Peter Newman contest winner!

To help promote the release of Peter Newman's The Seven (Canada, USA, Europe), this winner will receive a full set of the series, compliments of the folks at HarperVoyager. The prize pack includes:

- The Vagrant
- The Malice
- The Seven

The winner is:

- Tommy Morrison (Khartun on Reddit), from Amarillo, Texas, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Iain M. Banks' The Hydrogen Sonata for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The New York Times bestselling Culture novel...

The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, provably, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.

An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago.

It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Jim Butcher's Cold Days for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

After a brief interlude in the afterlife, Harry Dresden’s new job makes him wonder if death was really all that bad in this novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Harry Dresden is no longer Chicago’s only professional wizard. Now, he’s Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Her word is his command. And her first command is the seemingly impossible: kill an immortal. Worse still, there is a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could mean the deaths of millions.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent an apocalypse, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound infinite powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own...

His soul.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Book Two in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time.

Dune Messiah continues the story of Paul Atreides, better known—and feared—as the man christened Muad’Dib. As Emperor of the Known Universe, he possesses more power than a single man was ever meant to wield. Worshipped as a religious icon by the fanatical Fremens, Paul faces the enmity of the political houses he displaced when he assumed the throne—and a conspiracy conducted within his own sphere of influence.

And even as House Atreides begins to crumble around him from the machinations of his enemies, the true threat to Paul comes to his lover, Chani, and the unborn heir to his family’s dynasty...

David Walton contest winners!

Our winners will get their hands on copies of David Walton's The Genius Plague, courtesy of the folks at Pyr. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Guillermo Cantu, from Hidalgo, Texas, USA

- Carrie Dollar, from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Terry Pratchett's Nation for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When a giant wave destroys his village, Mau is the only one left. Daphne—a traveler from the other side of the globe—is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Separated by language and customs, the two are united by catastrophe. Slowly, they are joined by other refugees. And as they struggle to protect the small band, Mau and Daphne defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (November 6th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties maintains its positions at number 4. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Joe Hill’s Strange Weather: Four Short Novels debuts at number 9.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It is down one position, ending the week 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.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, first volume in the classic The Dragonriders of Pern series, for 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Volume I of The Dragonriders of Pern®, the groundbreaking series by master storyteller Anne McCaffrey.

On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack from a myth that is all too real. Lessa is an outcast survivor—her parents murdered, her birthright stolen—a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge. But when an ancient threat to Pern reemerges, Lessa will rise—upon the back of a great dragon with whom she shares a telepathic bond more intimate than any human connection. Together, dragon and rider will fly . . . and Pern will be changed forever.


You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Jennifer Roberson's Sword-Dancer for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The first book in the Sword-Dancer saga introduces the legendary adventures of Tiger and Del, magic wielders and skilled warriors.

He was Tiger, born of the desert winds, raised as a slave and winning his freedom by weaving a special kind of magic with a warrior’s skill. Now he was an almost legendary sword-dancer, ready to take on any challenge—if the price was right.

She was Del, born of ice and storm, trained by the greatest of Northern sword masters. Now, her ritual training completed, and steeped in the special magic of her own runesword, she had come South in search of the young brother stolen five years before.

But even Del could not master all the dangers of the deadly Punja alone. And meeting Del, Tiger could not turn back from the most intriguing challenge he’d ever faced—the challenge of a magical, mysterious sword-dancer of the North....

Flashback: Mystar vs Game of Thrones


I was discussing Game of Thrones, Season 7, with some long-time Hotlist readers a few days ago. And now that it's one of the most watched TV shows on the planet, we had a good laugh reminiscing about Mystar (Terry Goodkind's friend) lying about the HBO deal falling through and saying that the show would never appeal to the masses the way the Sword of Truth TV adaptation inevitably would. You may recall that Legend of the Seeker ended up being a travesty and was soon taken off the air, while Game of Thrones went to become an international success.

Found the original thread on sffworld.com. Here are a few nuggets of entertainment for you to enjoy in case you missed it back in the day:

Actually, I was talking to a friend at TOR today, the TV/mini-series deal for ASOIAF fell through. HBO decided not to take it and the production company was said to have discontinued with the option In other words, they backed out. I was truly looking forward to seeing how this would be adapted to cinema.

It is a pretty reliable source, but like any only time will tell

Hopefully someone else will be able to pick it up...


[...]

The problem is the breath and scope of the story line. Condensing that down into a project for the TV is not an easy task. That and the fact that there really is no demonstrable reason to the story line that woudl appeal to the masses... No hero figure..who doesn't get killed, to many random killings for no more than someone was in someones elses way...things like that. HBO kicked it out, but that doesn't mean another could take it and make it work...

[...]

No malace at all.

I was polite and quite frank.

While I understand it GRRM's GF may offer her opinion, we also have to understand her possable reluctance(sp) to let out the fact that it did in fact get dropped....and perhaps having dinner with several agents in New York and jabbering about projects and books my information could also be rhumor heard and passed along.

~shrugs~

So what?

I was simply stating what I was privy to. I also said I hoped it would be picked up....if in fact that was the case.

There is no need to insult or attack me for simply discusing my thoughts. We can be civilized and polite, or at least I can...


[...]

I was however in Vegas a few weeks ago at the convention, while bidding, discussion and other news was being bantied about, So I would guess my information is just as creditable, as I was specificly asking HBO, agents and the money reps...

~shrugs~

But thepoint is, I don't have to offer any proof... the proof will be know when it never happens.

~shrugs~


Or this on Westeros:

BUT ABC/Disney would not be denied. "We know a block buster when we see it"... This also is fleshed out in the aspect that even BEFORE any hype, trailers or much of anything, this series has been picked up in over 98% of the markets...again a record breaker, and stunning ABC/Disney.

All because this is a story about Hero's...TRUE heros!. Heroic people acting in a manor that underscores the true Nobility that is mankind. It proves what Goodkind has been telling us for over 15 years now... People want heros... TRUE Heros. This is the same thing Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert Ned Nallie, ABC and Disney all agree on... This is why you see something like George R R Martin's A song of Ice and Fire always failing by comparison, why it is still sitting on the shelf, why the screen play has had to have been rewritten several times already, and it is still sitting there... It has no true hero's and no honor for life... People want to feel good about their heros, they want Heros, they can believe in!!!


