Book News, Books, News

New Book Releases, Week of May 20th, 2012

Here’s this week’s new books in scifi, fantasy and horror. Click on the title to see the cover!

Released Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Talisman of El, by Alecia Stone

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS A LIE?
One Planet.
Two Worlds.
Population: Human … 7 billion. Others … unknown.
When 14-year-old Char­lie Blake wakes up sweat­ing and gasp­ing for air in the mid­dle of the night, he knows it is hap­pen­ing again. This time he wit­nesses a bru­tal mur­der. He’s afraid to tell any­one. No one would believe him … because it was a dream. Just like the one he had four years ago – the day before his dad died.
Char­lie doesn’t know why this is hap­pen­ing. He would give any­thing to have an ordi­nary life. The prob­lem: he doesn’t belong in the world he knows as home.
He belongs with the others.

Released Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson

The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity’s only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.
The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them.

Dark Magic, by James Swain

Peter Warlock is a magician with a dark secret. Every night, he amazes audiences at his private theater in New York, where he performs feats that boggle the imagination. But his day job is just a cover for his otherworldly pursuits: Peter is a member of an underground group of psychics who gaze into the future to help prevent crimes.

No one, not even his live-in girlfriend, knows the truth about Peter—until the séance when he foresees an unspeakable act of violence that will devastate the city. As Peter and his friends rush to prevent tragedy, Peter discovers that a shadowy cult of evil psychics, the Order of Astrum, know all about his abilities. They are hunting him and his fellow psychics down, one by one, determined to silence them forever.

Dark Magic is a genre-bending supernatural thriller from national bestselling novelist and real-life magician James Swain.

Nightworld (Adversary Cycle: Repairman Jack), by F. Paul Wilson

This is the way the world ends…not with a bang but a scream in the dark.

It begins at dawn, when the sun rises late. Then the holes appear. The first forms in Central Park, in sight of an apartment where Repairman Jack and a man as old as time watch with growing dread. Gaping holes, bottomless and empty…until sundown, when the first unearthly, hungry creatures appear.

Nightworld brings F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack saga to an apocalyptic finale as Jack and Glaeken search the Secret History to gather a ragtag army for a last stand against the Otherness and a hideously transformed Rasalom.

Orb Ceptre Throne: A Novel of the Malazan Empire, by Ian C. Esslemont

The epic new chapter in the history of Malaz—the new epic fantasy from Steven Erikson’s friend and co-creator of this extraordinary and exciting imagined world.

Darujhistan, city of dreams, city of blue flames, is peaceful at last; its citizens free to return to politicking, bickering, trading and, above all, enjoying the good things in life. Yet there are those who will not allow the past to remain buried. A scholar digging in the plains stumbles across an ancient sealed vault. The merchant Humble Measure schemes to drive out the remaining Malazan invaders. And the surviving agents of a long-lost power are stirring, for they sense change and so, opportunity. While, as ever at the centre of everything, a thief in a red waistcoat and of rotund proportions walks the streets, juggling in one hand custard pastries, and in the other the fate of the city itself.

Far to the south, fragments of the titanic Moon’s Spawn have crashed into the Rivan Sea creating a series of isles…and a fortune hunter’s dream. A Malazan veteran calling himself ‘Red’ ventures out to try his luck—and perhaps say goodbye to old friends. But there he finds far more than he’d bargained for as the rush to claim the Spawn’s treasures descends into a mad scramble of chaos and bloodshed. For powers from across the world have gathered here, searching for the legendary Throne of Night. The impact of these events are far reaching, it seems. On an unremarkable island off the coast of Genabackis, a people who had turned their backs upon all such strivings now lift their masked faces towards the mainland and recall the ancient prophesy of a return.

And what about the ex-Claw of the Malazan Empire who now walks the uttermost edge of creation? His mission—the success or failure of which the Queen of Dreams saw long ago—is destined to shape far more than anyone could have ever imagined.

Princeps: A Novel in the Imager Portfolio, by L. E. Modesitt

The thrilling follow-up to Scholar—in which, after discovering a coup attempt and preventing a bloody civil war, Quaeryt was appointed princeps of Tilbor—begins a new episode in the young Imager’s life. Now second only to the governor, and still hiding his powers as an Imager, Quaeryt is enjoying his new position, as well as his marriage to Lord Bhayar’s youngest sister, Vaelora, when a volcanic eruption devastates the old capital of Telaryn.

He and his wife are dispatched to Extela, Telaryn’s capitol city, to replace the governor killed in the eruption. Quaeryt and Vaelora must restore order to a city filled with chaos and corruption, and do so quickly. The regiment under his command must soon depart to bolster Telaryn’s border defenses against a neighboring ruler who sees the volcanic devastation as an opportunity for invasion and conquest.

Destroyer of Worlds (Kingdom of the Serpent, Book 3), by Mark Chadbourn

A quest of epic reach spans the globe under the mythologies of five great cultures

It is the beginning of the end… the end of the axe-age, the sword-age, leading to the passing of gods and men from the universe. As all the ancient prophecies fall into place, the final battle rages, on Earth, across Faerie, and into the Land of the Dead. Jack Churchill, Champion of Existence, must lead the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons in a last, desperate assault on the Fortress of the Enemy to confront the ultimate incarnation of destruction: the Burning Man. It is humanity’s only chance to avert the coming extinction. At his back is an army of gods culled from the world’s great mythologies—Greek, Norse, Chinese, Aztec, and more. But will even that be enough? Driven to the brink by betrayal, sacrifice, and death, his allies fear Jack may instead bring about the very devastation he is trying to prevent.

Further: Beyond the Threshold, by Chris Roberson

Humankind is spread across three thousand light years in a myriad of worlds and habitats known as the Human Entelechy. Linked by a network of wormholes with Earth at its center, it is the world Captain RJ Stone awakens to after a twelve-thousand-year cryogenic suspension.

Stone soon finds himself commanding the maiden voyage of the first spacecraft to break the light speed barrier: the FTL Further. In search of extraterrestrial intelligence, the landing party explores a distant pulsar only to be taken prisoner by the bloodthirsty Iron Mass, a religious sect exiled from the Entelechy millennia before. Now Stone and his crew must escape while they try to solve the riddle of the planet’s network of stone towers that may be proof of the intelligence they’ve come to find.

The first in critically acclaimed author Chris Roberson’s scintillating new series, Further: Beyond the Threshold is a fascinating ride to the farthest reaches of the imagination.

The King’s Blood (The Dagger and the Coin), by Daniel Abraham

WAR AND MADNESS CAST SHADOWS
OVER THE LANDS DRAGONS ONCE RULED.

Geder Palliako’s star is rising. He is a hero of Antea, protector to the crown prince, and darling of the court. But storms from his past are gathering, and with them, a war that will change everything.
Cithrin bel Sarcour founded a powerful bank on stolen wealth, forged papers, and ready blades. Now every move she makes is observed, recorded, and controlled. Unless Cithrin can free herself from her gilded cage, the life she made will be for naught; war may provide just the opportunity she needs.
An apostate priest sees the hidden hand behind all: a long-buried secret of the dragon empire threatens everything humanity has built. An age of madness and death is on the way, with only a few doomed heroes to stand in its way.

Midnight’s Master (Dark Warrior 1), by Donna Grant

Gwynn Austin has no idea why her father has disappeared on a mysterious trip to Scotland. When she goes on a desperate mission to search for him she finds more than she bargains for in a ruggedly handsome, wickedly exciting Highlander who exudes danger and mystery. And when she discovers her own link to Scotland, she’ll have to trust her heart to help lead her…

Propelled through time by powerful Druid Magic, Logan Hamilton uses his immortality and powers of the god inside him to help prevent the awakening of an ancient evil in the modern world. He never expects to find help in the form of a beautiful, alluring, and all too tempting woman whose passion and strength matches his own. Together, Logan and Gywnn must fight for their love—before a demon from the past destroys them both…

Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel

The latest volume of the prestigious anthology series

The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes, which have been published since 1966, collect the year’s Nebula Award-nominated and winning stories and poems, as voted on by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This year’s volume includes the winners of the Andre Norton, Dwarf Star, Rhysling, and Solstice Awards, as well as the Nebula winners, and features:

“How Interesting: A Tiny Man” by Harlan Ellison

“Ponies” by Kij Johnson

“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone

“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window by Rachel Swirskyan

excerpt from Blackout / All Clearby Connie Willis

and an excerpt from the Andre Norton Award-winning I Shall Wear Midnightby Terry Pratchett

with additional stories and poems by Chris Barzak, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Kendall Evans and Samantha Henderson, Howard Hendrix, Geoff Landis, Shweta Narayan, Ann K. Schwader, James Tiptree, Jr., and Adam Troy-Castro and a cover by Solstice Award-winner Michael Whelan.

Nightshifted, by Cassie Alexander

From debut author Cassie Alexander comes a spectacular new urban fantasy series where working the nightshift can be a real nightmare. Nothing compares to being Nightshifted.

Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…

Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed.  But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this…

 Out of the Waters (Book of Elements), by David Drake

The wealthy Governor Saxa, of the great city of Carce, has generously subsidized a theatrical/religious event. During this elaborate staging of Hercules founding a city on the shores of Lusitania, dark magic turns the panoply into a chilling event. The sky darkens and the waves crash in the flooded arena. A great creature rises from the sea: a huge, tentacled horror on snake legs. It devastates the city, much to the delight of the crowd.
A few in the audience, although not Saxa, understand that this was not mere stagecraft, but something much darker and more dangerous. If all signs are being read right, this illusion could signify a dreadful intrusion of supernatural powers into the real world. Saxa’s son, Varus, has been the conduit for such an event once before. This new novel is as powerful and elaborate as that fantastic theatrical event, a major fantasy for this year.

The Paths of the Dead: Book One of the Viscount of Adrilankha, by Steven Brust

Two hundred years ago, Adron’s Disaster destroyed Dragaera City, killed the Emperor, and deprived the entire Dragaeran Empire of the ability to use sorcery.

It’s been a rough Interregnum. The children of the great adventurers Khaavren, Aerich, Tazendra, and Pel are growing up in a seemingly diminished world. Like their elders, they’re convinced that the age of adventures is over, and that nothing interesting will ever happen to any of them.

