Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
Tyen is teaching mechanical magic at a school respected throughout the worlds. News arrives that the formidable ruler of all worlds, long believed to be dead, is back and enforcing his old laws - including the one forbidding schools of magic. As teachers and students flee, Tyen is left with no home and no purpose... except the promise he made to Vella, the sorcerer imprisoned in a book. Tyen must decide what he is willing to do to free her.
After five years among the tapestry weavers of Schpeta, Rielle's peaceful new life has been shattered by a local war. As defeat looms, the powerful Angel of Storms appears and invites Rielle to join the artisans of his celestial realm. But what will he require in return for this extraordinary offer?
Thanks to Hachette Australia (Orbit) for providing a copy of Angel of Storms for review. This is an honest review, in no way swayed or altered by Hachette being awesome.
Angel of Storms, begins five years after the events of Thief's Magic, with both Tyen and Rielle back to tell their side of the Milleniium’s Rule story. Both are leading fairly peaceful lives, Tyen now a teacher of mechanical magic, and Rielle dutifully breathing more magic into the world by creating art for the Angel. At least for the first few chapters, then everything is once again turned upside down for the two rather unlucky protagonists, forcing to make huge, life altering decisions. And, because such huge changes are made so quickly in the plot, it’s almost impossible to write this, in a way that won’t give the plot away!
The characters of Rielle and Tyen both have to battle some really tough challenges in this novel, both of them having to face the dilemma, that to gain something they want, they are required to do things they know will potentially hurt others in the process. For Tyen, it’s the potential to restore Vella to life, but to do so, he must betray those who trust him. Rielle must choose between settling for a life that would fill the void that has accumulated after having to leave her family and home, even though she isn’t emotionally fulfilled in the situation. Both of the decisions propel a host of far reaching consequences, that haunt them throughout the novel. Those emotional struggles are amazingly portrayed, and there is a real focus on how the characters deal with being in situations that can heal and harm at the same time. The consequences of those actions, are also beautifully dealt with, as other lives are twisted and contorted, in the aftermath. There is no action without a reaction; nothing done by the characters, is done with flippancy.
What really impressed me, is that even though I didn’t agree with so many of the decisions, I could still empathise with why they were made. That for me, is a true sign that the author has been able to create characters that are fully realised; allowing the reader to invest in their futures, even though you want to shake the bejeezus out of them. Nothing in Angel of Storms is cut and dry, and it’s a theme that continues throughout the whole book, without surcease.
One thing I will say, is that Angel of Storms felt much less gritty than Thief's Magic. There’s still a darkness to it, but there’s nothing to give gravel rash like Thief’s did. There was certainly no wanking priests, or mutilating baby making parts this time! It doesn’t detract from the book at all, it simply has a less venomous feel to it. Possibly due to Rielle and Tyen seeming to have more agency in how their own story plays out, rather than being attacked from all sides to keep them in a controlled position. Possibly.
The world building in Angel is, well, pretty darn massive because there are so many of them to explore! There is a constant changing of worlds as the characters travel around; each one with its own landscape, atmosphere, people and customs. Canavan always gives enough information to make each feel like an individual world, but never so much as to bog the book down with particulars that have no relevance to the story. That fine line between creating a fictional world, and being a discovery channel documentary is never crossed, as it stays with the information relevant to how the characters will need to interact with it. You can tell Canavan is also a visual artist, as her descriptions of the worlds paint wonderful images as they are explored.
The plotting in Angel of Storms is actually quite interesting, as it twists it’s way around some rather intense conundrums. However, there are times the plot actually feels misplaced, as if the order of the books is off kilter. This problem centralises at Rielle’s point of view, from about a third of the way through the book. Her parts become the sort of narrative you would usually expect to read in the first book of a series, and it becomes uncomfortably bland for a good deal of the time. I understand the reasoning, as some of the information gleaned in those chapters is crucial to the plot, but it’s dragged out to the point of causing pacing issues. When compared to the rest of the books intensity, and due to the book switching between POV parts, there is a continual reminder that it feels problematic.
I believe the issue is magnified, because of how the book begins; a whole host of new information is quickly fired off at the beginning of the book, and throws the whole world into a sort of tangential space for the reader. It rushes to let you know that everything in the first book isn’t quite what it seemed. The information is pushed so fast, it almost verges into feeling harried. So when Rielle’s POV backs right down, it feels sluggish, and it lose all of its momentum. When switching back to Tyen’s POV, it’s like being jolted awake, and it takes a while to really get back into the right frame of mind to inhabit his POV.
On a positive, It all comes back into focus, and starts grabbing ones attention again in the last section of the book. And once it’s off and running, it doesn’t stop… Even at the end of the book.. Great way to make me want book #3!
Sure, I had some issues with Angel of Storms, but all of the other wonderful things within made the negatives very much bearable. I’ll definitely be looking out for Millenium’s Rule #3! There is so much I need resolved, I can’t stop now damnit!
Saturday Night Reads turned into Sunday Afternoon Reads! I actually left the house on a Saturday night *GASPS*!! To go to my parents house.. Not sure it counts as a night out necessarily, but I did get a roast dinner, so I am not complaining (considering my meals usually consist of two minute noodles.. I think I'm getting scurvy.. ).
So, Pan Macmillan Australia sent me 'Guns of The Dawn' by Adrian Tchaikovsky a few weeks ago for its paperback release, and I've been eyeing it off like a hungry wolf ever since. I am a huge fan of Tchaikovsky, but for some reason this release passed me by when it first graced the scenes earlier this year in February. Bad Fan Form Kristy, bad form indeed. Let's just say when I received the book, I had a paroxysm of glee.
Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbour. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne's brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland.
Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.
In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor's Club; the swamp's own natives hiding from the conflict.
As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne's cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.
Got to say, so far I am loving it! And now, with no further ado, I'm going to close this laptop and return to the war...
NB. I have no idea where the picture of the female soldier in my image originated; it isn't my creation- I can't draw people to save myself... I just keep going around in circles trying to find the artist, so if anybody knows, please let me know so I can credit it!! I have a feeling it might even be from a game?
During my recent re-reading (or audiobooking) of the Malazan Book of The Fallen series, I've been rediscovering some of my all time favourite fantasy characters. And, my favourite Malazan, is Fiddler (aka Strings)! I found this image, which almost exactly portrays the conjuring of Fiddler I have in my head, and felt the need to share..
