Future Treasures: The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

Thursday, January 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Gutter Prayer-small The Gutter Prayer-back-small

Gareth Hanrahan has written or co-written an impressive number of gaming supplements for several of our favorite systems, including Ashen Stars, Trail of Cthulhu, Traveller, and 13th Age. His debut fantasy novel The Gutter Prayer, set in a world of strange monsters, dark gods and dangerous magic, explodes onto shelves next week, and it’s currently my most anticipated fantasy novel of the month. Peter McLean (Priest of Bones) calls it “A groundbreaking and extraordinary novel,” and Nicholas Eames (Kings of the Wyld) says “Guerdon is a city that seethes with history, horror, and hidden secrets, and Hanrahan’s assured style is reminiscent of China Mievelle in the best way possible.” Michael W. Everest at Fantasy Hive gave it a rave review, saying:

The Gutter Prayer is a mercurial masterpiece… Welcome to Guerdon. A city of cities, built upon the brick and block of those cities and civilisations before it. And like its construction, its citizens stand on the shoulders of those beneath them, those ‘low lifes’ whose only crime (or at least, their first crime) was to be born into a lower rank than the rich and the ruthless above them. Politicians and priesthoods, alchemists and ancient forces, sorcerers and saints, thieves and Tallowmen, golems and ghouls – Guerdon’s streets are a hive of scum and villainy that would spit out any Chosen One farmboy (or girl!).

This one looks like it will command my attention the day it arrives. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: Fog Season, Book II of Tales of Port Saint Frey by Patrice Sarath

Monday, January 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sisters Mederos Patrice Sarath-small Fog Season Patrice Sarath-small

I was proud to publish Patrice Sarath’s short story “A Prayer for Captain LaHire” in Black Gate 4, and see it reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 3 (2003). She turned to novels with the popular Gordath Wood trilogy (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl). But her real breakthrough came last year with her first release from Angry Robot, The Sisters Mederos, the tale of a once-great family fallen on hard times, and the two sisters — one a masked bandit, and another with secret supernatural powers — who reverse their family’s downfall. Louisa Morgan (A Secret History of Witches) called it:

A colorful Dickensian fantasy that leads the reader on an unpredictable path of murder, intrigue, and mystery… It’s a tale of magic lost and recovered, fortunes made and squandered, and broken lives healed, all of it engineered by Yvienne and Tesara, two resourceful and delightful protagonists, in the company of some charming and often dangerous sidekicks.

Publishers Weekly gave it a rousing review saying,

The young women, newly returned from boarding school to a fantasy version of a preindustrial European port city, are determined to restore their family’s fortune and revenge themselves on the corrupt Merchant’s Guild, whose machinations lie behind House Mederos’s downfall. Yvienne, “the smartest girl in Port Saint Frey,” provokes through newspaper editorials, takes a governess job as an entrée into the houses of the powerful, and eventually discovers the excitement of committing armed robbery. Tesara, who conceals supernatural powers that she blames for the shipwreck that ruined her family, ingratiates herself with the upper classes at gambling tables… [The] heroines are entertaining company, and the dynamic between the two sisters — occasionally contentious, often secretive, always loving — is the most enjoyable part of this effervescent tale.

I’m delighted to see the sequel, Fog Season, scheduled to arrive February 5, less than a year after the release of the first, and I hope it’s the sign of more to come. Here’s the description.

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A Gritty Medieval Fantasy of Battles, Treachery, and Monsters: The Tales of Durand by David Keck

Sunday, January 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

In the Eye of Heaven-small In a Time of Treason-small A King in Cobwebs-small

The Christmas break, traditionally my longest reading holiday of the year, is over, and it’ll be a month or two at least before I can contemplate tackling another epic fantasy trilogy. But it’s not too early to start stacking by my bedside in preparation.

