New Treasures: Front Lines by Michael Grant

Monday, February 8th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Front Lines Michael Grant-smallMichael Grant is the author of over 150 books, many co-written with his wife Katherine. He’s the New York Times bestselling author of Gone and Messenger of Fear. His latest novel, Front Lines, is a daring alternate history that imagines World War II with female soldiers fighting on the front lines. Publishers Weekly calls it “A gripping and heart-wrenching tale,” and bestselling author Elizabeth Wein says it’s “a magnificent alternate history that feels so real and right and true it seems impossible that it wasn’t.”

World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war.

These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

Front Lines was published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 26, 2016. It is 576 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. It is the first installment of a new series.

Future Treasures: The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Tiger and the Wolf-smallAdrian Tchaikovsky is a British fantasy writer whose claim to fame is the ambitious 10-volume series Shadows of the Apt, published in the US by Pyr, which began with Empire in Black and Gold (2008). In his Black Gate review “Epic Musket Fights and Vampire-Like Magic,” M Harold Page called his 2015 novel Guns of the Dawn “a supremely good read with a satisfying ending.”

His newest novel, The Tiger and the Wolf, kicks off a brand new series, about a young girl coming of age in a dangerous world of shapeshifters on the brink of war. It will be published in the UK next week. No word on a US release date, but Amazon UK will ship the book to the US.

In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming

Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She refuses to disown half her soul, so escapes, rescuing a prisoner of the Wolf clan in the process. The killer Broken Axe is set on their trail, to drag them back for retribution.

Maniye’s father plots to rule the north and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. Strangers from the far south appear too, seeking allies in their own conflict. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, and a darkness falling across the land. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. A time of testing and broken laws is near, but what spark will set the world ablaze?

The Tiger and the Wolf will be published in the UK by Tor-Macmillan on February 11. It is 590 pages, priced at £18 in hardcover and £11.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Neil Lang.

New Treasures: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Truthwitch-smallSusan Dennard is the author of the popular Something Strange and Deadly series from Harper. Last month she launched the Witchland series from Tor with the opening novel Truthwitch. The early reviews have been very strong, with Books of Wonder saying it’s “Full of magic, unbreakable friendships, and purpose… a lush and wonderful adventure tale.” And I have to admit, I love Scott Grimando’s cover.

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others. In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble — as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her — but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Truthwitch was published by Tor Teen on January 5, 2016. It is 416 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Scott Grimando.

Post-Modern Pulp: Speaking With Indie Action Writer Jack Badelaire

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

COA_SmallToday we’re talking to Jack Badelaire, author of numerous action books in the tradition of the 70s “Men’s Adventure” genre. His best known work is his Commando series of WWII action novels. Jack reflects on indie publishing and the state of the genre.

Full Disclosure: Jack is a critique partner of mine. He’s also a fellow member of the secret commando group Sicko Slaughterers (“SS,” we really need a new acronym), which goes after terrorists and human traffickers. So far I’ve killed 1,487 sickos, while wimpy little Jack has only killed 1,059. He gets props for killing that ISIS commander in Raqqa with a blender, though.

Anyway, on with the interview.

The Men’s Adventure fiction of the 60s and 70s is obviously a huge influence on your work. You’ve mentioned that you think there’s a lot more going on in these books than many people think. Could you expand on that?

This genre of fiction was brewed up during an especially turbulent period of history. The Cold War, Vietnam, rejuvenated organized crime syndicates, the rise of international terrorist organizations, the War on Drugs… and those are just the chart-toppers.  These post-modern pulps of the period were a direct reflection of, if we want to get Freudian for a moment, society’s collective Id. The Executioner went out and slaughtered Mafiosi because we wished someone would, and Phoenix Force obliterated terrorists because we wished someone would. Even today, the modern successors to these stories feature ex-SEALs and former Delta Force operators hunting terrorists and organized crime syndicates, stories little different than those written thirty or forty years ago.

