Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, Marci Jefferson
Top voices in historical fiction deliver an intensely moving collection of short stories about loss, longing, and hope in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.
A squadron commander searches for meaning in the tattered photo of a girl he’s never met…
A Belgian rebel hides from the world, only to find herself nursing the enemy…
A young airman marries a stranger to save her honor—and prays to survive long enough to love her…The peace treaty signed on November 11, 1918, may herald the end of the Great War but for its survivors, the smoke is only beginning to clear. Picking up the pieces of shattered lives will take courage, resilience, and trust.
Within crumbled city walls and scarred souls, war’s echoes linger. But when the fighting ceases, renewal begins…and hope takes root in a fall of poppies.
Excerpt from “Hour of the Bells”
A short story included in Fall of Poppies
Beatrix whisked around the showroom, feather duster in hand. Not a speck of dirt could remain or Joseph would be disappointed. The hour struck noon. A chorus of clocks whirred, their birds popping out from hiding to announce midday. Maidens twirled in their frocks with braids down their backs, woodcutters clacked their axes against pine, and the odd sawmill wheel spun in tune to the melody of a nursery rhyme. Two dozen cuckoos warbled and dinged, each crafted with loving detail by the same pair of hands—those with thick fingers and a steady grip.
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Ace Imprints.
Trigger Warning: Memories of child rape and abuse.
Before embarking on this book, you need to start thinking of Alice, less like the Disney version:
And more like American McGee's version:
Although Alice is not based on the American McGee game, it's a good example of the extremely vast difference between what most know of Alice in Wonderland and what this book actually is. This Alice is certainly not a young adult/childrens novel, but in no way does that make this take any less compelling than the original Lewis Carrol version; just a little more darkly serious in it's haunting scenes and messages. It isn't a re-make of the original, but a total re-imagining, in which the characters are literally mad and not just slightly kooky.
Gwendolyn's Sword by E.A Haltom
Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.
House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…
Reviewed from ARC - (My real/full review of The House of Shattered Wings is to be housed elsewhere, but I thought I'd stick this up as a sort of 'non review' review for at least my benefit!)
As I was reading The House of Shattered Wings, slivers of a particular classical music score kept running through my head! On the surface it seems like quite a strange coupling, one would think my mind would be be blasting away Verdi's Requiem or something similar, but surprisingly it was the Allegretto movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major. It probably helps that the score is still seared into my brain through countless hours of rehearsing some years ago, but, I think there are a few reasons it kept looping, rather something with more gusto and intensity.
Shiver me timbers lads and lassies! It's August! The month of extreme wind chill factors, Peridots, Hollys, Hawthorns, Hazels and Leos! Birthdays for awesome people (me), and some pretty awesome ones for books as well!
All one needs to know, is that a fleeting moment after putting this book down, sighing like a contented lady of regency, and contemplating if I could possibly fit in another hour of reading tonight; I purchased Glamour in Glass.. It so happens, that my constitution is not quite so weak as it appears..
And so, good evening fine gentle people! I have a rather riveting dinner party to attend with Jane, and I must toilet before making my appearance! I look a frightful shambles in this nightdress, and it simply shall not do in such charming company.. A glamour may need to weaved, to simply cover over the whole debacle of my frightful state!
Ie. I really really loved it!
Sometimes, gentle is all that is needed. If all one reads is battle weary warriors, swinging around broadswords, there is a chance of missing the subtlety of a simple, yet beautifully classic story. I was so glad to have come by this at this point in time, unwell and sleepless.
The only way I really wish to review it, is to buy a copy for all of my classic/regency loving friends*, secretly leave it on their bedside tables, and wait for them to one night notice it lying there. When the night is quieted, and the stress of the day keeps them from sleeping; they can pick it up, read and just forget. Be lost and dream of weaving magic to create beauty, rather than destruction.
*though I am not Oprah, so the chances of this occurring is slim, to none!
Cornwall, England, 1193. Eleanor of Aquitaine, the indomitable dowager queen, has ordered all of England onto a war footing while her son King Richard languishes in a German dungeon.
When Gwendolyn de Cardinham happens upon mercenaries from Prince John's rebellion, she draws her sword and defends her home as well as any knight could have. But more of John's mercenaries are coming, her sister-in-law claims Gwendolyn’s husband has died on crusade, and the local prior has absurdly informed Gwendolyn that King Arthur’s fabled sword is destined to be hers.
Reviewed from ARC
Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense.
There is something truly satisfying in that moment when you realise that what you thought was going to be a Arthurian Romance, turns out to be book about a bad arse warrior woman, wielding a sword and cutting down her enemies. Well, it's not a simple as that, but I certainly had a 'hell yeah!' moment, when in the first couple of pages the main protagonist Gwendolyn decides to defend one of her maids by whipping out a sword and cutting off a man's hand. Now there's a introduction if I ever saw one...
I concur. Though, I admit that sometimes those reviewers are highly entertaining to read!! ;)
I first read The Sword of Shannara 18 years ago, and as a young teen I loved it with all my squidgy heart. So much so, I think I rambled on about it more than any of my friends or family could stand (I could tell, because of the "Shut Up Kristy"'s thrown my way everytime I got a gooey about it!)