Ah, such great memories. . . Mystar. . . Gotta love the guy! He did make me the original Lemming of Discord, don't you forget! ;-)

The Fall of Hyperion


Wow! I can't believe I waited this long to finally read this book!

Though I owned a few Dan Simmons novels, by 2010 I had yet to read Hyperion, the award-winning work which has become a genre landmark. My bad, I know. . . So when I was caught in a sudden downpour in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, like everyone else I ran for it and entered the first store I saw. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be a bookstore. Even better, I was running out of reading material and still had a ways to go before completing my trip in the Balkans. So I browsed around, waiting for the rain to stop. Perusing the SFF section, something drew my attention. I wasn't aware that Gollancz had released an Hyperion omnibus, and I needed very little convincing to purchase it. I later met a bunch of cool people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and then again in Serbia, so I didn't read a whole lot during the rest of that trip. Which means that I didn't get to read it till I was back home. I bought it, so now I had to read Hyperion. I mean, when a science fiction work is compared to Frank Herbert's Dune in scope and originality, what else can one do?

I loved it, of course, and I planned to read the sequel in the following weeks. So why are we here, seven years later? Because I'm an idiot, that's why! Well, better late than never, or so they say. The important thing is that I finally read The Fall of Hyperion and it was awesome!

Here's the blurb:

In the stunning continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, Simmons returns us to a far future resplendent with drama and invention. On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening. And the secrets they contain mean that nothing--nothing anywhere in the universe--will ever be the same.

The structure of the narrative in Hyperion was extremely unusual. Akin to that of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, it worked perfectly, but it took a little while to get used to. Indeed, not much occurred in "real time" throughout the novel. Which was mostly due to the fact that Hyperion was nothing more than a vast introduction meant to present the protagonists and set up the various storylines for their culmination in The Fall of Hyperion. Hence, Hyperion was not so much about the pilgrims' journey to the Time Tombs and the Shrike. In the end, it was about each of the main character's back story, which elaborated on their reasons for becoming part of the pilgrimage to Hyperion. This sequel features a more traditional narrative structure, but for some reason it's not as compelling as that of its predecessor. Indeed, the unorthodox structure of Hyperion allowed a tighter and more intimate focus on each of the pilgrim's tale.

The imminent war between the Hegemony and the Ousters serves as the backdrop for The Fall of Hyperion. Joseph Severin's dreams are used as a plot device to link the plotlines transpiring on Hyperion with that of CEO Meina Gladstone as she attempts to avert war with the Ousters and the repercussions it could have on the Hegemony as a whole. I loved how Simmons was able to weave each of the pilgrim's storyline into that bigger and more far-reaching arc. And as revelations are unveiled and you discover just how ambitious a work these two books are in both scope and vision, you understand just how epic Dan Simmons' classic truly is. You reach the end thinking that you have just read one of the very best science fiction works ever written. This tale of Hegemony worlds, conniving AIs, strange aliens and the Ousters, the pilgrims, the Time Tombs, and the Shrike is everything a great scifi yarn ought to be and then some!

This atypical structure of Hyperion influenced the pace of that novel. Depending on the pilgrim's back story, the rhythm could be crisp or sluggish. Yet Dan Simmons' evocative prose and multilayered tale sucked you in, regardless of the fact that it was page-turning or not. The Fall of Hyperion doesn't suffer from any pacing issues. With the groundwork already laid out within the pages of its predecessor, the sequel is all killer and no filler. As the plot progresses and its many secrets revealed, this book makes for a compulsive and captivating read.

Moving, thought-provoking, entertaining, astonishing; Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are all that and more!

Science fiction novels don't always age well. And yet, though these books were first published nearly thirty years ago, they deserve the highest possible recommendation. Believe you me: It doesn't get much better than this!

The final verdict: 9/10

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

Quote of the Day

Bribery wins more arguments than reason.

- JOSIAH BANCROFT, Senlin Ascends (Canada, USA, Europe)

Mark Lawrence and Wert were right! This one is pretty good thus far! =)

Win a copy of Stephen R. Donaldson's SEVENTH DECIMATE


I have two copies of Stephen R. Donaldson's Seventh Decimate, first volume in The Great God's War trilogy, for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Berkley! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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…

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "DECIMATE." 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 get your hands on the digital edition of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

First in the bestselling Dragon Prince series, explore a lush epic fantasy world replete with winged beasts, power games of magical treachery, and a realm of princedoms hovering on the brink of war • “Marvelous!”—Anne McCaffrey.

When Rohan became the new prince of the Desert, ruler of the kingdom granted to his family for as long as the Long Sands spewed fire, he took the crown with two goals in mind. First and foremost, he sought to bring permanent peace to his world of divided princedoms. And, in a land where dragon-slaying was a proof of manhood, Rohan was the sole champion of the dragons, fighting desperately to preserve the last remaining lords of the sky and with them a secret which might be the salvation of his people...

Sioned, the Sunrunner witch who was fated by Fire to be Rohan’s bride, had mastered the magic of sunlight and moonglow, catching hints of a yet to be formed pattern which could irrevocably affect the destinies of Sunrunners and ordinary mortals alike. Yet caught in the machinations of the Lady of Goddess Keep, and of Prince Rohan and his sworn enemy, the treacherously cunning High Prince, could Sioned alter this crucial pattern to protect her lord from the menace of a war that threatened to set the land ablaze?

The two sequels, The Star Scroll and Sunrunner's Fire are also on sale at 5.99$ each.

Stronghold, the first volume in the second trilogy, is also 2.99$ here.

Final extract from Brandon Sanderson's OATHBRINGER


The folks at tor.com have just posted the final extract from Brandon Sanderson's forthcoming Oathbringer (Canada, USA, Europe). Which means that you can now read the prologue and the first 32 chapters for free!

Here's the blurb:

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together—and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past—even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

Follow this link to read the extracts.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Fritz Leiber's Our Lady of Darkness for only 3.82$ here.

Here's the blurb:

From a Grand Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Fritz Leiber may be best known as a fantasy writer, but he published widely and successfully in the horror and science fiction fields. His fiction won the Hugo, Nebula, Derleth, Gandalf, Lovecraft, and World Fantasy Awards, and he was honored with the Life Achievement Lovecraft Award and the Grand Master Nebula Award. One of his best novels is the classic dark fantasy Our Lady of Darkness, winner of the 1978 World Fantasy Award.

