Future Treasures: The Warrior Moon by K Arsenault Rivera

Saturday, September 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Tigers-Daughter-small The-Phoenix-Empress-small The Warrior Moon-small

Cover art by Jamie Jones

I’ve gotten in the comfortable habit of not starting trilogies until all three books are published. It’s served me well (very well) over the years. But what happens when the third book in a series appears and you’re not sure it’s a trilogy? What if you waited all this time and and there’s still a damn cliffhanger??

I guess a life of literary ambition is never truly free of risk. The third novel in K Arsenault Rivera’s maybe-trilogy Ascendant series arrives in bookstores September 24 and, hidden on the author page of the copy the publisher sent me is a novel called Sixteen Swords (listed as “forthcoming.”) But I’ve waited impatiently to start this series ever since Liz Bourke gave a rave review to the first two novels at Tor.com.

The Tiger’s Daughter recounted the adventures of their youth from Shefali’s perspective, including Shefali’s infection the blackblood plague — the first person ever to be infected and survive, albeit changed — culminating in their marriage and Shefali’s exile by Shizuka’s uncle, the emperor. Shefali may only return to the lands ruled by the empire once she has completed an impossible quest: acquire and bring back a phoenix feather.

The Phoenix Empress is essentially two stories at once. It is the story of Shefali and Shizuka, rediscovering each other after eight years apart, facing the deep problems of their potential destinies—and it’s the story that Shizuka tells to Shefali to explain how she’s changed. Why Shizuka drinks so much and wakes nightly from nightmares, and why she has no tears to cry…

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Vintage Treasures: Cold Iron and Sister to the Rain by Melisa Michaels

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I was preparing a Vintage Treasures article on Melisa Michaels on Saturday, and particularly her two-volume urban fantasy series featuring private eye Rosie Levine, Cold Iron (1997) and Sister to the Rain (1998), when I stumbled on this disturbing Facebook post by Rich Horton:

I have just learned that Melisa Michaels has died. I knew she had cancer, and she had recently reported that there wasn’t much more to be done, but it’s still sad news, and it seems to have come more quickly than she thought.

But I wanted to celebrate her — she was one of the first people to, as it were, welcome me to the SF community, when I first went online, and when I joined SFF Net. We had many great conversations (online) about SF and other matters. She is one of the people I really owe a debt to for helping me make friends in this field.

I read her novels, the Skyrider SF series and the Rosie Levine Fantasy/Mystery series, with much enjoyment… Melisa always made tremendous contributions to SFWA — as I recall, she was the first webmaster of the SFWA web page, right at the dawning of the WWW. I didn’t keep close track of her later on, especially after the demise of SFF Net, but we had reconnected to a small degree on Facebook. I offer condolences to her family, and I celebrate a life well-lived.

I didn’t know Melisa the way Rich did, but I was still very saddened by the news. And I thought we could help celebrate her life here by showcasing her novels. Rich discussed Cold Iron when it first appeared over 20 years ago; here’s an excerpt from the review at his website, Strange at Ecbatan.

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Vintage Treasures: The Starfire Saga by Roby James

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Bruce Jensen

The Ace Science Fiction Specials, a series of first novels edited by uber-editor Terry Carr, are legendary today. Between 1984-88 Carr published debuts by writers who’d go on to towering careers, including William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Howard Waldrop, Michael Swanwick, Jack McDevitt, Richard Kadrey, and many others.

The Ace Science Fiction Specials get all the attention, but they certainly weren’t unique. Many publishers tried their hand at something similar, with varying success. One of my favorites was the Del Rey Discovery line (1992-99), which published first novels by Nicola Griffith, Mary Rosenblum, L. Warren Douglas, K. D. Wentworth, and many more — including Roby James, whose first two novels, Commencement and Commitment, appeared in ’96 and ’97. Together they make up the Starfire Saga.

“Roby James” is the pen name of Rhoda Blecker. In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Blecker shared some of the genesis  and heavy themes of the tale. Here’s an excerpt, in which she talks about its major Jewish themes, and losing her mother when she was eleven.

