A Beautifully Written Kung-fu Godfather Story: Jade War by Fonda Lee

Sunday, July 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Jade City Fonda Lee-small Jade War Fonda Lee-small

Fonda Lee’s debut novel Jade City won the World Fantasy Award last year, beating out some very stiff competition, including John Crowley’s Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr and Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders. It earned plenty of praise in the usual quarters as well — it was Library Journal‘s Pick of the Month, for example, and they called it “a Godfather-inspired fantasy series that mixes bold martial-arts action and vivid worldbuilding… terrific.”

I’ve been looking forward to the sequel ever since Derek Kunsken reviewed Jade City for Black Gate, calling it “a heroically, beautifully written kung-fu Godfather story,” and it finally arrives in hardcover from Orbit in two weeks. In this volume, the second in a forecast trilogy, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich — or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival — and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.

Jade War is the second book of what’s now being called the Green Bone trilogy. It will be published by Orbit on July 23, 2019. It is 609 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. Read the first four chapters of Jade City at the Orbit website.


Future Treasures: Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Monday, July 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Empire of Silence Ruocchio-small Howling Dark-small

I first noticed Christopher Ruocchio last year, when he showed up as co-editor of a couple of the better Baen anthologies, Star Destroyers (co edited with Tony Daniel) and Space Pioneers (with the man himself, the great Hank Davis). Neither of those books, excellent as they were, prepared me for his debut novel, Empire of Silence, the opening volume in the epic Sun Eater space opera, which Library Journal called a “wow book… stretched across a vast array of planets,” and which my buddy Eric Flint called “epic-scale space opera in the tradition of Iain M. Banks and Frank Herbert’s Dune.” I’ve been looking forward to the follow up volume impatiently, and was surprised and delighted to receive a review copy last week. It will be published in hardcover by DAW in two weeks. Here’s the publisher’s blurb.

Hadrian Marlowe is lost.

For half a century, he has searched the farther suns for the lost planet of Vorgossos, hoping to find a way to contact the elusive alien Cielcin. He has not succeeded, and for years has wandered among the barbarian Normans as captain of a band of mercenaries.

Determined to make peace and bring an end to nearly four hundred years of war, Hadrian must venture beyond the security of the Sollan Empire and among the Extrasolarians who dwell between the stars. There, he will face not only the aliens he has come to offer peace, but contend with creatures that once were human, with traitors in his midst, and with a meeting that will bring him face to face with no less than the oldest enemy of mankind.

If he succeeds, he will usher in a peace unlike any in recorded history. If he fails… the galaxy will burn.

Howling Dark will be published by DAW Books on July 16, 2019. It is 679 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Kieran Yanner. See all our recent coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy and SF here.


Future Treasures: Priest of Lies, Book II of War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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When you’ve been reading fantasy as long as I have, you get used to hyperbolic praise plastered all over book covers. But even so, you don’t see the kind widespread acclaim that was heaped on the opening novel in Peter McLean’s new fantasy series last year, Priest of Bones.

Booknest called it “Absolutely sensational… Low Fantasy at its finest, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the Fantasy Debut of the Year,” and Fantasy Book Review said, “I can safely say that this will be the book dark fantasy and grimdark fans will be raving about at the end of this year.” Even Booklist raved, proclaiming it “A pitch-perfect blend of fantasy and organized-crime sagas like Puzo’s The Godfather… Expect word of mouth support from fantasy fans to turn this one into a genre hit.” But I think my favorite came from Publisher’s Weekly, with their usual economy:

Tomas Piety [is] a nefarious crime lord turned priest. After being away at war for many years, Tomas comes back to find that Ellinburg is changed… With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas embroils himself in cutthroat politics and epic barroom brawls to win back the city that once was his… Anyone itching to read a high-stakes story should pick up this delightful combination of medieval fantasy and crime drama.

Read the complete PW review here.

The second book in the series, Priest of Lies, is one of the most anticipated books of the year. It arrives in trade paperback from Ace Books next week. Here’s the description.