They are, of course, quite wrong….

Shadow Bound (Unbound), by Rachel Vincent

Kori Daniels is a shadow-walker, able to travel instantly from one shadow to another. After weeks of confinement for betraying her boss, she’s ready to break free of the Tower syndicate for good. But Jake Tower has one final job for Kori, one chance to secure freedom for herself and her sister, Kenley, even if it means taking it from someone else.…

The job? Recruit Ian Holt—or kill him.

Ian’s ability to manipulate the dark has drawn interest from every syndicate in the world, most notably an invitation from Jake Tower. Though he has no interest in organized crime, Ian accepts the invite, because he’s on a mission of his own. Ian has come to kill Tower’s top Binder: Kori’s little sister.

Amid the tangle of lies, an unexpected thread of truth connecting Ian and Kori comes to light. But with opposing goals, they’ll have to choose between love and liberty…

Ultramarines: The Second Omnibus, by Graham McNeill

The Ultramarines have been the honourable cornerstone of the Adeptus Astartes throughout their ten thousand year history – erstwhile captain Uriel Ventris fights to prove that he is worthy to return to the hallowed ranks of the Chapter after his exile to the Eye of Terror, and that he is free of the insidious taint of Chaos. But as the Iron Warriors move against Ultramar, a grim premonition comes to light: Ventris will have a part to play in the coming war, for good or ill.

The ongoing story of the Ultramarines continues in this omnibus edition, featuring the novels The Killing Ground, Courage and Honour and The Chapter’s Due, as well as exciting short stories from New York Times best selling author Graham McNeill.

Zombie Island: A Shakespeare Undead Novel, by Lori Handeland

In the follow-up to Shakespeare Undead, vampire William Shakespeare and his Dark Lady are stranded on a mystical island where zombies are plentiful and one man will stop at nothing to become all-powerful

Fresh from a triumphant battle over the zombie horde that invaded London, vampire William Shakespeare concocts a plot to rid the love of his life from the encumbrance of her husband. Will plans to give his ”dark lady,” Katherine Dymond, a potion that will make her sleep the sleep of the dead. Once she is entombed, Will can sneak in, wait for her to awaken, then spirit her away. After her husband returns to his plantation in America, Kate can return to London under a different name and assume a new identity. No one will believe that the dead Katherine and the live Kate are the same woman. Of course, as is often the case with true love, all does not go as smoothly as planned. When the two of them are shipwrecked on an island ruled by a wizard and a nymph, as well as infested by zombies, Will and Kate must stop an even larger plot afoot—one that leads all the way to the royal palaces of Queen Elizabeth.

The Enchantress, by Michael Scott

The two that are one must become the one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it. San Francisco: Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel have one day left to live, and one job left to do. They must defend San Francisco. The monsters gathered on Alcatraz Island have been released and are heading toward the city. If they are not stopped, they will destroy everyone and everything in their path.
But even with the help of two of the greatest warriors from history and myth, will the Sorceress and the legendary Alchemyst be able to defend the city? Or is it the beginning of the end of the human race? Danu Talis: Sophie and Josh Newman traveled ten thousand years into the past to Danu Talis when they followed Dr. John Dee and Virginia Dare. And it’s on this legendary island that the battle for the world begins and ends.
Scathach, Prometheus, Palamedes, Shakespeare, Saint-Germain, and Joan of Arc are also on the island. And no one is sure what—or who—the twins will be fighting for. Today the battle for Danu Talis will be won or lost. But will the twins of legend stand together? Or will they stand apart— one to save the world and one to destroy it?

Fated (Soul Seekers), by Alyson Noel

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Immortals, Alyson Noël, comes Fateda breathtaking new saga brimming with magic, mystery, and an intoxicating love story that will steal your heart away. Meet The Soul Seekers.

Strange things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter’s sanity, Daire’s mother sends her to live with the grandmother she’s never met. A woman who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness her mystical powers. But it’s when she meets Dace, the boy from her dreams, that her whole world is shaken to its core. Now Daire is forced to discover if Dace is the one guy she’s meant to be with…or if he’s allied with the enemy she’s destined to destroy.

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, by Kady Cross

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her “straynge band of mysfits” have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade—the dangerous device Jasper stole from him…for the life of the girl Jasper loves.

One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei’s neck tightens. And tightens.

From the rough streets of lower Manhattan to elegant Fifth Avenue, the motley crew of teens with supernatural abilities is on Jasper’s elusive trail. And they’re about to discover how far they’ll go for friendship.

More than ever, Finley Jayne will rely on powerful English duke Griffin King to balance her dark magic with her good side. Yet Griffin is at war with himself over his secret attraction to Finley…and will risk his life and reputation to save her. Sam, more machine than man, finds his moody heart tested by Irish lass Emily—whose own special abilities are no match for the darkness she discovers on the streets.

Now, to help those she’s come to care for so deeply, Finley Jayne must infiltrate a criminal gang. Only problem is, she might like the dark side a little too much….

The Lost Code: Book One of the Atlanteans, by Kevin Emerson

What is oldest will be new, what was lost shall be found.

The ozone is ravaged, ocean levels have risen, and the sun is a daily enemy.

But global climate change is not something new in the Earth’s history.

No one will know this better than less-than-ordinary Owen Parker, who is about to discover that he is the descendant of a highly advanced ancient race—a race that took their technology too far and almost destroyed the Earth in the process.

Now it is Owen’s turn to make right in his world what went wrong thousands of years ago. If Owen can unlock the lost code in his very genes, he may rediscover the forgotten knowledge of his ancestry . . . and that less-than-ordinary can evolve into extraordinary.

Kevin Emerson’s thrilling novel is Book One of the Atlanteans series—perilous adventures in a grimly plausible dystopian future, fueled by high-stakes action, budding romance, and a provoc-ative question: What would you do if you had the power to save humanity from its own self-destruction?

Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks

Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen’s not fully convinced that Emma’s the one he’s been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves  that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help–no matter what the risk.

Shift, by Em Bailey

Olive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore. She obediently takes her meds and stays under the radar at school. After “the incident,” Olive just wants to avoid any more trouble, so she knows the smartest thing is to stay clear of the new girl who is rumored to have quite the creepy past. But there’s no avoiding Miranda Vaile. As mousy Miranda edges her way into the popular group, right up to the side of queen bee Katie – and pushes the others right out – only Olive seems to notice that something strange is going on. Something almost . . . parasitic. Either Olive is losing her grip on reality, or Miranda Vaile is stealing Katie’s life. But who would ever believe crazy Olive, the girl who has a habit of letting her imagination run away with her? And what if Olive is the next target? A chilling psychological thriller that tears through themes of identity, loss, and toxic friendship, Shift will leave readers guessing until the final pages.

 

All descriptions from amazon.com.

Book News, Books, News

New Book Releases, Week of February 19, 2012

Here are this week’s new fantasy, scifi, and horror book releases. Click on the title for a view of the cover.

Released Monday, February 20th, 2012

Orb Sceptre Throne (Mazalan Empire 4), by Ian C. Esslemont

The epic new chapter in the history of Malaz — the new epic fantasy from Steven Erikson’s friend and co-creator of this extraordinary and exciting imagined world.

Darujhistan, city of dreams, city of blue flames, is peaceful at last; its citizens free to return to politicking, bickering, trading and, above all, enjoying the good things in life. Yet there are those who will not allow the past to remain buried. A scholar digging in the plains stumbles across an ancient sealed vault. The merchant Humble Measure schemes to drive out the remaining Malazan invaders. And the surviving agents of a long-lost power are stirring, for they sense change and so, opportunity. While, as ever at the centre of everything, a thief in a red waistcoat and of rotund proportions walks the streets, juggling in one hand custard pastries, and in the other the fate of the city itself.

Far to the south, fragments of the titanic Moon’s Spawn have crashed into the Rivan Sea creating a series of isles… and a fortune hunter’s dream. A Malazan veteran calling himself ‘Red’ ventures out to try his luck — and perhaps say goodbye to old friends. But there he finds far more than he’d bargained for as the rush to claim the Spawn’s treasures descends into a mad scramble of chaos and bloodshed. For powers from across the world have gathered here, searching for the legendary Throne of Night. The impact of these events are far reaching, it seems. On an unremarkable island off the coast of Genabackis, a people who had turned their backs upon all such strivings now lift their masked faces towards the mainland and recall the ancient prophesy of a return.

And what about the ex-Claw of the Malazan Empire who now walks the uttermost edge of creation? His mission — the success or failure of which the Queen of Dreams saw long ago — is destined to shape far more than anyone could have ever imagined.

Released Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

A Beautiful Evil, by Kelly Keaton

Myth and mayhem inhabit a richly reimagined New Orleans in this sequel to Darkness Becomes Her.After the epic graveyard battle at the end of Darkness Becomes Her, Ari and her friends know what they’re up against: Ari is facing the Medusa curse and is haunted by the image of what she will become. To make matters worse, the heinous goddess Athena has kidnapped young Violet and is threatening to destroy Ari.

Ari, along with the superhot Sebastian, is doing everything she can to learn more about Athena and to get Violet back. But the battle of good and evil is bigger than she realizes, and she’s about to be pulled into a world more horrific than she could ever imagine….

The Catastrophic History of You and Me, by Jess Rothenberg

Brie’s life ends at sixteen: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart–literally.

But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy Brie loved and lost–and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there’s Patrick, Brie’s mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul…who just might hold the key to herforever after.

With Patrick’s help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she’s ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

Faery Tales & Nightmares, by Melissa Marr

Dangerous promises and beguiling threats swirl together in a dozen stories of enchantments, dark and light, byNew York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr. Uncanny and unexpected creatures appear from behind bushes, rise from under the seas, or manifest from seasonal storms to pursue the objects of their attention—with amorous or sinister intent—relentlessly.

From the gentle tones of a story-teller’s cadences to the terror of a blood sacrifice, tales of favorite characters from Marr’s Wicked Lovely novels mix with accounts of new characters for readers to fall in love with . . . or to fear.

