New Treasures: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Creatures of Will and Temper-small Creatures of Want and Ruin-small

When Molly Tanzer’s novel Creatures of Will and Temper was published last year, I confidently predicted that it would be huge.

Molly Tanzer’s Creatures of Will and Temper looks like a breakout book. It’s got all the classic elements — fabulous setting, swordplay, and the supernatural — while also being totally original. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Molly is poised for a break-out. Her first novel Vermilion received rave reviews (“A splendid page-turner of a Weird West adventure… hugely entertaining” — Publishers Weekly), and her most recent book was the anthology Swords vs Cthulhu, co-edited with Jesse Bullington. How cool is that?

I’m pleased to see that the book was very warmly received — it was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and critics praised it widely. Jeff VanderMeer said it was “A delightful, dark, and entertaining romp,” and Outlander author Diana Gabaldon called it “An artful, witty, Oscar Wilde pastiche with the heart of a paranormal thriller.”

Molly’s follow up, Creatures of Want & Ruin, arrived from John Joseph Adams Books last month, and was selected as a Barnes & Noble Best Science Fiction Fantasy Book of November 2018. Tor.com‘s Liz Bourke calls it “A measured, atmospheric novel, with compelling characters and a deeply disturbing undercurrent of horror,” and the B&N Sci-Fi Blog says “Molly Tanzer does it all; from her debut novel, named best book of 2015 by i09, to the “thoughtful erotica” she edits at her magazine, Congress, she’s proven to be one of the most distinct voices in contemporary SFF.”

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The Return of a Fantasy Landmark: The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Unfortunate Fursey-small The Return of Fursey-small

While I was standing in front of the Valancourt Books booth at the World Fantasy Convention (so I could buy a copy of the classic horror novel The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight, as I reported last week), I took the time to look over all their latest releases. Valancourt is one of the great treasures of the genre — their editorial team has excellent taste, and they scour 20th Century paperback backlists to bring long-neglected classics back into print. I’m pretty familiar with 20th Century genre stuff, but they consistently surprise me with their diverse and excellent selections.

I ended up taking home a pile of books, including the one-volume edition of Michael McDowell’s complete Blackwater Saga and Steve Rasnic Tem’s new collection Figures Unseen. But I was hoping for new discoveries, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were plenty of eye-catching titles vying for my attention, but the most interesting — and the ones I ended up taking home with me –was the pair of novels above.

Set in 11th century Ireland, where demonic forces have launched an assault on the monastery of Clonmacnoise, The Unfortunate Fursey was originally published in 1946. The sequel The Return of Fursey followed in 1948. Written by Irish writer Mervyn Wall, they were praised as “landmark book in the history of fantasy,” by Year’s Best SF editor E. F. Bleiler. More recently, Black Gate author Darrell Schweitzer wrote:

The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey are not quaint esoterica for the specialist, folks, they are living masterpieces. They haven’t dated slightly and are as fresh and as powerful as when they were first written.

Both novels were reprinted in handsome trade paperback editions by Valancourt last year, with new introductions by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda.

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Endings and Beginnings: The IX: Prelude to Sorrow by Andrew P. Weston

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

51h5Zzyi6VLWith The IX: Prelude to Sorrow (2018), Andrew P. Weston brings the curtain down on his trilogy that started with The IX (2015) and continued with The IX: Exordium of Tears (2016). Driven to near-extinction by the all-devouring Horde, the humanoid Ardenese turned their fate over to an AI called the Architect. The Architect transported human military personnel from all across the ages in hope of finding people with new ideas about how to fight the Horde. In The IX, men of the fabled Roman IX Legion and their Celtic adversaries, along with 19th century US Cavalry, Plains Indians, a British SBS team, and some terrorists are dragged away from Earth just at the moment they are about to die.

The first book introduced the various soldiers as well as the Horde. Utterly alien monsters, at first the Horde seem to exist solely to devour every living thing in their path. As the story unfolds it becomes clear they are a far more complex enemy than the Ardenese and their new allies realize. The most striking of Weston’s achievements in the book is conveying the strangeness of the Horde.

In the next installment the temporarily victorious humans and Ardenese, warned by the seemingly mystical insights of the leader of the Native American contingent, Stained-With-Blood, launch a massive interstellar attack on the remaining Horde. Filled with massive space battles and planetary-scale destruction, the book is a blast. In the end, despite great losses, it seems the Horde has been finally defeated and the future of a hybrid Ardenese-human civilization has been ensured.

Prelude to Sorrow reveals that the victory thought won was only temporary. In fact, the situation faced in this new book is even worse than that in the beginning of the series. A new enemy, one that threatens not only the Ardenese’s existence but all existence, is revealed.