How to shoot a cusser according to Fiddler:
Fiddler: "Well, the idea is to aim and shoot, then bite a mouthful of dirt."
Cuttle: "I can see the wisdom in that, Fid. Now, you let us all know when you’re firing, right?"
Fiddler: "Nice and loud, aye."
Cuttle: "And what word should we listen for?"
Fiddler: "Duck. Or sometimes what Hedge used to use."
Cuttle: "Which was?"
Fiddler: "A scream of terror."
Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.
This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.
Thanks to Hachette Australia for my rather overloved copy of Shadows of Self. Honest review yadda yadda. Is this even needed in Australia since we aren’t under FTC jurisdiction? Somebody let me know..
Welcome, once again, to the Cosmere! One of my favourite places to visit, and simply bask in the joy of it all! We’ve arrived at the sequel of the Mistborn sequel, Shadows of Self! And, if you’ve gotten this far in the series, you already generally know what you are in for: daggy humour (more so in this part of the series), fast action, fantastic magic, massive world building and dramatic emotional moments.
Sanderson is like my fantasy-candy author; he writes books that don’t necessarily make me go into philosophical meltdowns**, but I still love them from the first page to the last. Sometimes you just need to read for pure enjoyment, rather than sitting down and rendering your soul down, like whale fat for candles. Shadows of Self is no different to the other Sandypants (yep, I’ve given the poor guy a nickname) books to come before it; it truly is a delectable piece of fantasy-candy. Make no mistake though, it never lacks in complexity, or profundity, even when it tastes sweet on the tongue.
Shadows of Self has much more depth, world and character building wise, than Alloy of War. It starts to explore this new, wild wild west version of Scadrial in greater detail, and begins to squirrel into the lives of Wax, Wayne, Marasai, and even Steris to some extent. We are given more information on how Twinborns can interact with the various magics, the political state of turmoil that's causing citizens to riot, and quite a bit more detail on some of the many religions that are beginning to cause havoc.
“No, freedom was not lack of responsibilities—it was being able to do what was right, without having to worry if it was also wrong.”
The most memorable moments in this book are during Wayne’s POV. He has become a fully realised character, rather than the simple jokester sidekick he played in Alloy. Some of the more emotionally involved moments are during his scenes as well, which I can’t say I expected, though was so incredibly pleased to see. I present some classic Wayne, that I may actually have to try and pull off one day: “I ain’t drunk,” Wayne said, sniffling. “I’m investigatin’ alternative states of sobriety.”
Marasai is a wonderfully portrayed character: strong, individualistic, intelligent, and has her own subtle brand of humour. Following her own ideals, she decides the best way to take action to help in Scadrial, is to be where the action is! I actually really enjoyed her mildly subverted kick-arse chick trope. She’s happy to take down the baddies, but damn it, she’s going to do it looking like a proper lady, and being part of polite society. I quite liked that she doesn’t like wearing pants, cause neither do I (though I can’t kick arse, I’d probably pop a kneecap)..
And of course, Wax. His journey throughout is definitely the most pronounced, but in some ways his character develops less in this novel than the other two main POVs. It’s possible that it’s been styled that way to make way for a rather cracking moment right at the end, that will possibly create one of the largest developments imaginable, leading into book three.
The other truly fantastic moments are with, and about a character, I don’t think I can really mention in fear of ruining the surprise. What I will say is, prepare to say hello to an old favourite (tears! I had tears damnit!)
The plot is thick and twisty, the pacing is spot on during most of the book, and honestly I just couldn’t put it down. Even after so many bookish meetings, Sanderson can still grab my attention and keep it hooked like a big ole fish on one of them.. Ok I have no idea about fishing, but you can surely catch my drift.
And that ending. Oh, you must read it, even if it is just for that bloody ending! Talk about a soul ripper! I had some suspicions earlier on about what was simmering under the surface, as the book slowly bit feeds information like a mystery novel; but I had no idea to what extent! It is going to make for one heck of a third book.
I obviously loved it, I can’t deny it. I cannot wait for Bands of Mourning to grace my front doorstep! It's out February 2016, through Hachette in Australia. (I really love love Hachette.. love x infinity.. I wonder exactly how much pandering needs to be done to receive an advanced copy? ;) ).
**mostly. Stormlight Archives gives me over 1000 pages of it in each installment. I’m currently in withdrawals. I don’t like to hurry authors, it’s not my thing to harangue.. but I’m close to begging. I need more Jasnah, Szeth-son-son-Vallano and The Wit before I expire..
Lila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson) is the writer of the Blud series, Servants of the Storm, the HIT series, Wake of Vultures (as Lila Bowen), and a variety of short stories and comics. She's also a geek, an artist, an adventure junky, and a cupcake connoisseur. She writes books for young adults and mostly-adults that range from whimsical to dark to sexy to horrific to adventuresome.
Delilah is the winner of the 2013 Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews for WICKED AS SHE WANTS and has earned stars from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal for Wake of Vultures, as well as a star from Library Journal for the Blud e-novella THE DAMSEL AND THE DAGGERMAN.
Delilah loves horseback riding, superhero movies, Star Wars, going to cons, traveling, reading, tacos, the ocean, pretty boots, tattoos, vests, cosplay, The Cure, painting, crows, cheese, drinks made with elderflower, dark chocolate, cold sheets, Boyd Crowder, and shows like Justified, Firefly, Venture Bros., Community, Adventure Time, Arrested Development, TWD, and Frisky Dingo.
So without futher ado, may I present to you...
Hello Lila Bowen, and your doppleganger Delilah S. Dawson! *squeeing erupts from the crowd* Welcome to Book Frivolity!
*squees back and wiggles in place*
Please tell us a bit about yourselves :) If you could include at least one weird fact, so we readers can confirm that authors are in fact human, and not godlike creatures,,,
We're more subhuman, really. ;) So I'm Delilah S. Dawson, and I currently have a fresh tattoo of a moth that's two days old and very sticky. I live in the mountains of north Georgia, where I work from home and name the deer and go riding on my paint mare, Polly. I didn't actually know I wanted to be a writer until I was 32 and wrote my first book, so I've only been published since 2012. I write the Blud series, which is about steampunk sorta-vampires and has vampire rabbits, as well as the YA books Servants of the Storm (Southern Gothic Horror) and Hit (teen assassin in a bank-owned America). Oh! And I have a Star Wars story, The Perfect Weapon, out this month—which is one of my life dreams, as a big-time geek and Star Wars fan. My alter ego, Lila Bowen, is about the same as me but writes for a different publisher.