Lush, seductive, and chilling, Melissa Marr’s stories revel in the unseen magic that infuses the world as we know it.

Fever (Chemical Garden), by Lauren DeStefano

The second book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy reveals a world as captivating—and as dangerous—as the one Rhine left behind in Wither.

Rhine and Gabriel may have escaped the beautiful prison of Wither’s mansion, but they are far from escaping danger. First they’re chased for stealing a getaway boat, and then the fleeing pair ends up in the eerie den of Madame, an old woman who collects girls and sells them to the highest bidders. Worst of all, Vaughn, Rhine’s sinister father-in-law, seems to be on her trail every step of the way. Rhine remains determined to get to her brother in Manhattan—but the road they are on is long and perilous.

Now that Rhine has finally regained her freedom, what lengths will she need to go to in order to keep it?

The Art of the Mass Effect Universe, by Various artists and authors

The Mass Effect series is a groundbreaking epic that has immersed gamers in one of science fiction”s richest universes. Now BioWare and Dark Horse are proud to invite fans deeper than ever into the Mass Effect saga with The Art of the Mass Effect Universe! Featuring concept art and commentary by BioWare on the games” characters, locations, vehicles, weapons, and more – Mass Effect 3 – The Art of the Mass Effect Universe is the most complete companion available to gaming”s most compelling series.

Echoes of Betrayal: Paldin’s Legacy, by Elizabeth Moon

The action continues fast and furious in this third installment of Elizabeth Moon’s celebrated return to the fantasy world of the paladin Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter. This award-winning author has firsthand military experience and an imagination that knows no bounds. Combine those qualities with an ability to craft flesh-and-blood characters, and the result is the kind of speculative fiction that engages both heart and mind.

All is not well in the Eight Kingdoms. In Lyonya, King Kieri is about to celebrate marriage to his beloved, the half-elf Arian. But uncanny whispers from the spirits of his ancestors continue to warn of treachery and murder. A finger of suspicion has been pointed toward his grandmother, the queen of the Ladysforest elves, and that suspicion has only intensified with time and the Lady’s inexplicable behavior. Clearly, she is hiding something. But what? And why?

Meanwhile, in Tsaia, the young king Mikeli must grapple with unrest among his own nobility over his controversial decision to grant the title and estates of a traitorous magelord to a Verrakaien who not only possesses the forbidden magic but is a woman besides: Dorrin, once one of Kieri’s most trusted captains. When renegade Verrakaien attack two of Dorrin’s squires, suspicion and prejudice combine to place Dorrin’s life at risk—and the king’s claim to the throne in peril.

But even greater danger is looming.  The wild offspring of a dragon are on the loose, sowing death and destruction and upsetting the ancient balance of power between dragonkind, humans, elves, and gnomes. A collision seems inevitable. Yet when it comes, it will be utterly unexpected—and all the more devastating for it.

Forever Claimed, by Rachel Lee

Since the death of his claimed mate, the only thing that’s kept Luc St. Just’s heart beating is his quest for vengeance. His contempt for rogue vampires runs deep. So when a mysterious woman is brutally attacked, Luc’s protective instincts—and his will to live—are suddenly reawakened….

As a werewolf who can’t shape-shift, Dani Makar wants only to lead a “normal” life. But when the magnetically seductive Luc risks his life to save hers, Dani is torn between everything she believes…and an unstoppable, soul-deep desire.

Fiercely drawn to each other, these two sworn enemies fall into a passionate alliance. But evil’s wrath cannot be underestimated, nor its ability to destroy….

The Half-Breed Vampire, by Theresa Meyers

Ignorant of his true heritage, half-breed Slade Donovan is fated to feel like an outsider among his clan. Until a mysterious woman arrives with the ability to unlock his secrets—and make him crave a future he never believed he could have….

As a game warden, Raina Ravenwing has only one mission in the Cascade Mountains: to hunt down a pack of rare wolves that is terrorizing her tribe. Her instant attraction to Slade is a distraction the beautiful wolf whisperer can’t afford, unless she agrees to let him help her. Yet working so closely together only intensifies their passion…even as the unfolding truth of Slade’s identity threatens everything Raina holds sacred.

A Perfect Blood (The Hollows, Book 1o), by Kim Harrison

New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison returns to the Hollows with the electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed Pale Demon!

Ritually murdered corpses are appearing across Cincinnati, terrifying amalgams of human and other. Pulled in to help investigate by the I.S. and the FIB, former witch turned day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth: a human hate group is trying to create its own demons to destroy all Inderlanders, and to do so, it needs her blood.

She’s faced vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more, but humanity itself might be her toughest challenge yet.

Raven Calls, by C. E. Murphy

Something wicked this way comes…

Suddenly, being bitten by a werewolf is the least of Joanne Walker’s problems.

Her personal life in turmoil, her job as a cop over, she’s been called to Ireland by the magic within her. And though Joanne’s skills have grown by leaps and bounds, Ireland’s magic is old and very powerful….

In fact, this is a case of unfinished business. Because the woman Joanne has come to Ireland to rescue is the woman who sacrificed everything for Joanne—the woman who died a year ago. Now, through a slip in time, she’s in thrall to a dark power and Joanne must battle darkness, time and the gods themselves to save her.

The Troupe, by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.

But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change.

Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their lives.

And soon…he is as well.

Released Friday, February 24th, 2012

The Legend of Eli Monpress, by Rachel Aaron

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

The Legend of Eli Monpress includes the novels: The Spirit Thief, The Sprit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater.

 

All descriptions from Amazon.com.

Book News, Books, News

Excerpt From New Mazalan Book “Stonewielder”

Stonewielder, by Ian C. Esslemont, is the newest book set in the Mazalan universe. It hit the shelves today, and publisher Tor has a nice excerpt to get readers interested.

Unsure what the Mazalan universe is? Click here to go to the Wiki page which explains it all. It is a very complex and interesting world, and this book will hopefully add to it even more!

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PROLOGUE

The Elder Age
Height of the Jacaruku Crusades
The Many Isles

Uli knew it for a bad omen the moment he saw it. he’d been readying his nets for the pre-dawn fishing when the unnatural green and blue aura bruised the sky. It appeared out of the lightening east and swelled, becoming more bloated with every passing moment. The bay was choppy as if as agitated as he, and he’d been reluctant to push his shallow boat out into the waves. But his family had to eat, and cramped stomachs belch no end of complaints.

Through the first of the morning’s casts he kept his face averted from the thing where it hung in the discoloured sky, blazing like the baleful eye of some god. The catch that morning was poor: either his distraction, or the fish fleeing the apparition. In either case he decided to abandon the effort as cursed, threw his net to the bottom of the craft, and began paddling for shore. The blue-green eye now dazzled brighter than the sun; he shaded his gaze from the points of alien light glimmering on the waves. He paddled faster.

A strange noise brought his frantic, gasping efforts to a halt. A great roaring it was, like a landslide. He glared about, searching for its source. The alien eye now seemed to fill half the sky. No remnant of the sun’s warm yellow glow touched the waters, the treed shore, or the dark humps of the distant islands. Then, with unnatural speed, the surface of the bay stilled as if cowed. Uli held his breath and ducked side to side in his tiny craft.

The eye broke apart. Shards calved trailing blue flames, arcing. A roaring such as he had never before endured drove him to clap his hands to his head and scream his pain. A great massive descending piece like an ember thrown from a god’s fire drove smashing down far to the east. A white incandescent blaze blinded Uli’s vision. It seemed as if something had struck the big island.

Just as his vision returned, another glow flashed from behind. It threw his shadow ahead like a black streamer across the bay. Turning, he gaped to see a great scattering of shards descending to the west while others cascaded on far above. He rubbed his pained eyes – could it be the end of the world? Perhaps it was another of the moons falling, as he’d heard told of in legends. He remembered his paddle; Helta and the little ’uns would be terrified. He returned to churning water with a desperate fury, almost weeping his dread.

The hide boat ground on to mudflats far sooner than usual. Mystified, he eased a foot over the side. Shallows where none had ever stretched before. And the shore still a good long hike away. It was as if the water were disappearing. He peered up and winced; in the east a massive dark cloud of billowing grey and black was clawing its way up into the sky. It had already swallowed the sun. Untold bounty lay about him: boatloads of fish gasping and mouthing the air, flapping their death-throes.

Yet not one bird. The birds – where had they gone?

The light took on an eerie, darkly greenish cast. Uli slowly edged round, turning his head out to sea, and all hope fell from him. Something was swelling on the waters: a wall of dirty green. Floods such as the old stories tell of. Mountains of water come to inundate the land as all the tales foretell. It seemed to rear directly overhead, so lofty was it. Foam webbed its curved leading face, dirty white capped its peak. He could only gape upwards at its remorseless, fatal advance.

Run, little ’uns, run! The water comes to reclaim the land!

***

Approx. 400 years bw (Before the Wall)
The Empty Isles

Temal pushed himself upright from the chilling surf and crouched, sword ready. He gazed uncomprehendingly around the surface of the darkening waters, wiping the cold spray from his face. Where have they gone? One moment he’s fighting for his life and the next the sea-demons disappear like the mist that preceded them. Weak coughing sounded from his flank. He slogged among the rocks to lift a soaked comrade: Arel, a distant cousin. Though almost faint with exhaustion, Temal dragged the man to shore. Survivors of his war band ran down to the surf to pull both to the reviving warmth of a great bonfire of driftwood.

‘What happened?’ he stammered through chattering teeth.

‘They withdrew,’ answered Temal’s older sword-brother, Jhenhelf. His tone conveyed his bewildered disbelief. ‘Yet why? They had us.’

Temal did not dispute the evaluation; he was too tired, and he knew it to be true. He had less than twenty hale men in his band and too many of those inexperienced youths.

‘They will return with the dawn to finish us,’ Jhenhelf continued from across the fire. Temal held his old comrade’s gaze through the leaping flames and again said nothing. At their feet Arel coughed, then vomited up the seawater he’d swallowed.

‘What of Redden?’ one of the new recruits asked. ‘We could send for aid.’

Faces lifted all round the fire, pale with chill and fear.

‘They could be with us by dawn . . .’