I’ve already picked out a promising series to start the new stack: David Keck’s Tales of Durand. Publishers Weekly praised the first book, In the Eye of Heaven (2006) as a “winning debut, a gritty medieval fantasy full of enchantment… deftly told,” and called the sequel, In a Time of Treason (2008) “grand-scale storytelling.” But they reserve their strongest praise for the long-awaited concluding volume A King in Cobwebs, saying

Keck concludes his Tales of Durand trilogy with this superlative fantasy epic, which sees the warrior Durand Col take his place among battles and treachery that threaten the kingdom of Errest the Old. Durand stands as champion to Abravanal, Duke of Gireth and holder of the Duchy of Yrlac. Although the Yrlacies are restless under Abravanal’s rule, the duke is commanded to ride with his household to the Fellwood Marches by his unhinged king, Ragnal. Yrlaci rebels harry the soldiers of Gireth on the road to the Fellwood, and, once there, they are chased by the inhuman host of maragrim, “hideous in their innumerable deformities.” … Keck sends the stalwart Durand through darkness and a lost land, facing terrors and beset by the dead. Human politics and dreadful foes are combined in this tale that stands with the very best fantasies.

A King in Cobwebs was published by Tor Books on December 4, 2018. It is 444 pages, priced at $28.99 in hardcover, $17.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by David Grove. Read an excerpt from In the Eye of Heaven here, and see all our recent coverage of the best in new fantasy series here.


Future Treasures: The Numina Trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Smoke and Summons-small Myths and Mortals-small

I think I first discovered Charlie N. Holmberg back in June 2015, while compiling a list of the most interesting fantasy releases of the month. The Master Magician, third in her (yes, Charlie is a her) Wall Street Journal bestselling Paper Magician trilogy was released that month, and it piqued my curiosity. Fast forward to 2019, and Charlie is fast tracking a brand new trilogy, with the first novel Smoke and Summons due February 1st, followed by Myths and Mortals less than three months later on April 16, 2019. They’re the first two installments of The Numina Trilogy, set in a world of monsters and magic. Here’s the blurb for the first book.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon — a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day — a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

No news on the third book, but you can keep an eye on her website for updates. Smoke & Summons will be published by 47North on February 1, 2019. It is 365 pages, priced at $24.95 in hardcover, $14.95 in trade paperback, and $4.99 for digital editions. Myths and Mortals arrives April 16, 2019 with the same pricing; no word on page count yet. The covers are by Marina Muun.

See all our recent coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy here.


Future Treasures: Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Friday, January 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Revenger-Alastair-Reynolds-medium Shadow Captain Reynolds-small

Alastair Reynolds’ Revenger was one of the most acclaimed SF novels of 2016. It was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and won the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. SFX called it “By far the most enjoyable book Reynolds has ever written,” and The Guardian labeled it “”A swashbuckling thriller — Pirates of the Caribbean meets Firefly.” In his enthusiastic review for Black Gate, Brandon Crilly said:

Reynolds’ work is always fast-paced and interesting, weaving the detailed science with just enough of the fantastic to add that sense of wonder and a perfect balance of action and character work. Revenger, for example, has the pacing of Firefly or Star Wars, so that even as he’s explaining the steampunkiness (is that a word?) of the starships and personal technology in the novel, you’re never mired in an info-dump or bored by too much scientific description, just to understand how everything works.

Revenger is particularly good because it’s a very human story: it focuses on two sisters who want to escape their homeworld and sign on with a starship crew not for pure escapism like Luke Skywalker, but specifically to earn money to help their father’s struggling business. What begins as a story of adventure and wild-eyed wonder as these sisters get to know their very first crew becomes a dark and harrowing tale almost immediately, as Reynolds takes his protagonists through multiple twists and unexpected locales.

The long-awaited sequel Shadow Captain will be published by Orbit on January 15, 2019. It is 448 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. Get more details and read the complete first chapter here.


A Bible-Sized Bildungsroman: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Strange the Dreamer-smallNone of the other orphans at the monastery want to go anywhere near Brother Cyrus. Babbling nonsense, he grabs them by the wrists and holds them for hours.

But foundling Lazlo Strange volunteers to take the monk all his meals. That’s because, in the midst of his babble, Brother Cyrus tells stories. He speaks of an Unseen City, a magical place tiled in lapis lazuli where tame white stags pace the streets beside beautiful women with long black hair, and giant lizards float in the canals.

