Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter ( Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire # 1) by Rod Duncan

So the Angry Robot has been marching on dauntlessly and coming up with some pretty cool titles in the past few years. I am still catching up on my 2014 to-be-read books pile and so the beautiful cover for The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter from the Robots stable caught my eye. On a whim I started the first few pages and then without realizing it, I soon got around to reading it full-time – putting other books on hold. A good book does that to you. Immersive and real fun. That’s what the Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter was.

Rod Duncan’s entry into the speculative fiction/fantasy genre couldn’t have been better written. The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter (A pretty title huh?) is a fast-paced mystery/adventure novel set in an gorgeously detailed alternate steampunk London with a plucky heroine as the lead protagonist with plenty of harrowing twists and hoops through Victorian England. Add illusion, magic and some amounts of science to this nice little potboiler – that just about starts to describe what this book is.

As the title suggests, it is basically the story of Elizabeth Barnabus, a bullet-catcher’s daughter. Now a Bullet-Catcher is typically a magician who performs this illusion of “catching a bullet” or large-scale spectacular illusions on stage. Elizabeth inherits a lot of the tricks of the trade from her dad and now lives a double-life – posing also as her brother, Edwin Barnabus, a private “intelligence gatherer”. We enter the tale right in the middle of her current assignment – with the Duchess of Bletchley who entrusts her to find her brother. The mystery of the missing brother deepens as Elizabeth soon realizes that it involves the notorious Global Patent Office – an international organization known for it’s ruthlessness and tyranny; The efficient officers are soon hot on her tail – and thus to get to the missing Duke. Also in to the chase are thrown in alchemists and some sinister shady characters from a travelling circus who would stop at nothing to get to this missing person. The leads takes her from the conservative Anglo-Scottish Republic – back into the flashier, edgier back-streets of the Kingdom in London – a place where she has fled from to escape her past. In getting to the bottom of this murky mystery – even as time is running out – apart from the cut-throat folks from the circus, she also has to face demons from her past, rise above the puritan cultural sensibilities of a society steeped in restrictions and tyranny and of course, find the missing man.

It’s a nicely set-up mystery that unfolds gradually as we go along. Rod Duncan’s world building is phenomenally done. Subtle yet hard-hitting. The details of the alternate England are slowly unravelled over the course of the novel. His writing is so immersive that it creates that whole Victorian atmosphere which I absolutely loved. Be it the dressing, the shifting volatile political climate, the cultural sensibilities and differences across the Republic and Kingdom – all of it really brings out the life and times that Elizabeth experiences. The traveling circus – Harry Timpson’s Laboratory of Arcane Wonders – is a wonderful nod to the fans of Carnivale and those few dark but racy chapters really upped the game for me.

Elizabeth’s story isn’t done. A post-note talks about her being a chief figure in the whole “Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire”. Teasing promises that really sets up the mood for the rest of the trilogy. Ultimately this is a unique genre-defining first book that sees an established crime-writer leap into and make his mark on the SFF scene. Rod Duncan’s The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter is a solid start to an entertaining, steampunk, alt-history novel featuring a street-savvy, witty and extremely capable heroine kick some ass and then some. And don’t miss the fantastic nuggets of truth – excerpts from the Bullet-Catcher’s Handbook at the start of every chapter. Absolutely killer stuff, really. This whole book is worth reading if only for those excerpts. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Burning Dark ( Spider War # 1) by Adam Christopher

The Burning Dark is my second book by Adam Christopher - Having earlier read his excellent debut, Empire State - his take on superheroes - I would like to say I've become familiar with his craft and imagery that he builds out.

With this book, however Adam makes a departure from his urban fantasy/pulp-noir books, steering towards a horror/sci-fi mash-up in the first of the Spider War Chronicles. Hell, a haunted house story on the outer fringes of space ? Absolutely original idea and I was all for it. I was also stoked when I spied the book on certain 2014-best-of lists. I jumped right in - hooked by the strange Captain Abraham "Ida" Cleveland and his quirkiness.

