New Treasures: Savage Legion by Matt Wallace

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Savage Legion Matt Wallace-small Savage Legion Matt Wallace-back-small

Cover by Chris McGrath

Matt Wallace is the author of the 7-volume Sin du Jour series from, which began with Envy of Angels. I first heard whispers of his ambitious new fantasy trilogy Savage Rebellion back in 2018, when the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog announced “a Trope-Smashing New Epic Fantasy Trilogy from Matt Wallace,” saying (in part)

You probably know [Matt] for the Sin du Jour novellas. It’s a brilliantly subversive, totally wackadoo contemporary fantasy series about a NYC catering company that services the supernatural communities of the world, from goblin kings to the lord of Hell, and for fantasy fans or foodies, it’s a full meal… A few years from now, however, Matt will likely be best known for something else: today, we’re pleased to announce that he’s signed a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press to publish his first novel — or rather, his first trilogy. It’s a fantasy epic that promises to be just as daring as his novellas. The first book is called Savage Legion, and it sounds primed to grind genre tropes into a fine paste.

What’s so different about Savage Legion? It has a very different take on fantasy action. I think the Publishers Weekly starred review encapsulates it nicely.

Cunning plotting and brisk action elevate this impressive tale of swords and super-science, the first in the Savage Rebellion series from Hugo Award winner Wallace (Sin du Jour). At first glance, Evie is a belligerent drunk. That’s why the Empire of Crache dragoons her into the Savage Legion, a hapless mob of suicide commandos culled from the downtrodden masses of the empire and forced to fight and die on its behalf. But Evie is secretly a warrior on a mission, infiltrating the Legion to rescue her former lover who was kidnapped after discovering government corruption… Wallace masterfully subverts readers’ expectations. As the plot spins through convincing battlefield combat and personal confrontations, Evie rallies the Savage Legion to turn against the empire that exploits them. Readers will be left thoroughly satisfied and eager to know what’s to come.

Savage Legion was published by Saga Press on July 21, 2020. It is 498 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $7.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Chris McGrath. Listen to an audio excerpt at the Simon & Schuster website.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

Tales of Attluma by David C. Smith: A Review and Oron Series Tour Guide

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020 | Posted by SELindberg

Tales of Attluma-small Tales of Attluma-back-small

David C. Smith was the 2019 Guest of Honor at Howard Days 2019 for good reason, having written the acclaimed Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography in 2018 to complement his decades of writing Sword & Sorcery (he has 26 novels written or co-written, including the Red Sonja series with Richard L. Tierney, the Oron and The Fall of the First World series, and more). He crafts his own flavor of adventure-horror with his Tales of Attluma (teased earlier at  Black Gate), heavily influenced by Robert E. Howard (REH) and Clark Ashton Smith (CAS). Attluma is an island continent inspired by the mysterious Atlantis. These sixteen tales cover its cursed history and doomed end. Many entries were written in the 1970’s and are gathered now in one place for the first time.

The collection fits the Sword & Sorcery label, with an emphasis on Sorcery, specifically necromancy and demon summoning. These are fantastically dark and exciting stories, a true blend of REH’s action and CAS’s dreaded atmosphere. On Attluma, ancient gods live in mountain temples and underground. Humans struggle to survive on the surface and intrude on land made for, and by, demons. Excerpts are the best way to share the poetic, dark conflict readers should expect:

“Dressed in scarlet wounds and running with blood, here was my mother, her face beseeching mercy, gashes across her face and body. There came my father, hobbling on a split foot and one arm gone, strings of meat and tendon trembling from the open shoulder. Here was my brother, once a strong and handsome man, now in death a broken thing with no legs, pulling himself forward with his arms, his wife beside him, on her belly and kicking her feet as her head rolled beside her.” — from “The Last Words of Imatus Istum”


“And there was Yadis, The All Mother, the hag with one eye and triple teats whose spittle had made the stars and whose defecation made the earth. Her mad singing had awakened humans to life; we crawled from the muck and ever since wondered about the dark heart of life.”  — from “Dark Goddess”

Interestingly, there are no Oron tales, Oron being the warrior protagonist (i.e., the heroic “Conan” of Attluma) that the original Zebra series was named after. Yet he is not needed here. Attluma is saturated with lore and conflict, armies of ghosts, lost loves seeking retribution, and hungry demons just looking for some attention. The last several stories ramp up the demonic uprising (or retaking) of the island continent. “The End of Days” finale is epic in scope, a sprawling battle with loads of mayhem and militant sorcery.
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Future Treasures: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Star Daughter-smallShveta Thakrar’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, Toil & Trouble, The Underwater Ballroom Society, and Clockwork Phoenix 5, and magazines such as Uncanny, Enchanted Living, Faerie Magazine, Mothership Zeta, Mythic Delirium, and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. Her debut novel Star Daughter mixes Hindu mythology and contemporary fantasy into something quite original.