Strange is a dreamer, so these stories work on him like a baited hook. He yearns to visit the Unseen City, even though he knows he never can. Foreigners are caught at the front gate and executed. No one who tries to go ever returns. And two hundred years ago, even the caravans from the Unseen City stopped circulating, as though the civilization disappeared completely.

Once, while Lazlo is playing, some strange feat of magic strips the Unseen City’s true name from his mind. In its place is a new name:

Weep.

Growing up and becoming a young man, Lazlo escapes the monastery to work at a library, where he can surround himself with stories all day. Even during his free time, he plunges into the tales, looking for clues about Weep. Painstakingly, he writes his findings down, filling volumes with his own accounts of life in the Unseen City. Over the course of seven years, he teaches himself their language, assembling sounds, words, and phrases from book-keeping receipts and other fragments.

In the course of his studies, he stumbles across the secret to turning lead into gold. But instead of taking credit for this discovery himself, he quietly passes the information to the queen’s godson, Thyon Nero, who runs an alchemical laboratory.

Rather than being thankful, however, Nero considers killing Lazlo to preserve the secret of alchemy, as well as to ensure his own continued fame as an alchemist.

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The Omnibus Volumes of Sean Russell: Moontide and Magic Rise

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Sea Without a Shore Sean Russell-small World Without End Sean Russell-small Moontide and Magic Rise-small

Art by Braldt Bralds and Shutterstock

Canadian fantasy writer Sean Russell produced three popular paperback series with his publisher DAW in the 90s, each exactly two books long:

Initiate Brother (The Initiate Brother, 1991, Gatherer of Clouds, 1992)
Moontide and Magic Rise (World Without End, 1995, Sea Without a Shore, 1996)
The River into Darkness (Beneath the Vaulted Hills, 1997, The Compass of the Soul, 1998)

These were all handsome volumes, and I collected them enthusiastically. By the early 2000s Russell had switched publishers, to Avon Eos (where he produced the Swan’s War trilogy), and after that he exited the fantasy genre entirely. He’s currently writing an ongoing series of novels about the HMS Themis, a Royal Navy frigate at the time of the French Revolution, under the name Sean Thomas Russell.

Over the last few years DAW has been collecting Russell’s 90s fantasy in large-size omnibus editions. The first, The Initiate Brother Duology, appeared in 2013, and The River Into Darkness was released just three months ago (and we covered it here as part of our look at the Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of October 2018). And just a few weeks ago I stumbled on Moontide and Magic Rise at Barnes & Noble, a hefty 820-page tome released in May, collecting World Without End and Sea Without a Shore.

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New Treasures: Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Friday, December 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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I order a lot of books online, and I’m pretty procedural about it. I make regular orders from my favorite sellers, but I have a limited budget and — between novels, anthologies, video games, board games, graphic novels, and blu-rays — a lot of things that catch my eye every month. So I debate long and hard before pulling that new Andy Duncan collection out of my cart to make room for that discounted copy of Dark Souls II.

On the other hand, my bi-weekly trip to Barnes & Noble is a lot more fun, because it’s all about the impulse buy. I’ve brought home a lot of exciting discoveries that way, simply because I give myself the freedom to buy those books that leap off the shelves into my hands.

I usually make a beeline for the SF books. But last month I parked myself in the Young Adult section, three huge and very colorful bookcases, and took the time to browse the latest. Because I already had a decent stack of magazines, I limited my take to a single book.

It was tougher than I expected. When you really take the time to browse, there’s a whole lot to interest the SF and fantasy fan in the YA section, believe me. In the end, my selection surprised me. The book that won out over all the others was an instant New York Times bestseller by two popular YA writers, a tale of an all-girl crew of space privateers getting caught up in “a dark and complex sci-fi drama” (Library Journal), and it just screamed fun. Young Adult it may be (and a romance, to boot), but this book is currently on the top of my TBR pile. Way to go, space girls.

Zenith, the first novel in The Androma Saga, was published by Harlequin Teen on July 31, 2018. It is 556 pages, priced at $9.99 in trade paperback and $1.99 in digital format. The cover was designed by Mark Luna. Read an excerpt at USA Today.


