Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reading Canada with SFF Legends (eh?)

This year, in honour of our nation's 148th birthday (and the 50th anniversary of the Maple Leaf), I decided to invite some legends from the Canadian science-fiction/fantasy/horror community to stop by and share their thoughts on fiction north of the 49th parallel. We may not be as vocal or demonstrative as our neighbours to the south, but based on the overwhelming response to my request, it's clear that we are indeed a patriotic bunch - and proud of our unique literary niche!

Ed Greenwood - Creator of the Forgotten Realms® fantasy world, Ed has published over 200 articles in magazines like Dragon & Polyhedron, and over 170 books that have sold millions of copies worldwide. He currently resides in an old farmhouse in Ontario with more than 80,000 books.

"Canada is rife with great fantasy and sf writers, but I'd like to highlight one sf stalwart, Julie Czerneda, for her new fantasy series: TURN OF LIGHT and its sequel A PLAY OF SHADOW and thankfully more to come! And of course a giant among Canadian writers of the fantastic: Guy Gavriel Kay, who writes masterpieces; TIGANA and A SONG FOR ARBONNE are deserved classics!"

Nancy Kilpatrick - Nancy is a writer and editor of dark fantasy, horror (sometimes erotic),and mysteries. She has published 18 novels, 1 non-fiction book, 200 short stories, and 5 collections of stories, and has edited 12 anthologies. She lives with her calico cat Fedex in lovely Montreal. 

"Two of my favorite Canadian authors are Tanya Huff and Nancy Baker.  Nancy's beautifully-written novels are set in Toronto, and Tanya's BLOOD series is set in Toronto and London, Ontario (and the TV series Blood Ties was based on her books).  I think both of them, Ontario raised, provide a realistic view of the cities where their books are set and that in my view goes a long way towards showing the world what Canada looks like from the view of insiders, and gives insight into the mainstream and subcultures.  Also, in the case of these two authors and the books I'm thinking about, they show clearly that, yes indeed, vampires dwell in Canada the Good!"

[I had the great pleasure of being a part of Nancy's Editing Horror Fiction Workshop back in 2007, at the World Horror Convention in Toronto, and my signed copy of her Goth Bible is a cornerstone of my library.]

Sebastien de Castell - Four hours into his career as an archaeologist, Sebastien realized how much he actually hated it, propelling him into a career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, product strategist, and author. He currently lives in Vancouver with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats.

"Charles de Lint is, for me, the quintessential Canadian fantasist. Novels like Moonheart, Trader, and Someplace To Be Flying take us by the hand onto urban streets, whether those of Ottawa or of de Lint’s own invented Newford, where beings both mundane and magical move around each other in a tenuous dance that never sets one side as truly good nor the other evil. There’s something very Canadian about that!"

Robert J. Sawyer - One of only eight writers in history (and the only Canadian) to win all three of the world's top Science Fiction awards for best novel of the year, Robert has published 23 novels, all of them top-ten national mainstream bestsellers in Canada. Born in Ottawa, he currently lives in Mississauga.

"I’m known for the flagrant and frequent Canadian settings in my own fiction, and there are those who say I was a pioneer in doing that, especially in the speculative-fiction arena. Well, I may indeed have been an early adopter, but I had at least a glimmering that it might be successful, despite all the naysayers who proclaimed you could never sell a book to an American publisher if it was set in Canada.

See, in 1988, the year I was writing my first novel, Toronto schoolteacher Terence M. Green had his own first book come out: Barking Dogs, a gritty science-fiction drama about a near-future Toronto in which perfect portable lie detectors let a rogue cop play judge, jury, and executioner to the perps who were slipping through the cracks in the legal system. Green reveled in his Canadian setting, and his book, published by the major New York house St. Martin's Press, was warmly embraced on both sides of the border.

Barking Dogs and its sequel, Blue Limbo, are available again in both print and ebook editions from Arc Manor, an innovative new American publisher, under their Phoenix Pick imprint. They’re still cracking good reads, and they paved the way for myself, Nalo Hopkinson, Hayden Trenholm, and every other Canadian writer setting our SF in this country; indeed, Toronto’s proven such a terrific setting for SF that even American writers, such as Daryl Gregory in last year’s Afterparty (Tor Books), are setting works here."