Wake of Vultures is the first book in the new fantasy series The Shadow, and has been recently been published under the pen name Lila Bowen, through Orbit books. Could you tell us about the world and characters you have created in Wake of Vultures, from your point of view?
Wake of Vultures is what happened when I watched Lonesome Dove and got really annoyed that all the heroes were white dudes. There are really only three women in the whole thing, and they're a martyr, a whore, and an idiot, respectively. So I set out to write the most improbable hero possible. That's Nettie Lonesome. Nettie's life is changed when she learns that the West is full of monsters, and part of her destiny is to hunt them. And she's surrounded by colorful characters who likewise defy the default. I figured that if I was going to flip one table, I might as well flip ALL THE TABLES.
You have dedicated Wake to #weneeddiversebooks, a fantastic social media driven movement to have all types of people represented in books, by including characters of different race, gender, sexuality, religion and cultures. Wake addresses so many of these traits in its various characters, which creates a very progressive and inclusive fantasy novel. I was wondering if Wake was written as a direct response to the movement, and if so what about the movement made you decide to tackle the challenge head on? If not, was it a conscious decision to create such a diverse book, or was it an organically driven process?
It felt like defiance at the time. Like I was writing an unpublishable book, actually, which was very freeing. Instead of thinking, “Will this be okay, will this sell?”, I was thinking, “HERE. TAKE THIS. YOU LIKE THAT? SUCK IT!” So I wasn't filling out a Bingo card, but every time there was an opportunity to create a character, I didn't default to the straight white male around whom most Fantasy books and Westerns revolve. Servants of the Storm was my first book with a non-white protagonist, and that empowered me to try harder to represent the actual world as compared to the small slice of it the media tends to sell us. The world is so much bigger than beautiful, thin white girls in ball gowns.
I think the thing that truly impressed me about the characters, and Nettie in particular, is that even though these characters are considered the ‘heroes’ they aren’t immune to holding obvious prejudices towards others. They aren’t perfect, but they work on it (even the stubborn ones!). One of the strongest messages I got from Wake was that anybody can learn a prejudice; but if you take the time to get to know somebody for who they are, rather than judging them on a preconceived idea - that acceptance can follow quickly in its footsteps. It serves as a lesson to some, and a message of hope to others. Is that something you intentionally wanted to portray, if so why?
Definitely! One of the great things about writing Nettie is that because she's treated as a servant instead of a daughter, she hasn't been force-fed as much prejudice as most people in her time and society would've been. She's been told that she's ugly and useless, but she considers the people espousing those beliefs to be likewise ugly and useless. She's never heard of homosexuality/bisexuality or heard anyone rant against cross-dressing, so those things don't strike her as unnatural or bad, which they would've if she'd gone to church in the 1800s. Nettie judges other people on their usefulness and how they treat her and animals, which makes her a better judge of character than the people who look down on her. I lean more toward Nettie's system. The presidential debates would be far more interesting if the candidates were judged on how useful and kind they were, don't you think?
The world of Wake of Vultures was surprisingly more ‘fantasy’ to me than many other Fantasy books out there! Even though you have set it in a time and place that actually did exist, being from Australia and not schooled in any real American history, I found myself wanting to look up quite a few things to understand the true intention and meaning, of what was being said and done (I still have no idea about the Sam Hill curses!). Is it important to you as an author of diverse books to motivate readers to start looking into, or asking and understanding where different cultures are coming from; the history that has created the people we know now? Is a fantasy a safe setting to ease people into the idea of of learning about these past elements that affect ‘real life’ now? Can it be used to help expose those more reluctant to explore diversity, in a less confronting way than say - a realistic setting?
Oh, wow! I never considered how it would read outside of America. ;) Over here, the Wild West is just this accepted part of history that we romanticize, even when what we know might not be accurate. As I said in the Author's Note in the back of the book, I'm better at the Fantasy than the History. I love to make up new worlds that let me play with societal rules, and especially with characters who live outside of that society. Wake is inspired by the Texas of the 1800s, but it diverges in many ways and would not be the best place to learn facts. I guess I want to make the West accessible to new readers through familiar Fantasy tropes while also disturbing those tropes with a new twist. When you actually dig down deep in history, as my friends Cherie Priest and Deanna Raybourn do for their more historically accurate books, you find out that people as different as Nettie existed and often thrived but were erased or forgotten. So I would be honored if readers found something intriguing that they wanted to research more, but I admit up front that I'm a storyteller, not an historian. Sam Hill is a real invective, though, and awfully fun to use in dialogue.
You have added in the back of Wake, that it’s ultimately a fantasy book, rather than a historically accurate account of the time period. There are some obviously fantastical elements (talking vultures with dugs!), but how do you decide when and where to blur the lines of fact and fantasy in the not so obvious areas?
For this book in particular, I spent a lot of time digging into the fringes of history. The place names, for example—Durango, Azteca, Tanasi—are all based on actual early names of Texas, Mexico, and Tennessee. I don't enjoy reading historical tomes, so I dip into Wikipedia, do Google searches, and pull up old maps, taking what appeals and leaving what doesn't work. The only book I read for research was Black Indians by William Loren Katz, which was fascinating. Just as I tell readers that my Blud series is more about adventure and romance than whether or not the steam engine could conceivably work, I admit that Wake is more about Nettie's journey. So... I use what's helpful and fun and blur the rest.
Which all leads to the obligatory fantasy world building question: Are you an Architect, a Gardener, or an Architectural Gardener?
I guess you could say that I'm a Gardener who builds a pretty wall, first. I don't start writing a book until I know the beginning, the instigating factor that changes everything, the climax, the ending, and the fallout. I need to know the protagonist pretty well, and I generally have some ideas about other characters who will pop up. For Wake, Nettie was immediately herself, and I knew Monty, Sam, Dan, and the Captain would appear. I didn't know about Winifred until the moment Nettie looked down and saw her. I need the little surprises, but I can't feel free enough to find them unless I know the final destination.
