Seventh Decimate

If you've been following the Hotlist for a while, then you are aware that I've been a big Stephen R. Donaldson fan for about three decades. To this day, the first two Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the Gap series rank among my favorite reads. Understandably, I rejoiced when it was announced that the author had signed a new book deal for a new sequence, The Great God's War trilogy. And though The Last Dark failed to bring The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to a satisfying end, I was more than a little excited when I received my ARC of Seventh Decimate.

Advance reviews were so-so. Which isn't all that surprising given how divisive Donaldson can be among readers, and it did not influence my expectations.

About 50 pages into the novel, I knew I was in trouble. Considering that Donaldson is one of my favorite SFF authors of all time, my expectations were indeed high. Writing at the top of his game, Stephen R. Donaldson is seldom equaled and almost never surpassed. And when two of your series are considered genre classics, this is as it should be. To say that Seventh Decimate failed to live up to my expectations would be a gross understatement. How this novel could fall so short, I'll never know. Shockingly, it felt as though it had been written by someone else. It is by far the weakest Donaldson work to date.

Here's the blurb:

Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning.

These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil.

But a seventh Decimate exists—the most devastating one of all…

For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.

Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate—and reverse the fate of his land.

All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains—and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn…

Donaldson's narrative always conjures up vivid and magical images. I've said before that few speculative fiction authors can match Donaldson when it comes to creating an imagery that literally leaps off the page. His worldbuilding habitually is vast in scope and vision. Seventh Decimate is a relatively short and self-contained novel in which what little worldbuilding there is remains in the background. There are a few hints of a wider world beyond the desert and the ocean, but based solely on this book this new universe shows very little depth. Which was quite a disappointment coming from a man who has captured the imagination of millions of readers. The backdrop of this tale is a centuries-long conflict between two warring countries, Belleger and Amika. The former have mastered the fashioning of firearms to counter Amika's powerful and more numerous Magisters. This war has lasted for such a long time that no one on either side knows for sure what initially started it. When every sorceror in Belleger loses their magical abilities, leaving their nation vulnerable to the might of the Magisters, their only hope lies in a legendary book that contains knowledge which could allow them to make Amika's Magisters powerless and finally give them the chance to end the war forever. This tome is rumored to be found in the Last Repository, a mythical library said to exist beyond the boundaries of all known maps. And although the premise had potential, the poor execution and the lack of depth pretty much kill this one. For the most part, Seventh Decimate feels like an inflated short story or novella that can be big on ideas but that fails to deliver.

Characterization is a facet in which Donaldson usually excels and over his illustrious he has created many memorable protagonists. One would have thought that, in this aspect at least, the author would shine. And yet, the characterization found in Seventh Decimate is so flat and uninspired that it makes it well nigh impossible to get into the story. It falls on Prince Bifalt's shoulders to go on a quest to find the Last Repository and hopefully return with the knowledge to save his country. Trouble is, Bifalt is a bland, conceited, and stiff-necked fellow whose obsession is the destruction of magic. As hard as it is to believe, Bifalt is so unlikable that he makes Thomas Covenant endearing. There is no character growth to speak of and Bifalt remains as rigid in his obsession as a devout Jehovah's Witness. His inner monologues get old real fast and make him an extremely boring protagonist with no redeeming qualities. I understand what Donaldson is doing, that Bifalt is a self-centered shit and that this quest will change him in the long run, yada yada yada. But he takes center stage in Seventh Decimate and a more unappealing main protagonist through whose eyes we see events unfolds I couldn't name. The supporting cast is no better, made up of mostly unremarkable characters that bring little or nothing to the plot. Thinking back, I can't recall a more uninteresting bunch in any of the books/series I've read since the creation of the Hotlist.

The plot is very thin and more or less predictable. There were a few instances where Donaldson could/should have risen to the occasion and bring this tale to another level, but it was not to be. As I mentioned, this felt like a short story/novella padded with filler material. In his last newsletter, the author revealed that the forthcoming sequel will be more than twice as long as this book. In the end, Seventh Decimate is little more than a brief introduction to what is meant to be a bigger and more ambitious tale. In terms of pace, one would think that such a short work would not suffer from bouts of sluggish rhythm. Unfortunately, the story progresses extremely slowly and it felt as though I was reading a much longer novel.