[Although I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Robert, I feel like I know him very well, having watched him wax eloquently about all things sci-fi on the long-running Canadian series  Prisoners of Gravity with (Commander) Rick Green.]

Julie Czerneda - Julie is a best-selling, award-winning author/editor, with more than 15 novels in print, including A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, and just as many anthologies edited. She currently lives  in central Ontario with her husband, Roger.

"I’m particularly proud, this Canada Day, of the work done by Lesley Livingston and Jonathan Llyr. They’ve been part of the sf/f scene in this country for a long time, creating, supporting, doing what they do best be it as actors or writers. Most recently, they’ve been inspiring the next generation with their fabulous series for younger readers: The Wiggins Weird, a celebration of all we love about our genre delivered with flare and whimsy and, if I may say so, a very Canadian dose of smart."

[I've had the opportunity to chat with Julie several times over the past few years, and finally got to meet her in person at a book signing for A Play of Shadow last summer. She's just wonderful person, in addition to being a wonderful writer.]

Steff - Better known as Mogsy, Steff is a frequent visitor to the ruins and one of my favorite voices over at The BiblioSanctum blog. Although she currently lives in the US with her husband and two beautiful daughters, you can't take the Canadian out of her any more than you can the geek.

"I may be a transplanted Canadian living in the US, but to borrow Bob's phrase, I still have plenty of maple leaf in my heart! I'm proud to be from Canada, a beautiful country home to so much talent in my favorite genre of SFF, including names like Steven Erikson, Guy Gavriel Kay, Michelle Sagara, Robert J. Sawyer, and so many more. And of course, I would be totally remiss if I didn't highlight Margaret Atwood, a Canadian author I admire for her incredible work as a novelist and poet. An interesting bit of trivia: Atwood wrote ALIAS GRACE, a book partially set in the town of Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto where I spent a large part of my childhood. I always thought that was so cool, and I guess I wasn't the only one, judging by the long holds list that book always had at our local library!"

J.M. Frey - J.M. is an actor, voice actor, and SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional geek. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Born in Guelph, she currently resides in Toronto.

Favorite Fiction: "The Autobiography of Red" by Anne Carson.
"Anne's a Canadian poet and eassayist, and a Classicist, who captures the wonderful sense of questioning identity and being intesly facinated with roots and histories that we Canadians all share; her protagonist Geryon is a creature, but not, a monster, but not, and knows everything about himself and nothing at all. It's a very thoughtful, clever work with some of the most gorgeous language ever written."

Favorite Non-Fiction: "Hitching Rides with Buddha" by Will Ferguson.
"I read Ferguson's book while I was living in Japan and it is true that Canadians become nationalistic only when we step outside of our borders. "Hitching Rides" is a wonderful tale of a Canaadian hitchhiking across Japan, but more than that it's a book about what it means to do that, to step outside and reflect back, and is a wonderful exploration of national stereotypes - our own, and those we assume about other nations and cultures."

Favorite YA/MG: "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George.
"In grade six my teacher did a unit on "My Side of the Mountain," and after that I absolutely devoured everything Jean Craighead George. I recall being on a family camping trip the summer after grade six and just sobbing through the end of "Julie of the Wolves". George was American, but Julie was set in the Canadian Arctic, and since then I've been quite interseted in wildlife conservation and global environmental change. George's book sparked a great love in me of the beautiful nature we share with the wildlife of Canada."

Favorite Drama: "Hitching Rides with Buddha" by Will Ferguson.
"I ADORE our Canadian playwrights. Anne Marie MacDonald's "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)", Drew Hayden Taylor's "Toronto at Dreamer's Rock", Grey & Peterson's "Billy Bishop Goes To War", Daniel David Moses' "Almighty Voice and His Wife" (Daniel taught me playwriting), Michel Trembley's "Hossana" and Michael Healy's "The Drawer Boy" are my absolute favourites. I will buy tickets to see each of them time and time and time again. I wrote papers on all those plays in school, and my MA thesis was based on MacDonald's. I cannot reccomend these plays enough."

Shaun Meeks - Shaun is the author of Shutdown, The Gate at Lake Drive, and Down on the Farm. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and he'll next be seen in Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed. He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with his partner, model and Burlesque performer, Mina LaFleur.