I have to say, this isn't strictly a science-fiction book. While yes - it does feature your regular sci-fi gadgetry and terminologies - psi-marines, warp-drives, sentient aliens, shadow stars and more - It is more of the old-school creepy psychological horror story. The world is at war - with a giant sentient machine race called Spiders that can blast clean through and eat the core of a frigging planet itself. In a hopeless war, Captain Ida's act of bravery of saving an entire planet from the Spiders - earns him a Fleet Medal, the "Hero" tag and a sort of retirement - where as a final job, he has to oversee the deconstruction of a decommissioned space-ship on the outer fringes. Things get a little weird out on this space-ship - where the Commander has gone missing, the purple star next to it interferes with the communication signals and the captain seems to have a hard time fitting in. He makes no friends except for the medic - an asian woman with blue eyes called Izanami.

Adam cranks hard on the spookiness winch right from get-go - practical jokes, weird sounds, shadowy corridors, noises or echo from uncharted radio-freqs. Sadly Captain Ida as one of the central characters never really struck a chord with me. He's a hero straight out of the 90's horror movies - who brushes past incredulous happenings without a second thought. You almost take him to be slightly stupid for NOT asking those obvious questions as the paranoia rockets up on board the ship. Crew members go missing. The tension though - never really rises above to the notches of white-knuckled terror.

The plot after the first half where Adam masterfully sets out the environment kind of slows down. We're hit with repetitive scenes of crew members missing and Ida being confused and holding onto his steadfast denial mode. Also the questions that arose in my mind around "why" or "what" is happening were hurriedly dealt with in the last few chapters in a rather unsatisfactory manner. A little predictable foreshadowing of events shoehorned into the last proceedings. The action never takes off and I was left a bit frustrated.

The book doesn't do justice to the potential of Adam Christopher whose first book was such a knockout take on super-heroes and alternate reality-planes. A fine master of imagery and language, Adam is never able to really spur his literary horse into a gallop here. Instead we are left plodding through murky and boring territories that leaves the readers a little puzzled maybe but not too horror-struck or spooked out. But to give him his due, the settings are definitely rich. A sentient machine race that threatens to wallop humanity and deep space marine action waiting to be explored - hopefully in his next outing in the Spider Wars series. As for this starting book in that series, it's strictly an OK read. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole : His Best Yet !!

After a highly successful outing with his blistering take on Military Urban Fantasy in the Shadow Op trilogy series, Myke Cole returns back to his gorgeously realized world that has seen the “Great Awakening” – with this new novel, Gemini Cell.  And this time, he is in unstoppable scintillating form.

Gemini Cell is a sort of prequel set in the same world – years before the events that are detailed in his first series. So the magic is still unexplored or unexplained. People going “latent” or manifesting their magical abilities are just about popping up around this world. The US Military SOC is still in its infancy and shrouded in secret. And into this setting ripe for exploring, Myke drops his protagonist Jim Schweitzer – a US Navy SEAL struggling to comprehend what really struck him.

Myke’s novels have tremendous mass appeal – He brought the curtains down on the tale of Oscar Britton, Book Binder and Harlequin versus Scylla (For those of you who have not read the Shadow Ops trilogy – do yourself a favor and go read them! Refreshing, original take on Urban Fantasy with enough explosions and kick-ass action to satisfy your Michael Bay cravings!!) in full style. Here, the tale of the Great Awakening finds its roots in Gemini Cell – with a fresh new “hero”. Myke shifts gears this time and tackles newer themes. I won’t be surprised if people come up with new “sub-genres” after this.  (Military Zombie Fantasy anyone?)

As usual, while all Myke’s novels really are genre-defying stuff – filled with exciting, original and absolutely dazzling material that speaks to his enormous talents – Gemini Cell could well be the shining sparkly gem on that tiara. He is improving with every other novel and in this, he really outshines himself with the writing. A taut thrilling plot-line that involves a “dead” US Navy SEAL brought back into commission through sorcery – who still retains his “humanity” and thus is an enigma to the recruiters, The Gemini Cell. Hell breaks loose as Jim realizes the truth about his “dead” wife and kid and that he’s been pretty much fed lies by the authority to be used to their own sordid needs.

The summary really doesn’t do justice to the character of Jim Schwietzer.  Suffice to say that of all the protagonists that Myke has etched up in his previous trilogy, this guy is easily the best. A consummate professional (US SEAL, almost an artist with the gun!!), Jim struggles to comprehend his “unlife” after he is brought back from the dead by the Gemini Cell; Made to co-inhabit his own body with a dead “Jinn”, his confusions and wavering loyalty  is beautifully drawn up.  Myke punctuates his non-stop cinematic action sequences with generous doses of humor – especially the banter between Jim and his Jinn at times is absolutely hilarious. But beneath all that kinetic, blistering action thriller storyline lies a heart. The romance between Jim and his wife Sarah that is a strong underpinning to the entire plot and actually is the key element that pistons the story forward to a fabulous climax. It’s a self-contained story and yet Myke leaves things wide open for more stories to filter through in this setting.