It arrives from HarperTeen next week. Here’s the description.

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens — and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

Star Daughter has been warmly reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Nerd Daily, and other sites. But I think my favorite critique comes from the Utopia State of Mind blog. Here’s an excerpt.

Star Daughter is a gorgeous fantasy debut about love, family, and humanity. You’ll be enchanted by the blending of Stardust elements meets Hindu mythology. Then the gorgeous writing will captivate you until you fall into the story of family and humanity…. Torn in two, Sheetal must grapple with her love for her father, her feelings of abandonment towards her mother, and her new family’s past in the celestial court. She so desperately wants to feel like she belongs… I loved the added element of this talent competition meets political upheavals and family secrets. Star Daughter asks what we will do for family, the desperation and agony and love and resentment.

Star Daughter will be published by HarperTeen on August 11, 2020. It is 448 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $9.99 in digital formats. The beautiful cover is by Charlie Bowater. Read an excerpt at Enchanted Living.

See all our recent coverage of the best in upcoming SF and Fantasy here.

Edith Wharton, Jean Cocteau, and an Ancient Mesopotamian Tale

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020 | Posted by Rich Horton

A Backward Glance Wharton-smallI have been making my way through Edith Wharton’s autobiography, A Backward Glance. Along the way I found an interesting bit about a famous (even notorious) French poet and filmmaker, and especially an ancient story he told her.

Wharton describes her time in Paris, particularly pre-World War I. As usual she spends most of her time describing the interesting people she knew there. One of these is Jean Cocteau, and she recounts a tale Cocteau told her, that he claims “he read somewhere.” Here is the story, which many of you will recognize, in a slightly different form:

One day when the Sultan was in his palace at Damascus a beautiful youth who was his favourite rushed into his presence, crying out in great agitation that he must fly at once to Baghdad, and imploring leave to borrow his Majesty’s swiftest horse.

The Sultan asked why he was in such haste to go to Baghdad. ‘Because,’ the youth answered, ‘as I passed through the garden of the Palace just now, Death was standing there, and when he saw me he stretched out his arms as if to threaten me, and I must lose no time in escaping from him.’

The young man was given leave to take the Sultan’s horse and fly; and when he was gone the Sultan went down indignantly into the garden, and found Death still there. ‘How dare you make threatening gestures at my favourite?’ he cried; but Death, astonished, answered: ‘I assure your Majesty I did not threaten him. I only threw up my arms in surprise at seeing him here, because I have a tryst with him tonight in Baghdad.’

Wharton claims never to have been able to trace the story. Curiously, A Backward Glance was published in 1934, almost exactly simultaneously with John O’Hara’s novel Appointment in Samarra. I wonder if Wharton read the novel — or at least its epigraph – in which of course O’Hara gives another version of the story! (Or if she ever saw W. Somerset Maugham’s play, from which O’Hara got his version.)

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New Treasures: The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan

Friday, July 31st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sin in the Steel-smallI have a foreboding TBR (to-be-read) pile by my big green chair, and I’m not the kind of guy who just turns my back on something like that…. except for a really promising fantasy debut, maybe. One with pirates. And a rave review from One like Aidan Moher’s July 23 piece on The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan, which reads something like this:

Like the best buddy pictures, Ryan Van Loan’s debut, The Sin in the Steel, finds all its heart in the space shared by its two wildly divergent protagonists, Buc and Eld. Brought together under unlikely circumstances, Buc is a young street kid with a mind and a mouth that race faster than anyone can keep up, and Eld is an ex-soldier that doesn’t say much. They’re known for getting the job done no matter the circumstances.

When this unlikely pair is bring their practice to the Shattered Coast — a Caribbean-esque archipelago newly settled, but once wracked by centuries of violent hurricanes — they’re soon hired (err, well… blackmailed) by the Kanados Trading Company to track down the infamous Widowmaker, who has been sinking ships along a popular sailing route, threatening the import and export of sugar, a vital element in the Shattered Coast’s economy. Buc and Eld depart on an adventure that will take them to the Shattered Coast’s farthest reaches to discover a secret that has the potential to challenge the fate of the gods themselves…

The Sin in the Steel is a rip-roaring epic fantasy that mixes a genuinely unique world with an equally standout magic system. It’s full of characters you’ll root for and despise, who’ll make your skin crawl, and who you’ll cheer on from the sidelines. Packed full of action, tempered by genuinely thoughtful themes about mental health and trust. The Sin in the Steel tells a good self-contained narrative… If Scott Lynch wrote Pirates of the Caribbean, it’d be a lot like The Sin in the Steel.

