Friday, December 1, 2017

WTF Friday . . . Has a New Home!

Historically, WTF Friday has always been the day I turn the Ruins over to those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. The day I focus on books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

The reason I haven't done so lately is because I have some exciting news to share. It seems I am not the only blogger/reviewer with a taste for such books. A small group of us got to talking, and we decided to take things to the next level. Together, we have launched a new blog . . .

Weird | Taboo | Forbidden

Regular visitors to the Ruins may notice that a few of my WTF Friday reviews have migrated over to the new site (we all contributed a few reviews to get it established), and I'm having fun rifling through my darkest of shelves, reading WTF I want, and not worrying about release dates or review commitments.

Beauty in Ruins isn't going anywhere, but the freedom that the new blog has created for us is fantastic. I'm realizing just how desperately I needed an excuse to enjoy the thrill of reading again, and it's definitely recharging my batteries.

If you're looking for an opportunity to write discreetly/anonymously about books that just don't fit your blog profile or overall reviewer image, we would love to add another few regular reviewers, and we are equally hungry for guest reviews and one-off contributors as well.

So, if anybody has ever raised their eyebrows and asked WTF Are You Reading?, I invite you to pop by and check us out on the Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, or over at Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Hidden Face by S.C. Flynn

Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another.
That, right there, is an ambitious opening to a cover blurb. It promises BIG things, with a mythology that doesn't just color the world, but which dominates it. It's risky, and I likely would have passed, were it not for the fact that I'd beta read the first 100 pages earlier this year, unencumbered by the blurb.

Having said all that, The Hidden Face (the first book of the Fifth Unmasking) does live up to its blurb. S.C. Flynn has crafted an historical fantasy that is as innovative as it is exciting. He establishes a culture that is just familiar enough to be accessible, but enhanced with a wealth of little details that make it all his own. Similarly, the mythology (and the accompanying history) is absolutely fascinating, so much so that there were times I almost chafed against being drawn back to the story.

At its heart, this is something of a quest fantasy, complete with riddles and puzzles that challenge the reader almost as much as they do the characters. I hate to make the comparison but, yes, this is like a fantasy version of The Da Vinci Code, by way of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, taking us through hidden rooms, mysterious tombs, and forgotten corners of the empire. It's prophecy-heavy stuff, which may turn off some readers, but it doesn't feel cheap or overused here - it's an aspect of the mythology that just fits. It's also a book that's heavy on dialogue and exposition, but that aspect is necessary to the solving of the mysteries. For every reader who might complain there's too much talking through puzzles, I am sure there'd be two more who would complain it all came too easily if we didn't have visibility to those thought processes.

In terms of characters, the rivalry between Dayraven and Astolf is a driving force behind the story, right from the opening pages, but there is a solid backstory to their shared animosity. I took a little longer to warm up to Sunniva, more because it was so clear that she and Dayraven were 'meant' to be together than anything to do with her, but she is a kick-ass heroine who grows as the story races along. The Twister, however, is one of my favorite characters (next to, perhaps, Malombra), and definitely the most intriguing. He is clearly damaged goods (if not outright mad), with a weirdly erotic sort of power fixation on his hump, but he's one of those characters who make you smile every time they step onto the page.

Although there are some dark themes and some violent scenes, The Hidden Face is a fun read that has something new and unique around every corner. I might have liked a little more clarity in the world building, and remain immensely curious about its mythology, but I loved the puzzles, and the characters were what kept me reading.

ebook, First, 350 pages
Published November 25th 2017 by The Hive

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dagon Reviews The Hidden Face by S. C. Flynn

Today’s post is written by Dagon, head of the Clovian dynasty, who were once emperors of Faustia. Here he is, as first shown in “The Hidden Face”:

Dagon, head of the Clovian dynasty, looked out over the moonlit hills and ran his twisted fingernails over the gold bees stitched into his robe, enjoying the scraping sound. A light breeze ruffled his long hair. His hand rested on a golden bull’s head standing on a table next to him. The world outside was peaceful for now. One day, there would be war again, before a long-lasting peace: the peace of the Second Clovian Empire.

The voices of his ancestors rang in his ears yet again. Always the same questions. When? When? How much longer must we wait?

‘It will not be long now,’ Dagon said. ‘The power that was once yours will soon be ours again.’

So you always say. Yet still we wait. No one deserves the favour of the Sigel more than us.

And here is Dagon’s view on the novel:

Yes, there will be war before our peace, but I, Dagon of the Clovians, must condemn this story.

A book of thieves written by a lover of thieves.

My ancestors are outraged by this book, and rightly so. It focuses almost entirely on the thief emperor Calvo and his followers, with our dynasty given only a minor role.

The Sigel chose us to rule. No one can change this.

As the ancestors say, the sun god chose us centuries ago to rule the Faustian empire. The thief Calvo’s father stole the throne from us, but the Sigel will restore us to our proper place. The next book will no doubt show our return to power, but this one spends too much time on the adventures, love lives and mystery solving of other characters. Some may find all this exciting and intriguing, but we wish only to see the story of our eventual victory.

A book without respect for us and our past.

We also hate the depiction of an ancestor’s tomb for the entertainment of readers. The magical objects, star charts and piles of golden bees are presented to satisfy the curious, without regard for our traditions; to present these things to the masses is desecration.

Our time will come again.

When the throne is ours, the emperor thief Calvo and his supporters will pay the price.


About the Author

S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.

He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years.

THE HIDDEN FACE is his second novel and the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series.

S. C. Flynn blogs at www.scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook.

Join his email list to receive exclusive advance notice of new releases and offers.


About the Book

by S. C. Flynn

A face without a face - an unmasking that leaves the mask.

Once every few hundred years, the sun god, the Akhen takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal death of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a warrior woman named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

Powerful enemies want the secret as well, including a dynasty of magician-kings who were thought to have died out long before, a mad, murderous hunchback and a beautiful, deadly woman who is never seen. Sunniva and Dayraven fight to survive and to solve the mystery while their own pasts come back to life and the attraction between them deepens.