There is obviously a much stronger nod towards magic in this book – Jinns and sorcerers – their ability to “summon” spirits from the great void of souls, the ‘Undead’ soldiers of combat and themes of after-life. Myke paints all this effortlessly making the whole premise pretty rich and intriguing. Jim Schweitzer is a fully realized character with an absorbing backstory – haunted in his after-life by his “inability” to have protected and saved his wife and son. The pain and the vulnerability of this “fierce warrior” is nicely drawn up. And so with Sarah as well – a “wolf”-mother who would go to any lengths to protect her son.

The pacing is crisp and well balanced – starting out strong in the beginning where we are introduced to Jim “the artist with a carbine” – a man who loves his job as a US SEAL dearly – right in the middle of this covert mission that goes a little awry. From here on, the story spins on crazily forward moving in short bursts of speed – pausing only to further etch out Jim’s or Sarah’s characters. Action is a staple in any Myke Cole novel and he doesn’t disappoint this time either. 

But as I said before, come for the frenetic bursts of some highly charged explosive -“US Navy SEAL” -style action but stay mesmerized by the rich vein of human drama that unfolds. Even with a zombie for a “protagonist”! Trust me, this is Myke’s most ambitious project yet that fully catapults him into the top league of fantasy writers.  He is building that unbeatable legacy in a new sub-genre called “Military Urban Fantasy” and this book pretty much clinches it for him. Go Myke!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Golden Son (Red Rising II) by Pierce Brown : Rising higher than ever !!

“Rose petals of a thousand shades fall from the trees as the Golds fight beneath them. They’re all red in the end.”

Pierce Brown is fast turning out to be my favorite author – with this book, he gorydamn comes close. To unseating all those Gods I thought I had firmly set in their pantheons of Fantasy/Science Fiction inside my mind.

Red Rising was spectacular mind blowing stuff. The thought that a debut author would be giving us such an accomplished mind-bending piece of work was exhilarating and spoke well for the future of this genre. But with this second book, Pierce Brown has clearly proved himself beyond an iota of doubt. He has set his own benchmarks soaring. To the outer expanse of his faux-greek sci-fi planetary system where he clearly enjoys breaking the readers’ hearts. It’s a bigger bolder accomplishment over Red Rising in all ways. Darrow – the conflicted 16-year old has matured into a twenty-year old now. Having infiltrated the ranks of his wife’s killers – now a Gold, a Peerless Scarred nonetheless; Golden Son follows his unstoppable rise to the top echelons of this brutal society. A book with bigger ambitions, Pierce Brown drives his plot like a Helldiver driving his drill through the mine-walls of underground Mars. Relentless and furious. The story unfolds on a much bigger canvas – going beyond the walls of the cruel “institute” where Darrow had once to prove his own worth to the Gold Masters.

In this, the proverbial son has arrived. And in his wake, lies the blood and bones of millions. Literally, the body count in Golden Son is staggering. And among these are some names we have come to love and respect. So with a finesse almost matching GRRM in creating empathetic characters and then finding a million gory bloody ways of killing them off – Brown baptizes Darrow as the Golden Son - bathed in red. Brown gets his rocks off by creating this whole space-politico intrigue that builds and keeps on building up with the tension of civil war looming large over the Gold society. Action – some scintillating space-war !! epic squee!! – seems natural and unlike the first book, where teenagers killed other teenagers in cruel meaningless manner, this book takes on the darker brooding atmosphere of an imminent civil war. Court intrigue plagues the narrative as factions choose sides with Darrow plunging the society into chaos.

There are tons of questions on morals and ethics. The right or wrong of it. Of Darrow’s actions and the wide-spread consequences.

“And I thought the Golds were broken. We’re all just wounded souls stumbling about in the dark, desperately trying to stitch ourselves together, hoping to fill the holes they ripped in us. Eo kept me from this end. I’d be like them. Lost.”