‘Redden is just as hard-pressed as us,’ Temal cut in strongly. ‘He must defend his own shore.’ He glanced from one strained face to another. ‘Redden cannot spare the men.’

‘Then—’ began one of the youths.

‘Then we wait and rest!’ Jhenhelf barked. ‘Arel, Will, Otten – keep watch. The rest of you, get some sleep.’

Grateful for the support of his old friend, Temal eased himself to the ground. He thrust his sandalled feet out to the fire and tried to ignore the agonizing sting of salt licking his many cuts and gashes. He felt the heat work upon him and hunched forward, hand across his lap at the grip of his sheathed sword, and through slit eyes he watched the mist climb from his drying leathers.

He had no idea why the damned sea-demon Riders attacked. Despite them, it was an attractive land. The peninsulas and islands were rich and cultivable. It was ready to be wholly settled but for a few ignorant native tribals. His father and his grandfather before him had fought to keep their tenuous foothold. As leader of his extended clan he had to think of the future: enough futile wandering! They would hang on to these islands and all the lands beyond. Dark Avallithal with its haunted woods had not suited, nor the savage coast of Dhal-Horn, nor the brooding Isles of Malassa. Here flew their standard. Here his forebears burned their boats. He would not allow these Riders to force them out; they had nowhere to go.

 

Temal jerked awake, knocking aside Jhenhelf’s touch. It was almost dawn. ‘An attack?’ He struggled up on legs numb and stiff.

His lieutenant’s face held an unfamiliar expression. ‘No.’ He lifted his chin to their rear, to where the grass-topped cliffs of the shore rose; to the meadows and forests and farmland beyond, all of which would soon be dead and withered should the sea-demons be allowed to work their witchery unmolested.

Everyone, Temal noted, stared inland, not out to sea where they should be keeping watch for the first pearl-like gleams of the Riders’ approach. ‘What is it?’

Jhenhelf did not answer, and it occurred to Temal that the strange expression on his friend’s coarse, battle-hardened face might be awed wonder. He squinted up to the top of the cliffs’ ragged silhouette. A figure stood there, tall beneath dark clouds in the red-gold of the coming dawn’s light. The proportions of what he was seeing struck Temal as strange: whoever that was, he or she must be a giant to rear so high from so far away . . .

‘I’ll go,’ he said, his gaze fixed. ‘You keep guard.’

‘Take Will and Otten.’

‘If I must.’

 

Dawn was in full flush when they reached the crest, and when they did Will and Otten fell silent, staring. Though the shore breeze was strong, a repulsive stench as of rotting flesh struck Temal. He clenched his lips and stomach against the reek and forced himself onward alone.

The figure was gigantic, out of all proportion, twice the height of the Jaghut or other Elders he’d heard talk of, such as the Toblakai or Tarthinoe, and vaguely female with its long greasy tresses hanging down to its waist, its thrusting bosom, and the dark tangle of hair at its crotch. Yet its flesh was repulsive: a pale dead fish, mottled, pocked by rotting open sores. The fetor almost made Temal faint. At the thing’s side rested a large block of black stone resembling a chest or an altar.

Temal glanced out to sea, to the clear unmarred surface gleaming in the morning light, where no hint of wave-borne sea-demons remained. He glanced back to the figure. Dark Taker! Could this be she? The local goddess some settlements invoked to protect them? That many claimed offered sanctuary from the Riders?

The broad bloodless lips stretched in a knowing smile, as if the being had read his thoughts. Yet the eyes remained empty of all expression, lifeless, dull, like the staring milky orbs of the dead. Temal felt transformed. She has come! She has delivered them from certain annihilation at the lances of the sea-demons!Not knowing what to say he knelt on one knee, offering wordless obeisance. Behind him Will and Otten knelt as well.

The figure took a great sucking breath. ‘Outlander,’ it boomed, ‘you have come to settle the land. I welcome you and offer my protection.’ The Goddess gestured with a gnarled and twisted hand to the block at her feet. ‘Take this most precious sarcophagus. Within rests flesh of my flesh. Carry it along the coast. Trace a path. Mark it and build there a great wall. A barrier. Defend it that behind it you may rest protected from those enemies from the sea who seek to ravage this land. Do you accept this my gift to you and all your people?’

Distantly, Temal felt cold tears trace lines down his face. Hardly trusting himself to speak, he gasped: ‘We accept.’

The Goddess spread her ponderous arms wide. ‘So be it. What is done is done. This is our covenant. Let none undo it. I leave you to your great labour.’

Temal bowed again. The Goddess lumbered south in prodigious strides that shook the ground beneath Temal’s knees. She was gone in moments. He did not know how long he remained bowed but in time Will and Otten came to stand with him. The sun bore down hot on his back. Sighing, he straightened, dizzy.

What had he done? What could he have done? No choice. They were losing. Each year they were fewer while the enemy seemed just as strong, if not stronger. But her mere approach had driven them back.

Will found his voice first. ‘Was it a Jaghut? Or her? The Goddess?’

‘It was her. She has offered her protection.’

‘Well, she’s gone now – they’ll be back,’ Otten said, ever sceptical.

Temal gestured to the basalt coffin. ‘No. She’s still here.’

‘What is it?’ Otten asked, reaching for it.

No!’ Temal pushed them back. ‘Get Jhenhelf. And Redden.’

‘But you said they were to keep guard.’

‘Never mind what I said. Listen to me now. Get them both. Tell them to bring wood and rope.’

‘But what of the demons?’

‘They won’t be back. At least, not near us.’ He extended a palm to the black glittering block. Heat radiated from it as from a stone pulled from a fire. Flesh of her flesh. Good Goddess! Gracious Lady! May we never fail you or your trust.

***

Korelri year 4156 sw (Since the Wall)
Year 11 of the Malazan Occupation
Kingdom of Rool
Island of Fist

Karien’el, a lieutenant of the City Watch, led Bakune under the wharf to where the young woman’s body lay tangled in seaweed at the base of the jumbled rocks of the breakwater. The lieutenant, ever con- scious of rank, reached up to aid the man across the slippery rocks though he himself carried more years than Bakune, newly installed Assessor of Banith.

With Bakune’s arrival at the chilly wave-pounded shore the men of the Watch straightened. A number quickly cinched tight helmets, adjusted leather jerkins and the hang of their truncheons and their badge of honour: swords – albeit shortswords – which they alone among the subject peoples of Fist were allowed to carry by the Malazan overlords. Also conscious of rank, in his own way, Bakune answered the salutes informally, hoping to set them all at ease. It still did not feel right to him that these men, many veterans of the wars of invasion, should salute him. Uncomfortable, and hugging his robes to himself for warmth, he raised a brow to the Watch lieutenant. ‘The body?’

‘Here, Assessor.’ The lieutenant led him down to the very edge of lazy swells and blackened, seaweed-skirted boulders large as wine tubs. An old man waited there, sun and wind-darkened, kneeling on scrawny haunches, tattered sandals on filthy feet, in a ragged tunic with a ragged beard to match

‘And this one?’ Bakune asked Karien’el.

Brought us to the body.’

The old man knelt motionless, his face flat, carefully watchful. The body lay at his feet. Bakune crouched. Newly cast up; the smell did not yet overpower the surrounding shore stink. Naked. Crabs had gnawed extremities of hands and feet; had also taken away most of the face (or deliberate disfigurement?). Very young, slim, no doubt once attractive. A prostitute? Odd marks at the neck – strangulation. Faded henna tattoos – a common vanity.

Without looking up Bakune asked: ‘Who was she to you?’

‘No one,’ the old man croaked in thickly accented Roolian.

‘Then why the Watch?’

‘Is one anonymous dead girl not worth your attention?’

Bakune slowly raised his head to the fellow: dark features, kinky greying hair. The black eyes in return studied him with open, what others might term impertinent, intent. He lowered his head, picked up a stick to shift the girl’s arm. ‘You are a tribesman. Of the Drenn?’

‘You know your tribes. That is unusual for you invaders.’

Bakune peered up once again, his eyes narrowed. ‘Invaders? The Malazans are the invaders.’

A smile empty of any humour pulled at the edge of the old man’s lips. ‘There are invaders and then there are invaders.’

Straightening, Bakune dropped the stick and regarded the old man directly. As a trained Assessor he knew when he himself was being . . . examined. He crossed his arms. ‘What is your name?’

Again the patient smile. ‘In your language? Gheven.’

‘Very well, Gheven. What is your – assessment – here?’

‘I’m just an itinerant tribal, vaunted sir. What should my opinion matter?’

‘It matters to me.’

The lips hardened into a straight tight line; the eyes almost disappeared into their nests of wrinkles. ‘Does it? Really?’

For some odd reason Bakune felt himself almost faltering. ‘Well, yes. Of course. I am the Assessor. It is my duty.’

A shrug and the hardened lines eased back into the distant, flat watchfulness. ‘It’s more and more common now,’ he began, ‘but it goes far back. You all blame the Malazan troops, of course. These Malazans, they’ve been here for what, ten years now? They walk your streets, billet themselves in your houses and inns. Visit your taverns. Hire your prostitutes. Your women take up with them. Often these girls are killed for such mixing. Usually by their own fathers or brothers for smearing what they call their “honour”—’

‘That’s a damned lie, tribal scum! It’s the Malazans!’

Bakune almost jumped – he’d forgotten the Watch lieutenant. He raised a placating hand to the man who stood seething, knuckles white on the grip of his shortsword. ‘You said usually . . . ?’

The man’s lined face had knotted in uncompromising distaste; his gnarled hands remained loose at his sides. He seemed unaware of, or indifferent to, how close he was to being struck down. Luckily for him Bakune shared his disgust, and, generally, his assessment as well. Gheven nodded his craggy head up and down, and the tightened lips unscrewed. ‘Yes. Usually. But not this time. Much of the flesh is gone but note the design high on the right shoulder.’

Bakune knelt, and, dispensing with the niceties of any stick, used his own hands to shift the body. The henna swirls were old and further faded by the bleaching of the seawater, but among the unremarkable geometric abstracts one particular symbol caught his eye . . . a broken circle. A sign of one of the new foreign cults outlawed by their native Korel and Fistian church of their Saviour, their Lady of Deliverance. He tried to recall which one among the bewildering numbers of all those foreign faiths, then he remembered: a minor one, the cult of the ‘Fallen God’.