I, and many other readers know you best for your novels Servants of The Storm, ‘HIT’ or your Blud series as Delilah S. Dawson, a mix of both YA and adult books. I was wondering if there are any major differences in writing for a YA audience in comparison to an Adult audience? If so what are they, and how do you approach them?
As each book idea forms, I get a feel for whether it would work better written as a YA or an adult book—although I thought Wake was YA, and it sold as adult Fantasy, so I'm sometimes wrong. ;) For a YA, I want action and immediacy and bad decisions and some kind of crush/love element, no matter how dire the circumstances. For Adult, I have to keep more mature considerations in mind. Responsibility weighs more heavily—did I feed the cat before I walked through the magic portal? What about my job and mortgage? Hit, for example, wouldn't have been nearly as fun with an adult making decisions and thinking everything through. And the Blud series was adult from the start, as I wanted a steamy romance. When teaching writing classes at LitReactor, I suggest reading widely in your genre(s) to see what conventions readers expect so that you'll know where to lean while writing. But when actually writing, I say to do what comes most naturally without thinking too hard about age. You can sort that out later when you know the plot.
I have a question from Matt Summers from Smash Dragons (he’s a Wake fan too!): What is your take on the speculative fiction scene at the moment? How do we go about making the community more accepting of authors and books, that don’t fit the perceived ‘norm’?
I'll admit that I'm not one of those folks who feels like a spokesperson, tastemaker, or critic for the genre. I advocate writing the book only you can write, the one that makes you feel energized and passionate. For me, it's just as bad to whitewash or straightwash a book to make it more palatable to publishing as it is to add token diverse characters who are really just cardboard cut-outs instead of fully realized people. Authenticity and empathy shine through. The more non-default people write awesome books, and the more everyone writes non-default books, the more agents and publishers will, I hope, take them on. The readership clearly wants better representation, and for those who don't, there's a contingent that will continue to make the same old Straight White Dude Saves the World books for them. And, as readers, making conscious choices to broaden our own horizons and purchase diverse books for our kids is a must.
I have seen you mention that you wrote Wake of Vultures to a soundtrack that you found particularly inspiring (you can find it here on Spotify). Do you write all of your books to music? What is about music that inspires your writing?
Yep! Creating a Spotify playlist is an integral part of my writing process. I look for new music that feels like the book, not that necessarily has lyrics that match it. While I'm brainstorming, writing, and editing, I listen to the playlist exclusively, which conditions me to be in that world whenever I hear that music. It's a great way to get back in the groove when my mind is elsewhere.
Let’s talk horses (the positives of conducting your own interview is that you can ask the questions you want to!)! From an ex-rider to a current rider, is there anything more exhilarating and freeing, than galloping on a horse across a wide empty plain, just because you can? Your horsey scenes made me grin so widely my face almost split; I was truly back there racing about and whooping like a nut! What has been your most positive horsey experience?
There is truly nothing better than galloping down the trails. :) My most positive experience would be working with my mare, Polly, over the last three years and seeing her go from a skinny, abused, terrified horse who'd never had someone canter on her back to a more confident partner who can weather anything the trails can throw at us. I had an accident last year and broke my back, and since then, I've been dedicated to proper groundwork and being a better rider. I never dreamed Polly would be the amazing trail horse and partner she is now.
If I offered you the opportunity to pick a Mule, a Horse, or a Unicorn to use as your daily mount in the desert, which would you choose and why?
A muleicorn. That way, I get the “probably not going to die” nature of the unicorn plus the sturdy, confident, stubborn personality of the mule.
If you were a supernatural creature of the Durango, what would you be and why?
A shifter of some sort—probably a bird. I've always wanted to fly.
What are your top 10 obligatory fantasy books/series reads (YA and/or Adult)?
Oh, goodness. I could never obligate, since we all have different tastes, but I will name the first ten that come to mind.
What authors/books/genres are you reading at the moment?
I'm first drafting the sequel to Wake of Vultures, so I don't want to sink too deeply into another world. That means I'm mostly reading self-help stuff, especially since this year has been crazy, healthwise. But I just downloaded Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, Nexus by Ramez Naam, and Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. I just finished The Harvest by Chuck Wendig and A Gathering of Shadows by Victoria Schwab, both of which were marvelous. And I want to read Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman as soon as Wake 2 is done.
Are you working on anything in particular right now, and do you have any projects to be released soon that we should look out for?
I'm writing Wake 2, title not yet decided. :) On November 24, my Star Wars short, The Perfect Weapon, will be released as an e-book and the first story set in the era of The Force Awakens. This holiday season, my short story Uncharming is in the Unbound anthology from Grim Oak Press, along with stories from Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, and more amazing people. My next full-length work will be the sequel to Hit, called Strike, which is out next April.
Will we see you out and about at any conventions, bookstores, signings etc. in the future that you would like to mention?
Sure! I love doing events, and you can always see where I'll be next at my blog, http://www.whimsydark.com/events/. I'm really looking forward to ConFusion, Anomalycon, and ConStellation next year. One of my greatest hopes is that Wake of Vultures will do well in the UK and Australia, as I've never seen either one and long to visit.
*Kristy's note: Victoria is a fine state, you should definitely visit there... The rest of the country, meh.. ;)
Is there anything else you wish to tell the world? About anything at all?
If you ever have a question about writing or my books, you can ask on Twitter, @DelilahSDawson, or on my author Facebook page, and I'll do my best to answer.
Can somebody call the medics for the audience members that have fainted from the over-squee? That's definitely a standing ovation for Ms.Dawson! Wave your glowsticks people! All the thanks go to Delilah S. Dawson and her carbon copy Lila Bowen (Please muzzle tickle your horsey for me!)! You can follow Delilah on the Twitts, the Book’o’Faces, and at her blog Whimsydark. Delilah also teaches fantasy writing classes at LitReactor!! (if somebody wishes to fund me, I’ll take one and let you know how it goes!! Go on, fund me.. damnit! ;) )
And finally thanks to Hachette Australia for providing a copy of Wake of Vultures for me devour and love on hard!
Saturday Night Reads: *drumroll* Tonight, 'Fae: The Wild Hunt' by Graham Austin-King, a Realmwalker Publishing Group release.
Ah, what a shit-house day. Really. I've spent half the day with this lump of lead in my gut, not from hate, or fear, but from a severe sense of hopelessness. I figure the best chance I have to escape it, is to read myself into oblivion!