Will I read the sequel? Based on the poor quality of this first installment, one would think that I wouldn't. Then again, The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story was by far the weakest volume in the Gap series. Had I stopped reading then, I would have missed out on an awesome grimdark space opera that blew me away. Granted, that first Gap book was head and shoulders above Seventh Decimate as far as quality is concerned. Still, though I can't promise to read the whole thing, in all likelihood I'll give the second volume a shot when the time comes.

There is no way to sugarcoat this. Seventh Decimate is the most disappointing fantasy title of 2017.

The final verdict: 5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Joshua Palmatier contest winner!

This winner will get her hands on a copy of Joshua Palmatier's The Throne of Amenkor, an omnibus comprised of The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Stacy Reynolds, from Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

The Mageborn Traitor

Like many fantasy readers of my generation, I was a big fan of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince and Dragon Star series back in the 90s. And when The Ruins of Ambrai, first volume in the Exiles trilogy, was published in 1994, I bought the hardcover edition as soon as it hit the shelves. Did the same when its sequel, The Mageborn Traitor, came out. Daunted by the proliferation of big fantasy series on the market, like I did with many other SFF sequences, I decided not to read them until the entire trilogy was done. Which turned out to be the right decision, for as most of you know, the final installment, The Captal's Tower, has yet to see the light. But now that Rawn is working on the third volume, it was time to give this series a shot.

According to the majority of the author's fans, Exiles is by far Rawn's best work to date. For that reason, I had lofty expectations when I finally sat down to read The Ruins of Ambrai. Other than her latest high fantasy series, The Glass Thorns, I've read everything she has written. Hence, knowing what she brings to the dance, far be it from me to doubt anyone's claim that this trilogy was Melanie Rawn writing at the top of her game. And yet, as I've mentioned plenty of times, expectations have a way to come back and bite you in the ass, and this is exactly what happened to me with that book.

After a confusing beginning and an uninspired few hundred pages, I had a feeling that The Ruins of Ambrai would be a total disaster. Absolutely nothing worked for me and this was by far the author's weakest novel that I had ever read. I should have known better than to throw in the towel, for Rawn came through with a captivating engame and an interesting finale. Sadly, it wasn't enough to save the book. It was not a complete loss, however, and I still wanted to read the subsequent volumes to discover what happens next. But even though it got better toward the end, The Ruins of Ambrai was plagued by too many shortcomings to be a satisfying reading experience in its own right. Given how much love this series has been getting over the years, one had to wonder if The Mageborn Traitor raised the bar to another level, for the first installment could not possibly warrant that much appreciation.

Unfortunately, The Mageborn Traitor doesn't raise the bar. If anything, it lowers it. To my dismay, this sequel suffers from all the flaws that nearly killed its predecessor, while adding yet more shortcomings to the list. And although my expections were nowehere near as high as they had been for The Ruins of Ambrai, this second installment was a major disappointment.

Here's the blurb:

The Mage Guardians have survived the war, barely. Now Mage Captal Cailet and her sister Sarra are struggling to rebuild their society, politically, economically, and magically. Yet though defeated, their ancient enemies, the Malerissi, have not been destroyed, and under the leadership of Cailet's and Sarra's sister Glenin, these masters of a darker magic are once again weaving a web with which to entangle the entire world. And even as Cailet's dreams of a restored Mage Hall become a reality, Glenin prepares to strike at the very heart of both her sisters' power…

Worldbuilding is an aspect in which Melanie Rawn habitually shines and to a certain extent that was the case with The Ruins of Ambrai. She created an intriguing matriarchal society and was in complete control of the genealogy and the convoluted history of her universe. Problem is, the presentation of everything left a lot to be desired. As far as the setting was concerned, the world and its people truly came alive through the author's vivid prose. But most of the information was conveyed to the reader through some massive info-dumps that really bogged down the narrative. Too often the reader was subjected to a barrage of names/family trees/family connections/history. This was as confusing as it was overwhelming, and made it quite difficult to keep track of everyone's loyalty and where they fit in the greater scheme of things. Sadly, in that regard things are even worse in The Mageborn Traitor. Especially considering that one family in particular breeds like vermin, the complicated genealogies are impossible to sort out. We are introduced to what feels like hundreds of men and women and children, most as forgettable as the next. As a fan of George R. R. Martin, Steven Erikson, and Robert Jordan, I'm used to vast casts of characters. I have no problem keeping track of a huge number of protagonists and secondary characters. Trouble is, most of those introduced in The Mageborn Traitor have little or no importance as far as the plot is concerned. Which means that other than bewildering readers, they serve no purpose. To tell the truth, I started skimming through portions of the narrative in which Rawn introduced us to yet another batch of unimportant people early on and kept doing that throughout the book. Another disappointment stemmed from the fact that the author doesn't elaborate a whole lot on the way magic works, especially the Mage Globes, or on the Malerissi themselves.