Our Lady of Darkness introduces San Francisco horror writer Franz Westen. While studying his beloved city through binoculars from his apartment window, he is astonished to see a mysterious figure waving at him from a hilltop two miles away. He walks to Corona Heights and looks back at his building to discover the figure waving at him from his apartment window—and to find himself caught in a century‑spanning curse that may have destroyed Clark Ashton Smith and Jack London.

Kevin Hearne contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive my copy of Kevin Hearne's A Plague of Giants. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Martin Bournel, from Rosemère, Québec, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 30th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties is down two positions, ending the week at number 4. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Alice Hoffman's The Rules of Magic is down nine spots, finishing the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is down one position, ending the week at number 5 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download the 40th anniversary edition of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist, one of the most controversial novels ever written, went on to become a literary phenomenon: It spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, seventeen consecutively at number one. Inspired by a true story of a child's demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying. Two years after its publication, The Exorcist was, of course, turned into a wildly popular motion picture, garnering ten Academy Award nominations. On opening day of the film, lines of the novel's fans stretched around city blocks. In Chicago, frustrated moviegoers used a battering ram to gain entry through the double side doors of a theater. In Kansas City, police used tear gas to disperse an impatient crowd who tried to force their way into a cinema. The three major television networks carried footage of these events; CBS's Walter Cronkite devoted almost ten minutes to the story. The Exorcist was, and is, more than just a novel and a film: it is a literary landmark. Purposefully raw and profane, The Exorcist still has the extraordinary ability to disturb readers and cause them to forget that it is "just a story." Newly polished and added to by it author and published here in this beautiful fortieth anniversary edition, it remains an unforgettable reading experience and will continue to shock and frighten a new generation of readers.

Cover art and blurb for Kameron Hurley's APOCALYPSE NYX


The folks at barnesandnoble.com just unveiled the cover art and blurb for Kameron Hurley's Apocalypse Nyx. The art is by Wadim Kashin and the design was done by Elizabeth Story.

Here's the blurb:

Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx.

Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter, Nyx, is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey—it’s a living.

Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx’s mind, it’s also justified. After all, she’s trying to survive an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Getting through that while paying the rent and managing her ragtag squad of misfits requires a lot of morally gray choices.

Lethal though she is, Nyx’s past keeps trying to catch up to her. Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future—but only if she can survive.

Really looking forward to this one! =)

Patrick Rothfuss Is About to Be Fantasy’s Next Superstar

The folks at vulture.com (and a version of that article has also appeared in New York Magazine) have just posted an interesting piece on fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss and the upcoming TV adaptation of his bestselling series. It's a great article that explores how the whole thing came together and it's worth a read.

Problem is, a lot of people have pointed out this passage regarding the yet-to-be-published final volume:

Today, the third and final volume remains unpublished, and everywhere Rothfuss goes, fans ask when it will be ready. “They don’t realize this is so wearying,” he said with a sigh when we spoke a few weeks ago. “It’s like asking, ‘When are you going to get married? When are you going to go to law school?’ It’s like, just fuck off. Just die. I don’t need any more of that in my life.”

I've had the pleasure of meeting Rothfuss in person and I've been interacting with him since before The Name of the Wind was published. He's always been a class act.

Given how long it's been since The Wise Man's Fear was released, I can understand how frustrating it must be to have countless readers ask about the third installment incessantly. And yet, to refer to your fans in such a fashion (thus putting the minority of angry nutjobs AND the majority comprised of respectful readers who understand that writing novels takes time into the same category) seems to be a little thoughtless and insensitive. Especially when you're supposed to be trying to appeal to the mainstream masses that will either make or break the TV show. . . :/

Follow this link to read the full article.

Win a full set of Myke Cole's Shadow Ops series!


Myke Cole's Siege Line (Canada, USA, Europe) came out yesterday and I have a full set of the series up for grabs, courtesy of the folks at Ace. The prize pack includes:

- Shadow Ops: Control Point
- Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier
- Shadow Ops: Breach Zone
- Gemini Cell
- Javelin Rain
- Siege Line

Here's the blurb for Siege Line:

In Myke Cole’s latest high-octane, action-packed military fantasy, the fate of undead Navy SEAL James Schweitzer will be decided—one way or another…

The Gemini Cell took everything from Jim Schweitzer: his family, his career as a Navy SEAL, even his life. Hounded across the country, Schweitzer knows the only way he can ever stop running, the only way his son can ever be safe, is to take the fight to the enemy and annihilate the Cell once and for all.

But the Cell won’t be easily destroyed. Out of control and fighting a secret war with the government it once served, it has dispatched its shadowy Director to the far reaches of the subarctic in search of a secret magic that could tip the balance of power in its favor. Schweitzer must join with the elite warriors of both America and Canada in a desperate bid to get there first—and avert a disaster that could put the Cell in control.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "SHADOW." 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!

L. E. Modesitt, jr. contest winner!

This lucky winner will receive a copy of L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s The Mongrel Mage, compliments of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Joses Meijers, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to all the participants!

Small Favor


After a Dresden Files marathon during which I read and reviewed Blood Rites, Dead Beat, and Proven Guilty over the course of about two weeks last year, it took a lot of self-control to forgo continuing reading subsequent installments. This series has definitely become one of my favorite SFF reads.

If Dead Beat turned out to be the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear, for its part Proven Guilty did build on the storylines introduced in basically every other volume and pushed the envelope even further. Far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

Understandably, White Night had lofty expectations to live up to. But even if it was a fun and entertaining read in its own right, it was not as good as its last few predecessors. Don't get me wrong. White Night raised the stakes yet again and the odds are now stacked even higher against Harry Dresden and his allies. The novel was not as intricately plotted and satisfying as Dead Beat and Proven Guilty turned out to be, yet it nonetheless set the stage for another chapter in the Dresden Files. One that would undoubtedly raise the series to another, deeper and more complex, level.

And I'm glad to report that Small Favor is definitely a return to form for Jim Butcher. Indeed, the book elevates the series to an even higher level, with several hints of an even bigger and more ambitious story arc that is gradually becoming more and more discernible.