A lot of soul searching into the dense fog of darkness that encompasses our young hero’s mind. He is troubled by the body count – yes – but ultimately resigns himself to the maxim that the end probably justifies the means.

So does he turn into a terrorist himself? Do we get to meet the mysterious Ares? What happens to the conflicted romance that was gently blossoming between Darrow and Mustang? Does Darrow start a civil war? What ever happened to the Jackal? And does Darrow make good with Servo as a friend?

If these questions took away your sleep for a year – after Red Rising – then rest easy. Brown wades through all this and makes the muck even more murkier with the ending. We come out of book II even more troubled at the startling turn of events. Heart breaking. Troubling and traumatizing in equal measure. Brown takes his time to burn through enough material to start another trilogy in this one sequel – what that means for you as reader is that we get more character development, tons of frenetic action and a plot that moves faster than a pitviper striking for your throat.

There is still a lot of pontification on the class hierarchy. We get to see more of the other colors. Obsidians and their rebellion that was put down years ago that led to their staunch hard beliefs. Blues and their technology geekery. And more. It’s all interesting stuff but what really makes Brown’s writing shine is his in-depth characterization.

Earlier the ride was a lonely one for young troubled Darrow. Self righteous to a fault, the talented Red who makes Primus in book-one is now flanked by friends – Golds who would die for him. There is Mustang – the girl whom Darrow pines for, every bit as brilliant as he is. Of course there is Servo and his Howlers. He is one of my favorite characters in this book.  Read the book only for him. And then there are the new guys – Victra, Ragnar, Tactus, Lorn the retired Rage Knight and a bunch more of solidly realized well drawn out characters all of whom make the second installment fantastic.

If Red Rising was Brown’s bold new announcement of his arrival into this crowded SFF world, then Golden Son is clearly the crowning ceremony. It is rare that a sequel builds on and exceeds the strengths of a fantastic first book. With Golden Son, Pierce Brown does exactly that.  And in an utterly convincing and unbeatable manner. It's like a new-age Star Wars story filled with insanely genius psychopaths going crazy back-stabbing and gutting each other. Space-sprawling bad-assery on a scale never-done-before and done so stunningly right that now the third book in this series is a one to die for. Or Kill for. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Eyes Deep by Tim Marquitz

So Tim Marquitz is a “Marquee” name in the field of urban fantasy – having a cult following for his Demon Squad series and other numerous books in the genre. So naturally when Tim sent me an ARC of his novella – a prequel to his new series, Clandestine Daze – I was beyond excited.

Well, to be frank – I’ve never read a Tim Marquitz before and so before I took the swan-dive off the cliff, I had no ideas or pre-conceived notions about the story or his style of writing. And this was for the best. Suffice to say, he clean bowled me over with this sumptuously delightful starter course. And now I’m seriously hungry for more.

So “Eyes Deep” is a sort of prequel novella to his new UF series and introduces us to Theodore Crane – security head at the Drake Facilities, a weapons-tech research firm and a bold new world where a supernatural one called Aellisar exists parallel to our world and the beings called “Aels” have existed alongside humans for centuries now. And trust me, Tim does a bang-up job of getting us hooked into this world with this ripping yarn of an opener.

Now Theodore is a “Doppleganger” – think of a double-agent who can pretty much “become” anyone he chooses to impersonate. But not figuratively - this is the real “deal”. Body, mind, memories. Everything that the “victim” was.  For Theo isn’t technically Theo – but an “Ael” from this parallel world around us – with energy sources that corporate honchos would die to get their hands on. A creature without remorse or emotions at the start of the series, Theo is only hell-bent on doing his job. Basically like a CIA operate under-cover on Earth doing the recon and doing his bit to save his world and ours.

But as the narrative progresses at bullet-speed, the layers are peeled off one by one and twists and turns abound. Tim’s writing is top-notch and it is clear that he is enjoying himself writing this bit of a teaser to give us Theodore as the “anti-hero” to cheer and back up. Starting from the first-person reveal to twists that pepper the narrative till the explosive climax, Tim gives us two worlds with a lot of tension brewing up to something colossal, an anti-hero with conflicted loyalties who holds the fate of these worlds in balance and some phenomenal action set-pieces. While clearly this book is a set up to introduce these larger plots that will follow, it gives us a good insight beyond the lip of that dark yawning maw of a crevice. Into which am sure, Tim is going to push both Theo and his following stories into. Tim writes up some solid characters in Theo and his “sidekick” Jace whom I suspect we will definitely see more of as the conspiracies and conflicts deepen.