The Hidden Face is a fantasy mystery drenched in the atmosphere of the Early Middle Ages and in Kabbalistic riddles, and is the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fantasy Review: Helen's Daimones by S.E. Lindberg

The Dyscrasia novels by S.E. Lindberg are deep, intricate reads that harken back to the pulp days of Lovecraft, Howard, and others. They are heavy with words, stories that exist as much in the telling as they do in story. These are reads that are not to be glossed over or skimmed, but carefully digested, and with your full attention. Rush through it, and you'll not only miss the details, but the nuances that define it.

The third book to be released, but the second in the series (chronologically), Helen's Daimones is actually a "gateway novella" that can be read first. There's a trippy kind of logic there, and if you can appreciate it, you'll have no problem with the read.

Lindberg's first two Dyscrasia novels were defined by their ideas, their themes, and the overall mythology. This is no different. The characters, while fascinating, tend to be a little too cold and too harsh to be easily relatable. While the focus on children this time out makes the story a little more accessible, it also makes the story an even more difficult read, especially when the ghosts of murdered children step to the forefront.

What this chapter did for me was breathe real life (no pun intended) into Lord Lysis. He becomes a sympathetic character here, especially in his encounter with a tragic young woman (buried alive so many years ago), the ghosts of her children (hung for their corruption), and their army of dolls (crazy, dangerous dolls). He's still a monster, a fearfully powerful being, but he's also a personality here. As for Doctor Grave, he was already a full-fledged character, but he becomes a little more chilling here as new layers of mystery leave us to question his deeper motives.

Helen's Daimones is weird fantasy, weirdly told, for weird readers. As the strongest of the three stories to date, it makes for a great introduction to Lindberg's world, and creates more than enough interest for a fourth entry.

Paperback, 214 pages
Published September 29th 2017 by IGNIS Publishing LLC

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fantasy Review: Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Having had a few days to reflect on it and collect my thoughts, I am still of two minds regarding Oathbringer, the 3rd massive tome of Brandon Sanderson's epic Stormlight Archive. There is a significant change of focus here, both in terms of characters and storytelling, and while parts of it worked very well for me - extraordinarily well, in fact - others fell flat or just felt tedious.

For starters, this volume belongs to Dalinar and Shallan, resigning Kaladin (my favorite character from the first two books) to the background. In Dalinar's case, it turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding change, with extended flashback chapters that expose his darker, far more violent past, and which shed new light on his actions and attitudes over the first two books. We come to see him in an entirely new light, with a contrast between personalities so jarring that it's often painful to watch. Part of that is due to the presence of his wife, a woman whose name and face have been a gaping hole in his memories for so long, and part of that hinges on his pursuit of The Thrill, which made something of a monster of the man. Outside those flashbacks, his story is rather slow, full of politics and philosophical discussions that really weigh down the first half of the book, but they do lead us to some incredible revelations regarding the magic and mythology of the Desolation, the Voidbringers, the Heralds, Honorblades, spren, and more.

In Shallan's case, while we get a lot more action and some genuine character development, I found her to be a rather tiresome character. It's a shame, because there is so much potential within her, especially with how her various roles and guises begin to bleed through to one another. Her personality just rubs me the wrong way, and even scenes that should be sweet or amusing come across as bland tripe. It doesn't help that a significant aspect of her character arc is completely undone in this volume, a revelation that I guess we should have seen coming, but which struck me as a cheap way of restoring conflict to her role. It's much-needed conflict, and does make her a little more interesting, but not enough to justify her page count. The only redeeming grace is her spren, Pattern, who never ceases to trigger my amusement and curiosity.

Although it is Dalinar and Shallan who dominate the novel, I would also argue this is a story of minor characters taking on major significance. It's hard to talk about that significance without spoiling any aspects of the story, but characters like Renarin, Moash, and others get a chance to shine, and what happens to or around them is sometimes the most fascinating part of the story. Bridge Four has an important role to play here once again as well, but - for me, at least - their scenes just emphasize how far Kaladin is from the center of the story this time out.

Oathbringer marks a lull in the series, but it's an important lull. As much as we may chafe against the pacing and the character point of views, we finally get answers . . . and we get a lot of them. So much of what was hidden or hinted at in the first two books is exposed here. We get answers, we get mythology, and we finally get some wider sense of world-building. It is here that the story begins to move away from the epic saga of ruling dynasty, and into the epic saga of a world on the brink of extinction. Having said all that, the last arc of the book is vintage Sanderson and well worth sticking around for. All the book's flaws are forgiven as all the threads come together and we realize, in hindsight, just how and why so many little things were significant. The final three-hundred pages (a novel on its own for most authors) are all climax, and they are some of the finest that Sanderson has ever written.

So, not a perfect book, and probably the first time I really noticed the page count in a negative way, but I'm glad I had the time to linger over it, take my time, and digest it along the way. And, of course, I remain just as excited for the next installment.

Hardcover, 1248 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Horror Review: The Rest Will Come by Christina Bergling

A black comedy, with moments of bloody horror, The Rest Will Come is an interesting read. It is really two novels in one, which presents something of a challenge (depending on your reading tastes), but Christina Bergling is a strong enough writer to nudge us from one genre to another.

The story starts out strong with a date gone wrong, an accidental murder, and some authentic post-traumatic panic. We immediately get a sense of Emma as a likable young woman, caught in a bad situation, who reacted in an unfortunate manner.

After that chilling opening, however, the story shifts gears into contemporary romantic drama. We flashback to Emma's wedding, the dissolution of her marriage, the support of her best friend, and the agonies of electronic dating. All of that is well-written, further establishing Emma's character, and setting us up for her impending emotional break, but it takes a long time to play out. A very long time. I'll be honest, I started to lose patience with that aspect of the story, and I really feel the book would be better served by cutting about half of it.