The Sin in the Steel features a pirate queen, dead gods, shape-shifting sorcerers, and a Sherlock-like teenage sleuth… that’s a compelling mix in my book. It’s advertised as the opening novel in The Fall of the Gods.

The Sin in the Steel was published by Tor Books on July 21, 2020. It is 431 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. Read the complete first chapter at the Tor/Forge Blog.

See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy and SF releases here.

Behind Where the Veil Is Thin

Friday, July 31st, 2020 | Posted by Alana Abbott

Where the Veil Is Thin-smallWhere the Veil Is Thin, an anthology of original stories where humans run afoul of faeire-like creatures (or sometimes, faeries run afoul of humans), is a project of my heart, and I’m so pleased that it began to show up on bookshelves—at least, virtual ones—earlier this month! It is a project that was years in the making.

And it almost didn’t happen.

Back in 2017, the publisher of the company now folded into Outland Entertainment approached me with an idea. He and his wife loved fairy stories, he said; what would I think about doing an anthology of original stories based on the Seelie and Unseelie courts? I liked the idea, but I wanted to go one better; I didn’t want to limit our tales to the Celtic tradition of Seelie and Unseelie. What would an anthology look like if it reached into different parts of the world, with stories from authors who wouldn’t just retell tales from a European tradition? I was excited about the idea of pairing tales that could feature fox spirits or boo hags with the types of stories and fairies I was more familiar with.

I didn’t want to do it alone, so I reached out the Cerece Rennie Murphy, whose work I had deeply admired on the website Narazu. The mission of Narazu is to bring the best of Indie Sci-Fi to a wider audience, and to celebrate the cool works that indie writers and artists are creating. Cerece was interested in the idea, and we started hashing out plans.

And then the publishing company where we’d started the idea fell apart. It closed its doors in November 2017.

After some maneuvering, Outland Entertainment decided to keep moving forward on the anthology, and Cerece agreed to stick with the project. We started reaching out to authors, some that Cerece knew, some I had worked with before on other projects, some recommended to us by other contributors. We planned to line up the writers and have all their stories completed by July 2018, when we would launch the anthology.

The best plans, however, were a bit ambitious. Outland Entertainment already had two anthologies slotted for 2018, and because we were a new company at putting together anthologies and fulfilling their Kickstarters — not to mention completing some projects that the previous publisher had left unfinished — we had no idea we’d bitten off more than we could chew. Eventually, Outland released two really fantastic anthologies from those 2018 Kickstarters, which I was excited to help edit, but it took a long time.

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Goth Chick News: Think 2020 is Bad? Check out Cursed Objects

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Quirk Books Horror Preview Fall 2020

Quirk Books, publishers and seekers of all things awesome, more than live up to their self-proclamation.

They have been my personal source of quirky awesomeness since I was first introduced to them in 2013 via The Resurrectionist, a quintessentially odd bit of literature indeed. Following this came a litany of titles, all of which were so decidedly strange, so that I could not help but assign all Quirk publications a place of honor on the shelves of Goth Chick News.

It follows that in order to be the source of peculiar books Quirk must court very unusual authors, who by design, must be up to the task of… well… being quirky. This was made clear when I sought out the publisher’s booth at last year’s C2E2 event in Chicago, where I inquired whether or not The Resurrectionist would ever be followed by second book. I was informed the author had not submitted anything quite “strange enough” to date, but they would keep me informed.

I really do love these people.

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The Responsibility of Progress: Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 | Posted by Mark R. Kelly


The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett; First Edition: Doubleday, 1955.
Cover art Irv Docktor. (Click to enlarge)

The Long Tomorrow
by Leigh Brackett
Doubleday (222 pages, $2.95, hardcover, 1955)
Cover art Irv Docktor

This novel, first of all, is one of a handful of highly regarded 1950s novels that deal with the aftermath of nuclear war, a theme very much of concern in that post-World War II era. Others include, of course, Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz; John Wyndham’s Re-Birth aka The Chrysalids; Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, not to mention analogous novels about life after pandemic (George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides) or alien invasion (John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes/Out of the Deeps), and so on.