I cannot wait. I am intrigued and hooked. And as the worlds collide, I want in. I am buying ringside tickets for this explosive melee. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 Titles I am looking forward to.

It's going to be another action-packed year for SFF fans - with a lot of crackerjack titles lined up throughout. Here's some of the titles that I am eagerly looking forward to:

Half a World by Joe Abercrombie

Half a King was Yarvi's story. Of how a cripple survives cruel violent politics in a land lashed by Mother War and comes of age to his rightful inheritance. This one, though is about Thorn.


Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Fate traps her in the schemes – and on the ship – of the deep-cunning minister Father Yarvi. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Beside her on her gruelling journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill. A failure in his eyes and hers, he has one chance at redemption.

Will Thorn forever be a tool in the hands of the powerful or can she carve her own path? Is there a place beyond legend for a woman with a blade?

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I am about to wrap up this absolutely stunning sequel to Pierce Brown's winning debut, Red Rising. Ambitions are bursting beyond space-lines - this one's a big sprawling bad-ass stunner of a novel. I loved everything about this. More to come in a review !!

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.
He must live for more.

Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch

Well, this must be on the "Anticipated" list of every Fantasy fan worth their salt. Not much details out. The release got pushed from Fall-2014 to this year and we all fervently pray that it comes out. Here's a blurb:

The Thorn of Emberlain, the fourth book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence, picks up about half a year after The Republic of Thieves and finds Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen trying to get back on their feet with a major con. They’re trying to sell the services of a non-existent mercenary company to the besieged city-state of Emberlain, hoping to escape with the hiring fees before the chaos of the Vadran civil war overruns Emberlain. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan…

A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab

Victoria E Schwab happened to me by accident last year. Vicious, one of the finest tales of anti-heroes is a unique take on "superheroes" and "morality". A hauntingly beautiful tale of weird flawed characters. This new book gives me the shivers. In a good way.

From V E Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons beginning with a darker shade of magic.

Kell is one of the last Travellers - magicians with a rare coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, such as - he can choose where he lands. there's grey london, dirty boring without magic, ruled by a mad king George. Then there's Red London where life and magic are revered, and Mahresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whomever has murdered their way to the throne - a place where people fight to control magic and magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. ..but no one speaks of that now. 
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler. personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. A dangerous hobby and one that has set him up for accidental treason. 

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy and then forces him to spirit her into a different world for a proper adventure. 
But perilous magic is afoot and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive - and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

Emperor's Blades was traditional fantasy done well. Very well in fact. Tautly plotted, filled with well realized living breathing characters we cared about. And ended at a very interesting juncture where Brian is actually flexing his world-building muscles and expanding the overall story into very interesting territories. I am hooked and Book-2 is out this Jan. Say Woohoooo and do a jig with me. (oh need more excuses ? read first 7 chapters for free. And whet that appetite !! Here.

 The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

I am blindly going to read anything new by Myke Cole. This is sort of a prequel trilogy to shadow ops - set in the same world. Bring it on !!

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself—and his family—in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

It should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty—as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark—especially about the fates of his wife and son…

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Another author whose works are (for me) to die for. Immersive, engaging and absolutely epic. His foray into YA/Superhero was another crackler with Steelheart. Slightly breezy/predictable if you ask me but hey I am not complaining at all. I love that book two is coming out. Oh TODAY btw.

  They told David it was impossible - that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart - invincible, immortal, unconquerable - is dead. and he died by David's hand.
Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. instead it only made David realize he has questions. Big Ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers.
Babylon restored, the old borrough of Manhattan has possibilities though. ruled by the mysterious high epic, regalia, David is sure Babylon restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by another High epic despot is gamble, David's willing to risk it.
 Because killing steelheart left a hole in David's heart. a hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow he filled that hole with another epic - Firefight.

