls-smallWar Girls (Razorbill, 450 pages, $18.99, October 15, 2019)
By Tochi Onyebuchi
Cover by Nekro

The facts that war is brutal, savage, and harms the innocent together with the guilty are no new revelations. Nor is it news that children in the 20th and 21st centuries have been suborned into brutal combat across the globe. Finally, no one is ignorant that technology continues, as it always has, to make war exponentially deadlier in its efficiency. What Tochi Oneybuchi has done with his powerful new novel War Girls is to combine these knowns into a story of love and sisterhood that together cross political and social divides and battlefields alike, and where traumatized soldiers dream of a true peace in a thriving, reborn nation. War Girls is a novel of intense, determined hope in the face of overwhelming obstacles; in this current historical moment it’s exactly the book we need.

In 2172, the world is a damaged place. Climate change and war have destroyed much of the Earth, and millions have fled the planet to live in orbiting Colonies. Nigeria is a country rent by turmoil, where the breakaway southeastern province of Biafra has formed its own nation (as it did in real life between 1967-1970) and battles Nigeria to secure its independence. The war has left much of the area saturated in radioactivity that kills or mutates the local wildlife, and battles are fought using unmanned drones, human-piloted mechs, and augmented soldiers refitted with bionic limbs.

Onyii is such a soldier, a young woman and war hero who lives to protect both her new nation and her adopted orphaned sister Ify. When the two become separated through the usual vagaries of war, they find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Much of the novel shows the ways in which the two sisters see the war from different angles – Onyii as an embattled Biafran war hero who must realize the consequences of her past actions, and Ify having to face her own traumatic past while embedded deep within the Nigerian military establishment.

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January 2020

Monday, January 20th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Garrett_SweetsilverEDITED“Say, Bob, it’s been an ENTIRE month since you told us what you’ve been reading lately. The suspense is keeping me up at night.” OK – so nobody said that to me. I’ll tell you some of the stuff I’ve taken off of the shelves lately, anyways.

GLEN COOK – SWEET SILVER BLUES

I’ve already written about Glen Cook’s terrific hardboiled, fantasy PI series featuring Garrett. It combines Raymond Chandler, Nero Wolfe, and Terry Pratchett in a terrific fashion. I have a hard time imagining a better series. I’ve talked to a couple fellow Black Gaters about a round-robin look at several books in the series: So many ideas, so little time.

I’m working on this essay on Sunday evening, mere hours ahead of deadline, because I spent a couple hours yesterday re-reading book one, Sweet Silver Blues, instead of sitting at the keyboard and writing. I like it quite a bit, but it’s in book two, Bitter Gold Hearts, that the series really settles in. I’ve read most of the series at least twice before over the years. A few of my friends didn’t care for 2013’s Wicked Bronze Ambition, the last (but hopefully not final) book. It’s definitely not one of my favorites, but it’s still Garrett, and I hope there will be at least one more.

This is one of my favorite series’ in both the fantasy and private eye genres. HIGHLY recommended. And I’m also a huge fan of Cook’s The Black Company, which is light years away in tone and style. He’s simply a very good writer. Black Gate buddy Fletcher Vredenburgh did a fantastic walk-through of the entire series last year.

JOHN D MACDONALD

John MacD has been my favorite author for about three decades now. I enjoy his standalones, his short stories, and his Travis McGee books. I’ve written about him several times, and if all I did was write for Black Gate (sadly, I need to pay my bills and other such nonsense), you’d be reading a LOT about him here.

Earlier this month, after holding off for over twenty-five years, I finally watched the 1970 adaptation of Darker ThanAmber, with Rod Taylor as Travis McGee. Then, I went and re-read the book over the next couple of days. Taylor grew on me as the movie progressed, and they followed the book fairly faithfully. The final fight scene between McGee and Terry was really something to see.

I think this is a better version of a McGee novel than the 1983 film starring Sam Elliot (why in the world would you transplant McGee to California?!).

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A Cyberpunk Video Game Between Two Covers: The Cry Pilot Trilogy by Joel Dane

Sunday, January 19th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Cry-Pilot-medium Burn Cycle-small Kill Orbit-small

Covers by Matt Griffin

“Joel Dane” is the pseudonym of an author of over 20 novels who launched an intriguing new military SF trilogy in August. The opening novel Cry Pilot followed a recruit with a secret drawn into a desperate war against lampreys, biological horrors created by the terra fixing process remaking a ruined Earth. Publishers Weekly raved, summing it up as “Riveting action paired with a sharp psychoemotional landscape.. the explosive launch of a futuristic trilogy.” In a review titled “The Closest Thing to an Immersive Cyberpunk FPS Video Game Between Two Covers,” S. Qiouyi Lu at The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog said:

Terrafixing gives abandoned machines and technology a new life, turning them into violent creatures that are both organic and inorganic — a fusion of weapon and mutated animal. After proving himself as a cry pilot, Kaytu becomes part of a squad training to defend against the latest of these threats (not to mention the most dire to date) — mysterious, ruthless creatures called lampreys hell-bent on destruction. With no known weaknesses and a casualty count mounting higher and higher, the pressure is on Kaytu and his squad to keep their reflexes quick and use all their training to fight against this seemingly unbeatable foe…

Cry Pilot… is a vivid, immersive novel that leans strongly into its military science fiction identity. Its main asset is its voice: Kaytu’s strong personality and first-person narration creates an intimate reading experience… Cry Pilot feels like a high-definition cyberpunk first-person shooter video game, with sleek, polished graphics and tons of lore to explore. If that’s your thing, suit up and dive in — this book will take you for a hell of a ride.