Here's the blurb:

Harry Dresden's life finally seems to be calming down -- until a shadow from the past returns. Mab, monarch of the Sidhe Winter Court, calls in an old favor from Harry -- one small favor that will trap him between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and that will strain his skills -- and loyalties -- to their very limits.

Snow came early that year in Chicago, and harsh winter conditions will plague Harry's existence as he tries to repay one of the favors he owes the faerie Winter Queen and somehow survive this endeavor. The wintertime backdrop was apropos and gave this latest Dresden Files installment its unique vibe. Not sure if Butcher has ever lived in Chicago or anywhere where heavy snowfalls and subzero temperatures are a reality for three or four months a year, but at times his depiction of the blizzard and its repercussions on people did not always ring true. But hey, that's just nitpicking and it doesn't take anything away from the story.

As always, the book features the first person narrative of the only wizard in Chicago's phonebook, Harry Dresden. Harry's voice as the only POV remains witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle every couple of pages or so. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files volumes, it's the supporting cast which helps make this one another unforgettable read. The usual suspects are there for the ride; Murphy, Thomas, and Molly Carpenter. The rest of the Carpenter family plays a major role in this novel, one that is quite emotional at times. As Knights of the Cross, Michael Carpenter and Sanya got Harry's back when things take a turn for the worse and go down the crapper. But with Nicodemus and the Denarians, both the Summer and Winter faeries, members of the White Council, Marcone and his entourage, as well as Kincaid and the Archive all involved in a multitude of ways, you know that poor Harry is in over his head and may not survive to see the end of this conflict and go on a dinner date with Anastasia Luccio.

Small Favor was hands down the most convoluted installment yet. One of the principal themes explored would have to be promises. Made and broken, both. What begins as a relatively simple rescue operation quickly turns into an extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that links this one with plotlines from past volumes. Like its predecessors, Small Favor is an elaborate and interesting self-contained story. And yet, in my humble opinion, no other book in the series was this complex and unveiled so many secrets that keep readers begging for more.

In terms of pace, Small Favor is a fast-moving page-turner. There is never a dull moment and you get through this book before you know it. Although all Dresden Files are more or less stand-alone tales, Small Favor doesn't offer as much in terms of resolution. One of the main characters' fate ends with a cliffhanger, and a number of wider issues aren't wrapped up as neatly as I expected them to be. It doesn't rob the ending of its poignant impact, but it closes the show with the readers feeling that something is missing.

Be that as it may, it made it impossible for me not to immediately jump into the sequel, Turn Coat. Which, hard as it is to believe, is even better! Time will tell if I have enough self-control not to scrap my reading schedule for the rest of the year and just continue reading the next few volumes of the Dresden Files.

Jim Butcher is awesome and he keeps getting better! If only reading could always be this fun. . .

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Robert Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle, opening chapter in the bestselling Majipoor Cycle, for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

He is a man with no past— a wanderer without memory of his origins. He calls himself Valentine. As a member of a motley group of entertainers, he travels across the magical planet of Majipoor, always hoping he will meet someone who can give him back what he has lost.

And then, he begins to dream--and to receive messages in those dreams. Messages that tell him that he is far more than a common vagabond—he is a lord, a king turned out of his castle. Now his travels have a purpose—to return to his home, discover what enemy took his memory, and claim the destiny that awaits him…

Win a copy of Joshua Palmatier's THE THRONE OF AMENKOR


I have a copy of Joshua Palmatier's The Throne of Amenkor, an omnibus comprised of The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne, up for grabs. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The Throne of Amenkor Trilogy omnibus brings together The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne for the first time.

One young girl holds the fate of a city in her hands. If she fails, it spells her doom—and the end of her world.

Twice in the history of the city of Amenkor, the White Fire had swept over the land. Over a thousand years ago it came from the east, covering the entire city, touching everyone, leaving them unburned—but bringing madness in its wake, a madness that only ended with the death of the ruling Mistress of the city.

Five years ago the Fire came again, and Amenkor has been spiraling into ruin ever since. The city's only hope rests in the hands of a young girl, Varis, who has taught herself the art of survival and has been trained in the ways of the assassin. Venturing deep into the heart of Amenkor, Varis will face her harshest challenges and greatest opportunities. And it is here that she will either find her destiny—or meet her doom.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "AMENKOR." 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 get your hands on the digital edition of Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov's Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together. Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer. The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. Worst of all was that the "R" stood for robot--and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (October 23rd)

In hardcover:

Stephen King and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties maintains its position at number 2. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Alice Hoffman's The Rules of Magic debuts at number 5.

In paperback:

Stephen King's It maintains its position at number 2 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale is up one position, ending the week at number 4 (trade paperback). For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Musical Interlude



A little 2Pac to brighten your Friday! ;-)

Steven Erikson news


This from Steven Erikson's Facebook author page:

I've made a point of never dissembling to my readers so why start now? The reasons for this decision (delaying Walk in Shadow) are varied: the basic situation is as follows. For reasons unknown to me, my agent or my publishers, DoD and FoL have tanked in terms of sales. I wasn't even aware of that until we started marketing the First Contact novel, RKH, but when the details came out it took the wind out of my sails (putting it mildly). Now, if it was a matter of the style I employed for the Kharkanas trilogy turning readers off, then the sales of FoD should have been decent, only to then fall off for FoL. But that wasn't the case. Strangely, the Book of the Fallen series remains strong in terms of sales. Was it because it was a prequel? Possibly. Did FoD come too soon after TCG? Maybe. Or is there some kind of reader-fatigue going on? Could be. One theory I've been considering is a more general wariness among fantasy fans regarding trilogies and series -- having been burned by other authors waiting for books, are readers just holding back until the trilogy is done, before buying in? But then, Dancer's Lament sold brilliantly (and it too is a prequel). Anyway, the upshot is, given what we perceive as considerable enthusiasm for the Karsa trilogy, we decided to jump right in. The story picks up four or five years after the ten book series, so there'll be plenty of room to explore the fall-out, and room for favourite characters to make an appearance beyond Karsa himself. I do remain committed to writing Walk in Shadow and humbly apologize for you (few?) readers eagerly awaiting that novel.

As much as I'm excited about the new Karsa Orlong series, and even though I did not enjoy Forge of Darkness and Fall of Light as much as I wanted to, I was eager to see how Erikson would close the show with the Kharkanas trilogy.