And now he's willing to go on a quest darker and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her and get to his answers.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho ( Tor UK Debut)

This was definitely a find for me - hitting the anticipated list of TOR UK releases. And that too a debut that's set the bells ringing and expectations soaring. The editorial team at TOR UK called it "Irresistible combination of Georgette Hayer and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norell."
Here is what is known :

The book takes us to a Regency London where the Crown calls on magic, and English high society holds an uneasy truce with the land of the Faerie. Even though Zacharias Wythe has only begun his work as England's first African Sorcerer Royal, he’s is already facing three non-magical problems: The Fairy court thinks he murdered his predecessor, a dangerous faction is scheming to unseat him by any means necessary, and…Prunella Gentleman. Prunella, an orphan who has spent her life toiling at a school she hates, has just uncovered a secret that might change the course of English Magic. Wythe doesn’t want to work with her, but it looks like he doesn’t have a choice…


So that's what 2015 looks like in terms of a wish-list. Obviously it is just the tip of an iceberg and I will dig up more and keep you guys updated !! Till then, Keep Calm. And Keep Reading.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Big Misses of 2014

So I know I'm not the fastest reader on the block and I take time to really soak in and enjoy my books - and so a lot of really good titles that came out in 2014 sadly got relegated to the TBR pile - which incidentally has been growing to be higher than the Himalayas.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Biggest and most anticipated book for me, like a million others was the epic continuation of the Stormlight Archive - picking up after the spectacular beginning in The Way of the Kings. I got the giant tome and I never got the courage to check it out. I know with Sanderson's incredibly engaging manner of writing the 1000-pages would fly by faster than 300. But sadly I haven't yet got a chance to crack it open. Open it I will, A promise to go back to the hopeless war against the mysterious Parshendi and the fates of Kaladdin and others entwined with that of the world on the brink of a desolation. 2015 is the year it will happen.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

I have a confession/fear. A somewhat unnatural one. One that stops me from reading the last volume of a series by the authors I love. Mark Lawrence is somebody I revere and completely worship. He works magic with his words - the maxims about life as is gleaned by Jorg's dark mistrusting outlook on life are absolutely stunning. Pure gold. And so the Broken Empires series - one of the best finds for me in 2013 - still remains unfinished. I was elated when I heard about the new series set in the same world as the Broken Empire. But I must get past my fears and finally bid adieu to Jorg before I embark on the Red Queen's war. So Jalan and his fate will be read only in 2015. Soon. I promise.

City of Stairs by Robert Bennett Jackson

Okay since we're in the mood to completely come clean, I might as well confess that I haven't read anything by Robert Bennett Jackson. But with City of Stairs, the highly talented author turning his hands to epic fantasy and doing so in grand resounding style and success, I must hurry and get a read. Fortunately I have a copy of this book. And it's sitting pretty right on top. another big miss from what I hear about the book. It's supposed to another game changer, like how Joe Abercrombie did with his First Law. Can't wait!!

Ancillary Justice/Sword by Ann Leckie

Another book/series that promises to burst with goodness. What with having swept every other award possible in the history of SFF genre books, I am sure it amounts to something. I dont intend to be left behind. Got a copy - somewhere buried deep within that pile. Sigh. I would think by April I should have got around. Kidding. I will read this ASAP. ( until that next big shining book snares me into a trap and I get swept away...)

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Another big mover and shaker in the world of SFF - with her unabashedly bold approach to writing and her tremendously well-imagined epic fantasy Mirror World having taken the world by storm - I have resolved to read this early this year. From what I hear - delicious rumors of sentient bloodthirsty plants, insane world building, blood magic - this is going to one hell of a romp. While the bug-punk fantasy series - Bel Dame Apocrypha - is something I am yet to wrap up. I liked book one. Book two holds promise. I just got Rapture. So well, It might take some time before I get to the mirror worlds.

These are the top of my anticipated list that sadly I never got around to reading. There are lots outside of this that got published in 2014 - the excellent Dagger and Coin series by Daniel Abraham - my go-to-author whenever I feel I miss GRRM is still on. I haven't gone past book 2. Widow's House came out last year, I think it being book-4.

I am on-track with the Gentleman Bastards' having read Republic of Thieves last year and waiting eagerly for the Thorn of Emberlain. So no regrets there. I haven't even got started with Elizabeth Bear's excellent eastern influenced "silk road" fantasy trilogy, Eternal Sky. So I wouldnt miss that Steeles of the Sky came out in 2014 marking an end to that. Military Fantasy being given a fillip - Black Hawk Down Meets X-men in Myke Cole's fascinating debut series, Shadow Ops concluded last year with Breach Point. I am stuck on book # 2. Luckily I got an ARC for his next, The Gemini Cell which promises to be even better. So I might cheat and start on that one.