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Aliens in a Space Prison: The Sanctuary Novels by Caryn Lix

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Sanctuary Caryn Lix-small Containment Caryn Lix-small

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that we’re living in a YA golden age. The runaway success of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and the Percy Jackson novels has generated a glut of books, most of which are fantasy or SF series. It reminds me of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance trend of a decade ago, when it seemed that half the books on the shelves featured superpowered vampire killers who were dating werewolves.

I know more than a few readers who avoid YA altogether. But, like any other subgenre, there’s plenty of interesting work to be found if you look hard enough. Recently I started reading Caryn Lix’s Sanctuary, which reads like Aliens set on a space prison, and have been enjoying it so far. The sequel Containment is set to be released next August. Here’s the jacket copy for Sanctuary.

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company — and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners. At first, she’s confident her commanding officer — who also happens to be her mother — will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive — all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

Sanctuary was published by Simon Pulse on July 24, 2018. It is 461 pages, priced at $19.99 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Sarah Creech, with art by Jacey. Read the first chapter here. See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.


Pirates, Dungeons, and Undead Soldiers: The Copper Cat novels by Jen Williams

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Art by Gene Mollica

I’m a fan of all kinds of fantasy. Urban, romance, Arthurian, YA, weird, magic realism, anthropomorphic, horror, sword & planet… plus all the ones I can’t think of right now. But my first love was adventure fantasy and sword & sorcery, and that’s still the sub-genre that gets the bulk of my attention. Tell me a tale of heroes and magic, and you’ve got my interest. Throw in a dungeon, and I’ll show up for opening night.

So when I found Jen Williams’ 2016 fantasy The Copper Promise — a tale of swords, monsters, and dungeons — at Barnes & Noble last weekend, I wasn’t so much intrigued as I was thinking, “How the heck did I miss this for two years??” Turns out I didn’t miss it entirely; Adrian Tchaikovsky recommended it in his Tor.com list of Five Books Featuring Adventuring Parties, which I read back in 2016, saying:

Jen is one of the best new voices in UK fantasy, and it’s a testament to her writing skill that Wydrin, the “Copper Cat” and a proper fantasy rogue through and through, does not actually eclipse her companions Frith and Sebastian as they fight, trick and run their way through a world that has gone from run-of-the-mill dangerous to actively-being-set-on-fire-by-a-dragon dangerous thanks, chiefly, to their own poor life choices. “Let sleeping gods lie,” goes the tagline. No need to tell you how that one works out.

The book was released by Angry Robot; a little digging online found one sequel from the same publisher, The Iron Ghost (2017), and a third volume published only in the UK, The Silver Tide (2016). All three were nominated for the British Fantasy Award. The first for Best Newcomer, and the second and third for Best Fantasy Novel. The reviews have been strong as well, especially for the first one. Starburst Magazine said “The Copper Promise is near-perfect fantasy-adventure fun and a breath of fresh air,” and Den Patrick said, “There are pirates and magic, demons and disciples, undead soldiers and noble knights… a lot of fun.” Here’s the Angry Robot book blurbs for the first two.

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The Omnibus Volumes of Daniel Abraham: The Long Price Quartet

Saturday, December 1st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Daniel Abraham is the author of The Dagger and the Coin five-volume fantasy series, five books in the Black Sun’s Daughter horror series (as M. L. N. Hanover), and a pair of Star Wars novels. With Ty Franck he is the author of the breakout hit The Expanse, under the name James S. A. Corey. But before all that he created a four-volume fantasy series called The Long Price Quartet that helped cement his rep as a rising young star. The first book, A Shadow in Summer, appeared in 2006 from Tor, and the three sequels arrived almost exactly a year apart.

When I was in Barnes & Noble last week I saw a handsome omnibus volume, and I was very happy to pick it up. It contains all four novels:

A Shadow in Summer (331 pages, $24.95 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, March 7, 2006)
A Betrayal in Winter (317 pages, $24.95 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, August 2007)
An Autumn War (366 pages, $25.95 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, July 2008)
The Price of Spring (348 pages, $27.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, July 2009)

The Long Price Quartet was published by Tor Books on November 13, 2018. It is 975 pages, priced at $19.99. There is no digital edition. The cover is by Getty Images.

Believe it or not, we’ve covered dozens of omnibus paperbacks just like this one, from authors like C.J. Cherryh, Jack Vance, H. Beam Piper, P.N. Elrod, Steven Brust, James H. Schmitz, Murray Leinster, Andre Norton, Robert Silverberg, and many others. Check them out here.


Future Treasures: King of the Road, Book 2 of Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

Thursday, November 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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I’ve been waiting for the sequel to R.S. Belcher’s Brotherhood of the Wheel since the book first appeared in 2016, and next week my wait is finally over.