I wasn't aware that those two books had tanked like that. :/ But with Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart, The Search For Spark, and The God is not Willing (working title for the first Karsa novel) on the way, I guess we can wait a while for Walk in Shadow.

Win a copy of Steven Brust's VALLISTA


I'm giving away a copy of Steven Brust's Vallista to one lucky winner. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Full of swordplay, peril, and swashbuckling flair, Steven Brust's Vallista is a treat for longtime fans of this popular fantasy series, a deep dive into the mysteries of Dragaera and all within it.

Vlad Taltos is an Easterner—an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire’s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he’s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad’s life is…messy.

Meanwhile, for years, Vlad’s path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life.

Now Devera has appeared again—to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea. Inside this structure are corridors that double back on themselves, rooms that look out over other worlds, and—just maybe—answers to some of Vlad’s long-asked questions about his world and his place in it. If only Devera can be persuaded to stop disappearing in the middle of his conversations with her…

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "VALLISTA." 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!

It


I was a big Stephen King fan during my teenage years. Like countless readers in the 80s, I devoured novels such as Carrie, The Shining, Christine, Pet Sematary, The Stand, Cujo, and many more. I first read It circa 1989 and I remember loving it. And to this day I considered that book among the very best Stephen King titles out there, second only to The Stand. The new movie's release date was approaching and the reviews were surprisingly good. And I knew there was no way I could go see the new flick without rereading the novel beforehand.

Rereading old favorites always come with a certain sense of apprehension for me. Not every book age well and I was wondering if It had survived the test of time. After all, the children's part of the new movie is set in the 80s/90s and not in the late 50s as it is in the novel. Ye of litte faith and all that, I should have known that it wouldn't be a problem. It captured my imagination and grabbed a hold of me from the very beginning and I found myself going through this 1400+-page doorstopper in just a few days.

One thing's for sure. As a fifteen-year-old teenager, I was too young and immature to catch all of the nuances found throughout the narrative. Too young and inexperienced to appreciate the superb characterization and the bonds that link the protagonists. It was all about the scary bits and the evil clown, which is what the new movie focuses on. Which is why I elected not to go see the new adaptation once I finished rereading It. Any flick that didn't focus on the character development and the special bond between those kids could be nothing but a disappointment for me. I'll watch it at some point during a flight in the coming months, but It isn't about Pennywise. The younger me didn't get that. The older me was floored by the incredible characterization and the unbreakable bonds that united those kids that comprise the Losers' Club.

It occurs to me that I will also have to reread The Stand sooner rather than later. For as things stand, It has dethroned that novel and now ranks as the very best book Stephen King has written thus far. At least in this house.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

The bulk of the action takes place in the New England town of Derry. It's a fictional city set in the state of Maine and the author truly makes it come alive. Other than Carlos Ruiz Zafón's portrayal of Barcelona, King's depiction of Derry just might be one of the best ever. The town and its surroundings and its citizens come alive and make you feel as if you're right there with the characters.

The novel's structure is split into two different timelines. The first one, which transpires in 1957 and 1958, focuses on the events that would bring together the kids that will face the primordial evil menace they only know as It and their first showdown with Pennywise. The second one, happening in 1984 and 1985, focuses on the same bunch of protagonists and their return to Derry twenty-seven years later to battle It one final time. The novel opens up with the now classic scene of little George Denbrough chasing his paper boat down a gutter and his death at the hands of the clown Pennywise. The first part also includes a chapter on the events that led Mike Hanlon to realize that that the cycle of violence and murder that threatens Derry every 27 years or so has begun once again, as well as another chapter in which Mike calls each of the members of the Losers' Club to remind them of a promise they made as children. A promise to return to Derry to stand against It if it ever returned to terrorize the town. The second part concentrates on how the members of the Losers' Club met and gradually realized that they have been brought together for a special purpose. The third part shifts back to the future, where the protagonists are now adults with successful careers, as they must turn their backs on their lives and return to their former hometown. For most of them, it's been decades since they were last in Derry. The third part focuses of the kids' coming to terms with what they must do and their first showdown with the evil known as Pennywise. The fourth part concentrates on the adults' last confrontation with It. The novel also features a number of interludes which are comprised of Mike's thoughts and writings, and which bridge the gaps between the events of the two timelines. And though I much preferred the 1957-58 portions, overall the structure works quite well for the most part. It takes a while for readers to understand just how Mike Hanlon fits into the greater scheme of things, but there is a reason for that.

The characterization is by far the most amazing aspect of this novel. It features what could well be the very best character development of King's career. True, that of The Dark Tower is hard to beat. Then again, the author had seven installments to build those memorable characters. And though It weighs in at neary 1500 pages, it is nevertheless one single book. Not sure if a reread of The Stand will make me change my mind, but a more interesting bunch of characters I'd be hard-pressed to name, and none from a stand-alone novel. King has always had a knack for portraying children in a genuine fashion, one that rings true. And what he did with the members of the Losers' Club was a tour de force in that regard. William "Stuttering Bill" Denbrough, older brother of dead Georgie, overweight and good-hearted Benjamin "Ben" Hanscom, pretty Beverly "Bev" Marsh, Richard "Richie" Tozier, also known as Trashmouth, frail Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak, racially harassed Michael "Mike" Hanlon, and clean and neat Stanley "Stan" Uris are all bullied and abused boys and girl. Stephen King makes them come alive in a way that is nothing short of astonishing. Somehow, fate will bring them all together to face Pennywise, once as young children and another time nearly three decades later.

True, the author spends a lot of time fleshing out each protagonist and that may hurt the pace in certain portions of the novel. And yet, that character development is of capital importance, for it shows just how the bonds that unite them first as kids and then as adults were forged. And this is, in my humble opinion, what the story is all about. Each of them face a lot of violence, both psychological and physical. And although these sequences are necessary, they are at times quite disturbing. As a fan of grimdark and epic fantasy, I'm no stranger to violence, blood, and gore. And yet, the graphic violence in certain scenes featuring Bev getting beat up by her father and years later by her husband was definitely perturbing. Interestingly enough, an evil clown murdering random people was nothing special. Just part and parcel of any horror novel. But reading about the violence and abuse suffered by all these kids was a lot harder to come to terms with. For all of that, it did bring them all together. Which I figure is the point. King truly captured the themes of childhood and friendship as perfectly as humanly possible, and he made it impossible not to root for those guys. I mean, you would think that Bill's stuttering, Ben's obesity, Richie's voices, Eddie's lameness, etc, would annoy you and get old in a hurry. Yet it's the complete opposite. You basically fall in love with each and everyone of them.