"As a writer of speculative fiction, I found early on that reading authors from Canada or stories set in this country to be one of my favorite things. It's what influenced me to set 90% of my novels and short stories here. One of the first genre books I ever read that was set in Canada was Clive Barker's Cabal, which used Alberta as a back drop and I remember thinking how awesome it was that a British writer would use Canada as a setting. As of late, I've been reading more and more Canadian authors. From Kelly Armstrong to Charles de Lint to Maggie Macdonald to Charles R. Sanders. One of my favorites though has been Simon Strantzas, a speculative fiction writer who leans towards the weird. I've yet to read a single story by him that didn't captivate me and grab me with his nearly lyrical style."

Michael R. Fletcher - Michael is a science fiction and fantasy author whose novel of dark fantasy and rampant delusion, Beyond Redemption, was published by HARPER Voyager this past month. His next two Manifest Delusions novels are currently in various stages of editing while he tries to be the best husband and dad he can be.

"Dave Duncan's THE SEVENTH SWORD series will always hold a special place in my heart. I read his books back in high-school and they helped define fantasy for me. Every few years I still go back and reread the series."

Kristi CharishKristi is a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She's also the author of the  modern-day “Indiana Jane” series featuring Owl, an ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief. She currently lives in Toronto.

"My Canadian Fantasy author pick is Kelley Armstrong, author of The Women of the Underworld series. Not only is she an internationally acclaimed urban fantasy author, she's Canadian and often includes Canadian cities in her books. For a summer pick, I recommend 'Person Demon.'"

Susan MacGregor - Susan is an editor with On Spec Magazine and the anthologies 'Tesseracts Fifteen' and 'Divine Realms' who has had her short fiction published in a number of anthologies and magazines. Her Tattooed Witch Trilogy is an historical fantasy (with paranormal and romantic leanings) set in an alternate medieval Spain. She currently lives in Lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

"One of my favourite Canadian authors is Robertson Davies. A writer of opposites, he masterfully  mixes the brutal with the poignant, the simple with the complex, the outward appearance with what lurks beneath. In Davies' work, the sacred breathes alongside the profane. Here is one of his best quotes: "The great book for you is the book that has the most to say to you at the moment you are reading. I do not mean the book that is the most instructive, but the book that feeds your spirit. And that depends on your age, your experience, your psychological and spiritual need." Here is another of his quotes, a perfect opposite to the first and which illustrates my point: "Nothing is so easy to fake as the inner vision." Does Davies capture something of our Canadian spirit? That mix of seriousness and humour, of depth and flippancy? I think he does."

Sean Russell - Sean published his first fantasy novel, The Initiate Brother, in 1991, and went on to write 4 sagas before making the switch to historical fiction in 2007. Born in Toronto, he moved to Vancouver after university, where he currently lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and son.

“Mockingbird by Sean Stewart.  Brilliant novel!  Not set in Canada but by a Canadian author.  Almost more a literary book than an SF novel but a wonderful piece of writing!"

Nick Cutter - Nick has written several novels under a pair of different names, as well as a few story collections, and even a movie. He's written for magazines and newspapers, too. He currently lives in Toronto with his fiancee and our baby boy, Nick.

"One of my favorite Canadian books? Tough call. I'll go with Doug Coupland's GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA. It's the first Coupland I ever read, and for my money, still his best. There's a real heart to that book---you've still got all the postmodern pyrotechnics he's known for, but it's wedded to a real, beating, vibrant heart. Great book!"

K.V. JohansenK.V. writes mostly epic fantasy ... character-driven epic fantasy ... with shapeshifters, demons, gods, and ... Moth, around whom even the gods get a bit nervous. Her main scholarly interests are ancient and medieval history and languages, and the history of children's fantasy literature. She lives in Kingstn with a wicked white husky-mix dog.