Fortunately, patience is rewarded, and the story kicks into high gear once it finally circles around to reconnect with the opening, taking us through Emma's anxious drive home, the dismemberment of her date, and the disposal of the body. It's bloody, grisly stuff, but as the dates continue, psychological horror gives way to the black humor of the ultimate revenge fantasies. It's a guilty pleasure the rest of the way through, especially when Emma finds a guy foolish enough to hike up a mountain for a first date campout. After far too many easy murders, things finally hit a snag, and that's when we stop wondering about Emma and start worrying.

The prolonged romantic drama at its heart may test some reader's patience, but it is worth sticking around, because (as promised) The Rest Will Come. As for the ending, I suspected something along those lines was coming, but it was just about perfect.

Kindle Edition, 276 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Limitless Publishing LLC

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Run for It by Christina Bergling (Guest Post)

You need to start running. Now.

I know. I know. I can hear you already. I hate running. I only run if something is chasing me. Running is stupid. Why don’t you go f—

I am not trying to improve your health or lower your blood pressure. I am not concerned with how clogged your arteries are or how many hours you spend stagnant on the couch. I am coming at this from a horror perspective.

In a horror situation, one of two things is happening:

1. You are fleeing a killer.
2. You are becoming the killer.

In both scenarios, you need to be running. How do you think the horror greats like Michael and Jason outwalk their frantic and desperate victims? I guarantee it is not by spending forty hours a week lashed to a chair in front of a computer. These determined killers are hitting the cardio. They are running. And whether you are trying to get away or trying to keep up, you need to be running too.

Now, let’s say you’re a traditionalist, just an innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most likely a randy teenager just trying to explore your base instincts in an opportunistic scenario. Welcome to the victim pool. As potential carnage candy, running is the most important to you.

This killer is motivated. Regardless if you have personally wronged them or not, they are not going to rest until you are no longer breathing, which means neither can you. In fact, your odds of survival increase if you do have a personal relationship with the killer. Final survivors are rarely just bystanders.

So, you say you only run if something is chasing you? I say something is about to be chasing you. You cannot rely on adrenaline alone to spirit you off into survival. You might get a good burst, but in the third and fourth encounter with the killer, those bags of potato chips on the couch will start to betray you.

It is time to be proactive. Run now to live later. Not because it makes you healthy but because it is your only chance at escaping a motivated killer in a horror scenario.

But, wait. No. You’re not the victim type. You are not simply lolling through life, oblivious to the threats all around you. You are the threat. You are a bottomless pit of shapeless rage and angst that grows darker as all the small infractions of the world heap upon you.

You feel like there is only one answer: murder.

Yet you can’t just go around killing people. I mean, who does that? Aside from the moral implications, there is so much surveillance these days. How would you even get away with it? Better to not even tempt fate.

So how to you deal with all this pent-up rage and frustration? How do you cope?

Start running.

Yes, my friends, endorphins are an amazing thing. That miserable death sensation you get as you slug your legs beneath you is only temporary. Once you push yourself to the brink of physical hell, you discover an intoxicating and rolling high on the other side. Run enough and you can alter your very brain chemistry, harness your demons, find a new and “healthy” obsession.

Every time your boss pisses you off at work, do not bash him in the head with a stapler. Go for a run. Every time your spouse fails to appreciate your housework, do not stab him with a kitchen knife. Go for a run. At this rate, you could run yourself into a half marathon by the end of a year.

Run, run, run. Until it becomes therapy. And then until it becomes normal, the effects numbed by familiarity, leaving you back with that nagging urge under your skin.

Who are we kidding? Running is not enough to quench murderous ideation. It surely did not work for Emma in The Rest Will Come, but you had to try. Conveniently, you are already conditioned for chasing those irritating little survivors from all the runs when you tried to outrun your true self.

As an active killer, you have to commit though. Not only do you need to be able to chase down virile teenagers sprinting for their lives, but you have to make it look effortless. You can’t be panting and slobbering and puking while your intended victims are trying to figure out how to cut off your head. Nothing is scary about an assailant bested by cardio.

So, let’s face it. The horror scenario is coming. You are going to be a victim running for your life or a blossoming killer running to stay sane and without trespass who ultimately becomes the killer chasing down victims. All roads lead to running. So, lace up those shoes and get out there.


About the Author

Colorado‐bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade.

In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. It all began with “How to Kill Yourself Slowly.”

With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer.

She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. She continues to write on Fiery  Pen: The Horror Writing of Christina Bergling and Z0mbie Turtle.

In 2015, she published two novellas. She is also featured in the horror collections Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Collected Easter Horror Shorts, Collected Halloween Horror Shorts, and Demonic Wildlife.

Her latest novel, The Rest Will Come, was released by Limitless Publishing in August 2017. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado Springs. She spends her non‐writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.


About the Book

The Rest Will Come
by Christina Bergling

Murder can be risky...and not just for the douchebags on the business end of Emma’s power saw.

Men only let Emma down. They cheat, and they lie. They send unsolicited pictures of their genitals. Ready to give up hope, Emma decides to go on one last date. Then it finally happens—she finds the thing she loves most of all.

Killing clueless jerks she finds on the internet.

Lost in a happy haze of hunting her victims, devising increasingly-clever killings, and streamlining her dismemberment process, Emma gets careless.

As her need for her murderous outlet grows, she runs an increasing risk of getting caught...or worse—falling for one of her victims.

Murder might be her one true love...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Hellraiser: The Toll by Mark Alan Miller

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Hellraiser: The Toll by Mark Alan Miller
Expected publication: February 28, 2018 by Subterranean Press

Hellraiser: The Toll tells the story of what happened between Clive Barker’s iconic works The Hellbound Heart and its follow up, The Scarlet Gospels.

Thirty years after Kirsty Cotton escaped from the clutches of the Hell Priest, Pinhead, and lived to fight another day, her life has never been the same. Every few years she fashions a new name, a new identity, and a new home for herself; She is a woman who is running from her past at all costs, which is why it comes as such a surprise when she receives a mysterious letter in the mail, addressed to the woman she’s been running from over half her life.