As is usually King's wont, It is filled with pop culture references from those two periods. The book is often a trip down memory lane. I know I wasn't around in the 50s, but I'm a child of the 80s and got most of those relating to that era.

It is an enormous work of fiction. There is no getting around that. Understandably, such a big novel will occasionally suffer from rhythm problems. And while it's true that at times the pace can be slow, It is never boring. As I mentioned above, I went though this book in a matter of a few short days, and for me the rhythm was never an issue. King has taken a lot of flak over the years regarding his less-than-stellar endings and one has to agree that often that criticism was justified. Having said that, I felt that It ends on just the right note.

If you're only going to read one Stephen King title in your life, make it this one. It showcases King writing at the top of his game and is an unforgettable read.

Impossible to put down. It deserves the highest possible recommendation.

The final verdict: 10/10

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

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists, edited by Adrian Collins, the man who runs Grimdark Magazine, is now available for 0.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

It features stories by Michael R. Fletcher, Teresa Frohock, Alex Marshall, Mark Alder, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Janny Wurts, Jeff Salyards, Shawn Speakman, Marc Turner, Kaaron Warren, Courtney Schafer, Bradley P. Beaulieu, E. V. Morrigan, Matthew Ward, Deborah A. Wolf, Brian Staveley, Mazarkis Williams, Peter Orullian, and R. Scott Bakker.

Here's the blurb:

Experience your favourite fantasy worlds through some of the most fearsome, devious, and brutal antagonists in fantasy.

Villains take centre stage in nineteen dark and magical stories that will have you cheering for all the wrong heroes as they perform savage deeds towards wicked ends. And why not? They are the champions of their own stories—evil is a matter of perspective.

Extract from Myke Cole's SIEGE LINE


Here's an extract from Myke Cole's soon-to-be-released Siege Line, courtesy of the folks at Ace. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In Myke Cole’s latest high-octane, action-packed military fantasy, the fate of undead Navy SEAL James Schweitzer will be decided—one way or another…

The Gemini Cell took everything from Jim Schweitzer: his family, his career as a Navy SEAL, even his life. Hounded across the country, Schweitzer knows the only way he can ever stop running, the only way his son can ever be safe, is to take the fight to the enemy and annihilate the Cell once and for all.

But the Cell won’t be easily destroyed. Out of control and fighting a secret war with the government it once served, it has dispatched its shadowy Director to the far reaches of the subarctic in search of a secret magic that could tip the balance of power in its favor. Schweitzer must join with the elite warriors of both America and Canada in a desperate bid to get there first—and avert a disaster that could put the Cell in control.

Enjoy!
-----------------------------

Mankiller threw the spear.

Her grandpa had taught her to play snowsnake when she was six, and thirty-six years later, the motion was second nature. Two shuffling steps, the arm whipping low, gently. She gave a little hiss of air as she released the shaft, not because she needed to, but because she always had.

The spear did look like a snake, a thin brown line skipping through the unbroken snow, sending up white puffs that revealed the thick ice of the frozen lake beneath. There was a soft thud as it struck the hay bale dead center, sending a spray of yellow across the white. Grampy always pumped a fist when he got a bull’s-eye, but Mankiller stood frozen in her throw. Moving too quickly after letting the spear go could alter its course if you weren’t careful.

Joe Yakecan snorted hard enough to set the fur edges of his hood waving. “Weak. That’d been a caribou, he’d ’a jus’ sniffed it and gone back to sleep.”

“Ain’t a caribou,” Mankiller said, still not moving. “’S a hay bale.”

“Ya think?”

Mankiller didn’t answer, trying to take in the moment like Grampy told her. The sun reflecting off the smooth white surface of the snow. The sharp bite of the air against her nose. The spear pointing like a compass needle perfectly centered in the hay bale’s side. Save the good ones, Wilma, Grampy always said. Remember ’em for the times when the sun won’t come up.

Yakecan must have taken her silence for anger, because he added, “I’m just kiddin’, Sheriff. It’s a good shot.”

“Great shot.” Mankiller finally turned to look at him, giving the tiny quirk of her hard line of a mouth that passed for a smile.

Yakecan looked like God had come down from heaven and stapled half a dozen animals together. He was as big as a grizzly, had a face like a Saint Bernard. His wide cheeks hung down to his neck, chins overlapping just enough to tell the world that this was a man who liked beer, fried chicken, and chocolate. He was as furry as a beaver, and it didn’t help that he was always cold despite all that blubber. He covered himself in even more furs until he looked like a walrus.

Yakecan had been her deputy since Mankiller came to Fort Resolution after her tour in Afghanistan. She’d read his file from the Army, knew what he’d done in Iraq. Their first job together had been putting cuffs on Albert Haida after he beat up his wife. Haida was even bigger than Joe, and a mean drunk to boot. Haida had resisted, and turned out to be more than Mankiller had bargained for. She knew that he’d have hurt her, maybe even killed her, if it hadn’t been for Yakecan. He might be as big as a grizzly, but Joe was as fast as a striking eagle. Haida was on his back, knocked senseless, before Mankiller knew Yakecan had even moved. When the Yellowknife cops came to take custody of Haida, they’d asked Mankiller how she’d got so banged up. Yakecan could have said Haida’d gotten the drop on her, that she’d needed him to save her. But he only stood there, smiling. I’ve got you covered, that smile said.

She never forgot it.

Yakecan smiled his usual smile now, open and easy, the kind of smile that made you feel rested. “A great shot,” he conceded. “Even harder jus’ goin’ over the open snow.”

“But you think you can do better.”

“Hell, I know I can.” Yakecan’s smile got so big, his cheeks disappeared inside his hood. “Watch thi—”

A howl split the air, long and mournful.

Yakecan’s smile vanished. He glanced up at the bright sun, bent to retrieve the rifle where it lay propped against a small boulder of ice.

She put a hand on his elbow. “C’mon, Joe. You know that . . .”

