July 2015 releases

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A nice list of Fantasy releases just in time for the summer reading! What will pique your interest this month?


The Path of Gods
The Valhalla Saga book 3
Snorri Kristjansson
July 2nd
Reunited, Audun and Ulfar have a new sense of purpose: to ensure that the North remains in the hands of those who hold with the old gods. To do this, they must defeat the people who seek to destroy all they have ever known with the new White Christ. But these are powerful enemies and if they have any chance of victory, they must find equally powerful allies. 
In Trondheim, King Olav, self-appointed champion of the White Christ, finds that keeping the peace is a much harder test of his faith than winning the war. With his garrison halved and local chieftains at his table who wish him nothing but ill, the king must decide how and where to spread the word of his god. 
And in the North, touched by the trickster god, something old, malevolent and very, very angry stirs…

A.F.E. Smith
July 2nd
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place. 
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line? 
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved. 

The Chart of Tomorrows
Gaunt and Bone book 3
Chris Willrich
July 7th
The poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone had sought only to retire from adventuring and start a family, but they never reckoned on their baby becoming the chosen vessel of the mystical energies of a distant Eastern land. With their son Innocence hunted by various factions hoping to use him as a tool, they kept him safe at the cost of trapping him in a pocket dimension of accelerated time.  
Now free, the thirteen-year-old Innocence has rejected his parents and his "destiny" and has made dangerous friends in a barbaric Western land of dragon-prowed ships and rugged fjords. Desperately, Gaunt and Bone seek to track him down, along with their companion Snow Pine and her daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who was once trapped with Innocence too. 

But as the nomadic Karvaks and their war-balloons strike west, and a troll-king spins his webs, and Joy is herself chosen by the spirit of the very land Innocence has fled to, Gaunt and Bone find themselves at the heart of a vast struggle -- and their own son is emerging from that conflict as a force of evil. To save him and everything they know, they turn to a dangerous magical book, The Chart of Tomorrows, that reveals pathways through time. Upon the treacherous seas of history, Gaunt and Bone must face the darkness in each other’s pasts, in order to rescue their future.

The Floating City
Shadow Master book 2
Craig Cormick
June 2nd
The Floating City is in turmoil. The magical seers who protect it are being killed by fearsome Djinn that rise out of the canals at night. Members of the city’s Council of Ten are being assassinated by masked fanatics. Refugee ships are arriving, bringing plague. Othmen spies are infiltrating everywhere. New power blocks are battling for control of the city. 
And the three Montecchi daughters, Giuliette, Disdemona and Isabella, are struggling with love and loss – and trying to write their own destinies. And moving amongst them all is the mysterious and deadly Shadow Master, who seems to be directing everyone like players in a game. But some things in this game may be beyond even his control.

Queen of Fire
Raven's Shadow book 3
Anthony Ryan
July 7th
“The Ally is there, but only ever as a shadow, unexplained catastrophe or murder committed at the behest of a dark vengeful spirit. Sorting truth from myth is often a fruitless task.” 
After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep. 
Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious Ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…

The Mortal Tally
Bring Down Heaven book
Sam Sykes
July 7th
The heart of civilization bleeds. 
Cier'Djaal, once the crowning glory of the civilized world, has gone from a city to a battlefield and a battlefield to a graveyard. Foreign armies clash relentlessly on streets laden with the bodies of innocents caught in the crossfire. Cultists and thieves wage shadow wars, tribal armies foment outside the city's walls, and haughty aristocrats watch the world burn from on high. 
As his companions struggle to keep the city from destroying itself, Lenk travels to the Forbidden East in search of the demon who caused it all. But even as he pursues Khoth-Kapira, dark whispers plague his thoughts. Khoth-Kapira promises him a world free of war where Lenk can put down his sword at last. And Lenk finds it hard not to listen. 
When gods are deaf, demons will speak.

The Darkling Child
 The Defenders of Shannara book 2
Terry Brooks
July 7th
Paxon Leah has joined the Druid Order as a paladin, tasked with protecting the Druids with the aid of his magical sword. But Paxon’s toughest assignment will come when he must track down a young musician with newly-manifested magic before a rival sorcerer can corrupt the boy.