‘What of it? You are not suggesting that just because of one such tattoo the Guardians of Our Lady—’

‘I am suggesting worse. Note the bruises at the throat. The cuts at the wrists. It has been a long time, has it not, Assessor, since the one who you claim protects you from the sea-demons, the Riders, has demanded her payment, yes?’

‘Drenn filth!’ Karien’el grasped the man by the neck. Iron scraped wood as his sword swung free of its scabbard.

Lieutenant!’ The man froze, panting his fury. ‘You forget yourself. Release him. I am assessing here.’

Slowly, reluctantly, the officer peeled his fingers free and slammed home the blade, pushing the man backwards. ‘Same old lies. Always defaming Our Lady despite her protection. She protects even you, you know. You tribals. From the sea-demons. You should stay in your mountains and woods and consider yourselves blessed.’

Gheven said nothing, but in the old man’s taut, almost rigid, mien Bakune saw a fierce unbowed pride. The dark eyes shifted their challenge to him. ‘And what is your judgement here . . . Assessor?

Bakune retreated from the shoreline where stronger waves now cast up cold spray that chilled his face. He pulled a handkerchief from a sleeve to dab away the briny water. ‘Your, ah, suspicions are noted, Gheven. But I am sorry. Strong accusations require equally strong evidence and that I do not see here. Barring any further material facts the murder remains as you originally suggested – a murder or a distasteful honour killing. That is my assessment.’

‘We are finished here?’ Karien’el asked. His slitted eyes remained unwavering on the old tribesman.

‘Yes. And Lieutenant, no harm is to come to this man. He did his duty in calling our attention to an ugly crime. I will hold you personally responsible.’

The officer’s sour scowl twisted even tighter but he bowed his accord. ‘Yes, Assessor.’

Climbing back up on to the breakwater walk Bakune adjusted his robes and clenched his chilled fingers to bring life back to them. Of course he’d seen the marks encircling the neck, but some things one must not admit aloud – at least not so early in one’s career. He regarded the lieutenant who had followed, one boot on the stone ledge, ever dutiful. ‘Report to me directly the discovery of any more such bodies. Or rumoured disappearances of youths, male or female. There may be a monster among us, Karien.’

A salute of fingertips to the knurled brow of his iron helmet. ‘Aye, Assessor.’

The officer descended the slope, his boots scraping over the boulders, cloak snapping in the wind. Bakune hugged himself for warmth. The coast, Lady, how he hated it: the chill wind that smelled of the Riders, the clawing waters, the cold damp that mildewed all it touched. Yet a positive review here could lead to promotion and that posting in Paliss he hoped for . . . yet another good reason for discretion.

He looked for the tribesman down among the wet boulders but the man was gone. Good. He didn’t want a beating on his conscience. What an accusation! Why jump to such an assessment? True, long ago the ancient ways sanctioned such acts in the name of the greater good – but all that had been swept aside by the ascendancy of Our Saviour, the Blessed Lady. And in their histories it is plain that that man’s ancestors practised it, not ours! Thus the long antipathy between us and these swamp- and wasteland-skulking tribals with their bastardized blood.

Perhaps in truth a killing by an enraged father or brother, but without sufficient evidence who can assess? In lieu of evidence the locals will decide that this one, like all those prior, was plainly the work of their bloody-handed murderous occupiers, the Malazans.

 

From between tall boulders Gheven watched the two walk away. The Watch officer, Karien’el, lingered, searching for him. That did not trouble him; he intended to be moving on in any case. In the eyes of the Roolian occupiers of this land they called Fist he was officially itinerant, after all. And why not, since he was on pilgrimage – an itinerary of sacred paths to walk and sites to visit, and in walking and visiting thus reinscribing and reaffirming? A remarkable confluence of diametric attitudes aligning.

He turned to go. With each step the dreamscape of his ancient ancestral land unfolded itself around him. For the land was their Warren and they its practitioners. Something all these foreign invaders, mortal and immortal, seemed incapable of apprehending. And he too was finished here. The seeds had been sown; time would tell how strong or deep the roots may take.

If this new Assessor was true to his calling then Gheven pitied him. Truth tellers were never welcome; most especially one’s own. Better to be a storyteller – they at least have grasped the essential truth that everyone prefers lies.

***

Korelri year 4176 sw
Year 31 of the Malazan Occupation
Kingdom of Rool
Island of Fist

The occupant of the small lateen-rigged launch manoeuvred it through the crowded Banith harbour to tie up between an oared merchant galley out of Theft, and a rotting Jourilan cargo scow. He threw his only baggage, a cloth roll cinched tight by rope, on to the dock, then climbed up on to the mildewed blackwood slats. He straightened his squat broad form, hands at the small of his back, and stretched, grimacing.

An excise officer taking inventory on the galley pointed his baton of office. ‘You there! You can’t tie up here! This is a commercial dock. Take that toy to the public wharf.’

‘Take what?’ the man asked blandly.

The dock master opened his mouth to respond, then shut it. He’d thought the fellow old by his darkly tanned shaven head, but power clearly remained in the meaty thick neck, rounded shoulders, and gnarled, big-knuckled hands. More alarmingly, faded remnants of blue tattoos swirled across his brow, cheeks, and chin, demarking a fiercely snarling boar’s head. ‘The boat – move the boat.’

‘’Tain’t mine.’

‘Yes it is! I saw you tie it up just now!’

‘You there,’ the fellow called to an old man in rags on his hands and knees scouring the dock with a pumice stone. ‘How about a small launch? Battered but seaworthy.’

The elder stared then laughed a wet cackle, shaking his head. ‘Haven’t the coin.’

The newcomer threw a copper coin to the dock. ‘Now you do.’

The excise officer’s gaze flicked suspiciously between the two. ‘Wait a moment . . .’

The old man took up the coin, cocked an amused eye at the excise officer and tossed it back. The newcomer snatched it from the air. ‘Talk to this man,’ he told the officer, turning his back.

‘Hey! You can’t just—’

‘I’ll be moving my boat right away, sir!’ the old man cackled, revealing a dark pit empty of teeth. ‘Wouldn’t think of tying up here, sir!’

Walking away, the newcomer allowed his mouth to widen in a broad frog-like grin beneath his splayed, squashed nose.

 

He passed Banith’s harbour guardhouse, where his gaze lingered on the Malazan soldiers lounging in the shade of the porch. He took in the opened leather jerkin of one, loosened to accommodate a bulging stomach; the other dozing, chair tipped back, helmet forward over his eyes.

The newcomer’s smile faded. Ahead, the front street of Banith ran roughly east–west. The town climbed shallow coastal hills, its roofs dominated by the tall jutting spires of the Holy Cloister and the many gables of the Hospice nearby. Beyond these, rich cultivated rolling plains, land once forested, stretched into the mist-shrouded distance. The man turned right. Walking slowly, he studied the shop fronts and stalls. He passed a knot of street toughs and noted the much darker or fairer hues of mixed Malazan blood among them, so different from the uniformly swart Fistian heritage.

‘Cast us a coin, beggar priest,’ one bold youth called, the eldest.

‘All I own is yours,’ the fellow answered in his gravelly voice.

That brought many up short. Glances shot between the puzzled youths until the older tough snorted his disbelief. ‘Then hand it all over.’

The squat fellow was examining an empty shop front. ‘Easily done – since I own nothing. This building occupied?’

‘Debtors’ prison,’ answered a girl, barefoot, in tattered canvas pants and dirty tunic, boasting the frizzy hair of mixed Korel and foreign parentage. ‘Withholding taxes from the Malazan overlords.’

The man raised his thick arms to it. ‘Then I consecrate it to my God.’

‘Which of all your damned foreign gods is that?’

The man turned. A smile pulled up his uneven lips and distorted the faded boar’s head tattoo. His voice strengthened. ‘Why, since you ask . . . Let me tell you about my God. His domain is the downtrodden and dispossessed. The poor and the sick. To him social standing, riches and prestige are meaningless empty veils. His first message is that we are all weak. We all are flawed. We all are mortal. And that we must learn to accept this.’

‘Accept? Accept what?’

‘Our failings. For we are all of us imperfect.’

‘What is the name of this sick and perverted god?’

The priest held out his hands open and empty. ‘It is that which resides within us – each god is but one face of it.’

‘Each god? All? Even Our Lady who shields us from evil?’

‘Yes. Even she.’

Many of the gang flinched then, wincing, and they moved off as they sensed a more profound and disquieting sacrilege flowing beneath the usual irreverence of foreigners.

‘And his second message?’ a girl asked. She had stepped closer, but her eyes remained watchful on the street, and a sneer seemed fixed at her bloodless lips.

‘Anyone may achieve deliverance and grace. It is open to all. It cannot be kept from anyone like common coin.’

She pointed to her thin chest. ‘Even us? The divines of the Sainted Lady turn us away from their thresholds – even the Hospice. They spit at us as half-bloods. And the old Dark Collector demands payment for all souls regardless.’

The man’s dark eyes glittered his amusement. ‘What I speak of cannot be bought by any earthly coin. Or compelled by any earthly power.’

Perplexed, the girl allowed her friends to pull her on. But she glanced back, thoughtful, her sharp brows crimped.

Smiling to himself again, the newcomer took hold of the door’s latch and pushed with a firm steady force until wood cracked, snapping, and the door opened. He slept that night on the threshold under his thin quilted blanket.

 

He spent the next morning sitting in the open doorway, nodding to all who passed. Those who did not spurn his greeting skittered from him like wary colts. Shortly after dawn a Malazan patrol of six soldiers made its slow deliberate round. He watched while coins passed from shopkeepers into the hands of the patrol sergeant; how the soldiers, male and female, helped themselves to whatever they wanted from the stalls, eating bread, fruit, and skewered meat cooked over coals as they swaggered along.

Eventually they came to him and he sighed, lowering his gaze. He’d heard it was bad here in Fist – which was why he’d come – but he’d no idea it was this bad.