I actually chose Fae tonight, because I know Graham Austin-King (in a minimalist sort of way), and I have had some great conversations with the people at Realmwalker. I figure what better way to combat the acts of hate surrounding us, than by supporting those for whom we hold personal affection, and respect. So, anyway, enough emotional gnattery..
Faeries... The fae... The stuff of bedtime stories and fables.
But sometimes the faerie tales are true. Sometimes they are a warning...
For a hundred generations the fae have been locked away from the world, in the cold, the Outside. They have faded out of sight and mind, into myth and folklore. But now the barriers are weakening and they push against the tattered remnants of the wyrde as they seek a way to return.
As a new religion spreads across the world, sweeping the old ways and beliefs away before it, a warlike people look across the frozen ocean towards the shores of Anlan, hungry for new lands. War is coming, even as the wyrde of the Droos is fading.
As the fae begin to force their way through the shreds of the wyrde, will mankind be able to accept the truth concealed in the tales of children in time to prepare for the Wild Hunt?
May tomorrow be a better day #vivelafrance
#vivelafrance #solidarité #wearenotafraid
I've been reading quite a few short stories and novellas recently; not only can the nifty little things introduce you to an authors work you've not have the pleasure to experience before, but they can also break up massive fantasy tomes that might be weighing down, and slowing up ole the brain synapses. Apparently there is a bit of a revival going on in the novella markets, so I thought I'd introduce three of my favourites so far.. Behold..
A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.
The last job didn't end well.
Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain's company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain's whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.
My thanks go to Tor for the ARC.
Ah look. I'm just going to say it. If you don't read this, and your a western/gunslinger fantasy fan, you are a tiny bit of a dolt. I know, it's kind of cruel of me to say such a thing, but this is Wind in The Willows crossed with every desperado western film ever made. It's Redwall on beer and bourbon. It's Watership Down on Clint Eastwood laced crack, that's been cooked by Tarintino.
Basically it's sweet anthropomorphic goodness, with gun totin' badgers, sniper opossums and armadillo crime bosses. There's a whole host of weapon wielding animals, yet Polansky has done a fantastic job of incorporating each of the animal's traits into the characters, so they aren't just humans in fur pelts.
The chapter structures in the novella are superb for the setting and story line, and create quick fire scenes, with cracking pacing. There's snark and wit a plenty, betrayal and love lost, and quite a large amount of blood letting. If you can go past that, I don't know how to help you..
The only thing that could've made it better, was if it was about 500 pages longer... (Then I'd probably complain it was 500 pages too long. Can't please me.. )
A new sun rises on the lives and fates of four players in this game of wit and intrigue.
Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, the crowning gem of her city’s high class, sits in her manor’s window on The Hill and looks over her domain with eyes that cut and a mind that schemes. From below, and far away from the glitz of wealth, a poor country farm girl named Micah looks only towards her family, the harvest, and the complex web of math that entrances her. At the Docks, Ixkaab Balam surveys that same city from the deck of her family’s merchant vessel and sees a land to manipulate for fortune and fun. And at the University, a passionate scholar named Rafe bristles at the classism that dictates his world and harbors revolution in his blood.
Tremontaine is actually a serialised work, that is released through Serial Box Publishing in novella sized episode chunks, every week for 13 episodes/weeks. Not only does the concept of serialisation make me a happy camper, but the production that Serial Box and the Tremontaine team have released each week, has been fantastic!
I've been listening to the audiobook version (the purchase gives you both the ebook and audiobook experience. The audio running in at around 100 mins a week), and I was actually incredibly surprised. Call me Doubting Thomas, but I was really expecting a bit of a b-grade time filler, for when I needed something other than a brick sized read. Oh was I so wrong!
Not only are the diverse characters and story lines from Ellen Kushner fantastic (I will have to check out her other work now!), the audio and narration is brilliantly done by a range of audio actors, and the way it has been edited into episodes is first rate. The episodes (so far) have each been written by a different author, and although they bring a slightly different stylistic quality to the episodes, each slots in perfectly to the narration.
It all blends together so well, to create a great package. A totally enjoyable experience, that has kept me entertained over all three episodes, that have been released so far!
My subscription was bought after episode one, I was that pleased! You can get the first episode free from Serial Box! Go on, try it.. Unless you're a chocolate addict trying to cut back.. Cause I have eaten more chocolate listening to this series in the past week, than in the past year!
Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.
Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruellest of fates.
Tolkien himself said that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major matter in the legends of the First Age’. Tolkien’s Kullervo is the clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to it being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo – published here for the first time with the author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala – is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.
My thanks go to Harper Voyager Australia for the hardback edition.
I realise this looks like a weird one to include in the novella category, as The Story of Kullervo looks to be more of a short novel at 192 pages. However, the actual story is only about 40 pages long.
It's rich, dark, beautiful. and quite heartbreaking to read. Kullervo gains no quarter in this book; he can never escape the from suffering heaped upon him, and even though he is an anti-hero, it's extremely tragic to witness.
It's also incredibly sad that the story was never finished, because I truly believe it's could've been one of Tolkien's stand out pieces. It's actually interesting to read the possibilities, the editing marks, etc. that have been faithfully added to the story. Obviously the manuscript wasn't always completely legible (or finished), and I quite like the fact that they have made sure the reader is aware that some of the words used are 'possibilities' rather than from JRR himself. There's a lot of integrity in that!
The reason for it's 192 pages, is because around 80% of the book it is actually introduction and essays. The book as a whole is actually closer to an academic endeavor, than a straight forward fiction novel. For Tolkien fans that really like to dig into the intricacies of the legends work, here is your next read my friends! There's enough information here, to give any J.R.R nerd's stomach butterflies.
If you're simply a lover of his work, and not the academia surrounding it, skip straight to the story and just enjoy the Tolkien wordery experience.
It's been a short and sweet post, for the short and sweet novellas. I'll be digging around for more, and will hopefully be able to let you know about them soon!
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship,Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when thePredator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…
Saturday Night Reads on Instagram...