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The Hanged Man, Book II of The Tarot Sequence by K.D. Edwards, Delayed to December

Thursday, August 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Last Sun-small The Hanged Man-small

During its heyday a decade ago Pyr Books was one of the most exciting and innovative publishers in the business. Founding editor Lou Anders left in 2014 to pursue his own writing career, and last year the entire imprint was sold lock, stock, and barrel to Start Publishing. Since then the mighty Pyr has slowed — the website hasn’t been updated in over a year (it still lists “Forthcoming Books” that were released last July, for example), and it’s a lot harder to get news on upcoming books.

Harder, but not impossible. Pyr maintains a lively Facebook presence where it talks about recent releases, like The Fall by Tracy Townsend, Three Laws Lethal by David Walton, and M.C Planck’s Black Harvest, as well as exciting upcoming titles like Nebula Awards Showcase 2019, coming in October. But I was disappointed to see one of the more intriguing books of the fall, K.D. Edwards The Hanged Man, second in The Tarot Sequence, pushed back three months to a December 17 release. K.D. Edwards shared the details on his Twitter feed on Monday:

Pyr made the right choice. We’re just wrapping up the proof edits now, and delaying the book 3 months means I’ll be able to work on advance promotion. We’ll be able to get eARCs in the hands of reviewers. Maybe get some more cool author blurbs. The only thing I can promise is this: I am insanely proud of the final product. I’m 50 pages away from signing off on the final formatted manuscript, and I actually ENJOYED rereading it this weekend. That has never happened to me before… And even better? I’m writing TAROT III as we speak. I don’t expect an 18-month lag-time, next time.

It’s disappointing, but I’m glad to hear there’s a third book in the pipeline, so there’s that. Keep up to date on all the details at Edwards’ Twitter feed.


The Definition of a Long Game: The Raven’s Mark Trilogy by Ed McDonald

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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When I wrote about Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy back in November, in the comments reader H.P. shared a review of the opening novel from his blog. He said in part:

Blackwing has a lot going for it. The worldbuilding is tremendous, the action scenes bloody, the human interaction surprisingly poignant. The plot is well crafted. One of my favorite aspects is the depiction of the Nameless and Deep Kings. They are almost entirely offstage, but always near to mind. McDonald really dives into what it means to get caught in a struggle between immortals. It is the definition of a long game, and not one where you worry too much about the odd pawn.

That piqued my interest, to say the least. I don’t have time to read a lot of trilogies, but I think I’ll make an exception in this case — especially now that the final volume, Crowfall, has arrived. In his survey of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of July, Jeff Somers sums it all up nicely:

The third book in the Raven’s Mark series finds the Deep Kings close to a final victory, as the Range — the last line of defense between them and the republic — and the Nameless — the gods who have long protected it — are both broken. Without the strength of the Nameless, the Blackwing captains are toppling one after another as the Deep Kings ready one final, decisive blow. Ryhalt Galharrow has been in the wasteland known as the Misery for so long it has become a part of him, and the Blackwing captains line up behind him for one last mission that will decide the fate of the republic for once and for all. McDonald’s talent for creating characters you’ll love and then showing them no mercy has not abated as he brings his trilogy to a rousing close.

Crowfall was published by Ace Books on July 2. It is 416 pages, priced at $18 in paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. See all our recent coverage of the best new Series Fantasy here.


Mystery on a Generation Starship: Medusa in the Graveyard, Book Two of the Medusa Cycle by Emily Devenport

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Emily Devenport’s Medusa Uploaded, the opening novel in the Medusa Cycle, arrived last May to wide acclaim. Vulture called it one of the 10 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2018, SF Revu proclaimed it “One of the best generation starship novels,” and The Illustrated Page said it was “A fantastic, fast paced, twisty sci-fi thriller that builds mystery on top of mystery.” The sequel Medusa in the Graveyard arrived this week from Tor. In his weekly sum-up at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, Joel Cunningham gives it an intriguing write up. Here’s the detail.

Oichi Angelis was nothing but a worm aboard the generation ship Olympia, harmless until (literally) pushed too far (as in out of an airlock). With her band of insurgents, they led a revolution that put them in charge of the starship (see: the events of last year’s Medusa Uploaded); now, they’re headed deep into the Charon System in hope of uncovering a mystery that’s buried within Oichi’s DNA: three colossal sentient starships wait for them on the planet Graveyard, engineered by the same extinct race that made Oichi’s people. If the travelers are judged worthy, they’ll gain control of unimaginable power. Book two of the Medusa Cycle is just as dark, daring, and propulsive as the first.