The patrol sergeant stopped short, his thick, dark brows knitting. ‘What in the name of Togg’s tits is a Theftian priest of Fener doing here?’

The newcomer stood. ‘Priest, yes. But no longer of Fener.’

‘Kicked out? Buggery maybe?’

‘No – you get promoted for that.’

The men and women of the patrol laughed. The sergeant scowled, his unshaven jowls folding in fat. He tucked his hands into his belt; his gaze edged slyly to his patrol. ‘Looks like we got an itinerant. You have any coin, old beggar?’

‘I do.’ The priest reached into a fold of his tattered shirt and tossed a copper sliver to the cobbled road.

‘A worthless Stygg half-penny?’ The sergeant’s fleshy mouth curled.

‘You’re right that it’s worthless. All coins are worthless. It’s just that some are worth less than others.’

The sergeant snorted. ‘A Hood-damned mystic too.’ He pulled a wooden truncheon from his belt. ‘We don’t tolerate layabouts in this town. Get a move on or I’ll give you payment of another kind.’

The priest’s wide hands twitched loosely at his sides; his frog-like mouth stretched in a straight smile. ‘Lucky for you I no longer have any use for that coin either.’

The sergeant swung. The truncheon slapped into the priest’s raised open hand. The sergeant grunted, straining. His tanned face darkened with effort. Yanking, the priest came away with the truncheon, which he then cracked across his knee, snapping it. He threw the shards to the road. The men and women of the patrol eased back a step, hands going to swords.

The sergeant raised a hand: Hold. He gave the priest a nod in acknowledgement of the demonstration. ‘You’re new, so I’ll give you this one. But from now on this is how it’s gonna work – you want to stay, you pay. Simple as that. Otherwise, it’s the gaol for you. And here’s a tip . . . stay in there long enough and we sell your arse to the Korelri. They’re always lookin’ for warm bodies for the wall and they don’t much care where they come from.’ He eased his head from side to side, cracking vertebrae, and offered a savage smile. ‘So, you’re a priest. We got priests too. Guess I’ll send them around. You can talk philosophy. Till then – sleep tight.’

The sergeant signalled for the patrol to move on. They left, grinning. One of the female soldiers blew a kiss.

 

The priest sat back down to watch them as they went, collecting yet more extortion money. The street youths, he noted, were nowhere in evidence. Damn bad. Worse than he’d imagined. It’s a good thing the old commander isn’t here to see this. Otherwise it would be the garrison itself in the gaol.

He picked up the two shards of the truncheon, hefted them. Still, mustn’t be too harsh. Occupation and subjugation of a population – intended or not – is an ugly thing. Brutalizing. Brings out the worst in both actors. Look at what he’d heard of Seven Cities. And this is looking no better.

Well, he has his God. The priest’s wide mouth split side to side. Ah yes, his God. And a browbeaten and oppressed population from which to recruit. Fertile ground. He edged his head sideways, calculating. Yes . . . it just might work . . .

***

First year of the rule of Emperor Mallick Rel ‘The Merciful’
(Year 1167 Burn’s Sleep)
City of Delanss, Falar Subcontinent

Sitting across from his hulking grey-haired friend, Kyle squeezed his tumbler of wine and tried to keep his worry from his face. The long, stone-hued hair that had given his friend his old nickname, Greymane, now hung more silver than pewter. And though he attacked his rice and Falaran hot peppered fish sauce with his usual gusto and appetite, Kyle could see that his strained finances must be taking their toll: new lines furrowed his mouth, dark circles shaded his eyes, and Kyle swore the man was losing weight.

They sat on a terrace overlooking an enclosed courtyard of raked sand where racks of weapons boasted swords of all makes plus daggers, pole-weapons and staves, as well as padded hauberks, helmets and shields. Everything, Kyle reflected, one might need for a fighting academy.

Except pupils.

So far, Kyle didn’t think Greymane, who now insisted on his original given name, Orjin, had attracted more than thirty paying bodies to his new school. Kyle didn’t count himself; he’d tried paying for all the lessons and sparring he’d been privileged to have from the man, but Orjin wouldn’t accept a penny. The three cousins who’d come along with him and Greymane had also tried to help, but after their version of ‘training’ broke bones and bloodied noses Orjin asked them to quit. Bored with hanging around, Stalker, Coots and Badlands had said their goodbyes and shipped out on a vessel heading west. Kyle’s guardian spirit, or haunt, seemed to have also drifted off: Stoop, the ghost of a dead Crimson Guardsman, one of the Avowed, those who swore a binding vow to oppose the Malazan Empire so long as it should endure. And that vow, which granted them so much, extended life and strength, also bound them in death, chaining them to the world. But over the months he too had faded away, returning, perhaps, to his dead brethren. Kyle had thought he saw a kind of disappointment in the haunt’s eyes when it appeared that last time to say farewell.

So over the months he’d spent his time talking up Orjin’s school at every chance. He suspected, though, that his friend wasn’t interested in what the regular burghers and farmers of the markets, inns and taverns thought of his new academy – he had his eyes on a far more elevated, and moneyed, tier of the local Delanss society.

Small chance there. Delanss, capital city of the second most populous island of the Falaran subcontinent and archipelago, boasted prestigious long-established schools: Grieg’s Academy, the School of the Curved Blade, the Black Falcon School. Academies that rivalled the famous officers’ school of Strike Island. And privately, Kyle did not believe his friend would ever manage to push his way into such a closed, tightly knit market in what seemed such a closed, tightly knit society. As far as he could see, this region’s capitulation to its Malazan invaders seemed to have amounted to no more than changing the colour of the flags atop the harbour fortress.

Greymane – Orjin – tore a piece of greasy flatbread and used it to sop up the last of his sauce; he looked as though he was about to speak, but chewed moodily instead. Kyle sipped his white rice wine, thought about asking whether any classes were scheduled for the day, decided he’d better not.

It seemed to him that all this must be especially galling since his friend had to hide his past. A past that would have officer hopefuls battering down his doors should they know of it. Unfortunately, word of his past career as an Imperial Malazan military general, a Fist, and subsequent outlaw from that same Empire, would have him a hunted man on this subcontinent as well.

A sound from below turned Kyle’s attention to the practice floor. A man had entered. He was dressed in the rounded cloth hat, thick robes and bright jewellery of just that social stratum Orjin was so keen to attract; the fellow gazed bemusedly about the empty school. Following Kyle’s gaze, Orjin peered down, then shot upright from his chair, sending it crashing backwards. ‘Yes, sir!’ he boomed. ‘May I be of service?’

The man jumped at the bellow trained to penetrate the crash of battle, squinted up, uncertain. ‘You are the master of this establishment?’ he asked in Talian, the unofficial second tongue of the archipelago.

‘Yes, sir! A moment, sir!’ Orjin wiped his mouth, disentangled himself from his fallen chair and headed for the stairs. Crossing the practice floor, he bowed. ‘How may I help you, sir?’

Kyle finished his wine and followed. He stopped at the base of the stairs, leaned against the banister of unfinished wood. The fellow wore the full fashion of the local aristocracy: multiple rings at his fingers, thick silver chains round his neck over fur-trimmed robes with fur cuffs. His hat consisted of wrapped dark burgundy cloth set with semi-precious stones. His goatee was finely trimmed, and while looking Orjin up and down he stroked it, showing off the large gems in his rings. ‘What are your credentials?’

Orjin bowed again. He looked what Kyle hoped was properly severe and professional in his tanned leathers. ‘I served in the Malazan Fourth Army, sir, and attained the rank of captain before injury at the Battle of the Plains.’

The man’s brows rose. ‘Truly? Then you were there when the Empress fell?’

‘Yes, sir. Though I did not witness it.’

‘Few did, I understand. What, then, is your impression of this new Emperor, Mallick Rel?’

Orjin glanced back to Kyle, cleared his throat. ‘Well, sir, I’m not a politician. But I was glad that he did not prosecute the officers who had rebelled against the Empress.’

The man’s calculating gaze seemed to say, Because you were among them? ‘He’s Falari, you know.’

‘No, sir. I did not know that.’

‘Yes. And I will tell you this – there were many of us here who were not in the least bit surprised at the news of his, ah, advancement.’

‘Is that so, sir.’

The man shrugged uneasily beneath his layered furred robes. ‘Anyway . . . Your rates?’

‘A half-silver per hour for individual instruction.’

The man’s mouth drew down. ‘That is much more than I was expecting.’

‘Ah, but . . .’ The big man motioned to Kyle. ‘I can also offer instruction from my compatriot here, who was of the famed mercenary company, the Crimson Guard.’

The nobleman eyed Kyle thinly. ‘And now employs those skills breaking arms.’

Orjin actually winced. ‘Yes, well. You can always withdraw should you not judge the instruction beneficial.’

‘It is not for myself. It is for my son.’

‘I see. His age?’

‘Still a boy, really . . . but rowdy. Undisciplined.’ He tilted his head as he stroked his goatee. ‘But you look as if you might be able to handle him.’ He nodded thoughtfully. ‘Yes. Thank you. Until then.’ He bowed.

Orjin answered the bow. ‘I look forward to it.’

The man left. Kyle ambled across the floor to Orjin’s side. ‘Think we’ll see him again?’

‘Could be.’

‘He didn’t even ask to see your papers.’

‘Perhaps he knows how easily all that bullshit can be forged.’

‘Maybe.’ Kyle eyed his friend sidelong. ‘A half-silver per hour? Pretty steep. I couldn’t afford you.’

The man smiled wolfishly and his glacial blue eyes glittered with humour. For a moment he had the appearance of his old self. ‘He looked as if he could spare it.’

Kyle laughed. ‘Aye. Tomorrow, then.’

‘Yes – sword and shield work.’

Backing away, Kyle waved the suggestion aside. ‘Gods, no. There’s no skill in that.’

‘No skill! There’s ignorance speaking. Do you in, that ignorance might one day.’

‘Not before I knife it.’

Knife? Useless against anyone in a shred of armour.’

Kyle paused. ‘I’ll—’ A knock sounded just as he was reaching for the doors. Frowning, he opened one of the wide leaves. Three men, plainly dressed, bearing expensive Falaran-style longswords and daggers, the blades straight and slim. Three more! Must be Greymane’s – Orjin’s – banner day. He nodded to one. ‘Morning.’