Second of all, this novel is by a writer otherwise not known for serious science fiction; Brackett wrote some detective novels and did some notable film work (see for details SFE), but she was known in the SF field for a large body of “planetary romances” in the Edgar Rice Burroughs mode, tales of sword-and-sorcery and romance on Mars or equivalent worlds. (Several volumes of these stories have been published by Haffner Press.) The Long Tomorrow, in contrast, is a sober post-apocalypse novel about rural survivors of nuclear war, a couple generations on, and how they deal with that legacy.

The novel was a Hugo finalist in 1956 (Heinlein’s Double Star won). If it were published today, it would be classified as YA, young adult, since the protagonist, as the story begins, is 14 years old; even though the themes of the book are about the most adult conceivable — the fate of the human race in the face of unavoidable technology.

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Future Treasures: Harrow the Ninth, Book 2 of The Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Tommy Arnold

Gideon the Ninth was… well, just about the most acclaimed SF novel released last year. Acclaimed by whom? Everyone who read it in the Black Gate offices, for one thing. People who vote for awards, for another — it’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel, and it won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It was voted one of the Best Books of 2019 by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, BookPage, Shelf Awareness, BookRiot, and Bustle.

Book 2 arrives next week, and as you can imagine, anticipation is high. Here’s a taste of the feature review over at Nerd Daily.

When I read Gideon the Ninth last year, I didn’t know that I would be a wreck by the end of the book. I didn’t know it would create such an impact in my emotional well-being. I didn’t know that it would be one of the best books I read in 2019. Reading its sequel, Harrow the Ninth, now is like enjoying a nice, eventful walk… and then getting hit by a bus. This brilliant, confounding, and heartstopping sequel will quench the thirst of the fans, but not without leaving a new set of mysteries to keep us hooked.

Harrow the Ninth focuses on Harrow training in the Emperor’s haunted space station to fight an impossible war. Fresh off of lyctorhood, everything should be going easy for Harrow. But the truth is that both her body and her mind are failing her. And on top of that, someone just keeps trying to kill her…. Harrow the Ninth is mind-boggling from start to finish, and it’s an electrifying sequel you do not want to miss.

The third book in the series, Alecto the Ninth, is scheduled to be released next year.

Harrow the Ninth will be published by on August 4, 2020. It is 512 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Tommy Arnold. Download the complete first act (all 139 pages!) in multiple digital formats at

See all our coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy here.

Vintage Treasures: Digits and Dastards by Frederik Pohl

Sunday, July 26th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Digits and Dastards Ballantine Digits and Dastards Ballantine-back-small

Digits and Dastards by Frederik Pohl (Ballantine Books, 1966). Artist uncredited.

Frederik Pohl was something of a science fiction renaissance man. He was a fan, agent, publisher, editor (of both Galaxy and If magazines, from 1969-79), and multiple Hugo Award-winning writer. His career spanned over 75 years, from his first publication (a poem in 1937) to his last novel, All the Lives He Led (2011). He received the SFWA Grand Master Award in 1993. He died in 2013, at the age of 93.

Along with Asimov, Heinlein, Campbell and Wollheim, he was such an integral part of 20th Century SF that you can honestly say that without him, the field would have been dramatically different. Like Campbell and Wollheim, he was a taste-maker, a keen-eyed editor who loved discovering talent, and he won three Hugo Awards in a row as best editor. Like Asimov, he wrote extensively about science fiction, pointing many young readers (including me) towards the folks they should be reading, and enriching the history of the field with numerous non-fiction articles.

And like Heinlein and Asimov, he was hugely respected as a writer, winning numerous awards for his fiction, including a Hugo and Nebula Award for Gateway (1977), the John W. Campbell Award for the novella collection Years of the City (1984), and the coveted National Book Award for Jem (1979). In 2010 he won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer for his long-running blog, one of the earliest (and still one of the best) SF blogs, The Way the Future Blogs. He was a pioneer in the field to the very end.

I’m very fond of Fred Pohl. Like Asimov, he wrote about science fiction not as some higher and more enlightened branch of literature, but as a quirky business practiced by a small community of highly likeable individuals who shared common roots, and a common love of and fascination with science. It was that characterization, as much of my love of the stories itself, that filled me at a young age with an enduring desire to become an SF writer.

And, very much unlike Asimov, Pohl was a high-school dropout in a genre that celebrated hard science, and that gave him– critically, I think — a refreshingly different viewpoint on what science fiction could (and should) mean to the average reader. He was also a local SF writer, a fixture at the major Chicago SF conventions, and was just as delightful in person as he was on the page. He was an entertaining and self-deprecating writer, as you can see from the following excerpt from the introduction to his 9th collection, Digits and Dastards (1966).

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