Interestingly enough, you may recall that I didn't have any problem with the over-the-top matriarchal society and its ramifications until I got to the Selective Index at the end of The Ruins of Ambrai. When I learned the planet was colonized during what is referred to as the Second Great Migration by thousands of mainly Catholic settlers following a 7-year intergalatic voyage, things immediately went downhill. Since Rawn doesn't elaborate on any detail that could have explained the shift from a more patriarchal to a decidedly hardcore matriarchal society, all of a sudden one of the underpining elements of the series' backdrop lost most of its credibility and didn't make any sense anymore. Unfortunately, The Mageborn Traitor doesn't shine some light on this. Moreover, the gender role reversal occasionally gets even more ludicrous. Female readers have often condemned male authors, with good reason, for writing female protagonists that were little more than men with tits. For all that they were written by a woman, most female characters other than the three sisters definitely are like that. Even worse, most of the male characters are chicks with dicks, so to speak. I mean, no matter how emasculated they can be, to have male characters become absurdly frivolous fops who care about the colors of wallpapers and fabrics, trendy clothing, style, yada yada yada, while women are the only practical ones often felt ridiculous. Until Rawn explains just how Catholic settlers grew into a matriarchal society in which men have basically no rights, the entire backdrop of the Exiles trilogy will continue to make little sense.

As was the case with its predecessor, the political intrigue at the heart of The Mageborn Traitor is a bucket that doesn't always hold much water. The Council and the Assembly are ineffectual and at times dumb and naïve in a manner that defies comprehension. The politicking involved is often quite gauche in its execution. The great plan orchestrated by the Malerissi is too drawn out and takes too much time to come to fruition. Hence, what was meant to be one of the novel's most pivotal moments ends up being more than a little lackluster. The same can be said of the repercussions caused by Sarra's legal reforms. And the trial. . .

Characterization is usually a facet in which Melanie Rawn excels at. And though there were a few in The Ruins of Ambrai, for the most part the protagonists were not as engaging and interesting as I expected. Things go downhill in this second volume, which I didn't see coming. It's mostly due to the fact that both Sarra and Cailet, both of whom are supposed to be intelligent women, act absolutely stupid for plot purposes. Sarra, who supposedly has a knack for politics, shows incredibly poor judgement and no political or social savvy. Cailet, now Captal, is aware that a powerful Mageborn has been sent to murder her and destroy the Mage Guardians, that it is one of two potential suspects, and yet she does nothing to unmask him. Their combined stupidity leads to the destruction of all they hold dear and the death of countless loved ones. Given how smart they're supposed to be, this should never have happened. Trusting in old wards is no excuse for showing such poor judgement. Sarra and her sister Glenin continue to be two sides of the same coin. The former is over-the-top good, in that she wants to end poverty, inequalities, etc. Glenin, on the other hand, due to her upbringing is the polar opposite and is over-the-top evil and vicious. In the end, their being too much, one way or the other, makes it impossible to relate to either sister. The twins, approaching young adulthood, act like they're ten-year-olds and are nearly as annoying as their mother. The supporting cast is made up of a revolving door of forgettable characters that often bring little or nothing to the tale. All in all, I've never read anything that featured such a weak cast of protagonists by Melanie Rawn. All the main characters are insufferable and the incessant bantering between them often makes the book sound like a Friends episode.

In terms of rhythm, The Mageborn Traitor is an interminable slog. The last hundred pages or so see the pace pick up as we move toward the endgame. But it's a case of too little, too late. Once more, all the info-dumps, the poor political intrigue, the inexplicable stupidity of the main protagonists, and the occasional clumsy execution prevented this book from achieving its full potential. In The Ruins of Ambrai, Rawn closed the show with style and aplomb with an ending that promised a lot of good things to come. It's just that you had to go through a lot of extraneous material to get to the good stuff. The problem with this sequel is that you have to go through the same crap for hundreds of pages, only to find out that the ending is somewhat uninspired and not at all satisfying.