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A Celebration of Classic British Horror: Gaslight, Ghosts & Ghouls by R. Chetwynd-Hayes, edited by Stephen Jones

Saturday, June 15th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gaslight Ghosts & Ghouls-smallIn a May 30 Facebook post, Stephen Jones announced a major new career retrospective of British horror writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes, who died in 2001. Chetwynd-Hayes published early fiction in The Pan Book of Horror Stories in the sixties, and wrote the classic The Monster Club, the basis for the 1980 film starring Vincent Price and John Carradine.

Jones was Ron’s co-editor for two posthumous anthologies, Great Ghost Stories (2004) and Tales to Freeze the Blood: More Great Ghost Stories (2006). He also helped him compile several collections, and published Ron’s fiction in multiple anthologies. He’s the perfect man for the job of assembling a “Best of” survey of the five-decade career of one of the great names in 20th Century British horror. Here’s Stephen:

R. Chetwynd-Hayes… was one of the most important horror writers and editors working in Britain. Not only was he happy to write about such genre standards as ghosts, demons, ghouls, vampires and werewolves, but he also delighted in making up his own bizarre monster variations that managed to stretch the imaginations of both author and reader alike…

Ron published an impressive twenty-four collections of short fiction, twenty-four anthologies (including twelve volumes of the influential Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories series), thirteen novels and more than 220 short stories. His work was adapted for the movies, television, radio and comics, and reprinted in various languages around the world. One of his publishers described him as “Britain’s Prince of Chill”, and his volumes of ghost stories and humorous tales of terror once filled the shelves of nearly every public library in the UK…

With the centenary of his birth fast approaching this year, I decided that it was time to finally compile the “Best of” collection… as it was such a monumental occasion to be celebrated, we decided to go well beyond that — to create a volume that truly did justice to Ron’s work and his enduring legacy… Gaslight, Ghosts & Ghouls: A Centenary Celebration contains sixteen of Ron’s highly original tales of terror and the supernatural, which invariably combined horror and humour in equal measure, giving them a style that was uniquely the author’s own. These not only include a rare reprint of one of his novellas featuring “the world’s only practising psychic detective” Francis St. Clare and his vivacious assistant Frederica (“Fred”) Masters, but also two tales that have never been reprinted since their original publication, plus a vampire novella that is appearing in print for the very first time!

Gaslight, Ghosts & Ghouls: A Centenary Celebration also contains the longest interview with Ron ever published, conducted by Jo Fletcher and Jones, a detailed Bibliography, a full-color portfolio of covers by Les Edwards, rare photos, endpapers by John Bolton and Graham Humphreys, and a back cover painting by Walter Velez. It will be published by PS Publishing in three formats, including a jacketed hardcover, signed slipcase, and deluxe limited edition. The unsigned hardcover is offered at £25.00. It will premiere at FantasyCon in Glasgow, Scotland, October 18th–20th. The cover, “The Monsters Escape,” is by Les Edwards. Pre-order copies of the book here.


In 500 Words or Less: The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda

Friday, June 14th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

The Gossamer Mage-smallThe Gossamer Mage
By Julie E. Czerneda
DAW Books (416 pages, $27.00 hardcover/$12.99 eBook, August 6, 2019)

In the words of the great Mr. Spock, Julie Czerneda’s forthcoming novel The Gossamer Mage is fascinating.

To be fair, everything I’ve ever read from Julie is fascinating in some way. But Gossamer is a different brand of cool than either The Clan Chronicles or Web Shifters. Not only is it a jump from science fiction to fantasy, but it brings along the intricate detail and clever wordplay that you can find in any of Julie’s other works.

What mainly fascinated me here was the magic. I’m not the sort of reader or writer who needs a magic system to have strictly defined rules that can’t be broken and need to see explained in detail (although I enjoy that when it’s done well, like in The Dresden Files). What I definitely need, though, is magic that has consequences, so you don’t need to come up with complicated reasons to prevent mages from laying waste to every opponent. Julie’s presented a really cool brand of consequence: magic that siphons years off a mage’s life, aging them as they perform their works, in this case through ink and parchment.