But Yakecan’s eyes were scanning the horizon, the gun already at the low ready. “All right, Wilma. Can’t be too careful . . .”

He only called her by her first name when he was frightened.

“Joe, look at me.”

His eyes stopped scanning, met hers. She stared back. Her calming stare, “Sergeant’s Eyes,” her lieutenant had called them.

“Joe, they’re howling in the middle of the day. You know what kind of wolves these are.”

As if on cue, another howl sounded, closer this time. Yakecan’s eyes snapped away, and Mankiller followed his gaze to a low line of stunted trees, jagged gray limbs struggling through the thick snow.

A small shape, gray as the dead growth around it, detached itself from the trees, slunk along the icy ridge, its head turned toward them. Two dots burned in the center, brighter than the shining snow around them. Twin dancing fires, silver threaded with lines of thin gold. Wilma looked into the wolf’s eyes for a moment, and then it turned its head away, trotted along the ridge.

Mankiller gave the animal a tentative wave, felt her heart swell. She swallowed the emotion, kept her hand on Yakecan’s elbow until he finally sighed, letting the rifle barrel dip to the ground. She couldn’t resist crossing herself with her other hand.

It was a moment before she could speak. “Come on, Joe. It’s your throw.”

Yakecan didn’t move, tracking the wolf’s progress. “I don’t like turnin’ my back on ’em.”

“You know they ain’t gonna hurt you,” Mankiller says. “Might be your grandma under that fur.”

“Yeah,” Yakecan said, setting the rifle down. “S’pose you’re right. Might as well show you how the game is played, eh?” The smile was back, but there was no warmth in it now. “Need the spear.” He nodded toward the brown line sticking out of the hay bale.

“That’s right,” Mankiller said. “So, go get it, Deputy.”

Yakecan’s laugh was genuine. “Aye, ma’am.”

He trotted toward the spear, froze as another sound echoed toward them.

Not a howl this time. A low, rhythmic thudding. Distant but growing closer.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Helicopter?” Mankiller asked, but she already knew she was right.

“Yeah. We expectin’ anybody?”

Mankiller shook her head. “Probably droppin’ off hunters, or a research team.”

Yakecan looked doubtful. “We’d have heard ’bout that.”

Mankiller grunted. “Maybe they’re jus’ . . . passin’ through.”

“We’re in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere, boss. Nobody jus’ passes through.”

Mankiller grunted again. The rotors were much closer now, loud enough for the roaring of the turbines to be heard. “Sounds like a pretty big helo.”

“Military,” Yakecan said.

“Why would they be flyin’—”

“They wouldn’t. At least, they never have before.”

Mankiller nodded. “Think we better get out of sight.”

Yakecan moved with his deceptive speed, snatching up spear and hay bale in a single smooth motion. Mankiller retrieved the rifle and led the way toward an icy gulch carved by the runoff of a day that passed for warm this far north. The melting snow had washed a sizeable pile of bracken down the slope, forming it into a makeshift lean-to when it refroze.

Yakecan fell in behind her instinctively, crouching his way down the slope, his tread surprisingly quiet despite the frozen crust over the snow. He held the hay bale easily in his huge arms, his breathing smooth and even. Ever since Afghanistan, Mankiller had always felt uncomfortable with her back exposed. On the few occasions she ate at Bullock’s in Yellowknife, she always chose a chair with her back to the wall. Not when Yakecan was around. She kept her eyes front and scrambled under the frozen cover, felt Yakecan jostle her shoulder as he joined her.

The roar of the helo engine was even louder now, the dull whup whup whup of the rotors sounding like they were just over the ridge where she’d seen the wolf. Yakecan wedged his giant head up toward the icy cracks in the sticks overhead, his broad cheek pushing against her own with all the grace of a drunken bear.

“Move, you idiot,” she whispered.

He ignored her, “I can’t see it, boss. Sounds like it’s right over us.”

“Calm down,” Mankiller said, grabbing a fistful of Yakecan’s hood and pulling his head back. “Let me look.”

The film of ice over the sticks refracted the light, a prismatic spray of color that danced at the edges of her vision, but Mankiller had been squinting practically since the day she was born. There was an art to it, a thing that every Dene mastered by the time they were a few years old, scrunching your eyes just enough to keep you from seeing stars, but not so much that you missed what you were after. Yakecan said it was bright like that in Iraq, only it was the sun shining off the sand instead of the snow.

The bright white outside first wavered, then bent, then finally resolved as she got her eyes just the right degree of closed. She swept her gaze up, over the hill, unerringly tracking the echo of the rotors to their source in the ice-blue sky.

A huge rotor churned above a gray oval, no bigger than a football from this distance. It looked a little like a much larger version of the American Black Hawks that had shuttled her from hilltop to hilltop in the Korengal Valley, jammed shoulder to shoulder with soldiers from Montreal or Kansas or Tbilisi or any other of a legion of places she’d never see.

But the Army helos were green or, if they were one of the newer ones, that weird digital camouflage pattern that was so easy to see, it might as well have been hot pink. This one was a silk gray that matched the tenor of the sky. The angles of the airframe were different, softer and more numerous, a deft series of geometrical tweaks that made her eye want to slide right off it. Army Black Hawks flew rough, huge wheels dragging at the air, the shuddering cabin making all inside sore, tired, and vaguely sick after just a few minutes in the air. This helo was as smooth as a bullet. No lights. No weapon pods. No markings of any kind.

She could feel Yakecan digging in his pockets, jostling her as he searched. “Mighta left my field glasses in he—”

“Don’t need ’em.” Mankiller cut him off, elbowing him back. Just as there was an art to squinting, there was an art to seeing too, and the two were closely related. She squeezed her eyes shut more, shrinking the light down further. Her peripheral vision vanished, but in the tunnel that remained, all was made clear.

It took her a moment to reacquire the helo, but once she did, it looked much as she’d expected. The huge bay doors were open, a gunner hidden behind the hardpoint affixed to the airframe. Mankiller could see the telltale lined cylinder of a minigun barrel, the long cable of the ammunition feed snaking inside.

“Is it military?” Yakecan asked.

“Looks like a Black Hawk, only four times the size,” Mankiller said. “Loaded for bear. They have twenty-mil cannons on your ride in Iraq?”