Hot on the heels of Cry Pilot comes Burn Cycle, with the third volume Kill Orbit already in the pipeline for July 2020. Here’s all the details.

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An Alien Mystery in the Heart of an Ancient Space Object: The Embers of War Trilogy by Gareth L. Powell

Saturday, January 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Embers of War-small Fleet of Knives-small Light of Impossible Stars-small

Covers by Julia Lloyd

Gareth L. Powell is the author of the popular Ack-Ack Macaque series, and two short story collections, The Last Reef (2008) and Entropic Angel and Other Stories (2017). His new space opera trilogy began with Embers of War (Titan Books, 2018), and folks took notice immediately. Here’s Joel Cunningham at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Gareth L. Powell’s Embers of War is a space opera that does everything right: it’s expansive in scope, but character-focused. It nods to genre tropes, but interrogates them too, considering the real-world ramifications of the lasting trauma of war. Oh, also: it has a great sentient starship. It quickly became a favorite of ours — not to mention the voters who handed it this year’s British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel — and our enthusiasm was not at all muted by the recent release of the just-as-good sequel Fleet of Knives.

Powell’s series is one of the more popular space operas on the market (and you all know how I feel about space opera). I was intrigued by the first two books immediately, but hesitant to jump in until the third one arrived. So this week I was delighted to receive a review copy of Light of Impossible Stars, the third installment in Embers of War, which formally goes on sale February 18 from Titan.

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A YA Novel that Violates Contemporary Writing Conventions: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

Friday, January 17th, 2020 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse CoverYoung Adult fiction is populated with fast-paced novels that sweep readers into adventure from the very first page, only letting up when the final page reads The End. Their prose shows in gorgeous detail, transporting readers into whole new universes, rather than merely telling what’s going on. Novels that feature heroines begin when they are old enough to be the targets of romance; starting when they are younger not only provokes no interest, but also threatens to confuse booksellers, who must decide where to shelve them. According to many writing experts, passive voice must be scoured from the pages. The first chapter should be comprised exclusively of action; exposition kept to a minimum, and sentences clipped short. The author must avoid entire discursive paragraphs like, say, this one.

Eason’s How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is marketed as a Young Adult Hardcover. But it violates these contemporary writing conventions.

We begin before Princess Rory Thorne is born. Indeed, while she is still in the womb. Our heroine, who will cause many kerfluffles throughout her childhood, creates her first by being born a girl, when everyone had planned for her to be a boy.

Shortly after Rory’s birth, thirteen fairies descend onto the palace for Rory’s Naming Ceremony, even though no one really believes in fairies anymore, and the only reason they were invited was as a nod to tradition, silly as it may be. But still, the thirteen fairies suddenly appear in the ballroom, coming from out of nowhere. The first eleven give Rory various gifts, some of which are obviously quite useless, like playing the harp.

The thirteenth fairy gives Rory the ability not just to tell when people are lying, but also to hear the truths they are covering up.

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Vintage Treasures: A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason

Friday, January 17th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

A Woman of the Iron People Part One In the Light of Sigma Draconis-small A Woman of the Iron People Part Two Changing Women-small

Covers by Gary Ruddell

Eleanor Arnason is the author of five novels, including The Sword Smith (1978), To the Resurrection Station (1986), Daughter of the Bear King (1987), and Ring of Swords (1993), plus dozens of short stories, chiefly in her Hwarhath series, SF tales of mankind’s interactions with the sole other species we find able to travel among the stars. But her most famous book is the first contact novel A Woman of the Iron People, which won both the inaugural James Tiptree Jr. Award in 1991, and the 1992 Mythopoeic Award. Publishers Weekly called it “excellent, anthropologically oriented SF… an intelligent, provocative book,” and at Tor.com Jo Walton wrote:

It’s definitely Arnason’s masterpiece and I love it. A Woman of the Iron People is anthropological science fiction, in the tradition of The Left Hand of Darkness and Mary Gentle’s Golden Witchbreed and Janet Kagan’s Hellspark. Lixia has come on a spaceship through cold sleep to a new planet, one that has aliens…. A Woman of the Iron People also won the Tiptree Award, and this is easier to understand without any parables, because it really is a book with a focus on gender. The aliens live separately — the women live in usually nomadic villages, raising children. The men leave at puberty and live alone, fighting each other. They mate with the women in the spring. These are their accepted customs and their biological imperatives, but we see several edge cases…

Lixia travels with Nia, and later with the Voice of the Waterfall, a male oracle, and Derek, another human anthropologist. They travel through culture and landscape, learning them both. It’s great that these future humans are also strange and also bring problems of their own to the story… Unlike almost all the other anthropological SF out there, the end of the journey and connecting up with the main expedition raises more questions than it solves, and there’s a twist at the end of the book that I thought was wonderful.