She goes one better to make that aging somewhat up to the whim of the Deathless Goddess, to which (almost) every scribemaster gives their allegiance. And then on top of that, she’s layered a complex world built around the idea of mages who literally spend their life to achieve success. Scribemaster Saeleonarial, for example, worries that every new magical script will make him a decrepit old man, and looks down on young people who burn through that youth too quickly going after glory. There’s a vested interest in producing new mages through promoting powerful bloodlines, but the power to control that rests with the hold daughters, who represent the Deathless Goddess who allows magic to exist. And so on.

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Future Treasures: Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Empress of Forever-smallThe six novels in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence have earned him a reputation as a modern master of urban fantasy (not to mention a Hugo nomination.) His latest novel, Empress of Forever, is something very different. Delilah S. Dawson calls it “A classic space opera that impossibly becomes a thrilling dungeon crawl fantasy,” and if that’s not a perfect book blurb, I don’t know what is. In her feature review at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog yesterday, Nicole Hill wrote:

The comparisons this novel has drawn to Guardians of the Galaxy are understandable and well-earned — you won’t soon read a book more overloaded with outlandishly imaginative and downright fun set-pieces, including a battle involving space vessels made of stained glass… It’s a chess game played out across the stars, with a fearsome matched set of queens and a collection of pawns who are unforgettable.

Empress of Forever arrives in trade paperback from Tor next week. Here’s the description.

From Hugo Award finalist Max Gladstone comes a smart, swashbuckling, wildly imaginative adventure; the saga of a rag-tag team of brilliant misfits, dangerous renegades, and enhanced outlaws in a war-torn future.

A wildly successful innovator to rival Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Vivian Liao is prone to radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she tries to outrun people who are trying to steal her success.

In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.

The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider — until Vivian Liao arrives. Trapped between the Pride ― a ravening horde of sentient machines ― and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith, Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind.

Empress of Forever will be published by Tor Books on June 18, 2019. It is 480 pages, priced at $18.99 in paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Tommy Arnold. Read an excerpt at Tor.com.


Help Hank Davis fill a Space Pirate Anthology

Sunday, June 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Pirates-of-Zan-Ace-Double Leinster-smallIt always pays to check in early and often with Hank Davis, the mad genius editor at Baen Books behind The Baen Big Book of Monsters and The Best of Gordon R. Dickson, Volume 1. Here’s what he told me last month.

I was dorking around online, looking for stories and story ideas, and came across one of your Black Gate pages from way back in 2013, singing the praises of Leinster’s The Pirates of Ersatz/The Pirates of Zan, and bemoaning the dearth of space pirate novels. While I can’t do anything about the lack of space pirates in novel length, maybe the book will offset the lack.

Well, that certainly made me curious. When I asked him to elaborate, here’s what he said.

I’m going to be putting together an anthology of stories about space pirates, tentatively titled Cosmic Buccaneers, though that may change, and would appreciate suggestions from Black Gate readers of space pirate stories that have warmed the cockles of their heart. (Remind me to look up “cockle,” whatever that means.) Short stories preferred, though I could take a look at novelets — but probably can’t fit more than one or two in. And no novels, of course, even a great one like Murray Leinster’s great The Pirates of Ersatz/The Pirates of Zan.

And please no submissions of new stories. This is not a new story market and I’ll have to return any such submissions unread; sorry! And thanks for your help, and while the Internet Speculative Fiction Data Base is very helpful, please indicate where the story was pubbed or reprinted.

This is definitely good news for those of us who enjoy space pirate fiction (and really that’s everybody, right?).

He’s definitely come to the right place for ideas, anyway. If you’ve got a suggestion for a previously published space pirate story that belongs in the upcoming Cosmic Buccaneers, shout out in the comments and we’ll pass it along to Hank.

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Future Treasures: Time’s Demon, Book 2 of the Islevale Cycle by D. B. Jackson

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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D. B. Jackson is the author of four novels in the popular Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and the collection Tales of the Thieftaker, which Fletcher Vredenburgh called “tense… the mysteries [are] good, the characters well-drawn… is a brisk read with an engaging lead, a colorful supporting cast, and a nicely detailed setting.” ‘D.B. Jackson’ also happens to be Black Gate contributor David B. Coe, whose blog posts here have covered topics as diverse as World Building and Nicola Griffith’s 90s classic Slow River.

