Future Treasures: The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Heart of Betrayal-smallThe first time I encountered Mary E. Pearson was with her short story “The Rotten Beast” at Tor.com. Her first fantasy novel, The Kiss of Deception, was published by Henry Holt last year, and called “a wonderfully full-bodied story: harrowing, romantic, and full of myth and memory… this has the sweep of an epic tale,” (Booklist), and Publishers Weekly said “the novel has a formidable heroine at its core, who is as quick with a knife as she is to laugh or cry… [a] masterfully crafted story.” The Heart of Betrayal, the second volume in The Remnant Chronicles, will be released next week, and it continues the tale of 17-year-old princess Lia.

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape… and even less of being together.

Desperate to save her life, Lia’s erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komisar that she has a magical gift, and the Komisar’s interest in Lia is greater than either Kaden or Lia foresaw.

Meanwhile, the foundations of Lia’s deeply-held beliefs are crumbling beneath her. Nothing is straightforward: there’s Rafe, who lied to her, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom she always believed to be barbarians but whom she now realizes are people who have been terribly brutalized by the kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self, Lia will have to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people… and her own destiny.

The Heart of Betrayal will be published by Henry Holt and Co. on July 7, 2015. It is 480 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition.


Space Orks, Space Elves, and Tough Space Men: Gaunt’s Ghosts: Ghostmaker

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 | Posted by Sean Stiennon

GhostmakerIn the inaugural series installment, Warhammer 40K: First and Only, Dan Abnett introduced us to the Tanith First regiment of Imperial Guardsmen and their iron-willed commander, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt. That novel had Gaunt as its clear protagonist. A series of flashback chapters sketched out his past: Losing his father to Ork hordes in boyhood, growing up a ward of the Imperium, beginning a military career, and finally avenging his loss in a chainsword duel with the man who left his father to die.

We also got an introduction to the Tanith, a thousand men who together represent the only survivors of their homeworld. In First and Only, we saw them largely through Gaunt’s eyes, and received a comparatively cursory introduction to the various personalities among them. In Ghostmaker, Abnett establishes the men of the Tanith in greater depth, laying out a cast of battle brothers as rich and intriguing as any created by Bernard Cornwell or C. S. Forrester.

Ghostmaker is a fix-up novel. The brief “present-day” chapters are connective tissue for a series of short stories from the regiment’s past, each of which centers around an individual soldier of the Tanith and gives him a moment to shine. Along the way we learn more about what the Ghosts lost on their homeworld and how each of them lives with the horrors they confront on 41st millennium battlefields.

I’m normally ambivalent about fix-up novels. I’ve read good ones (see Tears of Ishtar by Michael Ehart for a great example), but in general I feel they end up too fragmented to be read as a novel and too connected to read piecemeal, the way I would normally approach a short story collection. Ghostmaker is a stand-out in the field, and ranks as my favorite of the first trio of Ghosts novels.

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Future Treasures: The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Empress Game-smallTitan Books has been doing some terrific stuff recently, especially in the realm of intriguing fantasy series. So when they sent me an advance proof of Rhonda Mason’s The Empress Game, the first installment in a promising new space fantasy coming out later this month, I promised myself I’d read it.

And I totally failed. I told myself I probably wouldn’t have liked it, anyway. And then Liz Bourke totally trashed that theory, with this stellar review over at Tor.com, calling it an “old-fashioned pulp space opera”:

Rhonda Mason’s science fiction debut — first in a projected trilogy — is unashamedly old-fashioned pulp space opera… Kayla Reunimon makes a living through brutal gladiatorial combat in an arena on a world that probably counts as a classic space opera “hive of scum and villainy.” She used to be an Ordochian princess, trained to protect her psychic twin, until an Imperial-supported coup overthrew her government and killed most of her family. She escaped with her last surviving younger brother, but without resources, they’ve been stranded, and Kayla has kept them safe and fed as best her training allows. But when a mysterious stranger approaches her with an offer she can’t refuse — an offer he won’t permit her to refuse — their precarious equilibrium is irretrievably altered. The stranger — Malkor — might offer them their best hope of survival, because their enemies are closing in…

This is a novel about fighting princesses. And family. But you pretty much had me at gladiatorial princesses. I’m not going to pretend this is particularly admirable of me, but I’m terribly afraid I like that trope far, far too much. I can forgive a novel a lot for combining angst and violence in an entertaining way, and The Empress Game does that.