Answering the letter’s query, she begins a descent down a rabbit hole to the ultimate confrontation. Her actions stir something unnamable in the ether, and throw her into a game where nothing—not even what she sees in front of her very eyes—can be trusted.

With equal parts economy and eloquence, author Mark Alan Miller brings to life the beginning of the end as The Toll expands the Hellraiser universe, and shows that before Harry D’Amour’s adventures in The Scarlet Gospels, there was a first witness to Pinhead’s infernal plan.

Although it's only 96 pages, it's a new Hellraiser novella with a story and illustrations by Barker himself, written by Miller, who has definite history with Barker's works, most recently with Clive Barker's Next Testament: A novel (which I am still pining for).

Monday, October 30, 2017

#Horror Review: Worship Me by Craig Stewart

Just how dark is Worship Me by Craig Stewart? Well, it's about as dark as a dead monster's soul, rotting for eons, trapped inside a black coffin, so deep beneath the Earth that the light of day may as well be a myth. It is so dark, it's brilliant, challenging just about every assumption you have about the genre.

You know that unwritten rule about sticking with your primary POV character? Forget it. Everybody here is expendable. How about that cliché where churches are sanctuaries from evil? Forget that too. St. Paul's United Church is not a refuge, it's a horrifying prison. Oh, and what about the trope of the 'good' child, the one who's special innocence is destined to save the day? Yup, forget that as well. Sure, there are some kids who stand up and try to take on that role, but . . . well, some sacrifices are different than others.

Worship Me is largely populated by unlikeable characters, but that's actually refreshing. They're all ordinarily human, imperfect souls whose only common bond is the church they share. There are a few secrets, but this isn't one of those books where a shattering heart-felt revelation will save the world. Sure, there are a few characters who you suspect might be of significance, but don't get too attached to those suspicions because bad things happen, and they happen fast.

As for what the story is about, it's pretty simple. A missing husband returns to proclaim the worship of an ancient entity, and he gives his fellow parishioners two days to choose which of their children they will sacrifice to it. Just to ensure they know he's serious, he performs a few hellish miracles, before leaving them trapped inside. Attempts at escape don't end well, and it doesn't take long before the good people of St. Paul's United Church begin to turn on one another.

This is a dark tale of supernatural horror, but it is the darkness of the human soul that makes it truly chilling. It's relentless in its terror, and glimpses of light and love are only there to be cruelly quashed. As for the finale - where, so often, horror falls flat for me - Stewart builds a perfect climax, and then layers on not just one, but several twists in the epilog. If you want a story that will give you chills, something to enjoy as you ready for Halloween, Worship Me is a perfect read. Be warned, however, it may have you second-guessing church next weekend.

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by HellBound Books Publishing LLC

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set Release Party

Ivy Granger Box Set Release Party Giveaway

Happy book birthday to the Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set! We're celebrating with cupcakes, a special release week 99 cent sale, and a giveaway.

Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set urban fantasy

Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set (Books 1-3, Bonus Prequel) by E.J. Stevens
Enter an award-winning urban fantasy world where monsters roam the streets and things aren't always what they seem. Demons, ghosts, vampires, and necromancers—Ivy dodges the city's deadliest villains while solving its darkest cases. Will she save the day or die trying?

FROSTBITE (Bonus Prequel: Ivy Granger #0.5)
Everyone knows that there's no such thing as ghosts, but when a client claims that her house is being haunted, Ivy tries to keep her mind open and her weapons handy. If her psychic gifts and recent cases have taught her anything, it's that you're better off arming yourself for the unexpected.

Anything is possible in Harborsmouth.

SHADOW SIGHT (Ivy Granger #1)
Ivy Granger's second sight is finally giving her life purpose. Ivy and her best friend Jinx may not be raking in the dough, but their psychic detective agency pays the bills—most of the time. Their only worry is the boredom of a slow day and the occasional crazy client—until a demon walks through their door.

Demons are never a good sign.

GHOST LIGHT (Ivy Granger #2)
Ivy Granger is back, gathering clues in the darkest shadows of downtown Harborsmouth. With the lives of multiple clients on the line, she's in a race against time. Ivy finally has a lead to the whereabouts of the one person who can help her control her wisp abilities, but will she put the needs of her clients above her own?

If Ivy doesn't find a solution soon, she could wind up a ghost herself.

BURNING BRIGHT (Ivy Granger #3)
Things are not going well at the offices of Private Eye. Jinx is having demon problems, the city is overrun with pyromaniacal imps, and Ivy's wisp powers are burning out of control, attracting the attention of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts. It's the worst possible time for the Green Lady to call in a favor, but Ivy's bound by her deal with the glaistig. Too bad there's no wiggle room in faerie bargains.

Ivy must rid the city of imps, keep Jinx from murdering her one solid link to Hell, and fulfill her bargain with the Green Lady—with sidhe assassins hot on her tail.

Just another day's work for Ivy Granger, psychic detective.


"I absolutely love this series!"
-My Urban Fantasies

"Highly recommended to adult urban fantasy fans."
-Rabid Reads

"The Ivy Granger series is fantastic!"
-Book Bite Reviews


The Ivy Granger Psychic Detective series is known for heart-pounding action, quirky characters, and supernatural horrors. Take a trip to Harborsmouth where you'll encounter bloodsucking vampires, psychotic faeries, sarcastic gargoyles, temperamental witches, and our favorite snarky, kick-butt heroine.

Add to Goodreads.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: October 24, 2019

order Ivy Granger box set 99 cents sale

Order Now For 99 Cents

Regular Price: $9.99
Special Release Party Price: $0.99


This box set is already a steal at $9.99, but if you order now, you can grab the Ivy Granger Box Set for just 99 cents! Spread the word. Tell your friends. This is a great way to dive into this award-winning urban fantasy series.