Tonight's Saturday Night Read is 'Angel of Storms' by Trudi Canavan, book 2 of the Millennium's Rule series! I cannot express how much I admire Ms Canavan. I’m extraordinarily proud (in a non-knowing her kind of way) that not only an Australian (a Melbournite! We grow em good around here!), but a FEMALE Australian epic fantasy writer is rocking the world with her words. It gives us all an extra smidge of hope, as we see less and less of our country people, on the fantasy shelves!
Anyway, Back’o’book: “Tyen is teaching mechanical magic at a school respected throughout the worlds. News arrives that the formidable ruler of all worlds, long believed to be dead, is back and enforcing his old laws - including the one forbidding schools of magic. As teachers and students flee, Tyen is left with no home and no purpose... except the promise he made to Vella, the sorcerer imprisoned in a book. Tyen must decide what he is willing to do to free her.
After five years among the tapestry weavers of Schpeta, Rielle's peaceful new life has been shattered by a local war. As defeat looms, the powerful Angel of Storms appears and invites Rielle to join the artisans of his celestial realm. But what will he require in return for this extraordinary offer?”
Guess you’ll have to read it to find out! And you can in a few days - it’s out on the 12th of November through Orbit books (my copy is from Hachette Australia.. they are way too nice to me!). Check out the series Age of The Five as well.. One of my favourite fantasy series of all time!
Long ago, poets were Seers with access to powerful magic. Following a cataclysmic battle, the enchantments of Eivar were lost–now a song is only words and music, and no more. But when a dark power threatens the land, poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a task much greater: to restore the lost enchantments to the world. And the road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.
Reviewed from copy provided by Pan Macmillan Australia. They don't pay me (damnit!), and I’m quite happy to be honest in my reviews.
Trigger Warnings (for those that require them, hidden for those that don't!):(show spoiler)
Occasionally you meet a book that defies expectation, and usually it's for a reason you can't quite put your finger on. Last Song Before Night is one of those books, for me. You know that feeling of wanting everybody to read a book so that the world will understand your thoughts, but at the same time you wish nobody else would read it, so you can keep it all to yourself? I’m having that sensation right now..
Firstly, let me say that the synopsis is vastly inadequate in portraying the real depth of this novel, and it really only describes the trimmings that pretty up the peripheries of the actual story line, that runs through Last Song Before Night. I was incredibly surprised by the true nature of the book; it went from a rather safe story about bards on a journey, as gleaned from the back’o’book - to something with such incredibly hard and far reaching undercurrents.
Myer has written this gauzy dream like narrative, that lulls you into a false sense of security. Gradually, behind that floating curtain that flits about with the breeze, surrounded by sweet songs, and sighing maidens, something dark creeps behind the veil.. Then it builds, and there is a bloody brutality that you feel you are watching through this blind fold of lace, so the full force doesn't quite touch you.. Bit by bit, you realise your vital empathy organs have begun to hurt. And when that blindfold slips off, you want to reach into the book and hug everybody, because it's all so personal, and it's all so haunting..
It's an incredibly powerful method of telling this story. Betrayal, deception and violence: between friends, between lovers, and (what I consider) the most horrific - between family members. I don't know that I’ve felt such an emotional aftershock from a novel before, and I've read a lot of very dark, very hard story lines. It's entirely possible that the way it's written makes it even more effective at delivering the gut punches, because it's not told in a way that so many of us have become desensitised to. I can usually leave a book behind quite quickly once I've read it, but this.. Even now, there's that tight feeling in my throat just thinking of it. I kind of hate Ilana Myer right now! (only joking.. Mostly.)
The pacing adds to the day dreaminess as it flickers back and forth around point of views, much like an actual dream. It doesn't stay too long in one place, and it's a bit like you are peeking in on the characters, rather than sitting down to a full scene. It does lead to a sense of never quite feeling like you have the whole story, which actually adds to its charm, rather than detracting from it. Not everything is thrown at you; sometimes feelings change without fanfare, or events skip forward, and there's a moment of reacquainting yourself with the character's position.
It would’ve been incredibly easy to drop the threads and end up with massive plot holes in such a structure, but Myer seems to have avoided the trap by occasionally backtracking and overlapping time lines within different point of views.
In the same breath, I think that these glimpses may make other readers cranky. People that need everything well spelled out, and rigidly narrated plot structures in their novels (not a judgement, everyone has preferences!), will probably find this truly frustrating and overly obtuse. So, it might be something to consider before embarking on it.
The characters are very deceptive. Oh so bloody easy to fall into the trap of believing everything is black and white in this book, only to find you really don't know why everything looks that way. There's a moral story in this book, that goes something like “don’t judge a person's words and actions, if you don't know their lives”. Fairly relevant in these days I would say. There’s be a bucket load of spoilers if I mentioned why that is, but suffice to say Myer has done a great job of creating characters that will surprise you, as their true depth is gradually revealed.
The world building is possibly the least developed part of the novel. There's a fairly generic ‘medieval’ fantasy world thread running through the novel, but it's actually pretty inconsequential on the whole. This book really isn't about the world, and so it is fairly understated to bring forward the characters. If world building is an extremely important part of fantasy for you, Lost Song will possibly disappoint.
There are parts within the actual writing that possibly could've been better polished, as there are a few paragraphs that felt slightly choppy. And, sometimes it does slip too far into its fluttery feel and wanders into areas of vagueness, so backtracking is very occasionally required to make sense of things.
However, if Myer can do this sort of work in a debut, holy mackerels.. I think I might end up needing an emotion-ectomy if they level up too much for their next book. A truly powerful gift!
As far as I am know, Last Song Before Night is a standalone novel (a rarity!), so I can't say I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment (though I would be, if there was one!) So, I’ll just say, I’m eagerly awaiting to see what Ilana C. Myer conjures up next! Hopefully we'll see more soon!
My October Saturday Night Reads! I keep forgetting to post them here, but I shall endeavor to remember this month! There's a Saturday missing due to the Cat Incident of 2015, but it's all onward and upward in November!
Which reminds me, anybody doing NaNoWriMo this month? I'm still on the fence.. I really should decide considering it starts.. yesterday! Eek! I have a plan, but I'm not sure I'm up for the torture! :)
I'm giving credit where credits due: fantasy author Gerrard Cowan is not only a heck of a writer, he is also a great guy. Through all the weird in my life during the last few months, that has stalled this interview; he has stuck by it and never made a peep of complaint. He continually put up with me and my hold ups, and I truly appreciate it! You can find his book The Machinery on Amazon, Amazon UK and from HarperCollins. The paperback is out in March 2016 if that's more your style! At any rate, I hope everybody checks out the fantastic work of..