Rebellion in an Alternate, Magic-drenched Britain: The Dark Gifts Trilogy by Vic James

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Gilded Cage Vic James-small Tarnished City Vic James-small Bright Ruin Vic James-small

Newcomer Vic James scored some enviable attention with the first two novels in her Dark Gifts trilogy, Gilded Cage (which we covered here), and Tarnished City (covered here), set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are forced to serve. Andrew Liptak at The Verge included the first in his list of the top SF and fantasy novels of February 2017, saying,

Gilded Cage is the start to a new series by debut author Vic James. The world belongs to a class of gifted magical aristocrats, and commoners must serve them for a decade. A woman named Abi is a servant to a powerful family and discovers a secret that can upend the power in society, all while her brother toils away in a factory town, building a revolution.

Kirkus Reviews said Gilded Cage “Conjures up the specters of Les Misérables and Downton Abbey… an intriguing new fantasy series,” and Aliette de Bodard called it “A dark and intriguing vision of an alternate, magic-drenched Britain… kept me up long into the night.”

The third and final volume Bright Ruin, in which the people of Britain rise up against their magically gifted masters, was published in October, and was a Pick of the Month from Library Journal. Bookreporter calls it “A triumphant conclusion to this outstanding fantasy series,” and Publishers Weekly said “Rebellion comes to a deadly boil in the final chapter… [An] intricate tale of ruthless scheming and bloody betrayals.” All three volumes are now available from Del Rey. I bought the first, and I’m well tempted to complete the set.


Birthday Reviews: Fritz Leiber’s “The Cloud of Hate”

Monday, December 24th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vernon Kramer

Cover by Vernon Kramer

Fritz Leiber was born on December 24, 1910 and died on September 5, 1992.

Fritz Leiber won six Hugo Awards for his novels The Big Time and The Wanderer as well as the novelette “Gonna Roll the Bones,” the novellas “Ship of Shadows” and “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and the short story “Catch That Zeppelin.” “Gonna Roll the Bones,” “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and “Catch That Zeppelin” also received the Nebula Award. He won the World Fantasy Award for the short story “Belsen Express” and the novel Our Lady of Darkness. He won his first British Fantasy Award for The Second Book of Fritz Leiber and his second for “The Button Molder.” He won the Geffen Award in 1999 for the Hebrew translation of Swords and Deviltry. The 1962 Worldcon presented him with a Special Convention Award in 1962 for his collaboration with the Hoffman Electronic Corporation for their use of science fiction in advertising.

In 1967 LASFS presented him with a Forry Award. He won a Gandalf Award in 1975 as a Grand Master of Fantasy and the next years received a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. In 1981 SFWA named him a Grand Master and he received a Special Balrog Award. He received a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988, and in 2001 he was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Leiber is one of the few people who was a guest of honor at multiple Worldcons, having the honor in 1951 at NOLACon I, the 9th Worldcon, held in New Orleans in 1951 and again in 1979 when he was a guest of honor at Seacon ’79 in Brighton, UK. He was the Guest of Honor at the 4th World Fantasy Con in Fort Worth, Texas in 1978. Leiber has most famously collaborated with Harry Fischer on the concept for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the story “Lords of Quarmall.” He has also collaborated with Judith Merril and Fredric Brown.

Leiber first published “The Cloud of Hate” in the May 1963 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, edited by Cele Goldsmith. He included it as the lead-off story in the Lankhmar collection Swords in the Mist and in 1975 it showed up in Sword & Sorcery Annual. When Donald M. Grant published a collection of three Lankhmar stories in Bazaar of the Bizarre, “The Cloud of Hate” was one of the those chosen. It showed up in the Lankhmar omnibus volumes The Three of Swords and Lean Times in Lankhmar as well as Thieves’ House: Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Volume 2 and The First Book of Lankhmar. The story has been translated into Dutch, German, and twice into French, usually for collections of Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.

“The Cloud of Hate” is one of Leiber’s many stories about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The two are serving as watchmen on the evening of a gala celebration of the betrothal of the Lankhmar Overlord’s daughter to the Prince of Ilthmar. They are stationed far from the festivities on a cold, foggy street. The action, however, starts below the streets of Lankhmar, with a mob of five thousand summoning the physical manifestation of hate to flood the streets and, one assumes, attack the Overlord’s party.

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