Read Jo’s complete review here. A Woman of the Iron People was published in hardcover in 1991 by William Morrow, and broken into two volumes for AvoNova’s paperback reprint a year later. Here’s the back covers for the paperback editions.

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New Treasures: One Man by Harry Connolly

Thursday, January 16th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

One Man Harry Connolly-small One Man Harry Connolly-back-small

Harry Connolly was one of the most popular writers we published in Black Gate magazine, starting right out of the gate with his first fiction sale “The Whoremaster of Pald,” which you can read here and which appeared way back in Black Gate 2. His career really took off with his first novels, including the 4-volume Twenty Palaces series (which opened in 2009 with Child of Fire) and The Great Way trilogy, which M Harold Page called “More hardboiled than the Dresden Files.” It’s been some four years since Harry published a new novel, so the arrival of One Man in November, from Harry’s own Radar Avenue Press, was a very welcome surprise. He explains on his blog.

It’s been four years since I released a new novel… This book is the reason.

I spent two years writing One Man. It’s is a big book, over 150,000 words. It’s complicated, with lots of POV characters and locations. The setting is limited – almost every chapter takes place in a single city – but it’s complex. Which is another way of saying that a lot of time and sweat went into this novel, and I’m proud of the result.

See, I wanted to try an experiment. Most fantasy novels have huge stakes: A Dark Lord trying to conquer all. A usurper seizing the throne, pushing a kingdom toward civil war. A world-shattering magical cataclysm. Invasion of monsters. Return of monsters. Whatever. But what if I wanted to create a fantasy story about a quest for something small. Something important, but not world-shattering. For instance: the life of a single little girl. Not even his own, just someone he knows…

I think it’s a good book. A thriller with strange magic, desperation, betrayal, and murder. But it’s an odd book, too, with bourgeois hobbit vampires, and sleeping giants whose flesh can heal you, and a sprawling city built inside the skeletons of two gods… I’m hoping you’re interested in a big, odd, ambitious book about crime and magic and a screwed-up guy who has one last chance to do something decent in this world.

One World is the first novel in The City of Fallen Gods (which is maybe the name of a new series, I dunno?) It was published by Radar Avenue Press on November 26, 2019. It is 637 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 in digital formats. Read the first two chapters here, and see all our latest coverage of Black Gate writers here.


Future Treasures: The Bard’s Blade, Book I of The Sorcerer’s Song by Brian D. Anderson

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Bard's Blade-small A Chorus of Fire-small

Cover art by Felix Ortiz

Brian D. Anderson is a self-published author who’s sold over half a million copies of his books worldwide — no mean feat. His bestselling series include The Godling Chronicles and Dragonvein. This month he makes the move to mainstream publishing with his first book for Tor, The Bard’s Blade. It’s the opening novel in The Sorcerer’s Song, which Publisher’s Weekly calls “an ambitious, enjoyable tale.” Here’s the description.

Mariyah enjoys a simple life in Vylari, a land magically sealed off from the outside world, where fear and hatred are all but unknown. There she’s a renowned wine maker and her betrothed, Lem, is a musician of rare talent. Their destiny has never been in question. Whatever life brings, they will face it together.

But destiny has a way of choosing its own path, and when a stranger crosses the wards into Vylari for the first time in centuries, the two are faced with a terrible prophecy. For beyond the borders, an ancient evil is returning, its age-old prison shattered.

The two must leave their home behind, and in doing so will face sorcerers and thieves, con-men and assassins, treachery and greed. How far down this path will they have to go to stop the rising darkness and save their home? And how much of themselves will they have to give up along the way?

The Bard’s Blade will be published by Tor Books on January 28, 2020. It is 430 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Felix Ortiz. It will be followed A Chorus of Fire, coming in August. Read a brief excerpt at the Tor/Forge Blog, and see all of our recent coverage of the best upcoming science fiction and fantasy here.


The Best in Modern Sword & Sorcery: The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 3

Sunday, January 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Volume 3-small The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Volume 3-back-small

Cover by Zoltan

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has been published, like clockwork, every quarter since June 2009. And every eight issues, like clockwork, the editors of HFQ assemble a Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly volume, as a way to celebrate another milestone and promote their worthy magazine.

These books are top-notch examples of modern sword & sorcery (and I’m not just saying that because I was invited to write the introduction for Volume I.) In his review of Volume I, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote:

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is… the most consistent forum for the best in contemporary swords & sorcery. Some may think I’m laying it on a little thick, but The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011, a distillation of the mag’s first three years, should prove that I’m not.

Volume III has just arrived, with a dynamic cover by Zoltan and stories by Charles Gramlich, P. Djéli Clark, Adrian Simmons, David Farney, and many others — plus an introduction by Darrell Schweitzer, and original art for each story by Miguel Santos, Justin Pfiel, Garry McCluskey, Robert Zoltan, and others. It’s an all-around gorgeous package, and a fine reminder that Heroic Fantasy is still a vibrant genre in the 21st Century. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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