Now that all of the groundwork had been laid out, I was hoping that Melanie Rawn would return to form and that The Mageborn Traitor would be everything it could be. In my review, I opined that The Ruins of Ambrai was Rawn's weakest work to date. That was true then. Sadly, The Mageborn Traitor is no improvement and turned out to be the author's worst novel thus far.

A major disappointment. . .

The final verdict: 4/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download C. S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising, the first volume in the Coldfire trilogy, one of the best dark fantasy series ever written, for only 2.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

Blending science fiction and fantasy, the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy tells a dark tale of an alien world where nightmares are made manifest.

Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength.

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Naomi Novik's Uprooted for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 4th)

In hardcover:

Andy Weir's Artemis is down one position, ending the week at number 7.

Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer is down seven spots, finishing the week at number 8. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Dean Koontz's The Whispering Room debuts at number 11.

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties maintains its position at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One returns at number 4 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down three positions, ending the week at number 8 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Speculative fiction novels/series that deserve more attention

Ever since I created the Hotlist a decade ago, there is one thing that never changed. Every week, I receive random messages from SFF readers looking for recommendations. As you know, I have a reading list that I usually post once a year. But today, instead of posting that same old list, I've decided to post a number of SFF novels/series that I feel remain criminally unread. With the Holidays just around the corner, take this opportunity to fill up on these quality reads! =)

When available, click on the title of each book to read my review.

The Entire and the Rose by Kay Kenyon

- Bright of the Sky (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A World Too Near (Canada, USA, Europe)
- City Without End (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Prince of Storms (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Kay Kenyon, noted for her science fiction world-building, has in this new series created her most vivid and compelling society, the Universe Entire. In a land-locked galaxy that tunnels through our own, the Entire is a bizarre and seductive mix of long-lived quasi-human and alien beings gathered under a sky of fire, called the bright. A land of wonders, the Entire is sustained by monumental storm walls and an exotic, never-ending river. Over all, the elegant and cruel Tarig rule supreme.

Into this rich milieu is thrust Titus Quinn, former star pilot, bereft of his beloved wife and daughter who are assumed dead by everyone on earth except Quinn. Believing them trapped in a parallel universe—one where he himself may have been imprisoned—he returns to the Entire without resources, language, or his memories of that former life. He is assisted by Anzi, a woman of the Chalin people, a Chinese culture copied from our own universe and transformed by the kingdom of the bright. Learning of his daughter’s dreadful slavery, Quinn swears to free her. To do so, he must cross the unimaginable distances of the Entire in disguise, for the Tarig are lying in wait for him. As Quinn’s memories return, he discovers why. Quinn’s goal is to penetrate the exotic culture of the Entire—to the heart of Tarig power, the fabulous city of the Ascendancy, to steal the key to his family’s redemption.

But will his daughter and wife welcome rescue? Ten years of brutality have forced compromises on everyone. What Quinn will learn to his dismay is what his own choices were, long ago, in the Universe Entire. He will also discover why a fearful multiverse destiny is converging on him and what he must sacrifice to oppose the coming storm.

This is high-concept SF written on the scale of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld, Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, and Dan Dimmons’s Hyperion.

A rich, vivid environment; complex and multilayered storytelling; genuine and interesting characters; brilliant execution; that's The Entire and the Rose in a nutshell.

The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan

- Vellum (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Ink (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Book of All Hours is a mind-blowing feat of ambition and imagination, written by a master storyteller with a "take no prisoners" attitude who's not afraid to experiment. You will either love it or despise it. I doubt Vellum and Ink can leave any reader indifferent.

The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay

- Sailing to Sarantium (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Lord of Emperors (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Sarantium is the golden city: holy to the faithful, exalted by the poets, jewel of the world and heart of an empire. Artisan Caius Crispus receives a summons from the emperor and sets off on a journey toward the Imperial city. But before Crispin can reach Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, he must pass through a land of pagan ritual and mysterious danger.

In Sailing to Sarantium, the first volume of the brilliant Sarantine Mosaic, Guy Gavriel Kay weaves an utterly compelling story of the allure and intrigue of a magnificent city and the people drawn into its spell.