David’s 2018 novel Time’s Children was the opening novel in the Islevale series. It related the adventures of Tobias Doljan, time-traveling agent of the court of Daerjen. In her Black Gate review Margaret S. McGraw said:

This is an epic fantasy with magic, sword fighting, political intrigue, demons, assassins, and budding romance. Plus time travel! And well done time travel at that. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, but I’m often disappointed by their simplistic delivery or avoidance of temporal paradox — that’s not the case here at all. Jackson created an entirely believable world of Travelers and other magical beings… I look forward to Time’s Demon — where I hope we will learn more about Droë, as well as the continued adventures of Tobias, Mara, and Sofya.

Time’s Demon finally arrives next week amid much anticipation. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion

Sunday, May 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Record Keeper-small The Record Keeper-back-small

Afrofuturism has become one of the most vibrant and exciting branches of modern science fiction and fantasy. Recent major novels include Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon and Who Fears Death, N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, and many others.

The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion is a near-future dystopia based on the life of Frederick Douglass, and it looks like a worthy addition to an exciting sub-genre. It arrives next month from Titan Books, and a starred review from Publishers Weekly calls it “a gut-punch Afrofuturist novel.”

Gomillion debuts with a gut-punch Afrofuturist novel that examines the incalculable damage systemic racism wreaks on individuals and societies, and the many forms liberation can take. Sometime in the future, in the aftermath of WWIII, societies enforce peace through rigidly controlled racial hierarchies. That control includes using medication to erase the memories of the less privileged. Born in the remnants of America, Arika Cobane inhabits the upper echelons of the race of dark-skinned laborers known as the Kongo, trained by her white teachers to be a record keeper and write false histories that reinforce social norms. As rumors spread of rebels challenging the state’s authority, a new Kongo student, Hosea Khan, enters Arika’s class, shocking her by openly questioning the violence committed against the Kongo people… This intellectually rich, emotional, and ruthlessly honest confrontation of racism proves Gomillion is a critically important new voice.

The Record Keeper will be published by Titan Books on June 18, 2019. It is 457 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover artist is uncredited.


Future Treasures: Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp

Thursday, May 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The City of Lost Fortunes-small Gather the Fortunes-small

Library Journal listed Bryan’s Camp’s debut novel The City of Lost Fortunes as one of the Best Books of 2018, and in their starred review summed it up as “”A masterly game played by gods and monsters… Camp’s thoroughly engaging debut is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.” At Locus Online Katharine Coldiron expanded on the Gaiman comparison:

If Neil Gaiman wrote a post-Katrina novel about New Orleans, it just might be The City of Lost Fortunes. It’s stuffed with more-than-meets-the-mortal-eye cityscapes, immortal schemes and meddling, and historical myth and meaning… the passion with which he writes about his alternate New Orleans is a rare pleasure. It’s a novel of magicians and musicians, bargains and paradoxes, gods – lots of gods – and death… it is an entertaining and promising debut.

The highly anticipated sequel Gather the Fortunes arrives in hardcover this month. Here’s the description.

Renaissance Raines has found her place among the psychopomps — the guides who lead the souls of the recently departed through the Seven Gates of the Underworld—and done her best to avoid the notice of gods and mortals alike. But when a young boy named Ramses St. Cyr manages to escape his foretold death, Renai finds herself at the center of a deity-thick plot unfolding in New Orleans. Someone helped Ramses slip free of his destined end — someone willing to risk everything to steal a little slice of power for themselves.

Is it one of the storm gods that’s descended on the city? The death god who’s locked the Gates of the Underworld? Or the manipulative sorcerer who also cheated Death? When she finds the schemer, there’s gonna be all kinds of hell to pay, because there are scarier things than death in the Crescent City. Renaissance Raines is one of them.

We covered The City of Lost Fortunes, last year; you can read an excerpt from the first chapter hereGather the Fortunes will be published by John Joseph Adams Books on May 21, 2019. It is 372 pages, priced at $24 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Will Staehle.


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