The Price of Valour
The Shadow Campaigns book 3
Django Wexler
July 9th
In the latest Shadow Campaigns novel, Django Wexler continues his “epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict”* following The Shadow Throne and The Thousand Names, as the realm of Vordan faces imminent threats from without and within. 
In the wake of the King’s death, war has come to Vordan. 
The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia Orboan, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. But she did not help free the country from one sort of tyranny to see it fall into another. Placing her trust with the steadfast soldier Marcus D’Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history. 
As the hidden hand of the Sworn Church brings all the powers of the continent to war against Vordan, the enigmatic and brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich offers a path to victory. Winter Ihernglass, newly promoted to command a regiment, has reunited with her lover and her friends, only to face the prospect of leading them into bloody battle. 
And the enemy is not just armed with muskets and cannon. Dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic, have infiltrated Vordan to stop Janus by whatever means necessary…

Chaos Unleashed
Chaos Born book 3
Drew Karpyshyn
July 14th
Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create. 
Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king. 
Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

Half a War
Shattered Sea book 3
Joe Abercrombie
July 15th
Words are weapons
Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright. 
Only half a war is fought with swords 
The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death. 
Sometimes one must fight evil with evil 
Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

The Dinosaur Lords
Victor Milan
July 28th
A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden – and of war. Colossal planteaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meateaters like Allosaurus and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from batsized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons. 
Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…and the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where we have vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engaged in battle. And during the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac – and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

Tower Lord mini review

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tower Lord is the second book in Anthony Ryan's A Raven's Shadow series.  This is the follow-up to Blood Song, a stellar debut that Ryan had to publish himself before it was finally picked up by Ace and became a success. The third book in the series, Queen of Fire will be released next month, July 7th. This is a mini review since I read the book some time ago but I still wanted to share my thoughts.
Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more.  
Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm. But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do.  
The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.
Blood Song was the story of Vaelin Al Sorna. The origin story of one of the most notorious, dangerous and extraordinary man alive. From the start, my expectations were great and Ryan delivered a compelling and serious tale of a conflicted youth growing up in the isolated monastery of a military order. There was a lack of woman presence and the world was mostly traditional medieval scenery but the prophecy, the legend of the man himself, the open threads at the end of the book and even the magical elements made it a strong Epic Fantasy book with eagerness to sell for the follow-up.

Sadly, for me, Tower Lord was mostly a letdown. With the coming of age out the way and Vaelin already at the top of his game, opportunities were emerging at first but the pace and the overall story evolution was dragged down heavily. The split of points of views could have helped but the other threads didn't draw me in and didn't tie in cohesively, a hard assessment of the breakdown from the first opus. The additions are Reva, a young manipulated woman who wants to kill Vaelin and Princess Lyrna and brother Frentis from the previous book. New enemies had to come up and it seems that for the author, the political situation needed a significant development but the bad side effects of a bridging novel expanding the world appeared.

'Tower lording' seemed like a bore for a while, poor Vaelin, and I almost put the book down for good a couple of times. Still, I admit that the novel had some few interesting moments. Brother Frentis' storyline is captivating in some instances, due to his particular situation as a slave. There's also the addition of female protagonists in the spotlight, a missing element from Blood Song but the addition itself isn't enough. Moreover, even Verniers whereabouts lack mystery and intrigue. Why did the author throw out of his follow-up that many essential and successful features from one book to another?

Will I pick up the third book? Maybe... but I ought to be convinced by a lot of arguments... aside from judging by the outcome of Blood Song, I know that Ryan can be a good writer but I think he has to come up with a tightly woven story, concentrated on Vaelin and few of the other characters instead of the world situation and the boring life of a Tower Lord in the deep North.

Cover:  Nice, probably one of the best featuring an archer I've ever seen.
Release date: July 1st 2014
Map: Several nice maps giving more details of the different regions
Number of pages: 602 pages hardcover edition
Acquisition method: My own audiobook purchase
Other: No...

I liked...Was disappointed by...
Parts of Frentis' journey and insights as a slaveThe new PoVs

The life as a Tower Lord seems boring

The pace and the story itself surrounding the political situation

The difference between the narrative and writing choices between Blood Song and Tower Lord

The distance created from Vaelin's legend building

Tower Lord review rating :

R. Scott Bakker's The Unholy Consult update

Monday, June 22, 2015

Back in October 2013, Bakker announced that he had finished his first draft of the Unholy Consult, the third and final novel in the Aspect Emperor series. Since then, the book was supposed to be in the hands of editors but it looks like, as the author mentioned today on his blog, Bakker's publisher may be "re-evaluating their commitment to the series". Fear not for the worst that can happen, at least still from his post, is a delay. I'm really eager to finish the series but I can wait, hoping that I don't forget too much of how things ended in the previous book...

What about you? Any readers of Bakker's work eager for his sixth Fantasy novel? Are the Prince of Nothing and Aspect Emperor series not getting enough press? Is Bakker disregarded for the denser philosophical side of his writing? May the slog continues! Here's the author's comment:
And lastly, things keep dragging on with my publishers regarding The Unholy Consult. My delay turning the manuscript in and the quick turnover of editorial staff in the industry means that no one was up to speed on the series–but six months on from submission, and still we have no word. My fear (not my agent’s) is that they might be re-evaluating their commitment to the series–the way all publishers are reviewing their commitments to their midlist authors. I know for a fact that other publishers are interested in snapping the series up, so there’s no need to organize a wake, but who knows what kind of delay would result. Perhaps shooting them emails explaining why they should believe this series will continue growing might help? I dunno. 
The market only grows more and more crowded, and still there’s nothing quite like The Second Apocalypse. Distinction is key in this day and age…