Of course, I could have recommended that you read Kay's incredible Under Heaven (Canada, USA, Europe), or the terrific The Lions of al-Rassan (Canada, USA, Europe), or the beautiful Tigana (Canada, USA, Europe). To be honest, anything by this author should be read and cherished. At the top of his game, Guy Gavriel Kay is as good or better than any other speculative fiction writer out there, alive or dead. But fantasy fans usually prefer series, so this two-book cycle is just what the doctor ordered and the perfect way to sample the length and breadth of Kay's talent and imagination.

The Magisters trilogy by C. S. Friedman

- Feast of Souls (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Wings of Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Legacy of Kings (Canada, USA, Europe)

Friedman made a name for herself with the amazing Coldfire trilogy. Indeed, these books established the author as a master of dark fantasy during the 90s. If you haven't read Black Sun Rising (Canada, USA, Europe), When True Night Falls (Canada, USA, Europe), and Crown of Shadows (Canada, USA, Europe), stop what you are doing right now and get your hands on these novels! Sadly, the Magisters trilogy, although awesome, flew so low under the radar that very few people seem to have read it. If more and more people actually gave these books a shot, we might soon refer to the Coldfire trilogy as the Friedman's other fantasy series. Yes, it's that damn good!

Dreamsongs by George R. R. Martin

- Dreamsongs, Volume 1 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.

- Dreamsongs, Volume II (Canada, USA, Europe)

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin is a giant in the field of fantasy literature and one of the most exciting storytellers of our time. Now he delivers a rare treat for readers: a compendium of his shorter works, all collected into two stunning volumes, that offer fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Whether writing about werewolves, wizards, or outer space, George R.R. Martin is renowned for his versatility and expansive talent, highlighted in this dazzling collection. Included here, in Volume II, are acclaimed stories such as the World Fantasy Award-winner “The Skin Trade,” as well as the first novella in the Ice and Fire universe, “The Hedge Knight,” plus two never-before-published screenplays. Featuring extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume II; is an invaluable chronicle of a writer at the height of his creativity—and an unforgettable reading experience for fans old and new.

I am well aware that some angry fans refuse to read anything that Martin is involved in unless it's The Winds of Winter. Now, I'm looking forward to the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment as much as the next guy. But the truth is, GRRM's body of work is impressive and spans several different genres. And nothing gives you a better taste of that body of work than this collection of short fiction. As a matter of fact, Dreamsongs is an unbelievable read, one that is surpassed in quality only by the unforgettable A Storm of Swords. So do yourself a favor and get these two "slender" volumes for Christmas. You'll thank me. . . =)

The Godless World by Brian Ruckley

- Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

An uneasy truce exists between the thanes of the True Bloods. Now, as another winter approaches, the armies of the Black Road march south, from their exile beyond the Vale of Stones.

For some, war will bring a swift and violent death. Others will not hear the clash of swords or see the corpses strewn over the fields. Instead, they will see an opportunity to advance their own ambitions.

But soon, all will fall under the shadow that is descending. For while the storm of battle rages, one man is following a path that will awaken a terrible power in him -- and his legacy will be written in blood.

Dark, bloody, depressing, uncompromising, ruthless, with a poignant ending that should satisfy most fans and characters that stay true to themselves till the very end, The Godless World is definitely one of the best fantasy series of the new millennium. For fans of GRRM, Abercrombie, and Morgan, this is grimdark the way it was meant to be!

The Gap Saga by Stephen R. Donaldson

- The Real Story (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Forbidden Knowledge (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A Dark and Hungry God Arises (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Chaos and Order (Canada, USA, Europe)
- This Day All Gods Die (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

Author of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson retums with this exciting and long-awaited new series that takes us into a stunningly imagined future to tell a timeless story of adventure and the implacable conflict of good and evil within each of us.

Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate and a murderer; even the most disreputable asteroid pilots of Delta Sector stayed locked out of his way. Those who didn’t ended up in the lockup–or dead. But when Thermopyle arrived at Mallory’s Bar & Sleep with a gorgeous woman by his side the regulars had to take notice. Her name was Morn Hyland, and she had been a police officer–until she met up with Thermopyle.

But one person in Mallorys Bar wasn’t intimidated. Nick Succorso had his own reputation as a bold pirate and he had a sleek frigate fitted for deep space. Everyone knew that Thermopyle and Succorso were on a collision course. What nobody expected was how quickly it would be over–or how devastating victory would be. It was common enough example of rivalry and revenge–or so everyone thought. The REAL story was something entirely different.