Ivy Granger Box Set Release Party Giveaway

We are giving away an Ivy Granger Prize Pack, including a $5 Amazon Gift Card and a collectible Passport to the Supernatural World of Ivy Granger signed by the author.

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is international. Giveaway ends October 30th midnight EST.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ghosties, Ghoulies and Long-Leggedy Beasties by Gail Z. Martin

I love ghost stories. In part I blame being obsessed with the TV show Dark Shadows when I was a pre-schooler, and then graduating to Night Gallery, Tales from the Crypt and Twilight Zone. I read my first book of regional ghost stories when I was younger than ten, and re-read it until the cover fell off.

Me ending up as an author of epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk—all with a hefty dose of the paranormal and supernatural—really shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

Whenever I travel, I seek out cemeteries, ghost tours and books about local hauntings. My adult kids now bring me back ghost books when they travel, and the family is resigned to being hauled around major cities at night to hear about haunts, murders and curses.

Unlike a lot of people I know, I’ve never seen a ghost. I believe other people have seen things they can’t explain and that we don’t understand, but it hasn’t happened to me. I’m not sure whether to feel relieved or excluded. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of being in haunted places.

Ghost stories fascinate me as an author because they’re always about unfinished business. Lore holds that there are two basic kinds of haunts: ‘stone-tape recordings’ and sentient spirits. The ‘stone-tape’ or ‘repeater’ hauntings suggest energy patterns on an endless repeating loop but not consciousness. This would be the spirit that’s seen walking through a hotel ballroom and out through the wall, but who never interacts with anyone or changes what happens. The sentient spirits are thought to retain some memory of who they were and why they stayed behind. Usually, it’s to right a wrong or take care of something important—like protecting a loved one, catching a killer, exposing a thief.

I’ve used both kinds of ghosts in my books. A character who is able to see ghosts would likely be able to see both the repeaters and the sentients, but a medium wouldn’t get anything out of a repeater at a seance because there isn’t any consciousness left behind. So when we read stories about spirits sending messages from beyond the grave, Ouija boards, poltergeists and seances, those are the sentient spirits, who have some degree of agency, and may choose to ‘go into the light’ when their task is finished.

Ghost stories are mysteries because there’s usually a secret involved, or a betrayal. A hidden truth lurks in the shadows, and the ghost won’t be free until it’s uncovered. It’s also a testimony to the strength of human will that some people won’t let go of what’s important even after death. And for an author, that’s like catnip.

Which is why with all my ongoing and upcoming series, you can expect to see more ghosts—because good stories don’t have to end with death.


Days of the Death Tour & Giveaway

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here:

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight 2017, back for more with new authors and fantastic new posts! 130+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book Swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

A Rafflecopter giveaway contest—enter for a chance to win a copy of Spells, Salt and Steel!

Read a free excerpt to Scourge here:

Here’s a free excerpt from my friend Jean Marie Ward’s story Cooking Up a Storm from Tales From the Vatican Vaults:


About the Author

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. Vengeance: A Darkhurst novel, is the second in a new epic fantasy series for Solaris (coming April, 2018). Her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC has a new novel, Vendetta, and a new collection, Trifles and Folly. Spells, Salt, and Steel is the first in another new urban fantasy series set in upstate Pennsylvania.

Other work includes the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms series, the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, and Iron & Blood (co-authored with Larry N. Martin)

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Expected publication: November 14, 2017 by Orbit

The ocean is home to many myths,

But some are deadly...

Seven years ago the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a mockumentary bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a tragedy.

Now a new crew has been assembled. But this time they're not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life's work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

I have to be honest, the Mira Grant zombie bandwagon has largely passed me by, although I have enjoyed several of her Seanan McGuire books. This, though . . . this sounds intense and amazing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Horror Review: Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Green

Vampires, when they're done right, never get old. I'm not necessarily talking dark and evil, but edgy, supernatural, and without even a hint of sparkles. Vampire of Blackpool is one of those books that does vampires right, a quick read that left me wanting more.

Catherine Green spins a tale of a vampire, a witch, a vampire hunter, and a vampire detective that has five-hundred years of history behind it. Meredith Hanson is an utterly fascinating protagonist, a tired, jaded vampire who has grown deliberately careless, just looking for a confrontation. A beautiful monster, she opens the story by feeding upon a pair of teenage lovers, and then flying out over the ocean to dump their bodies.

Samantha Morris, on the other hand, is the kind of young woman who defines romantic protagonist. She's a cute, innocent little witch, but one with claws and a backbone. Her flirting with Meredith open up the story in several ways, giving Meredith a reason to live again, while she plays referee between her and Ryan James, the vampire hunter. One brings out the worst in the vampire, while other brings out the best, forcing Jack Mason out of the shadows.

A fast-paced read, Vampire of Blackpool has just enough room to build the characters and establish a little world-building, without getting bogged down in details.

Kindle, 178 pages
Published May 27th, 2016

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror Review: Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

In hindsight, as much fun as the Bubba Ho-Tep movie was, I realize I enjoyed it more for Bruce Campbell's performance than the story itself. It was fun, but not enough to drive me to seek out Joe R. Lansdale's original story.

Having said that, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers has a lot of things going for it, and was actually quite brilliant in some respects, but it's far too uneven a read for me to recommend it. For every paragraph of blood-sucker horror, we're forced to wade through pages of cosmic weirdness, and for every snappy bit of banter, we're made to sit through one tired Elvis-ism after another.

The concept is fantastic, and I would love to read more about the government's secret monster-hunting unit, just not with Elvis at the helm - or, at least, not with this fat, pill-popping, flatulent, overstayed-his-welcome, embarrassing Elvis.