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Future Treasures: A Painted Goddess by Victor Gischler

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

A Painted Goddess-small A Painted Goddess-back

Never let it be said that Victor Gischler is not a versatile writer. His most recent novel, Gestapo Mars, was an over-the-top tale of interstellar Nazi mayhem, and his graphic novel, Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth, was a tale of undead mercenary dinosaur mayhem (among lots of other mayhem).

Compared to those, A Painted Goddess is actually a pretty straightforward tale. It’s the conclusion to the A Fire Beneath the Skin trilogy, in which the young warrior duchess Rina Veraiin, armed with mysterious, magical tattoos, must draw on all her abilities to save her kingdom of Helva from a nightmarish future of endless bloodshed. The first two volumes, Ink Mage (2014) and The Tattooed Duchess (2015), are still available from 47North.

A Painted Goddess will be published by 47North on March 15, 2016. It is 400 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the trade paperback. The cover is by Chase Stone — see his gorgeous wraparound version here.

Despair All The Way Down: The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh


“You’re determined to make this hard, aren’t you? You’re determined to make it hard for everyone.”

                                                                  Hile Troy to Thomas Covenant

If Lord Foul’s Bane (go here for my review) with its rapist leper hero is a trip into the Black Hole of Calcutta, its sequel, The Illearth War (1978) is an unremitting journey into the blackest space over the event horizon. Where the first book offered hope to its characters with the successful completion of their quest, this one holds out no hope even in victory. At the best of times there is only a stay of certain execution. Mostly, though, there is loss, deep and devastating loss.

It’s also a book that almost defeated me. For three weeks it defied my efforts to put into words what I thought was going on in it and what I thought of it. It’s not that it’s super complicated, but it’s a shadowy thing that required more work than I’m used to to understand its guts.

The Illearth War is a story steeped in existential dread. Both inaction and action in the face of soul-crushing evil seem to lead to disastrous ends. To believe or not to believe? To fight or not to fight? To kill or to be killed? Does it make any difference? This is heady stuff for fantasy and bound to put off more casual readers, but Donaldson takes on the debate with conviction and seriousness.

The dilemma is addressed primarily by contrasting Thomas Covenant’s attitude toward the Land with that of a new character from our world, Hile Troy. Covenant refuses to accept the magical Land, its healing properties, or to lift a finger to save it, while Troy fully embraces it and is completely dedicated to its survival. Each man is convinced of the rightness of his path, and both suffer calamitous losses for their convictions. Covenant scoffs at Troy for thinking he can thwart Lord Foul while Troy berates Covenant for refusing to fight. Donaldson plays these titans, inaction versus action, against each other like musical counterpoints. Each reflects off the other, exposing its opponent’s dangers and rewards. This is the heart of The Illearth War.

It’s not an argument made lightly or with straw men. Donaldson digs deeply into each man’s mind and character, exploring the complex motives and reasoning behinds their choices.

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New Treasures: The Birthgrave Trilogy by Tanith Lee

Monday, February 1st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Birthgrave-small Shadowfire-small Hunting the White Witch-small

Tanith Lee passed away on May 24 of last year, and her loss was a major blow to fantasy readers around the world — especially fans of heroic fantasy. In the fast-paced world of modern publishing, the death of an author frequently means the death of their backlist as well, since without new books being released to drum up interest, older titles can quickly be forgotten.

So I was extremely pleased to see DAW, Lee’s long-time US publisher, re-release her first fantasy novel The Birthgrave in a handsome new edition last June, followed by Shadowfire, the second title in the trilogy, last September. The final volume, Hunting the White Witch, arrives on bookshelves tomorrow, completing the trilogy.

The Birthgrave (452 pages, $7.99 print & digital, June 2, 2015)
Shadowfire (304 pages, $7.99 print & digital, September 1, 2015)
Hunting the White Witch (304 pages, $7.99 print & digital, February 2, 2016)

All three covers are by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme.