Another great space opera series from the 90s that for some reason no one talks about these days. If there was such a thing as science fiction grimdark, this would be it. There is violence, intrigue, politicking, backstabbing, the whole nine yards. Some scenes can be psychologically repulsive and will disturb you. But keep reading and you'll be rewarded with one of the very best science fiction series of all time. Don't stop after the first one, as The Real Story was meant to be a stand-alone novella. By the time you get to the halfway point of the second volume, you start to understand just how vast in scope and vision The Gap series truly is and then you can't let go.

The Jump 225 Trilogy by David Louis Edelman

- Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe)
- MultiReal (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Geosynchron (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb from the first volume:

How far should you go to make a profit?

Infoquake, the debut novel by David Louis Edelman, takes speculative fiction into alien territory: the corporate boardroom of the far future. It’s a stunning trip through the trenches of a technological war fought with product demos, press releases, and sales pitches.

Natch is a master of bio/logics, the programming of the human body. He’s clawed and scraped his way to the top of the bio/logics market using little more than his wits. Now his sudden notoriety has brought him to the attention of Margaret Surina, the owner of a mysterious new technology called MultiReal. Only by enlisting Natch’s devious mind can Margaret keep MultiReal out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless armies.

To fend off the intricate net of enemies closing in around him, Natch and his apprentices must accomplish the impossible. They must understand this strange new technology, run through the product development cycle, and prepare MultiReal for release to the public—all in three days.

Meanwhile, hanging over everything is the specter of the infoquake, a lethal burst of energy that’s disrupting the bio/logic networks and threatening to send the world crashing back into the Dark Ages.

With Infoquake, David Louis Edelman has created a fully detailed world that’s both as imaginative as Dune and as real as today’s Wall Street Journal.

Ambitious, vast in scope, with flawed protagonists and a deftly executed plot, and impeccable prose from start to finish, David Louis Edelman's The Jump 225 trilogy is a fascinating read. And yes, I'm aware that you may never have heard of it. It's up to you to remedy that situation. . . =)

The Avery Cates books by Jeff Somers

- The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer - for the Right Price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He's up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag. Conversion means death.

Jeff Somers' first series features Avery Cates, a far from likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Often down on his luck and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative is a highlight from this series since the opening chapter of the very first volume. If you like balls-to-the-wall noir techno-thrillers set in a futuristic dystopian Earth, chances are you'll love these books!

The Macht trilogy by Paul Kearney

- The Ten Thousand (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Corvus (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kings of the Morning (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Isca is fallen; Antimone draws Her veil over the dead. Rictus, a young soldier of the city, is now ostrakr – homeless, devoid of purpose. He dons the red cloak of the mercenary and sets out to find a road for himself.

On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a fierce, barbaric people whose discipline and prowess on the battlefi eld is the stuff of legend. If they did not war endlessly on themselves, they would conquer the world. Beyond their home in the remote Harukush Mountains, the teeming races and peoples of Kuf are united under the Great King of Asuria, who can call up whole nations to battle, and whose word is law.

But now the Great King’s brother means to take the throne by force, and has sought out the Macht. Rictus – and ten thousand more mercenary warriors – will march into the heart of the Empire. They will become legends.

The Macht trilogy is military fantasy at its best. And yet, although it's often all about the stark realism of military campaigns, Paul Kearney delivers more than a few poignant and touching moments that demonstrate just how gifted an author he can be. If you love great characterization, action, and superior storytelling, give Kearney's signature work a shot!

This should keep some of you busy for a little while. . . ;-) Happy Holidays to everyone!

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Pierce Brown's IRON GOLD

I'm giving away my advance reading copy of Pierce Brown's Iron Gold to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In the epic next chapter of the Red Rising Saga, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Morning Star pushes the boundaries of one of the boldest series in fiction.

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.

A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "IRON." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Legends II, a fantasy anthology edited by Robert Silverberg, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

An acclaimed anthology of original short novels by some of the greatest writers in fantasy fiction, including Terry Brooks, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, and Anne McCaffrey.