Read the first 12 pages of drunken Mr. Positive and the screaming balls of human flesh crammed into the cars of the junkyard, and you'll be hungry for more . . . but by the time you get through the next 65 pages of introductions and celebrity banter, and you'll start to get a feel for what kind of balance to expect. Personally, the novelty of the Colonel, Nixon, and all the rest wore off pretty quickly for me, so much so that I was already starting to skim by the 30% mark, which never bodes well for a book

Expected publication: October 31st 2017 by Subterranean Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sci-Fi Review: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Although I don't read a science fiction anymore, I am still easily hooked by a cool concept and an interesting author. Even still, I nearly gave The Stark Divide as pass, but I'm glad I let my curiosity get the better of me, because J. Scott Coatsworth weaves a fantastic story.

First off, even though this a big story with a lot of world-building behind it, it never info-dump and never feels overwhelming. Coatsworth keeps the story well-balanced and well-paced, using flashbacks and memories to fill in gaps that tantalize rather than frustrate. What we are looking at here is a not-too-distant future where Earth is on the verge of collapse, leaving humanity to take to the stars in 'living' ships.

For a story that deals with a lot of heavy social themes (politics, religion, immigration, capitalism,etc.), it never feels heavy. Instead, this is a story where things just are, where people are allowed to just be, without making a big deal out of it. In fact, you'll come away from it thinking far more about the ship-mind, station-mind, and world-mind than you will the character's gender, sexuality, faith, or politics . . . and that's precisely how it should be.

Like so many of the golden age science fiction authors, Coatsworth tells his story in pieces, separating the book into 3 interconnected stories, each of which moves the overall narrative ahead by decades. It makes for an interesting read, with the character in each segment getting just enough page-time to develop and make themselves memorable, while injecting new life into the story along the way. Where it differs from those golden age authors, though, is in its resigned pessimism regarding humanity. This is not a story of an enlightened people taking the best of themselves to a new Utopia, it is a story of humanity transplanting its struggles to somewhere new, without seeming to have learned anything in the process. Don't get me wrong, there is hope to be found within it, but as a race we're going to have to earn it.

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by DSP Publications

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yesterday’s Future by J. Scott Coatsworth

Yesterday’s Future
by J. Scott Coatsworth 

I just finished the first draft of my next novel, The Rising Tide. It’s the sequel to The Stark Divide, the book just releasing now and is the first in the Liminal Sky series.

I started writing The Stark Divide in 2014 and completed it in 2016, just as the US elections came to a close and we found out who our new president would be.

What a different world we live in now.

As a sci fi writer, I am tasked with writing both probable and improbable futures, some that are connected to the here and now, and some that are more distant or, in some cases, entirely divorced from Earth and our present day issues.

The Liminal Sky series take place on a future Earth, starting a little more than a hundred years from now, and so the stories in it are strongly influenced and informed by the trends I see happening around me today.

Climate change, human denial, and greed all play a role, as do the bending arcs of justice that our last President was so fond of talking about.

The Stark Divide, while doubtful about the ultimate future of the Earth, had a fairly hopeful tone for humankind as a species.

But as I started writing The Rising Tide, I found that some of my optimism had flagged, and the result is a more complex, sometimes darker story. We live in a world that is changing so rapidly that the future I saw just three years ago now seems much less likely. This sci fi writer has changing future whiplash.

So what am I supposed to do?

On the plus side, I have the chance with each new book to address the future I see at that moment in time. Sometimes it’s hopeful, and sometimes it’s a little more dark and twisty.

If I’m any good at this job, I’ll figure out a way to make it all work together, and create a series that has lasting relevance for many possible futures.

Only time will tell if it all works out, for the series and for the Earth and humanity as a whole.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow’s future will bring.


About the Author

J. Scott Coatsworth spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Ushered into fantasy and sci-fi at the tender age of nine by his mother, he devoured her library of Asimovs, Clarkes, and McCaffreys. But as he grew up, he wondered where the gay people were in speculative fiction.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would write them himself.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently—he sees relationships between things that others miss, and often gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He transforms traditional sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He also runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring LGBTIQA communities together to celebrate fiction that reflects queer life and love.




About the Book

The Stark Divide
Liminal Sky | Book One
J. Scott Coatsworth

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Monday, October 16, 2017

Top 5 Video Games I Played Between Writing Sessions in 2017 by Glynn Stewart

If you spend all day writing, you pretty quickly learn to come up with a system that works for you. I write a book every six weeks or so, and for me, the trick is timers: write for a set time, take a break, repeat until I have 3000-5000 words.

For me, the breaks in between writing sessions are usually taken up by playing video games, because it’s the easiest way for me to “switch off.” Here are my top 5 writing companions for 2017:

1) Overwatch. I’m usually a little leery about multiplayer games, but my friends finally dragged me into this one in fall 2016. It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s incredibly pretty. You can team up with your friends to complete missions, or—if your friends are the kind of people with day jobs that don’t allow video games—you can let the system randomly assign you to a team. The sheer variety of characters and play styles to learn means that you’ll never be bored, but I’ll admit that my current favourites are Junkrat and Mercy.

2) Stellaris. You’ll see from this list that I love strategy games. This is one that explores my chosen genre of space opera in great detail. Stellaris has an astounding number of variables with at least four methods of space travel, and that leads to some interesting strategic interactions. I need to be careful with this one, though: I’m not worried about the number of hours that I put into it (as long as I’m also writing), but sometimes I keep playing for too long and realize I’m not having fun with it anymore. That’s the cue to put it away for a few months and come back later.

3) Crusader Kings. This is a sort of alternate-history strategy game, where you start playing with one European power and follow your dynasty through the ages. I’ve attempted to spread the Old Norse pagan religion across the globe (not very successfully) and I’ve seen some interesting royal soap operas develop. Like the time one of my queens had a daughter who was almost of age and ready to take the crown until suddenly she had a half-brother she needed to murder. I’m still not quite sure how that happened.

4) Wolfenstein: The New Order. This is a straight-up action-adventure first-person shooter, and the designers did a really good job of taking some old school gaming sensibilities and building a new game around it. It’s a fast-paced action-oriented blasting-nazis-in-the-face game, but it also uses everything we’ve learned to do better with these games in the last twenty years (especially new user interface elements) and uses them to tell a quite interesting and entertaining story.