Thanks! Please, everyone, calm down, autographs after the show.
Tell us a bit about yourself! Please include at least one weird fact, so we readers can confirm that authors are in fact human, and not godlike creatures.
I’m from Derry in Ireland, but live in London with my wife and our two kids. I recently became a freelance journalist so am trying to get that going and finishing up The Strategist, the sequel to The Machinery. Weird fact … ummm … I have one short-sighted eye and one long-sighted eye. That’s weird, right?
The Machinery, your debut novel, was selected to be published from the 2012 Harper Voyager digital submissions process - over 5,000 other submissions! Congratulations! What was the process like - not only embarking on writing your first novel, but having it picked up, and traditionally published in a rather untraditional way?
Thanks! It was amazing. The open call was held back in October 2012 and lasted for two weeks. I entered The Machinery, genuinely not expecting it to get picked. My thinking was that it would help me decide if the book was something I should work on a bit more, or if it was time to give up on it, depending on how far it got. Then in February 2014 I got an email saying they wanted to publish the book – I couldn’t believe it!
The publishing process has been wonderful. Two things stand out for me: first is the professional editing, which has really made the book as good as it could be, and second is the cover, which I absolutely love.
Could you tell us about the world you have created in The Machinery, from your point of view?
I wanted it to be kind of surreal. I was always clear that I wasn’t trying to present a warts and all representation of Medieval Europe or some other era: I wanted it to be a kind of crazy world that follows its own rules. So you have masks that let you see into people’s souls, a kind of parallel dimension, and of course a hidden machine that chooses the leaders of the nation.
The Machinery is almost like two different books interwoven into one! It begins as one quite straightforward, and fairly lucid story line.. but then a part of that story line fractures off when Katrina begins her journey to the Underland, and follows a very trippy, down-the-rabbit-hole, dream like path - the part I describe as ‘bat-shit crazy, in a good way!’. Do you need two different mind-sets to write two such completely different structural approaches in one book? Is it hard to swap between the two, or did you write them separately?
Thanks! Hmm, good question. I didn’t write them separately. To be honest, I think the ‘real’ world in the book is a very strange place, too, so I had much the same mind-set for both. The second book ratchets up the bat-shitness even further, I have to say.
There is a great mystery element to The Machinery, not only an actual murder mystery, but there is also a sense of the characters being totally clueless about the world itself; everybody thinks they are on top of it, but then you pull the rug! You leave quite a few things unspoken in the first installment of The Machinery trilogy (which I loved, cause now my brain cogs are in action!!), so are you the kind of writer that wraps everything up in a tight bow by the end of a story (or trilogy in this case), or do you like to leave readers with their own imaginings about some of the elements and stories within the world?
I actually wrote a blog recently on this very subject (http://gerrardcowan.com/2015/10/04/how-much-mystery-should-a-fantasy-novel-have/). I don’t want anyone to feel cheated so I will definitely answer the major questions. However, I like books in which there’s a sense of vast mysteries just beyond our reach, so I wouldn’t want everything to be totally clear. That being said, the book is set in a country that is 10,000 years old, so it would be hard to present all of its history even if I wanted to!
Nearly all of the POV characters in The Machinery go through major changes throughout the novel - some forced, others to forge their own paths. One in particular sets up book number two to be a major scorcher of a story line (I am really looking forward to reading it!) . I was wondering if you know all of these changes, secrets and paths for a character before you set out writing, or do they sometimes surprise you as much as they surprise the reader?
That’s a really good question. Sometimes they surprise me, though the one you’re talking about was always part of the plan. I like to loosely plan everything, but it needs to have enough flexibility to accommodate changes when they present themselves. Sometimes I do find that characters go off in different directions as I write.
Which then leads to the question: are you an Architect, a Gardener, or an Architectural Gardener?
I would say a gardener. I have the basic framework of the garden in mind, but I let the flowers grow as they want. Or something.
I feel like there is a real world parallel in The Machinery, a sort of ‘oh crap, this is what we are creating for our future’ itch! With a worshipped machine given enough sentience to choose our leaders ‘in our best interest’, and the the breaking down of societies that do not fit within its parameters (parameters set by an Overseer!); it feels like an achievable dystopia!. Was that something you had in mind when writing the book, or am I just a crazy Stephen Hawkings AI doomsayer?
Well, there is definitely a political element to it, but I didn’t set out to make any kind of political point. What really interested me was how a different type of political system would work in a fantasy setting: I wanted to look at the actual structure of government, not just the people who occupy the highest rungs on the ladder.
It always intrigues me when an author uses Masks as an integral part of their world and plot line. What is about masks that drew you to use them in The Machinery? Do you love, or fear the idea of masks? (they scare the bejeezus out of me!)
To be honest, I didn’t even realise how many masks I had put into the book until I was a few drafts in, and then I went for it properly and incorporated them as a major element. I like how they are designed to conceal, but at the same time the choice of mask reveals something about the wearer.
Would you want to be one of the Selected on the Plateau? If so, which ‘office’ would you like to hold?
I don’t think I would like to live there. If I had to choose, I think I would go for Strategist. That’s a nice house he or she gets.
If I told you that you had to live within the world of The Machinery for a month, what would you do?
Marvel at your powers, and then start inventing a nearby paradise island where I could retreat.
What are your top 10 obligatory fantasy books/series reads?
Number one is the Gormenghast series: I love the weirdness! Then (in no particular order): Lord of the Rings (obviously), A Song of Ice and Fire (likewise), the Viriconium series, the Narnia books, the Broken Empire series, the Gentleman Bastard sequence, anything by N.K. Jemisin, and anything by Tad Williams. That leaves one more spot. If only I could think of a new fantasy book that readers should immediately turn to …. Hmmmm……
What authors/books/genres are you reading at the moment?
I actually read a lot of non-fiction. In terms of fiction I’ve been spending time catching up with stuff by other writers who came through the same programme as myself. It’s introduced me to genres I normally wouldn’t consider, which has been great.
Are you an e-booker or a dead tree collector, or both? And will The Machinery by released in paperback in the future?
I will normally go for ebook, just so I can start reading RIGHT AWAY, but of course I love good old traditional books, too. Yes, there will be a paperback out in March 2016.