Expectations for King of the Road, the second book in the series, are high. In a starred review Publishers Weekly said,

Belcher’s masterful storytelling and worldbuilding make for a gripping and consistently surprising follow-up to Brotherhood of the Wheel. Long-haul trucker Jimmie Aussapile; his squire, Hector “Heck” Sinclair; and Louisiana State Police Officer Lovina Marcou, a road witch gradually coming into her powers, are members of a secret society descended from the Knights Templar, protecting the roads and travelers. While Lovina works a missing-person case involving a ghost clown and an alchemist who assembles a cult of disaffected souls, Jimmie and Heck battle a number of supernatural horrors, including animated corpses and living shadows… [a] fascinating series.

King of the Road will be published in hardcover by Tor on December 4. The first book was released in paperback last year. Here’s the book blurb.

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New Treasures: The Nissera Chronicles by Hannah West

Sunday, November 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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I’m still not done unpacking my free book bag from the World Fantasy Convention, but the wheels of publishing stop for no man. Review copies continue to pile up at the Black Gate headquarters, and they demand attention. At least, that’s what Realm of Ruins did when I pulled it out of an envelope on Tuesday, anyway.

First, Daniel Burgess’ cover is great. He also did the cover for the first volume, Hannah’s debut novel Kingdom of Ash and Briars, released by Holiday House in 2016. I was completely unaware of that book until Tuesday but, second, there’s ample praise for it on the back of Realm of Ruins, including a snippet from this starred review from Kirkus:

Bristal, a teenage kitchen maid, never expected to survive being forced into the Water, a pool designed to prove that a mortal may be an elicromancer, an ancient breed of ageless and immortal beings that once populated the realm of Nissera. But she does.

With elicrin stone in hand, Bristal is thrust from the Water, proving her birthright as an elicromancer. With Bristal’s true identity revealed, the last two remaining elicromancers, Brack and Tamarice, materialize to rescue Bristal from kidnappers. They begin to train her to use her gift as a Clandestine: the ability to transform into any human or animal form… Greatly influenced by the likes of “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Hua Mulan,” and arguably Harry Potter, debut author West mixes fairy-tale charm with contemporary mysticism to create a world both terrifying and wonderful… Sweet romance and strong supporting characters complete this impressive debut.

Third, all the Black Friday madness put me in a buying mood. so I ordered a copy of the first book yesterday. Will it turn out to be as lightly sweet and charming as promised, or was I just another victim of unchecked consumerism? Stay tuned to find out.

Realms of Ruins goes on sale December 4th. Here’s the description for the first book.

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Fantasy on an Postapocalyptic Frontier: The Raven’s Mark Trilogy by Ed McDonald

Saturday, November 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Ed McDonald’s debut novel Blackwing is a curious mix of genres. Set on a postapocalyptic frontier, it’s a gritty fantasy of a bounty hunter caught in an attack that may signify an end to a century-long peace. Anthony Ryan (Tower Lord, Queen of Fire) calls it “A remarkably assured fantasy debut that mixes of the inventiveness of China Miéville with the fast paced heroics of David Gemmell,” and that’s a pretty rousing endorsement in my book.

Blackwing was published by Ace in October 2017, and slid under my radar. Ace sent me a copy of the sequel Ravencry this summer, and it intrigued me enough to go searching out the first book. The concluding volume, Crowfall, arrives in June. Here’s the book blurbs for all three.

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Weird Sea Adventures: Archipelago – Calendar Year 1

Friday, November 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Tony Den

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Archipelago Portal

Some time back I posted a brief review of the Archipelago Kickstarter reward chapbook. I was impressed, and joined the Archipelago crew at their chosen home, Patreon, becoming a Crew Member for the princely sum of $2 per month. This slightly higher rank than the run-of-the-mill $1-paying Bilge Rats allows for certain privileges, such as voting in the occasional Blood Pearl polls, through which one can guide the direction of certain stories. The main privilege of course is access to the excellent monthly magazine, every issue of which contains three installments set in the shared world of Archipelago.

Archipelago’s inaugural issue was in May 2017; since then it has been monthly. I initially hoped to cover a quarterly spread of issues, but I got distracted with other tasks. Things have not changed much, as may be obvious from my thin coverage and participation at Black Gate in 2018.

Fortunately my cell office is so remote and difficult to find among the winding multi-level corridors of the Black Gate basement that I’ve managed to escape eviction for not pulling my weight. I’m fortunate John O’Neill doesn’t usually bother to read the contributions from us underground dwellers (preferring to leave such editorial drudgery to a bot — also somewhat confusingly called John O’Neill), otherwise this article may just remind him to dispatch someone into the dungeon basement to root me out.

I resolved to write my review in two parts, each based on calendar year, thus buying myself some time to read the 2018 editions. That said, this particular article has been pending for months, so time to get cracking and let BG readers know what’s happening on the world of Archipelago!

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