5) Sunless Sea: This one is a “survival/exploration” game where you control a ship as it explores a vast underground ocean, and here there be much worse things than dragons. I actually had trouble getting into this game initially. A friend walked me through something at the beginning that I just wasn’t getting, and suddenly I was immersed in a game with a really unique theme and tone, and the world that they’d built was fascinating. I had a really long chain of captains that kept passing down money and a house to their heirs, and then I forgot to write a will for one… and my character went crazy and the crew murdered me. Which is pretty typical for Sunless Sea.


About the Author

Glynn Stewart is the author of Starship’s Mage, a bestselling science fiction and fantasy series where faster-than-light travel is possible–but only because of magic. Stewart’s other works include the science fiction series Castle Federation and Duchy of Terra, as well as the urban fantasy series ONSET.

Writing managed to liberate Stewart from a bleak future as an accountant. With his personality and hope for a high-tech future intact, he now lives in Canada with his wife, his cats, and a portable cast of thousands for readers to meet in future books. You can learn more about Glynn Stewart at his website, glynnstewart.com.


About the Book

Interstellar Mage
by Glynn Stewart

Mars destroyed his ship — but gave him a new one.
Mars drafted his Mage — for the good of humanity!
He should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it…

Captain David Rice has a new ship, a new crew, and a new set of Jump Mages to carry him between the stars. All he wants is to haul cargo, make money and keep his head down.

His past, however, is not so willing to let him go. An old enemy is reaching out from beyond the grave to destroy any chance of peace or life for Captain Rice—and old friends are only making things more complicated!

All he wants is to be a businessman, but as the death toll mounts he must decide what is more important: his quiet life or the peace humanity has enjoyed for centuries…

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
Expected publication: November 14, 2017 by Tor Books

The eagerly awaited sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling Words of Radiance, from epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson at the top of his game.

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together—and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past—even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

This was probably my most anticipated read of the year, and definitely one of the most prized ARCs I have ever received. A review embargo means I can take my time and enjoy it, which is a nice problem to have.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Non-Fiction Review - Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places by Chris Fitch

Abandoned ruins, strange places, and natural beauty. These are things I live for, the geography of my bucket list. Chris Fitch clearly shares that passion, with Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places the perfect first volume in that.

A collection of global snapshots that are as fascinating as they are incredible, this is not the kind of book you sit down and devour over the course of an evening. Instead, it is something you leave sitting on that proverbial coffee table, a book to be sampled, shared, and appreciated.

The Atlas is divided into six sections - Extreme Environments, Untouched Lands, Human Activity, Weird Worlds, Isolated Realms, and Nature's Wilderness. Each features 6-8 short articles of a few pages each illustrated by photographs and (more importantly) detailed maps.

Human Activity set the bar high for abandoned ruins. Here we find details of Chernobyl that are almost unfathomable, such as the fact that the process of decomposition has ceased to operate, and walk through a town in Pennsylvania that has been burning since 1962, although it took the collapse of a 100-foot deep sinkhole to finally begin its abandonment nearly 20 years later.

In terms of strange places, Extreme Environments was easily my favorite. Where else can you find shipwrecks a few hundred yards into the desert, toxic gas spewing lakes, and a cave full of massive 36-foot crystals? As for natural beauty, it's hard to choose between Untouched Lands (which tell of a cave beneath Vietnam that is not only large enough for a jumbo jet, but which has its own weather system) and Weird Worlds (with a lake in Venezuela that receives 1.2 million lightning strikes each year).

Honestly, Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places could be ten times as long and I would still want more, but as first volumes of a bucket list go, it's a great start.

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 28th 2017 by Aurum Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner
Expected publication: November 7, 2017 by Tor Books

Monsters are real.
But so are heroes.

Sparks are champions of weird science. Boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice . . . mostly.

Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality. Doors creak at their approach. Cobwebs gather where they linger.

Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident (what else?) transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks—and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities—and (of course) to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.

Turns out that “accident” was just the first salvo in a Mad Genius’s latest diabolical scheme. Now it’s up to four newbie heroes to save the day, before they even have a chance to figure out what their team’s name should be!

I really only know Gardner from his League of Peoples series, but this sounds like a ton of fun.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Core by Peter V. Brett

Wow. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you conclude one of the pivotal fantasy epics of the 21st century. The Core is not just a fitting conclusion to The Demon Cycle, it is (by far) the greatest book of an already impressive saga. Peter V. Brett has saved the best for last in a story that is big, bold, and brilliant.

You know you're in for something special when the book opens with a chapter told from a demon's point of view. That's right, the first voice we hear is not that of Arlen or Jardir, not that of Leesha, Renna, or Inevera, but that of the Alagai Ka. It's creepy and unsettling, it sets the perfect tone for a story that is rife with darkness, slipping ever deeper into the Abyss . . . and, yet, we are never without hope.

That, right there, is what distinguishes Brett from the grimdark crowd. His story is about as dark as it gets, with one crushing defeat after another, but the world never feels completely lost. Even as it becomes increasingly hard to see how humanity can possibly survive the Waning and the Swarm to follow, we latch onto any one of a dozen battles, trusting in one of those heroes to show us the way. Even as the demons become smarter, finding some very human ways to undermine what once seemed impenetrable warded defenses, we look to the most unlikely characters to cast off their pasts and sacrifice themselves for redemption.

For the first time in the series, we have a story without flashbacks. The entire book is told in the now, giving it a sense of immediacy, and adding to the already palatable tension. There is nary a slow chapter to the book, with every scene advancing the story forward. Time and time again we get epic confrontations that threaten to destroy major set pieces, any one of which would serve as a fitting finale to another book. We hardly have time to catch our breath between battles, but when we do, Brett brings back a surprising cast of characters, many of whom get their moment. Evils are forgiven, cruelties redeemed, and hatreds put aside in the face of Sharak Ka.