Now that the tv series is being promoted, I thought I'd revisit it, to reminisce..
The problem is, I hold so much nostalgia for it, yet have had the opportunity to explore fantasy way beyond what was on offer at the Mobile Library I had access to back then (ie. The book bus that would visit country Australian towns too far from a city centre to visit a real library), that it now seems.. Well.. Like something I loved as a teenager, and only appreciate as an adult!
It's still a great book, it just doesn't have the complexity of narrative, character and plot that makes me get the crazy loves these days. It lacks the moral conflict, uncertainty and grey areas that make my cogs turn! Tastes change I suppose! Abercrombie spoiled me in my early 20's, and I guess I just haven't looked back!
I would still recommend it to young teenage me, and any young budding fantasy enthusiast! To anybody that just wants to ride a softer fantasy wave than I do, to be honest!
I'll always have the fondest memories, and my heart will always remember it being the best damned thing since books were invented; even if my head doesn't!
I found theses in the post box today! I think it's only fair I offer Gollancz my hand in marriage now... Sweet holy SQUEE!
So, the week is officially over! It's been an interesting few days! Lot's of rain, frost and snow, with copious amounts of cat cuddling and caffeine! Excellent time to hibernate with some wordery... !
Hope your Reading week was awesome, and you have some fantastic material for the next!
Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how?
With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.
Reviewed From ARC.
Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense, Subjective, Limited
When you start reviewing the third book in a series (of at least four), from a consistent writer such as John Gwynne, you begin to realise you've said most of everything that's important in previous reviews! So, if you feel the need, read my past reviews of Malice and Valour and then we shall continue...
Back with me? Excellent! So this time, I am going to talk about something completely different, and dig about in the depths of what I want from a book, rather than how well it presents from a 'reviewers' stand point. Let's get all D&M..
In my old age (451 in August! Feels that way at any rate..), I am finding that what I require most from a fantasy is that the characters evoke a strong emotional response in this cold, coal heart of mine.
Gwynne already has all the Epic Fantasy boxes ticked: great adventure, extreme tension and massive conflicts. My comfortable shoes! The box checked with many a tick, is the ability to create strongly written characters that can arouse a true visceral and emotional response in moi.
The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They'll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers.
But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she'll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
I was given the opportunity to read the first few chapters of The Traitor Baru Cormorant, and although I can't comment on the whole book, those first chapters are bloody amazing!
It's a truly intense, brutal, yet beautiful geopolitical fantasy. It starts with the outlook of Baru as a young child, watching her people persecuted and murdered as she is being 're-educated' by the invading Empire of Masks. Deciding to fight for her people with wit, rather than with weapons, she becomes the perfect student so that she can fight from within the Empire. At 18, she is given the opportunity to start working on the end goal..
The writing is just fantastic. It has a lyrical dream like quality that juxtaposes the brutality of what's going on around Baru in the most intense way. I just found it uniquely beautiful. I don't think I've actually read anything quite like it.
It has a Kameron Hurley-esque feel, so if you are fan of her work, I think this might suit you well!
If I don't get to read the whole novel soon, I might burst.. I might just pre-emptively burst now to get it over a done with, as it isn't released til mid September!
In October 2012, Harper Voyager UK, US and Australia put out the call for aspiring SpecFic authors to digitally submit their completed manuscripts, with the chance to be globally published.
The 'winners' received the full benefits of the publishing process: editing, digital publishing, and world wide sales support. By the end of the two week submission period, Harper Voyager ended up receiving over 4500 manuscripts!
It was a first in the industry that had authors, publishers and commentators in the SpecFic book industry buzzing about the opportunity and speculating about they thought the outcome might be.
I was on the fence in my opinion! A truly fantastic opportunity for those that had themselves a polished manuscript just waiting for a publisher to pick them up! However, even though I had come to respect Harper Voyager as a publisher of great SpecFic, I did have some reservations about what the quality of said manuscripts might be. In the end I figured somewhere in that 4500 manuscripts there must be a few truly great works; I just crossed my fingers that Harper Voyager had their really good 'slush pile reader' hats on!
Now, those books are starting to hit the digital shelves (and some dead tree copies too!)! 15 books were chosen to get the Harper Voyager treatment, and I was been lucky enough to receive ARCs of three of the first to be released! And here they are...
It's 5am and I just finished The Price of Valour .. So, you work it out.. I rarely read for 6 hours straight, so Wexler must've been doing something right! I'd review this a little more succinctly but, being 5 am and all.. I have the eye strength of a 2 hour old kitten...
So, this is what you get:
If you love flintlock fantasy that has fully rendered characters with continuous development, relationships that ring true (cause unless there is a sense of flummoxed, it just isn't realistic!), demony things that do demony things, and a ton of military madness that is actually interesting to read, rather than feeling like a slog through a 200 year old combat procedural; read it!
Just don't gorge on it like I did, cause there will be grumpiness when you have to wake up in.. 2 and a half hours..