"No hard choices or dithering are required to name my favourite Canadian author. I first discovered Donald Jack when I was in elementary school, and his Bandy Papers series has gone on being something I go back to all my life. That after Jack’s death I became the editor of the final, posthumously-published volume, Stalin Versus Me, remains rather awe-inspiring. The series, for those who don’t know it, follows the adventures of Canadian ace Bartholomew Wolfe Bandy from Three Cheers For Me and the trenches of the First World War, into the air (he transfers to the RFC after capturing his own colonel in a daring raid on his own lines) to the spring of 1945. Definitely not children’s books -- I read them for the humour and the adventure as a child, learnt from them how comedy and tragedy could be two sides of the same face, and only gradually, as I matured, picked up on the satire and the subtlety of Bandy’s enduring defiance of institutional and human stupidity (and learnt a lot about writing, too). Despite winning the Leacock three times, Jack never got the literary recognition he deserved for these -- the depth of the stories is too often overlooked or glossed over. In Canada it sometimes seems we can only cope with one label per book and these were labelled ‘humour’; they couldn’t possibly at the same time be Serious Canadian Literature or serious books about war, or a prose style, its irony balanced on a knife-edge, worthy of study. There are brilliant dogfights; there is biting satire; there are passages and quiet, simple scenes -- Bandy sitting on the hospital bed simply holding Katherine’s hat, wordless -- that leave you in tears. The Bandy Papers are Canada’s All Quiet on the Western Front or The Good Soldier Švejk and deserve to recognized as such. Everyone should read them. "

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fantasy Review: Shower of Stones by Zachary Jernigan

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. While I make every attempt to avoid spoilers, please be aware that an ARC synopsis, press release, or review request may disclose details that are not revealed in the published cover blurb.

Like its predecessor, No Return, the second novel of Jeroun follows two converging story lines - the first featuring the triumvirate of Vedas, Churls, and Berun, and the second featuring the scientist/magician Pol. It's a narrative format that echoes the first novel quite nicely, creating a natural flow or connection between the two, but that's really where the similarities end.

As hard as it may be to believe, Shower of Stones is a darker, more complex, more philosophical novel. Zachary Jernigan really takes us beneath the surface of that first narrative to confront what it means to be human, to be in love, and to hold onto hope for a better tomorrow. That's not to say that this is a shiny, happy, hopeful fantasy - far from it! - but we're climbing towards the possibility of a future, rather than towards an end.

The opening chapter or arc of a novel really serves to set the tone for what comes after, and Jernigan sucked me in immediately. He takes us deep into the history of the world of Jeroun, to a time before Adrash was the only god in the sky, and fully fleshes out a mythology that was only hinted at in the first book. We meet the gods (demigods?) whom Adrash created to keep him company and to provide a sense of a family, and witness firsthand as his depression and his madness drive them to wage war upon a world and attempt to drive him from the skies. It's a fractured, damaged, incestuous family dynamic that evokes memories of Greek mythology, but which is something entirely new and exciting.

In the second arc, he takes us deeper into the heroes of the first book, revealing the heart and soul of Vedas, Churls, and even Berun. Whereas No Return was largely a story of mistrust and animosity, Shower of Stones is one of trust and friendship. The seeds of character development planted in the first book are allowed to take root and blossom here, driven in large part by a mysterious new character who announces himself by arriving on the back of a dragon. I won't say much about him, as his secrets are a cornerstone of the book, but I do have to say a few words about Fyra. As much as I liked the mystery and the cryptic nature of her presence in the first book, I was excited to see her become a character here, extending the heroic triumvirate into a quartet. This arc is certainly the longest of the novel, eating up far more pages than (on the surface) seems wise, but somehow Jernigan makes it work. It's a long period of talking and philosophizing, without a lot of action, but the internal conflicts really work to expose the significance of the first arc, and to bring the two of them together.

The final arc involves, of course, the final confrontation with Adrash. Again, there's not much I can say here without spoiling things, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it all played out. I thought I knew where Jernigan was taking the story, but he weaves in some twists and turns that keep you guessing right to the end. Anybody getting a bit antsy over the lack of action in the second arc is well rewarded here, as everything comes together, with gods and heroes carving out a new mythology. What's refreshing, however, is that he doesn't allow the mythology to overwhelm the human element, and doesn't allow the war between gods to push the heroes to the background. It's a delicate balance when dealing with such very different forces, but I loved the way everything intertwined and came together.

Shower of Stones is a very different book from No Return, both in terms of content and pacing, but somehow it all works. It's not as edgy or innovative as the first, but it's deeper, more well-rounded, and more . . . well, significant is the only word that comes to mind.

Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: July 14th 2015 by Night Shade Book

Monday, June 29, 2015

Thriller Review: Pulse by Robert Cook

If it weren’t for the pacing issues and the one-dimensional characters, Pulse could be a blockbuster political/techno-thriller, putting Robert Cook’s name up there alongside Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and Dale Brown.

Unfortunately, the characters are so perfect that they’re propelled far beyond the bounds of credibility and into the region of ridiculous. Yes, it’s a nice change of pace from the psychologically damaged techno-thriller hero, haunted by his past, but characters need some soft spots and weaknesses the make them human. It doesn’t help that their dialogue is just as perfect. It’s like listening to a scripted documentary where every sentence is smart, direct, and precisely worded, but there’s no emotion or humanity to make the conversations seem natural.

As for the pacing I mentioned earlier, I’m certainly no stranger to these novels taking their time in getting to the ‘big’ event, but you need a few small events along the way to build the tension. When war does finally come to the world in the last 100 or so pages, it’s certainly a high point of the novel, extremely well-written and wonderfully detailed, but almost too little, too late. Having said all that, this is the third book in a series (beginning with Cooch), so there may be some character building I’ve missed, just as there may be some crucial details in the opening chapters where I missed the relevance to previous storylines. If either were the case, it might alleviate those issues for readers who are already familiar with the series.

The technology is extremely cutting-edge (more than enough to excite any techno-geek), and the level of detail would be perfect – Cook does a fantastic job of educating us without falling into the trap of trying to impress us with how much he knows – were it not repeated so many times. As for the overall military strategy, that’s often where these thrillers lose me, but here it comes across as both innovative and realistic. Politically, some aspects that nagged at me, but not so much that they negated anything that was happening within the wider conflict. It is, however, a refreshing twist to have a man named Alejandro Mohammed Cuchulain as the hero of such a very American thriller, subverting the stereotypical villainization of Arab/Islamic culture.

As a screenplay, Pulse would work extremely well, since those areas where I found it to be lacking would be far less obvious on the big screen. Regardless, I enjoyed the book immensely, despite its flaws - I just wish Cook had saved me so many exasperated sighs and so much eye-rolling along the way.

Paperback, 362 pages
Published December 16th 2014 by Royal Wulff Publishing

Saturday, June 27, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

A busy week this time around with some interviews, guest posts, features, and reviews:
While I don't generally pay a lot of attention to stats, I found this interesting enough to share - the most popular post in the ruins this month has actually been my year-old review of The Last Town by Blake Crouch. Apparently, viewers of Wayward Pines are desperate to know how it all ends.


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

Okay, so I managed to go cold turkey on requesting any new titles . . . but I did let myself be tempted by two requests. In my defense, the first was a request from Ragnarok (a publisher I always have trouble saying 'no' to), and the second is co-written by one of the guys in Rush (as a Canadian, I feel honor bound to accept).

By C.T. Phipps

Derek Hawthorne was born to be an agent of the Red Room. Literally. Raised in a conspiracy which has protected the world from the supernatural for centuries, he's never been anything other than a servant of their agenda. Times are changing, though, and it may not be long before their existence is exposed.

When a routine mission uncovers the latest plan of the magical terrorist, the Wazir, Derek finds himself saddled with a new partner. Who is the mysterious but deadly Shannon O'Reilly? What is her agenda? Couple this with the discovery the Red Room has a mole seeking to frame Derek for treason and you have a plot which might bring down a millennium-old organization. Can he stop the Wazir's mission to expose the supernatural? And should he?

Clockwork Lives
by Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart

In Clockwork Angels , #1 bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson and legendary Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart created a fabulous, adventurous steampunk world in a novel to accompany the smash Rush concept album of the same name. It was a world of airships and alchemy, clockwork carnivals, pirates, lost cities, a rigid Watchmaker who controlled every aspect of life, and his nemesis, the ruthless and violent Anarchist who wanted to destroy it all.

Anderson and Peart have returned to their colourful creation to explore the places and the characters that still have a hold on their imagination. Marinda Peake is a woman with a quiet, perfect life in a small village; she long ago gave up on her dreams and ambitions to take care of her ailing father, an alchemist and an inventor. When he dies, he gives Marinda a mysterious inheritance: a blank book that she must fill with other people’s stories — and ultimately her own.