As for the epic descent into The Core itself, Arlen and Jardir both get their respective moments to shine. There's is a journey worth of the saga itself, full of one sacrifice after another, and several discoveries that rock the foundation of the story's mythology. Without spoiling anything, we do finally learn who the true Deliverer is, and what that legacy means . . . and it is an ending so perfect, I honestly cannot find a single flaw in how it all played out.

Hardcover, 781 pages
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017 by Del Rey

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Difference Between Fantasy and Science Fiction by Julie Czerneda (#againstthedark)

Dear Bob,

I wish to make a personal response to your post about my work during Little Red Reviewer’s “Julie Appreciation Party” blog, to help launch Book #2 of Reunification, #8 in the Clan Chronicles, and my latest work of SF.

You wrote: “I know that Julie is best known for her Clan Chronicles (which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and appreciated on a number of different levels), but I have always been a fantasy fan first, and a science-fiction fan second…”


I’ll admit, I stopped there. Was I insulted? Hardly. Was I surprised? Not at all, you’ve told me - and the world - of your love for my fantasy novels which is something I treasure.

Still? Really. What’s the big deal? Fantasy. SF. I can see you shaking your head and you’re right. It is a big deal. When I thought what to do for my guest blog for you this year (thank you for hosting, by the way), I realized there was only one response.

Here, for you, Bob, is my original take on the difference between fantasy and science fiction, first posted December 29, 2011, on my SFF newsgroup. I wrote it because someone asked me then what I thought was that difference. What was the big deal? Why was I continually saying I was now writing one, not the other? I answered as I did because I was in the early stages of writing my first work of fantasy, A Turn of Light, having deliberately postponed Reunification.

I did it, to ease my heart.

The difference between fantasy and science fiction?
What's that expression? You know what's porn to you when you see it?
Silly aside, to me it's like this. There's literature that is fantastic, aka, insists on an imaginative leap by the reader from what the reader believes to be real and known about the world. (Covering the fact that advancements in knowledge constantly modify that worldview. For some, anyway.)
Within fantastic literature thus falls a vast amount of stuff--in fact, more than isn't, I'd venture. And it's not read by folks who have lost or numbed their imaginations. Kudos to us.
Horror fiction is interesting. You can argue that since horror is about how the reader feels--that dread, the scare, the twist on what's safe--anything can be horror, as anything can be romance. Yet horror writers do have their tropes and subgenres. So I'd define horror as that literature in which horror is the goal, regardless of setting. I'd define romance and mystery and humour lit the same way.
Fantasy and SF, however, are vast sprawling beasts, gobbling up all they can. Within each, there are works that wouldn't suit readers of the other. I think those are the only ones where a good definition becomes useful and certainly more helpful to booksellers, librarians, and marketing folks. There are many who will gobble up Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Twilight who will not, EVER, be interested in watching Moon, Star Trek, or Inception. (Author Note: Proof this was written in 2011.) And vice versa. Nothing wrong with that.
But why? Because of what the story does to the reader. It's always about that.
For me, the very best fantasy takes hold of my heart and conscience. My imagination soars wild and free, yet I care, intensely, for the characters working through that fantastic landscape and their choices. Once I put the book down, I've been changed in a fundamental way. Whether it's a renewed passion for life or an awareness that even a small person can change the world, I am different and love it.
The very best SF? Oh, it demands I use my mind and awareness of this world, and that I'm open to new ideas and consequences about it. It can, absolutely, engage my emotions, but--and this is key--SF can still work brilliantly without that engagement, so long as the idea itself is powerful or cool enough to come with me from the story and make me look at my world differently forever. What if. I can't be satisfied by science fiction that doesn't pose that question and answer it in a way I hadn't imagined.
How fantasy and SF accomplish the above is where we start talking about world-building and character and underlying ideas and credibility. But to me, it's about what I take away from the story. Have I been renewed inside or has the outside world taken on a new shape?
So the question of which is which does matter. When I write, I consciously choose to aim for my reader's heart or mind. The story I'm telling in TURN is about love, honour, family, and sacrifice. It's about making a new life and forgiveness for the old. To tell that story, fantasy offers the intimate power and scope I need. I hope readers put it down, cry a bit, and go hug their family. The story I'm telling in the Clan Chronicles is what if a species bred for power despite ultimate cost. It goes into the fragility of bonds among species of intensely divergent goals and will lead to consequences that destroy civilizations. SF gives me the tools I need to set this scenario in motion and to explore those ideas in a way I hope will make readers walk away and think. Okay, there could be tears there too.
Which goes back to the very beginning. A great story grabs heart and mind, no matter its genre. But not everyone enjoys or understands the same story-telling approaches. Fair enough. There are too many books for any one lifetime, so you have to pick on some level. You know what's for you when you read it.
My take on the question.

So, Bob, you can see why your post last year not only made me smile, but made me remember something precious. Why I wrote fantasy when I did, and how I did. It was to take a breath, stretch my writerly wings, and put off what was coming in Reunification until I was ready. Renewed. House toads and Jenn Nalynn gave me the strength to plunge into the final chapter of Sira and Morgan’s story, to give the past three years to the Clan Chronicles, and to complete the scenario I’d begun so long ago. They are connected, you see, despite being different.


Yours in story,
Julie Czerneda

PS. Yes, Bob, I promise there’ll be more Night’s Edge. (Three more, in fact.)
PPS. Not next, Bob. It’s Esen’s turn to shine. Or explode, depending on the moment.
PPPS. And thank you, Bob, for being a reader who “gets” the difference yet loves them both.


About the Author

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners, the latest being SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Next out will be an anthology of original stories set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis, out in 2018. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, lands in stores October 2017.

When not jumping between wonderful blogs, Julie’s at work on something very special: her highly anticipated new Esen novel, Search Image (Fall 2018). Visit www.czerneda.com for more.


About the Series

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification concludes the series, answering these question at last. Who are the Clan? 
And what will be the fate of all?


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