Looks like I’m going to have to read it after all. The Empress Game will be published by Titan Books on July 14, 2015. It is 352 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover artist is uncredited.


Future Treasures: The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

Monday, June 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dinosaur Lords-smallVictor Milán is the co-author of Runespear, and the author of the Star Trek novel From the Depths. His latest novel has the good fortune to be released while the hottest movie of the summer, Jurassic World, makes dinosaurs a hot property again. The Dinosaur Lords is the opening volume in a sprawling new fantasy series that George R. R. Martin calls “A cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones.” It will be released by Tor next month.

A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden — and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán’s splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics… except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac — and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

The Dinosaur Lords will be published by Tor Books on July 28, 2015. It is 448 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition.


What Do I Read First? Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunday, June 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Who Fears Death-small2 The Book of Phoenix-small

Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for adults, Who Fears Death, won the 2011 World Fantasy Award, and was also a Tiptree Honor Book and a Nebula nominee. The prequel, The Book of Phoenix, arrived in hardcover last month, and it made me realize I need to get the lead out and read the first one.

Of course, now I’m tortured by that great dilemma of 21st Century fantasy…. should I read the acclaimed first novel first, or the prequel? Which makes more sense?

Life is hard. Here’s the description for Who Fears Death.

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Werewolves, Ancient Alien Evil, and Babylonian Witches: Tales of the Werewolf Clan by H. Warner Munn

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Posted by christopher paul carey

Weird Tales July 1925 The Werewolf of Ponkert Munn-small Weird Tale July 1927 The Return of the Master Munn-small Weird Tales October 1928 The Werewolfs Daughter-small

In the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales, a letter by H. P. Lovecraft appeared proclaiming that:

Popular authors do not and apparently cannot appreciate the fact that true art is obtainable only by rejecting normality and conventionality in toto, and approaching a theme purged utterly of any usual or preconceived point of view… Take a werewolf story, for instance — who ever wrote a story from the point of view of the wolf, and sympathizing strongly with the devil to whom he has sold himself?

Enter young Harold Warner Munn, who took up the elder author’s challenge by submitting a story with the curious title of “The Werewolf of Ponkert” to editor Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales.

The story appeared in the magazine’s July 1925 issue, the first of fifteen tales penned by Munn set in the same cycle, which have all recently been collected by Altus Press and published in a handsome omnibus edition titled Tales of the Werewolf Clan.

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Death Angel’s Shadow by Karl Edward Wagner

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Best Kane cover ever – by Stan Zagorski

Best Kane cover ever – by Stan Zagorski

I’ve read  Karl Edward Wagner‘s Death Angel’s Shadow (1973), with its three stories of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, numerous times since first finding it in my attic in the 1970s. Before Conan’s or Elric’s, Kane’s adventures sparked my interest in swords & sorcery. Only a few years ago, I wrote a long piece about Wagner and this book over at my site, Swords & Sorcery: A Blog. I figured it was time to give it a reread and review here at Black Gate.

For the uninitiated, Kane is, in Wagner’s own words, a villain-hero. Cursed with immortality, over the course of his career he’s been an evil wizard, a crime lord, a bandit, and the general of a demon cult’s army. Sometimes he’s up against someone more diabolical than he is, but he’s never the good guy, never the hero.