Clockwork Lives is a steampunk Canterbury Tales, and much more, as Marinda strives to change her life from a mere “sentence or two” to a true epic.

I also picked up a few used books this weekend to fill some gaps in my shelves. Michael Swanwick I want to read in anticipation of his upcoming release; Pocock & Pitt I've been hunting down since learning it was the basis for the TV series Adderly; Graham Masterton is fast becoming a favorite horror author; and Brooke Leimas I've been hunting down forever.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

• Shower of Stones by Zachary Jernigan
I was already curious after reading the first book, and excited after my chat with Zachary, but it's the opening bit of mythology building that has already won me over.

• Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
I was disappointed in The Crippled God, so I passed on this when it was first released, but I picked up the paperback in anticipation of Fall of Light and I'm enjoying it immensely.

• Grudgebearer by J.F. Lewis
I was in a mood for an old-school fantasy novel last weekend, so I started in on this. A bit confusing early on, but a lot of really cool ideas.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence

Wow, talk about a lot of pressure going into a book. Due to delays with Canada Customs and Canada Post, I was late (really late) getting my copy of The Liar's Key. By the time I cracked the spine I was already aware of a slew of 5-star reviews, and even if I tried to avoid reading them beforehand, I still knew many readers who were calling this Mark Lawrence's best work to date.

Yeah, as if my own expectations weren't already high enough!

The thing is, early on, I will admit to a few shadows of doubt. It's a bigger book than the first, in terms of both scope and page count, and I felt like the first half of it dragged on a bit too long. I still enjoyed it, but I found it slowly losing that can't-put-down, must-read impetus I remembered from his other novels. By the time I hit the halfway mark a week later, with Jal and Snorri going their separate ways, I actually put it down for a few days.

Of course, this is Mark Lawrence, and I knew that my pause wouldn't be an extended one. Call it an intermission (if you will) or a palate cleanser (if you must), but a few days later I picked it back up . . . and blew through the second half in 2 days. Yes, even if I have to stop shy of calling it his best - Prince of Fools will hold onto that coveted spot for at least a little while longer - it was still a fantastic read that turned out to be just as good as anything in the Broken Empire trilogy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the final 100 pages rival anything he's written before, with a climax that may not be quite as frenzied or action-packed as in the previous books, but which is infinitely more dramatic, and entirely satisfying on so many levels.

Oddly enough, for a book that I expected to be very much about Snorri and his quest to bring his family back from Hell, this is entirely Jal's story. In fact, Snorri is almost relegated to a background character here, overshadowed by the likes of Tuttugu, Kara, and Hennan. While they're all great characters, each with their own legitimate roles to play in the overall drama, they're most effective in illuminating some of the more noble (and inconvenient) aspects of Jal's character. As much as he likes to style himself "a liar and a cheat and a coward," we see him slowly evolve through those relationships, fighting against his better side every step of the way.

At the same time, his blood-fueled magical flashbacks both expose his heart and scar his spirit, revealing the truth about his mother, the Red Queen, the Silent Sister, Edris Dean, and more. Whereas Lawrence has always used flashbacks to enhance the story, here he tells a significant chunk of it through those dreams. They don't always make sense in the moment, and it's hard to see exactly where they're going, but when the pieces all fall into place, it's magnificent. The moment when Jal realizes the truth of his family legacy, and just how it plays into the Dead King's schemes, is definitely one of the strongest, most impactful scenes Lawrence has ever written.

Of course, Jal's growth does nothing to absolve him of his more selfish thoughts, and those deeper revelations do nothing to interrupt his sarcastic, self-serving, narrative voice. Simply put, he's a fun guy to listen to, especially when he's whining and complaining about his fate. Even in the first half of the book, where I felt the pacing dragged, Jal's voice was sufficient to keep me coming back. As for the climax, it's that voice, and his own internal monologue, that drive so much of the final scenes. It's powerful stuff, and really serves to strip him bare and reveal the truth of his character, even as it brings the key plotlines of this volume to a close.

One final word on The Liar's Key - that final paragraph, those last 27 words, may very well be the greatest cliffhanger I've ever read. I gasped, I laughed, and I threw my first in the air, ready for the promise of The Wheel of Osheim to come.