“Yeah,” Yakecan said. “Vulcan or some shit. That what’s on there?”

“I count two. Guns out. Barrel’s moving a bit; someone’s harnessed up and watching. Good thing we got cover.”

“What, did a war break out in Canada?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Well, shit. Is it American?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know?”

Yakecan sounded frustrated. “Well, what flag’s on the tailboom, boss?”

“No flag.”

“There’s always a flag.”

“No flag. No number. No nothing.”

“That’s some spy shit.”

The tenor of the rotors changed from a dull thudding to a higher-pitched whirring, the blades sounding almost frantic as they took on more load.

“It’s comin’ down,” Mankiller said.

Yakecan crowded up toward the gap in the sticks again. “Why?”

“’S a transport,” Mankiller said. “Probably lettin’ folks off.”

“Why the heck would they let folks off here?”

The helo sank lower and lower, so fast that Mankiller’s stomach dropped a little, just as it would have had she been inside during so rapid a descent. It was a skilled pilot who could lower a bird that big that fast without crashing it, but it wasn’t a pilot overly concerned with the comfort of their troops.

The pilot stopped the descent roughly fifty feet off the ground, jerking the airframe so hard that it practically bounced, making Mankiller wince. Ropes came flying out of the airframe, three to a side, thick black hawsers covered in some kind of fabric that she guessed would make them quiet as a whisper. A moment later, the first of the operators came down them. They were uniformly dressed in white, trousers bloused into combat boots, tactical vests and packs, carbines and pistols with enough mods and add-ons to make any holster-kisser drool. All were painted the exact color of the snow around them, slashed through with gray that mirrored the landscape. Even using her squinting trick, it was hard for Mankiller to focus on them.

Yakecan couldn’t miss them now. “What the . . .”

The men reached the end of the ropes, dropping into the snow, guns coming up to the low ready, spreading out from the circle of the helo’s rotor wash. She’d seen armed professionals execute the same maneuver every day in the war. These people knew their business. But the soldiers she knew had worn patches on their sleeves, flags of the nations that paid for all the expensive gear they carried. These operators were utterly unmarked, the gray-white surface of their parkas and tac vests marred only by the straps that held their ammunition and armor.

With a click, the belly of the airframe swung open, issuing a grinding roar almost as loud as the turbines spinning the rotors. Military transport helicopters usually offloaded from the ramp in the back, and Mankiller watched in shock as a giant metal cage lowered directly out from the bottom of the airframe, sinking slowly earthward on a thick metal cable. Somewhere in the cabin, there had to be a capstan, a winch, and one hell of a motor.

She looked at the helo’s modified airframe, the gear on the operators moving out beneath it. The metal winch and cable. All customizations off aftermarket military hardware. Whoever outfitted this mission had an awful lot of money.

The cage thudded into the snow, the cable detaching and hauling skyward.

Yakecan didn’t even bother speaking now. He stared, jaw open so wide, his chin disappeared below the parka’s zipper.

The operators had turned. They were pointing their weapons inward now, at the cage.

She did her squinting trick, brought it into better focus.

It writhed.

For a moment, she had the crazy idea that it was filled with fat, gray snakes, giant pale worms, sliding and crawling over one another, but a moment later, her vision came into full focus and she saw they weren’t worms. They were people.

The cage was packed with people straining and clawing at the bars.

“Jesus,” Yakecan crossed himself. “Are they naked?”

“Yeah,” Mankiller said. “All of ’em.”

“They’ll freeze. Ten minutes tops.”

“No,” Mankiller said. “I don’t think they will.”

The people in the cage were naked, but their skin was the color of old fish, the dirty gray of the snow on a well-used highway.

Their eyes burned. Like the wolf.

A shape appeared in the cabin door, leaning on the gun hardpoint. Now that Yakecan was looking at the cage and the ring of operators around it, he found the helo easily, eyes tracking up as the last of the cable winched in and disappeared inside the cabin. His eyes were wide enough already, but they looked like they were going to pop out of his head when they settled on what Mankiller was seeing.

“Is that a . . . a guy in a suit?”

“Yup,” Mankiller said.

“His head looks like a lightbulb.”

“He’s got a white hood on, or a mask or somethin’. It’s stretched over his face.”

“Wilma, what the hell is going on? This is the weirdest damn thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Mankiller nodded, put her hand out for the rifle. “We’re going back to town. We’ll come back for the ATV later. I don’t want to be throwin’ up that much noise now. We’ll walk.”

Yakecan looked grateful for the chance to put distance between himself and the spectacle outside their crude shelter. He immediately turned to scramble out from beneath the woven canopy of broken branches and ice, crouching as he made his way up the gulch’s far side. “You think they see us?” He whispered.

If they do, there ain’t much we’ll be able to do about it, Mankiller thought, but she said nothing. They hadn’t brought snowshoes, relying instead on the ATV’s broad tires. Now, hurrying on foot, they crunched and plunged through the crust on the surface of the snow with each step, making so much noise that it seemed to Mankiller they’d be heard even over the rotors. Her shoulders tensed with every step, waiting for a shot to ring out, to hear footsteps coming behind her.

But in the end, there was nothing, and before long, the rotors were fading in the distance and she and Yakecan entered a stand of stunted trees, following a winding logging trail that would see them back to Fort Resolution in an hour or so.

Mankiller plunged on in silence. There was a rhythm to labor, a drumbeat that reminded her of drum gatherings, or the beats they played at hand games. Following that beat let her lose herself in work, feeling only the steady pulsing of her feet crunching on the snow, rather than her aching legs, or the cold nipping at her nose.

But Yakecan had no ear for that rhythm. Fast and strong as he was, he didn’t like hard work, and Mankiller could always tell when he was avoiding it. It was the same when he was frightened, or hurting, or almost anything else. He talked. He talked and talked and never stopped.

“Boss.” Yakecan sounded winded, the snow sucking at his boots, sapping his strength as much as it did hers. “What the hell just happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yeah, but . . .” Yakecan began. There was more to the stuttering cadence of his speech. He wasn’t just winded; he was hesitant, timid. He was deeply frightened.

Mankiller didn’t blame him. So was she.

“Who were they? What do they want?”

“Nothing good,” Mankiller said. The light sputtered in the trees around them. The sun was going down, and it wouldn’t be long before the temperature plunged. “Come on.”