This description of him gives you a sense of the wrongness that clings to him even when he’s not embarked on some nefarious plan:

It was his eyes that bothered Troylin. He had noticed them from the first. It was to be expected, for Kane’s eyes were the eyes of Death! They were blue eyes, but eyes that glowed with their own light. In those cold blue gems blazed the fires of blood madness, of the lust to kill and destroy. They poured forth infinite hatred of life and promised violent ruin to those who sought to meet them. Troylin caught an image of that powerful body striding over a battlefield, killer’s eyes blazing and red sword dealing carnage to all before it.

The three Kane novels, Darkness Weaves, Bloodstone, and Dark Crusade, are decent enough, but it’s in the short stories that Wagner’s immense talents shine most brightly. Two years ago I reviewed the collection, Night Winds (1978) at Black Gate. That book contains some of the best and darkest S&S stories ever set to paper. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Adventures In Shape-Shifting: Robert Stallman’s The Orphan

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

The Orphan Robert Stallman-smallI write this on an emotional high, a plateau from which I never wish to descend, for I’ve just managed the impossible: I’ve gone back in time. The vehicle employed? A book, prose, a worn paperback. It’s Robert Stallman’s The Orphan.

I first encountered this title somewhere in the Dark Ages, probably around 1980. I re-read it perhaps two years later, along with its two sequels, The Captive and The Beast. Even though large swaths of plot have faded from my mind over the years, I have never, ever forgotten the book’s opening lines.

I am and will be. There is no time when I am not.

This is the first lesson.

My need creates myself.

This is the second lesson.

Alone is safe.

This is the third lesson.

I’ve spent the last thirty-five years considering those quotes (and the ideas behind them), polishing each like a gem-cutter finishing off a jewel. I’ve road-tested them, too, as a survival mechanism when, in my earliest teens, I tried out (as actors might try a cape) the attitude of Kipling’s cat, the one that walked by himself. It was necessary, in a way, but also foppish, affected. Even so, I found in The Orphan echoes of that chilly, solo stance — the same adopted in Westerns by virtually every gunslinger known, from Joel McRae to John Wayne and back again.

So once upon a time, my time, these lines held great personal weight. They were talismans, of a sort, and in picking up this gorgeous, dangerous title afresh, I was face to face with my past and the self I have since become.

For a moment, I had to look away.

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Future Treasures: The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Fifth Season Jemisin-smallIn 2010 I attended a reading at Wiscon, Madison’s premiere SF convention. One of the readers was a relative unknown named N.K. Jemisin, whose first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was still five months from release. There were many talented readers in the room, but the moment Jemisin began reading it became apparent that she was something very special. Her voice was sure, her prose sparkled, and the story grabbed your attention instantly. I enjoy a lot of things about this hobby, but there’s nothing else quite like stumbling upon a stellar new talent.

If you were one of the early readers of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, you probably have an idea how it felt to be sitting in that room in Madison. In the last five years Jemisin has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Tiptree, Crawford, and Gemmell awards — she’s no longer a “new” talent, and expectations for her latest book run very high indeed. But if you still enjoy the thrill of the new, you can get in on the ground floor of a brand new fantasy series from N.K. Jemisin when Orbit releases The Fifth Season, the first volume of The Broken Earth, in early August.

This is the Way the World Ends. For the Last Time.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

The Fifth Season will be published by Orbit on August 4, 2015. It is 512 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.


New Treasures: Legends of the Duskwalker by Jay Posey

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Legends of the Duskwalker Three-small Legends of the Duskwalker Morningside Fall-small Legends of the Duskwalker Dawnbreaker-small

Jay Posey’s writing career is rich and varied, and he’s had more success than the vast majority of writers of his generation… but that doesn’t mean you’re likely to have heard of him. That’s because Posey is primarily a videogame writer. As the Senior Narrative Designer at Red Storm Entertainment, he’s spent over eight years writing for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises, and his stories have been enjoyed by millions of fans around the world.

For his first novel Three, the opening book in the Legends of the Duskwalker series, Posey tried his hand at a futuristic weird western, and succeeded in reaching a brand new audience. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the series features augmented humans, advanced weaponry, cyborgs, and dangerous creatures known as the Weir

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