On the AFR Radar

I have read Beaulieu's debut a couple of years ago, The Winds of Khalakovo, a novel I liked well enough. I picked up the follow-up but was probably not in the right mood and returned it to the reading pile for later. And now, a new interesting series, the Song of the Shattered Sands, will begin on September 1st with Twelve Kings (also known as Twelve Kings in Sharakhai). Gollancz released the beautiful UK cover for the book and here's the blurb:
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule. 
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Those Above review

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Those Above is Daniel Polansky's first book in a new duology titled The Empty Throne. The Fantasy author was known before mostly for his Low Town Noir series. The book was released back in February of this year and the follow up Those Below will be out... in the near future. It's my first take on the author's work.
They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the centre of the world. They are called Those Above by their subjects. They enforce their will with fire and sword. 
Twenty five years ago mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Hope died that day, but hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt are beginning to stir in the hearts of the oppressed: a woman, widowed in the war, who has dedicated her life to revenge; the general, the only man to ever defeat one of Those Above in single combat, summoned forth to raise a new legion; and a boy killer who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising in the capital.
As the title suggest or evoke, Those Above are beings worshiped by a population of distant human relatives, or kind of, and are literally residing in a several layered mountain palace called the Roost in the center of the known land. That's actually where half of oftentimes uneventful story takes place. The two protagonists we follow who are inhabitants of this dwelling of the few mighty divine sentinels and leaders are Calla, the servant of The Aubade and Thistle, a street thug living in the lower wrung.

Calla is essentially a restrained witness to the various deliberations of her lord, in his native language that she secretly learned, when he decides to meet with his fellows to talk about the fate of the human Empires, the mating of their race or an incident in one of the lower wrung in need of an investigation. She develops a relationship with a merchant, foreigner to the Roost but making a living by trading with them. Aside from generally witnessing and assessing, I think that I wasn't able to discern much involvement or enthusiasm while reading her chapters. This character felt really bland for me. Her purpose seems to be the herald of the worldbuilding and the host for the events surrounding those above. A point of view from one of them may have been more interesting even if they often seem as emotionally detached as her.

The second one is Thistle. The young boy is leading a sorry gang of braggarts and bullies and is trying to fight his way to the top of the vicious world he lives in. That's the way he found to survive and with the push of a mysterious one time benefactor, he'll finally enjoy some success in it up until he finds a cause aside from surviving, participating in a rebellion against those above. This event will change his perception of the world dramatically. His story doesn't feel much connected with the rest of the narrative up until that point but then you can feel the build-up, mostly a preparation for things to come, at least I hope so for the sake of the follow-up. Thistle's tale isn't without interest but then...

In the world outside of the Roost, the Aelerian Empire, the main emerging force, is trying to conquer the smaller nations bordering it and taking an interest in the other big players. Politically, pulling the strings, is Eudokia, the Revered Mother. A cunning woman, she plays her hand slowly and seems to be always one step ahead of everybody. Her goals are connected with the overall plot involving those above but the author offers a couple of intrigues for her to untie for her plans to go accordingly to her grand vision. Even if sadly her adversaries look like children in comparison, her schemes are sometimes entertaining to witness.

Finally, there's Bas, the Empire's elite general who was previously an enemy subjugated to work for the Aelerians. The competent, silent and sullen commander is typical but surrounded by some fellows that give him slightly more dimension. His role becomes clear soon enough and with a rudimentary backstory here again, his thread didn't feel quite exciting. His engrossment toward one of those above serving as sentinel within the human population is the best aspect of his personality and narrative, although a short one. Another problem with his part of the story are the few battles. Aside from numbers throwing, the strategy doesn't seem imaginative or revealing.

Taking into consideration that the series is a duology, I may have expected a slow build-up for the second book but for me Those Above felt like a long and usually too serious introduction and a tenuous one at that more often than not. The characters have potential but they are not really accomplished protagonists or positioned in surprising ways as the story evolves. Even if I appreciated some of  Polansky's ideas, his world and his prose, the pace and the overall lack of excitement and threads progression left me quite unsatisfied. I'll quote the book toward the end to summarize my remarks: "It has not begun!".

Cover: That beautiful cover is the work of Rhett Podersoo.
Release date: February 26th 2015
Map: Sadly no...
Number of pages: 416 pages hardcover edition (Hodder & Stoughton)
Acquisition method: Audio book purchase
Other: None

I liked...Was disappointed by...
Elements of the world buildingCalla and Bas
Some of Eudokia's schemes or momentsEudokia's antagonists
A bit of Thistle's evolutionThe overall lack of progress or rising action, it feels like a prologue

The lack of excitement in the conflicts and the few events of note

Those Above review rating :

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