Robin Hobb makes a winning comeback to her original series with the Fool's Assassin. I am not sure of this one. I have only started off with her original book, Assassin's Apprentice. While I found the book pretty enjoyable, it did take me ages to plod through the slow burning plot. I will let it stew on my TBR before I come back.

So there are the top few of the BIGGIES of 2014 that have made their way into my 2015-read-urgently-or-die-trying list. I hope I make good the resolutions. Wish me luck !!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Best of 2014 - My Year in Books & Reviews.

It’s that time of the year when the Best-Of lists start popping out everywhere. I have actually never done that before and I’m really tempted to do that this year. What with this year being one of the most phenomenally productive year in terms of reading or writing – for me. Crossed the 60-mark this year and am well on my way to get to 65 before this year end. In terms of writing – I did some massive rewrites and ceaseless editing on my first book – got started with my second and third book as well. So hell yes, it’s been a satisfying year I guess.

Now onto some of the gems I discovered this year – both in terms of Books Published in 2014 and those published before which I just got around to. Funny actually two-thirds of the books I read in 2014 was published before! Most of my 2014 books are on my TBR list. I will get to that soon enough in my next post.

So in no particular order, the books that came out last year and which I managed to read up last year itself (click on the headlines for my reviews) which topped my list so far:

When Lord Grim Dark embarked on giving us a YA-Epic Fantasy featuring one of the most enigmatic boy-king hero in a world ruled by war and violence reminiscent of the Vikings, I was not convinced. But to-date, this book remains a highlight of my 2014-reading. Deliver he does and how. Blowing us away by this twisted dark coming-of-age story. Joe Abercrombie delivers yet another sucker-punch with this knock-out tale of a young man finding his groove in the land of Vikings.

This book was a late find for me – in spite of it hitting the stands way early in 2014. Only because I got an ARC for Golden Son due out in first week of Jan 2015, did I finally relent and get down to it. And bloodydamn, this book is a runaway winner all the way. I won’t be surprised if a movie comes out soon enough. With enough undue comparisons to the Hunger Games – Pierce Brown’s spectacular debut is an engrossing deeply satisfying read – Maybe in parts disturbing in its portrayal of a dystopian society in the middle of a melt-down. But it solidly delivers on all fronts. Be it the frenzied pacing, taut plotting or the realistic morally ambiguous characters led by an unforgettable hero vying for revenge, rebellion and redemption. Debut of the year possibly.

This is the one post-apocalyptic work of fiction that I would beg you to read. It has such a timeless ethereal quality to the writing that transcends the themes of mere survival – exploring relationships and human life. Original and bewitchingly beautiful. If you haven’t read this book, then trust me, you ARE missing out on something!

Brian Ruckley makes a huge return back to form with this one for me. Always maintained Ruckley is an underrated highly talented fantasy author – and with The Free – he delivers the goods in grand form. Pure fun, tons of high-stakes pitched battle scenes. The last company of honourable mercenaries in a world gone to the dogs making a last stand against everyone else. Get on that horse already. Heroic Fantasy like it ought to be done.

An under-dog really. One that came un-noticed and really stood up tall amidst all the big ticket releases of this year. A first-volume fantasy that would knock the socks off your feet for its sheer scope of imagination and boldness. Rebecca Levene has a way with words. Weaving magic in a lush compelling narrative filled with a smorgasbord of characters – deranged, extreme and flawed – all crammed into this wildly original setting, Smiler's Fair is the start to an exciting, gorgeously detailed series in Hollow Gods. As I said before, I am willing to bet on Hollow Gods to become the best ever running epic fantasy series in contention today.

I think the second debut that features on my best-list for 2014. An absolute riot of a read – a swashbuckling sword-and-sorcery adventure – it’s a good old fashioned tale, with just the right bit of action and humour to cheer you up and remind you of all the good things about this genre.

I saved the best for the last. This book is clearly the winner for me among the best books read this year. If there is one book you would pick up from the glut that came out in 2014, I would undoubtedly recommend only this book. It’s seriously mind-blowingly awesome.

So there's my top 7 books published and read in 2014. Out of the 21 in my total list of 65. The rest 44 have a few gems - and my next post will be about the Best Books Read in 2014 - not published in 2014. And the Big misses for me - which are piled up on my 2015-to-read list as well. So have great year ahead folks !!