This one, a young swell in a broad-brimmed green felt hat, looked him up and down and made no effort to disguise his lack of approval. ‘You are this new weapon-master?’

‘No.’ Kyle motioned up the tunnel. ‘He’s it.’ He stood aside. The three men entered, leaving the door ajar. The indifferent condescension of that act – as if the three were used to others opening and shutting doors for them – moved Kyle to stroll along behind them, curious.

 

He stopped in the mouth of the tunnel that led to the court. The three had met Orjin at a weapon rack. ‘You are this new weapon-master, Orjin Samarr?’ their spokesman asked in a tone that was almost accusatory.

Orjin turned, blinking mildly. His eyes glinted bright like sapphires in the shade. ‘Aye? May I help you? You would like a lesson, perhaps?’

The three exchanged glances, their mouths twisting up, amused. ‘Yes,’ the fellow in the green hat began, backing off and setting a gloved hand on his sword. ‘You can help us settle a wager my friends and I have made . . .’ The other two stepped aside to Orjin’s right and left. Kyle pushed himself from the wall, edged closer to a weapon rack. ‘. . . as to whether any foreigner could possibly provide fighting instruction in any way approximating that quality with which Delanss has been so blessed.’

Orjin nodded his understanding. He drew a bound stave from the weapon rack, sighted down its length. ‘I see. Well, normally I charge a half-silver for lessons. But perhaps the three of you would like to go in together on a group rate—’

They drew, snarling. Orjin sprang upon the one on his right, the stave smacking the man’s right hand, and he yelped, tucking it under an arm. Orjin spun to face the other two. Kyle drew a wooden baton from the weapon rack, tossed it end over end while he watched.

Using a two-handed grip, Orjin parried, the stave blurring, knocking the slim double-edged blades aside. The fellow in the felt hat furiously threw it aside and drew his parrying dagger. The clack of the stave against the blades echoed in the court. Kyle listened for the telltale catch of iron biting wood, but so far Orjin had managed to avoid that particular danger. The man’s face was reddening and Kyle stopped tossing the baton.

Too early; far too early for any exertion to be showing. ‘They’re using knives,’ he observed conversationally.

Orjin shot him a glare, his cheeks puffing. The three danced around him while he shifted slowly, knees bent, stave cocked. ‘Now, normally,’ he began, ‘none of you would have occasion to meet an opponent using a two-handed weapon . . .’ One lunged in, and Orjin’s stave smacked his face, sending him tottering aside. Orjin returned his guard on the remaining two. ‘Normally, it is too slow and awkward to move from side to side across the body. A nimble opponent should—’ The same one charged, slashing. Orjin’s stave parried, dipped, and came up into the fellow’s groin. The man fell like a string-cut puppet. Kyle winced in empathetic pain.

Sweat now sheathing his face, Orjin faced their spokesman, who smiled, acknowledging the lesson, and immediately attacked. Parrying, Orjin dipped his head, shouting his encouragement. ‘Yes, yes! That’s right – draw the point aside, prepare the gauche for the hidden thrust!’

A warning shout from Kyle died in his throat as the hand-slapped fellow re-entered the fray to grip Orjin from behind. Kyle was amazed by the foolhardiness of the move; the bhederin-like Orjin was half again as broad as any man he’d ever met.

Shrugging, Orjin wrenched an arm around to get the man in a headlock and threw him over his shoulder stomach up like a sack of grain. Stave in one hand, he faced the spokesman. ‘Now you have the advantage – a one-handed opponent!’

The spokesman did not hesitate. His booted feet shushed and thumped the sand as he dodged, feinting, circling the ponderously shifting Orjin. Kyle kicked himself from the wall. Shit! He’s really gonna try it! The longsword scraped up the shaft of the stave, holding it aside, and he stepped in the gauche, thrusting, but Orjin spun, the blade sawing shallowly across his side as the legs and boots of the man across his shoulder smashed into his assistant, sending him flying aside. Orjin tossed the man on to his sprawled fellow and stood panting. He touched his side gingerly and flinched. ‘The lesson is . . .’ he drew a heavy breath, ‘that you all should’ve attacked at once, regardless.’

Kyle watched the big man’s chest rising and falling. Out of breath already? Not good. No, not good at all. He replaced the baton.

As the spokesman struggled to rise Orjin put a booted foot to his backside and sent him tumbling to the tunnel. ‘I’d charge you. But I suspect you’re all incapable of learning anything.’

Gathering up their fallen weapons, they backed off to the exit. Kyle bowed as they passed. ‘Honoured sirs!’ They merely glared and mouthed curses. Kyle ambled out to Orjin, who was cleaning up. ‘Winded already . . .’

The man shot him a glare. ‘Been a while.’ He found a rag, wiped his jowls.

‘A little dust-up like that shouldn’t—’

‘Drop it.’

Kyle’s brows rose. Short-tempered too. ‘So I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon then for that sword and shield work. What do you say? Full armour too?’

Orjin made a face. ‘Very funny. Now get out of here. I have to get cleaned up.’

Kyle saluted and backed away.

But he’d been serious.

*

In a shaded narrow alleyway a few streets down, the young tough, his green felt hat in one hand, dabbed a silk handkerchief to his bleeding nose and mouth and faced the richly dressed Delanss noble in his furred robes and thick silver chains. With a ringed hand the noble edged the young man’s head aside to examine one cheek, tsked beneath his breath. ‘So he did manage to handle you . . .’

‘Father!’

‘So, what do you think? Is he the one?’

‘He must be. He lifted Donas like a child.’

‘Very well. I’ll send word. Until then, hire men to keep an eye on the school.’

The young man bowed.

‘And no retribution! No crossbows in the night, or knives in the market. They want him alive.’

The young man rolled his eyes. ‘Yes, father.’

The noble stroked his grey-shot goatee, studied the young man. ‘I must say I am impressed by the man’s control. He put you down without breaking any bones at all. He showed great restraint in the face of almost intolerable insult.’

Father!

***

First year of the rule of Emperor Mallick Rel ‘The Merciful’
(Year 1167 Burn’s Sleep)
Stratem Subcontinent

At dawn, Kuhn Eshen, called Kuhn ‘The Nose’, master of Rich Tidings, a Katakan freetrader, dropped anchor offshore from the town of Thickton and spent an anxious morning waiting to see whether the stories of the lands of Stratem being open once more to the outside world were true.

As the hours passed the usual small boats made their way out, offering fresh fruit, bread, fish and pigs. Boys and girls swam the cold waters, offering to lead the crew to boarding houses or brothels, or to act as general guides about town. All good signs of a growing openness to trade. By noon the larger open launches were oaring out, bearing merchant agents. These men and women Kuhn greeted. He offered a taste of the Styggian liqueur he’d brought, and showed bolts of Jass broadcloth. They listened with barely concealed eagerness to his talk of Korel; news only a few weeks old rather than the two or three months it usually took for any word to reach this stretch of the isolated Sea of Chimes.

One woman among them, however, mystified Kuhn and he kept a wary eye on her. She stood leaning self-contained against the side. Dressed in dark leathers, with a sword belted at her side, her long auburn hair pulled back and fixed with a bright green tortoiseshell clip, she almost looked to be a military officer of some sort. She took no interest in his wares; instead she watched his crew as they in turn eyed the thickly treed shore. Some few garbled stories had reached Korel lands concerning events on their southern neighbour. Word of a band of hireswords carving out a private kingdom. But all that had been long ago. Still, he wondered: could she be one of them?

After expressing an interest in board feet of the local hardwoods, in tanned hides, and furs, Kuhn spent a time doling out news of Korel lands. The crowded circle of locals hung on every scrap – true or not. He was talking of the Stormwall when his audience went silent and all eyes edged aside, glancing past him. He turned.

The woman in dark leathers had come up behind him. She was watching him expectantly, her sharp chin raised. ‘I’m sorry . . . ?’ he stammered.

‘I said what was that . . . what you were just talking of.’

‘Just the latest news from the Stormwall, honoured lady. And you are . . . ?’

‘I represent the governor of this province – Haven Province, of Stratem.’

‘Truly? A governor?’ Kuhn looked to a nearby agent who was nodding seriously, his thick neck bulging. Intriguing. This news could be worth much in certain ports of Korel. ‘And this governor – does he have a name?’ Closer now, he saw that she wore a single piece of jewellery high on the left of her chest – what looked like a dragon or snake wrought in silver.

The woman’s thin lips edged sideways in an almost cruel knowing smile. ‘You first.’

Ah. Going to be that way, is it? Kuhn shrugged, and rested his forearms on the ship’s gunwale. ‘Certainly, m’lady. My news is always free. It’s half the reason we traders are welcome wherever we go. I was just speaking of the Stormwall. The ranks of the Chosen have thinned, you know. But this last season a new champion has arisen on the wall. The Korelri are full of his exploits. They call him Bars – odd name, that.’

The woman’s reaction made Kuhn flinch. She fairly paled; a hand rose as if to shake him by the throat but to his relief merely clutched air. ‘Bars,’ she hissed aloud in an almost awed whisper. She threw herself over the side, slipping down the rope ladder by her hands alone. Landing jarringly in a launch, she immediately ordered it away. She even lent a hand at an oar herself and it was all the rest of the burly crew could do to keep up. All this Kuhn watched bemusedly, scratching his scalp. ‘Who in the name of the Blessed Lady was that?’

‘That was Janeth, warder of the town.’

‘Warder? What does that mean? Is she your ruler?’

A shake of the head. ‘No, gentle sir. We have a council. She enforces the laws. Her men guard the coast. Arrest thieves and killers – not that we’ve had a killin’ here in some time.’ The agent warmed to his subject, crossed his arms on the gunwale. ‘Last season raiders from your neighbour Mare came through. They show up from time to time. She and her men drove them off.’

Kuhn eyed the retreating launch. Drove off Mare raiders? Her and how many men? So, law enforcement and protection. Agent of this self-styled governor. A king by any other name? News indeed for the Korelan Council of the Chosen concerning their once sleepy southern neighbour. ‘And this provincial governor. He has a name?’