Read Joel’s complete mid-July rundown — including a Mexican folklore-inspired epic from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Last Astronaut by David Wellington, and a brand new novella by our very own C.S.E. Cooney — here.

Medusa in the Graveyard was published by Tor Books on July 23, 2019. It is 304 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. See all our coverage of the best new series SF and fantasy here.


Goth Chick News: Tales from the Haunted Mansion Book Series

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Tales from the Haunted Mansion

Disney parks worldwide have a lot of things in common, namely being the ‘Happiest Place(s) on Earth’, which is why the Haunted Mansion ride may seem like a bit of an anomaly. From Mystic Manor in Hong Kong, to Phantom Manor in Paris, to the Haunted Mansions in Tokyo, California and Florida, each park has a unique haunted house ride. The only park where you won’t find one is Shanghai, where ghosts and the fear of hauntings have a very real place in the Chinese culture.

The first Disney “imagineers” dreamed up the idea of a haunted attraction in the late 1950’s, starting with the story of a “house on the hill” inhabited by 999 ghosts. The actual mansion didn’t open to the public until 1969 and guests were immediately hooked on the experience, though much of the backstory by that time had faded into the background. The attraction gained an enormous cult following, bolstered with oodles of official merchandise and even more homages created by its fanbase. Though hardcore fans can tell you the mansion’s story, which ties together even the minutest details seen in the ride, most visitors simply enjoy the spookiness of the experience without ever knowing the significance of “The Hatbox Ghost,” “The Bride,” and “Madame Leota.”

Until now.

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Vintage Treasures: The Demu Trilogy Omnibus by F.M. Busby

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Demu Trilogy-small The Demu Trilogy-back-small

Cover by Vincent di Fate

F.M. Busby was a well known science fiction fan who graduated to professional writer in the early 70s. He won a Hugo in 1960 for his fanzine Cry of the Nameless, and when he took early retirement in 1971 he became a full time science fiction writer at the age of 50. He was enormously productive for the next quarter century, publishing 19 novels and numerous short stories between 1973 and 1996.

He never broke out of midlist, and gave up writing after that, blaming the infamous Thor Power Tools ruling in an email to fan George Willick.

No, I haven’t been writing fiction for some time. Many if not most of us “midlist” writers have been frozen out like a third party on an Eskimo honeymoon. The IRS started it by getting the Thor Power Tools decision stretched to cover an inventory tax on books in publishers’ warehouses (so they don’t keep ’em in print no more), and the bookchains wrapped it up by setting one book’s GROSS order on that writer’s previous book’s NET sales. 4-5 books under those rules, and you’re road kill; a publisher can’t be expected to buy a book the chains won’t pay out on.

Busby (“Buz”) produced four novels in The Rebel Dynasty (Star Rebel, Rebel’s Quest, The Alien Debt, and Rebels’ Seed), three Rissa Kerguelen novels, and the Slow Freight trilogy. But his most popular series was probably The Demu Trilogy, which Pocket Books kept in print for nearly seven years in an omnibus collection.

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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.


New Treasures: Shadowblade by Anna Kashina

Thursday, July 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Ah, Angry Robot. Is there any other publisher out there taking chances on new fantasy writers they way they are? They’ve certainly claimed more than their fair share of my recent book-buying dollars, anyway. Last week it was Shadowblade, the latest from Anna Kashina. In his feature interview with Kashina at Clarkesworld, Chris Urie summarized the novel nicely.

Most of us are prone to flights of fantasy. We imagine ourselves capable heroes of a mythical kingdom full of mystery, intrigue, swordplay, and magic. But fantasy stories are often shackled by shadows of elves, rings, and medieval knights. When a fantasy novel brings ideas both new and surprising, it’s worth celebrating.

Anna Kashina’s new novel Shadowblade seamlessly blends together adventure, romance, swordplay, and intrigue with a unique world. Naia dreams of becoming a Blademaster. After her training goes awry, she meets a stranger who rescued the sole survivor of a horrific massacre. This stranger wants to topple the line of imperial succession — and Naia finds herself at the vanguard of a plot that will change the world.

Anna Kashina is also the author of The Majat Code series, published from 2014-2016 by Angry Robot with moody covers by Alejandro Colucci. Check them out below.

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