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New Treasures: The Society of Blood by Mark Morris

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wolves of London-small The Society of Blood-small The Wraiths of War-small

I first heard of Mark Morris in 1989 with the publication of his first novel Toady (called The Horror Club in its heavily abridged US edition). I tried to scare up a copy through mail-order bookseller Mark V. Ziesing (because that’s the way you ordered books in the late 80s), but it had already become a hot property, and Mark wasn’t able to get one for me. Sudden scarcity and rapid price appreciation was the way of things in genre collecting in the late 80s; it kept things interesting. I never did track down a copy of Toady, but ever since I’ve kept an eye on Mark Morris.

Morris has written over a dozen novels since, including Stitch (1991), The Immaculate (1993), Longbarrow (1997), It Sustains (2013) and Horror Hospital (2014), in addition to nine Doctor Who novels and audio plays (see his complete back catalog on his website). His latest is the Obsidian Heart trilogy from Titan Books, the tale of reformed ex-con Alex Locke, whose attempt to steal a strange artifact from an old man ends with him on the run from the Wolves of London, a team of unearthly assassins. Sarah Pinborough says, “Mark Morris not only crosses genre boundaries, but creates an entirely new territory in the landscape of dark fiction. Part crime novel, part fantasy, part science fiction – entirely engrossing.” The complete series is:

The Wolves of London (400 pages, $14.95, October 7, 2014)
The Society of Blood (297 pages, $14.95, October 13, 2015)
The Wraiths of War (400 pages, $14.95, October 11, 2016)

Each volume in the series has been released in October; the second, The Society of Blood, three months ago. The last is due later this year.

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Future Treasures: Pathfinder Tales: Pirate’s Prophecy by Chris A. Jackson

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Pirate's Honor-small Pirate's Promise-small Pirate's Prophecy-small

For the past three years Chris A. Jackson, author of The Warcaster Chronicles, has been writing an ambitious fantasy saga for the Pathfinder Tales line, featuring pirate captain Torius Vin and his snake-bodied naga navigator Celeste, who forsake pirating to chase slave galleys and set the prisoners free. According to his bio, Jackson is a marine biologist who, with his wife Anne, has lived on a 45-foot sailboat since 2009, cruising the Caribbean and writing full time. Sounds like an ideal lifestyle to write pirate sagas to me.

The series began in 2013 with Pirate’s Promise, and the third volume, Pirate’s Prophecy, will be released next week from Tor.

Pirate’s Honor (400 pages, $9.99, $6.99 in digital format, May 14, 2013)
Pirate’s Promise (400 pages, $14.99, $6.99 in digital format, January 6, 2015) — cover by Michael Ivan
Pirates Prophecy (357 pages, 14.99, $9.99 in digital format, February 2, 2016) — cover by Remko Troost

The first two were published by Paizo; Pirates Prophecy is the first in the series to be published by Tor Books.

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The Series Series: Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Shards of Heaven-small[This review may contain trace amounts of David Bowie.]

The jacket copy for Michael Livingtson’s Shards of Heaven sounded promising. I asked for the ARC immediately, and bounced with joy when I found it in my mailbox. Alas, the press release tucked into the book described it as Dan Brown meets Indiana Jones.

Who am I to say Dan Brown is unreadable? Clearly millions of people find him otherwise. To me, though, Brown’s sentences and paragraphs are so relentlessly clunky, ugly, and boring, I am unable to care what happens to any of Brown’s characters. My one attempt to read The Da Vinci Code found me fighting the urge to throw the book across the room, several times on every page.

So the press release made me fear for the well-being of Michael Livingston’s novel. I also feared for my own domestic tranquility: Now that I have children, my household’s penalty for throwing books is a five-minute time-out.

Which was I to believe? The blockbuster-bluster elevator pitch, or the cover copy?

[A]s civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may truly shape the course of history: two sons of Caesar have set out on a ruthless quest to find and control the Shards of Heaven, legendary artifacts said to possess the very power of the gods — or of the one God. Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

Shards of Heaven has so many of the things Black Gate readers love — epic sweep, battle and brawl, ancient secrets, women one underestimates at one’s peril, and world-shaking magic. Michael Livingston has some nice writing chops. The secret history clearly has a mountain of real historical research to give it depth. How can such a book go wrong?

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