Are you working on anything right now (hopefully the next Machinery novel…)?
Yep, The Strategist is almost ready to be sent to my editor. It should be out in May 2016.
Will we see you out and about at any conventions, bookstores etc. in the future that you would like to mention?
Yes indeed! I will be at FantasyCon in Nottingham in the UK from the 23-25 October. I’m looking forward to it!
Is there anything else you wish to tell the world? About anything at all?
I think we’ve covered everything! Thanks a lot for having me. Oh, one thing – if you read a book, please leave a review. The author will love you for it.
Another author that has survived the Book Frivolity torture experience! All the thanks go to Gerrad Cowan for braving it, and being such a good sport! Remember to go and follow Gerrard's blog at gerrardcowan.com, on the Book'o'Faces at facebook.com/gerrardcowanauthor and @GerrardCowan on Twitts. (and buy his book damnit!)
Every two thousand years, parallel dimensions collide on the world called Raisa, bringing a tide of death and destruction to all worlds but one. Multiple worlds battle their dopplegangers for dominance, and those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers.
Now the pacifist country of Dhai's only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As their dopplegangers spread across the world like a disease, a former ally takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat her, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the other worlds' undoing.
But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?
Reviewed from ARC provided by Angry Robot Books
First Disclosure: I am writing this hopped up on painkillers, with one finger, on my phone. I cannot make any guarantee that this will make any sense, or be completely readable. Blame the cat :)
Second Disclosure: I am unashamedly a Kameron Hurley fan-grrrl. There’s a multitude of reasons I find her an inspirational writer, not all of them because of her books - but I think I can be mostly objective.. Let's see!
So we’ve reached the second book, and If you’ve picked up Empire Ascendant, you most likely already know the “Hurley way” after reading Mirror Empire. Find a trope, subvert it, jump up and down on it, stick it with a sword, then offer it up in a story line that actually has rather familiar fantasy elements. An incredibly smart way to get people to read something way out of their comfort zone, and yet have them enjoy it! I probably wouldn't suggest The Worldbreaker Saga as somebody's first foray into fantasy, I think it'd have them running back to their regular pretty quickly. However, for those that are fantasy regulars, it's the next step in progressing the genre beyond the safety barriers.
The next “Hurley way” is to rain blood down around your ears. There is a lot of blood, and many characters are bleeding. Or no longer bleeding. If you have issues with your favourite characters dying, step away! Then again, Hurley writes her characters in a way that it's possible to hold a modicum of disdain for all of them, so you might not be too attached at any rate! The characters are so many shades of grey on the spectrum.. They are scarily human!
And, you know you’ve become pretty acclimatised to the grim nature of Hurley's work, when the thing that disturbs you the most is a dog licking up man spunk. You can dismember bodies, commit genocide.. Just another day! . Dog licking up semen: “OH MY GODS Hurley! You’ve gone TOO FAR!”
Look, if you loved Mirror, you’ll almost certainly love Empire. If you didn't love Mirror, I can't help you, and I'm not sure why you're here unless you're a self masochist..
So what's changed/different?
I noticed Empire Ascendant is actually much more confined in its movements, than Mirror Empire is. There’s only some brief moments journeying around the world, and there's much less exploration of the elements - it’s occasionally feels like you are reading sealed off scenes between characters. It’s actually an interesting progression from Mirror, as it projects the feeling of ‘we’ve done the wandering, we know what we need of the terrain, now let's get on with the business!’
It’s also very focused on the one world, rather than switching between the two, which, in its way, has given Empire a more intense sense of urgency. It’s almost impatient, which works so well with the exigency of the story! it in no way means that it cuts out the wonder of the world, it just doesn’t offer the regular fantasy travelogue.
I’ll be honest, I preferred Mirror’s heavier exploration! However, that's just because I love that sort of immersion. So, to me it's less a negative and more a reflection of personal preference - because the shift still absolutely works in this circumstance.
Hurley also continues to level up in prose, plotting and pacing skills in Empire. Not to say Mirror (or Hurley’s other works) is poor in these areas, but Empire is really really tight. There are less lulls, and there is never a dragging moment as it flows like a fast moving stream, broken up by momentous rapids. There is never a point where you stop and scratch your head in confusion about what just occurred in the plot; which did happen once or twice in Mirror.
The unique (un)gendered pronoun system feels less awkward, and generally everything that felt ‘experimental’ in Mirror, now feels completely natural in this world. It all slots together with better fluidity, as the slightly roughened edges have been sanded down nicely.
What Empire Ascendant does really well, is give an insight into the ‘baddies’, the doppelgangers invading the Dhai. And it really makes you ponder the thought ‘what would I do to save everyone I love?’. Would committing genocide be such a horrible thing to do, if it means saving all the people of your planet? It's a scary headspace to explore, those absolutes, the limits of the ‘what if?’s. It's something Hurley does so well, in all her works: forces you to think beyond the book!
There were a couple of occasions I did have to re-read a line or two - but I’m inclined to believe that it was due to the ARC formatting, rather than a fault in the writing. I’ll check that out once I’ve fully perused the published edition! Even if it is part of the pubbed copy, it happens so rarely, it's not a huge issue when you hold it up to the rest of the book.
If I was going to find anything that did make me hurrumph, it's the ending. I can't really say anything about it, for obvious reasons - but I will say there is ALOT happening in the last few chapters, that leaves you feeling a bit harried, and yet a kind of empty..
(hehehe one finger verdict is a bit shaky)
Bring on 2017 for the next installment! Can't believe I’m going to have hold on that long.. There may be bursting, and a flowing of fluids..
So, that's why I've been absent for a bit, and why I'll probably be a bit slow for a while ...
Who knew two tiny tooth holes in the back of the hand, could cause so much damned trouble and pain!
I'll have some wicked new scars from the surgery.. I'll have to think up some cool backstory to go with them, cause 'cat bite' just sounds dull (and pretty stupid!)..
Moral of the Story: Don't get between a cat and its prey, unless you want a raging Pasteurella infection! It's pretty shitty, I must say..
Anyway, I'm exhausted, and my hand hurts like a bastard.. Time to veg & listen to to the audiobook of House of Chains by Steven Erikson, with The Frost Beast (the non-biter! Hehehe).