Legends II picks up where its illustrious predecessor left off. All of the bestselling writers represented in Legends II return to the special universe of the imagination that its author has made famous throughout the world. Whether set before or after events already recounted elsewhere, whether featuring beloved characters or compelling new creations, these masterful short novels are both mesmerizing stand-alones—perfect introductions to the work of their authors—and indispensable additions to the epics on which they are based.

ROBIN HOBB returns to the Realm of the Elderlings with “Homecoming,” a powerful tale in which exiles sent to colonize the Cursed Shores find themselves sinking into an intoxicating but deadly dream . . . or is it a memory?

GEORGE R. R. MARTIN continues the adventures of Dunk, a young hedge knight, and his unusual squire, Egg, in “The Sworn Sword,” set a generation before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire.

ORSON SCOTT CARD tells a tale of Alvin Maker and the mighty Mississippi, featuring a couple of ne’er-do-wells named Jim Bowie and Abe Lincoln, in “The Yazoo Queen.”

DIANA GABALDON turns to an important character from her Outlander saga—Lord John Grey—in “Lord John and the Succubus,” a supernatural thriller set in the early days of the Seven Years War.

ROBERT SILVERBERG spins an enthralling tale of Majipoor’s early history—and remote future—as seen through the eyes of a dilettantish poet who discovers an unexpected destiny in “The Book of Changes.”

TAD WILLIAMS explores the strange afterlife of Orlando Gardiner, from his Otherland saga, in “The Happiest Dead Boy in the World.”

ANNE McCAFFREY shines a light into the most mysterious and wondrous of all places on Pern in the heartwarming “Beyond Between.”

RAYMOND E. FEIST turns from the great battles of the Riftwar to the story of one soldier, a young man about to embark on the ride of his life, in “The Messenger.”

ELIZABETH HAYDON tells of the destruction of Serendair and the fate of its last defenders in “Threshold,” set at the end of the Third Age of her Symphony of Ages series.

NEIL GAIMAN gives us a glimpse into what befalls the man called Shadow after the events of his Hugo Award–winning novel American Gods in “The Monarch of the Glen.”

TERRY BROOKS adds an exciting epilogue to The Wishsong of Shannara in “Indomitable,” the tale of Jair Ohmsford’s desperate quest to complete the destruction of the evil Ildatch . . . armed only with the magic of illusion.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can still download the digital omnibus edition of The Song of Albion Collection by Stephen Lawhead, which includes The Paradise War, The Silver Hand, and The Endless Knot, for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Bestselling author Stephen R. Lawhead's Song of Albion Trilogy now available in one volume!

The Paradise War

Lewis Gillies is an American graduate student in Oxford who should be getting on with his life. Yet for some reason, he finds himself speeding north with his roommate Simon on a larkùhalf-heartedly searching for a long-extinct creature allegedly spotted in a misty glen in Scotland. Expecting little more than a weekend diversion, Lewis accidently crosses through a mystical gateway where two worlds meet: into the time-between-times, as the ancient Celts called it. And into the heart of a collision between good and evil that's been raging since long before Lewis was born.

The Silver Hand

The great king is dead and his kingdom lies in ruins. Treachery and brutality rule the land, and Albion is the scene of an epic struggle for the throne.

Lewis is now known as Llew in this Otherworld and has become a threat to the usurper Meldron. Exiled and driven from the clan, he must seek the meaning behind a mysterious prophecyùthe making of a true king and the revealing of a long-awaited champion: Silver Hand.

The Endless Knot

Fires rage in Albion: strange, hidden, dark-flamed, invisible to the eye. In the midst of it, Llew must journey to the Foul Land to redeem his greatest treasure. As the last battle begins, the myths, passions, and heroism of an ancient people come to life . . . and Llew Silver Hand will face a challenge that will test his very soul.

The Coldire trilogy optioned for TV

C. S. Friedman just announced that the Coldfire trilogy has been optioned for television! Of course, at this point it doesn't mean anything. But they are exploring whether or not they can make it happen. If you haven't read this dark fantasy series, give Black Sun Rising (Canada, USA, Europe) a shot as soon as possible!

Here's the blurb:

Blending science fiction and fantasy, the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy tells a dark tale of an alien world where nightmares are made manifest.

Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength.

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 27th)

In hardcover:

Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer debuts at number 1. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Andy Weir's Artemis debuts at number 6.

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties is down one position, ending the week at number 12. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 3 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale maintains its position at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.