An easy shrug beneath bunched hides. ‘I heard him called “Blues” once. We just call him the Lord Governor. He’s living in an old fort called Haven. Hasn’t been around lately. Not that I’d know him to see him.’

Enough for now. Smiling easily, Kuhn slapped the agent on the arm. ‘Well, thank you. See you this evening?’

‘Oh, yes. Esta’s house. She runs a clean place. Best ever. You’ll see.’

Best ever? My friend, I very much doubt that this muddy backwater could offer any attractions rivalling those of infamous Danig of Theft, or legendary Ebon of Stygg.

 

Book News, Books, News

New Releases, Week of May 8th, 2011

Here’s a list of all of sci-fi and fantasy coming out this week.

Released Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Mind Storm: A Strykers Syndicate Novel, by K. M. Ruiz

The first in an exciting new sci-fi series that’s being described as Blade Runner meets X-Men

Two hundred and fifty years after the world was nearly wiped out by nuclear war, what’s left of society fights over the scraps of the Earth as the rich and powerful plan to ascend in secret to another planet. But the deadly new breed of humanity that the rulers have enslaved to protect their interests are about to change everything.

K.M. Ruiz’s Mind Storm is the rip-roaring tale of Threnody Corwin, a “psion” with the ability to channel electricity like lightning through anything she touches. As a solider-slave for the human government, Threnody is recruited by an unknown enemy: the scion of Earth’s most powerful (and supposedly human) family, the Serca Syndicate. But Lucas Serca is far from human and he intends to make Threnody and her fellow psions meet their destiny, no matter how many people he has to kill to do it.

Mind Storm is the first of two books chronicling the fight for survival by the psions and other “gene-trash” humans, before they’re killed by the racist world government, or left to die on a crumbling Earth.

The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur….

The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

The Chaos Crystal (The Tide Lords), by Jennifer Fallon

The magical Tide has turned and the Immortal Lords once again have their full power. The Immortal Lord Cayal welcomes this power as a means to an end–his end, preferably.  Cayal has wanted to cease his existence for longer than human history and it looks like he might finally get his wish.  Rumors swirl that the Chaos Crystal, the mysterious prism that brought the Immortals to the world, has been found. Cayal is determined to seize the gem.

Among those who search for this long-lost object is Cayal’s former lover, the very mortal Lady Arkady.  She’s been captured by Jaxyn, a Tide Lord who is decidedly against Cayal and is seeking the Crystal for his own nefarious schemes. Arkady escapes, and is off on her desperate search…for if the gem falls into the hands of the Immortals, what will become of humanity?

The stakes are high, with mortal and immortal fighting to grasp this ultimate prize. Whoever holds the Crystal can decide the fate of the world.

Dog Blood, by David Moody

On the heels of Patient Zero and Pride and Prejudice with Zombies— the electrifying sequel to Hater where humanity fights itself to the death against a backdrop of ultimate apocalyptic destruction

The Earth has been torn into two parts by an irreversible division. Whether due to nature, or the unknown depths of the mind itself, everyone is now either Human or Hater. Victim or killer. Governments have fallen, command structures have collapsed, and relationships have crumbled. Major cities have become refugee camps where human survivors cower together in fear. Amidst this indiscriminate carnage, Danny McCoyne is on a mission to find his daughter Ellis, convinced that her shared Hater condition means her allegiance is to people like him. Free of inhibitions, unrestricted by memories of peace, and driven by instinct, children are pure Haters, and may well define the future of the Hater race. But, as McCoyne makes his way into the heart of human territory, an incident on the battlefield sets in place an unexpected chain of events, forcing him to question everything he believes he knows about the new order that has arisen, and the dynamic of the Hate itself.

Central Park Knight, by C. J. Henderson

Superhero museum curator Piers Knight saves the world in the first two chapters of this sequel to 2010’s Brooklyn Knight, but fear not, another apocalypse is on the way. This time it’s dragons. Knight, his ex-girlfriend Tian Lu, and socially challenged museum intern George Rainert are snatched up by honest-to-gosh Men in Black and taken to Washington to begin planning their defense against the ancient creatures. Their weapons include magic powders, rail guns, missiles, geek energy, Web traffic, and Knight’s sharp wits. The fast and furious action might make up for the occasional failings of fact (the Brooklyn Museum has not had a “magnificent stairway” since 1934), and the book concludes with Knight ready for the next disaster.

 

Stonewielder: A Novel of the Malazan Empire, by Ian C. Esslemont

Greymane believed he’d outrun his past. With his school for swordsmanship in Falar, he was looking forward to a quiet life, although his colleague Kyle wasn’t as enamoured with life outside the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. However, it seems it is not so easy for an ex-Fist of the Malazan Empire to disappear, especially one under sentence of death from that same Empire.

For there is a new Emperor on the throne of Malaz, and he is dwelling on the ignominy that is the Empire’s failed invasion of the Korel subcontinent. In the vaults beneath Unta, the Imperial capital, lie the answers to that disaster.  And out of this buried history surfaces the nameStonewielder.

In Korel, Lord Protector Hiam, commander of the Stormguard, faces the potential annihilation of all that he holds dear. With few remaining men and a crumbling stone wall that has seen better days, he confronts an ancient enemy: the sea-borne Stormriders have returned.

Religious war also threatens these lands. The cult of the Blessed Lady, which had stood firm against the Riders for millennia, now seeks to eradicate its rivals. And as chaos looms, a local magistrate investigating a series of murders suddenly finds himself at the heart of a far more ancient and terrifying crime – one that has tainted an entire land….

Stonewielder is an enthralling new chapter in the epic story of a thrillingly imagined world that takes place in the timeline right after the New York Times bestseller Dust of Dreams left off.

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

Fairyland is a book that is both deeply in love with fairy tales and sharply critical of them: the story of September, a girl who flies from her dreary and sad life in Nebraska to Fairyland on the Green Wind. In Fairyland, she meets every sort of wonderful mythical beast (including a wyvern that’s half library), eats the most wonderful and strange things, and has the most wonderful and extraordinary adventures and quests. And it really is wonderful: whimsical and lyrical and shot through with an imagination that simultaneously renders the traditional furniture of fairy tales fresh, and manages to make the author’s own inventions seem as mythic as the first story told in the first cave in front of the first fire.

But Valente’s fairytale broods and seethes, and it is not always such a nice place. For every velocipede herd thundering across the plain, ridden by a marvelous fairy in aviator’s leathers and jodhpurs, there’s a whipped blue water-djinn who bears the emotional scars of slavery. For every autumn kingdom filled with fiery sylvan alchemists, there is a political exile in the winter country, banished and sorrowing. For every brave sacrifice from September’s companions, there’s an abandoned soap golem that wishes the good queen would restore Fairyland to its glory.

And that’s what makes Valente’s work so truly fairytale fantastic: the sense that the magic sweetness is alloyed with a pinch of salty tears that makes it all so flavorful and complex, a wonder streaked with anxiety. So as September embarks on her quest to topple the evil Marquess who is bent on remaking Fairyland so that it is as dull and regimented as Omaha, Nebraska, we cheer her on, fear for her, and wonder, a little, if she might not be on the wrong side of the war.

Valente’s lyrical fairytale is billed as a young adult novel, but like all the very best young adult novels, this is a book that can (and should be!) enjoyed by grown ups too.

Tighter, by Adele Griffin

When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple’s tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie’s connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Brilliantly plotted, with startling twists, here is a thrilling page-turner from the award-winning Adele Griffin.

Die for me, by Amy Plum

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

In this incandescent debut, newcomer Amy Plum has created a powerful paranormal mythology with immortal revenants. The Paris setting comes enchantingly alive as a relentless struggle between good and evil takes place in its streets. Rich with romance, atmosphere, and thrills, Die for Me will leave readers breathlessly awaiting its sequel.

Tempest Rising, by Tracy Deebs

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water’s temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean’s future hangs in the balance.

 

Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier & Anthea Bell

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

 

Released Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The Rogue (The Traitor Spy Trilogy), by Trudi Canavan

Discover the magic of Trudi Canavan with her brand new novel in the Traitor Spy Trilogy…

Living among the Sachakan rebels, Lorkin does his best to learn about their unique magic. But the Traitors are reluctant to trade their secrets for the Healing they so desperately want.

Meanwhile, Sonea searches for the rogue, knowing that Cery cannot avoid assassination forever. The rogue’s influence over the city’s underworld, however, is far greater than she feared.

And in the University, two female novices are about to remind the Guild that sometimes their greatest enemy is found within…

The Traitor Spy Trilogy, which began with The Ambassador’s Mission, is the new series set in the world of the international bestselling Black Magician Trilogy.

Released Friday, May 13th, 2011

The Avenger: The Justice Inc. Files, by Joe Gentile & Howard Hopkins

From the flames of tragedy, a hero rises! In the roaring heart of the crucible, steel is made. In the raging flame of personal tragedy, men are sometimes forged into something more than human. Life was bliss for millionaire adventurer Richard Henry Benson until the fateful day crime and greed took away his wife and daughter and turned him into something more than human. Driven by loss, compelled by grief, The Avenger is a chilled impersonal force of justice, more machine than man, dedicated to the destruction of evildoers everywhere. This collection features new prose stories of The Avenger by such luminaries as Will Murray, Robin W. Bailey, Matthew Baugh, Joe Gentile, Paul Kupperberg, Howard Hopkins, Mark Ellis, Ron Fortier, and David Michelinie.

 

The Immune, by Doc Lucky Meisenheimer

A biological crisis of epic proportions threatens the world. Genetically manufactured creatures, called airwars, attack and kill at random. Despite having captured and sequestered the airwar’s creator, a hastily formed world government appears to be more effective in consolidating power than in managing the crisis. Hope emerges when a navy admiral discovers there are individuals born genetically immune to the deadly stings of the creatures. As the “immunes” struggle to protect humanity, they bemoan escalating governmental control. There is, however, one key immune with the intelligence and leadership to look beyond the crisis. As the government unfolds its secret plans to end the crisis, the future of humanity may well rest on his shoulders.

 

List from Borders.com and descriptions/reviews from Amazon.com