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Ace

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Delving Into Darkness by Jane Kindred (author of Idol of Blood)

Delving Into Darkness
by Jane Kindred

Idol of Blood is a dark fantasy. Let me qualify that by saying I don’t mean it fits in the genre of dark fantasy—it has no horror elements—well, mostly none. (Is that anything like “mostly dead”?) But as an epic fantasy with romantic elements, it has some seriously dark moments. This second book in my Looking Glass Gods trilogy deals with recovered memories of abuse, madness, loss, and revenge. Of course, there’s a fair bit of romance and erotica in the mix, so it isn’t all darkness, but I feel it’s only fair to let readers know what they’re getting into.

Because the original draft of this trilogy was a single volume—written in the halcyon days of just a few years ago when publishers were willing to buy 800-page epic fantasy—Idol of Blood doesn’t have the usual mostly-happy ending that my books are known for. In terms of classical dramatic structure, it’s largely the “escalating obstacles and rising action” piece of the story, with some temporary triumph mixed in with the darkest hour.

Idol of Bone, released this past February, is probably the lightest of the three, but it also has its fair share of dark elements. The story begins some 13 years after the prequel novella, The Devil’s Garden, and focuses on characters that were only peripheral to that story, which set the stage for the world of Looking Glass Gods. This is a world in which the rule of the godlike race of Meer is waning, and the magic of the Meer is no longer believed in.

While I was writing the last third of the original novel, I was reading Darkness, I, the final book in the late Tanith Lee’s Blood Opera series. It’s fair to say that reading Lee’s book colored my mood and encouraged me to go darker. (If you haven’t read her series, and if you like dark, sexy, subversive fiction, I highly recommend it.) I was also dealing with a dark time in my life. The character in Idol of Blood who recovers repressed childhood memories essentially unlocked my own as I was writing it. That element of the story isn’t in any way autobiographical—what happens to the character is beyond anything I experienced—but it was certainly a cathartic way to deal with the events I was remembering.

That catharsis included the revenge portion of the story. It was how I exorcised my personal demons. And I have to confess to having enjoyed writing many of the darker portions of the book—particularly the character of MeerShiva, who became a sort of personal goddess of vengeance and protection for me at the time. One reviewer for Idol of Bone described her as “creepy,” and I’d have to agree. But she channels her darkness, born of her own trauma, into unapologetic power. And that powerful darkness was something I needed to embrace in my own life.

The Looking Glass Gods trilogy starts out weaving—and then slowly unraveling—the threads of a mystery with Idol of Bone. The complexities of the plot and cast of characters can be a little daunting at first, but as another reviewer put it, “it all comes together eventually!” I hope adventurous readers will give it a chance.

 “The second in Kindred’s tempestuous and fantastical series lulls us into a false security... When Kindred rips away the veil, we watch as violence and revenge duel for supremacy when the past rears its ugly head. Kindred does a splendid job of balancing the romance with a rapidly paced storyline and dark, unsettling revelations.” ★★★★ – RT Book Reviews


About the Author

Jane Kindred is the author of epic fantasy series The House of Arkhangel’sk, Demons of Elysium, and Looking Glass Gods. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.


About the Book

Idol of Blood (Looking Glass Gods, Book 2)
by Jane Kindred

Genre: Dark fantasy with erotic and romantic elements/LGBTQ
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date of Publication: June 23, 2015

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

The price of revenge may be her sanity…and the lives of those she loves.

No longer haunted by memories of her life—and death—as the Meer of Rhyman, Ra looks forward to a quiet existence with her lover Jak in the Haethfalt highlands.

Having made peace with Ahr, her consort from her former life, Ra can finally explore her new relationship, free of the ghosts of the past—until she unwittingly unearths Jak’s own.

Out of instinct, she uses her Meeric power to heal the pain of Jak’s childhood trauma.

But all magic has a price, and Ra’s bill has come due.

Succumbing to the affliction inherent in her race, Ra flees to the mountain ruins where her mother’s temple once stood. As the madness takes hold, she resurrects the ancient city of AhlZel in a tremendous act of magic that seals her fate—and threatens to destroy those who would give up everything to save her from herself.

Product Warnings: Contains dark themes, violence, gender-bending sex, and recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Available at Amazon   BN   iTunes   Kobo   Samhain


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