Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore (DAW, Aug. 5th, 2014)-Oh, man, have I missed Eric Carter. Shame on Stephen Blackmoore for not writing faster for my enjoyment! Just kidding, I’m willing to wait, because I know it’ll be worth it, and Broken Souls proves that. To catch you up a bit, Eric isn’t exactly the luckiest guy. His sister was murdered not too long ago. His best friend, Alex, is dead, and his ex-girlfriend Vivian (who was hooked up with Alex), blames him and won’t speak to him (he doesn’t blame her), and he’s married to Santa Muerte (he made a deal, long story), whose grinning skull does nothing to put a man in the mood. No, seriously, she’s claimed Eric as her own, which comes with a few magical perks, but Eric will gladly trade those perks for his freedom. Anyway, his priority, at the beginning of Broken Souls, is finding a way out of the deal he made with Santa Muerte, and calls on a mage he knows to help him out. Except, someone is squatting in the mage’s skin and wielding an obsidian blade, and he (it?) is out to skin Eric. Nothing our hero can’t handle, right?
Luckily, Eric does have a little help in the form of the Bruja, who runs a half-way house for vamps and other “others”, and he’s getting advice from something that looks and sounds like Alex, but he’s not sure it actually is Alex. He does know it’s not a ghost, but other than that, he’s at a loss. But, Eric will take what he can get. What exactly is driving this killer, and why is he after Eric? The answer may be more than Eric and his new friends bargain for, but they have no choice but to try to stop it. And what exactly does Santa Muerte want from Eric? She’s being coy, but right now, it’s really the least of his problems.
This is a fantastic series. Eric talks tough and acts like he doesn’t need anyone, but under all that bluster is a core of loneliness-keep an eye out for a scene where the Bruja calls him out on exactly this. Speaking of the Bruja…she’s awesome, and she’s my favorite new character (well, sorta new-see City of the Lost.) She’s funny too, so bonus points. She and Eric play off each other perfectly. So, yeah, there are some funny lines in this book, but things get really dark, as they usually do, and gawd…my jaw dropped in a few places. See, I’m kind of a pain in the ass reader. It’s hard to surprise me. Blackmoore surprised me. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great thing, but damn…
Anyway, Broken Souls is chock full of great and gory fight scenes, ghosts, gods, double crosses out the wazoo, and, like I said, plenty of surprises. I love Blackmoore’s noir-tinged supernatural L.A., and the city is almost a character unto itself. I love the little historical tidbits that Eric throws out-it really adds some atmosphere to an already very atmospheric story. I’ve become really, really picky when it comes to urban fantasy lately, and there’s a group of authors that are writing consistently excellent stuff: Chuck Wendig, Chris F. Holm, ML Brennan (and a few more)…and Stephen Blackmoore. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. This one will keep you up late. Promise. I would like one of those calaveras etched rings though…
If you’ve been active in the SFF community for any significant length of time, you know who Lou Anders is. He’s a multi-award winning editor and author, and his first novel, FROSTBORN, a middle grade fantasy, is out today! Lou was kind enough to stop by and chat about the new book, and more!
You’ve had a long and illustrious editing career and have published many short stories, so it’s very exciting that 2014 is ushering in the release of your first book, Frostborn! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?
Absolutely. Frostborn is the first book in the Thrones & Bones series, adventure tales for boys and girls ages 8-12. It’s a fantasy novel that tells the story of a human boy growing up in a Norse-inspired land called Norrøngard and a half-human, half-giant girl struggling to fit in with her frost giant village. They encounter each other while on the run from adversity and team up to survive the wilderness and their respective enemies. Along the way they encounter trolls, draug (undead warriors), some very dangerous foreign soldiers, and one very large dragon.
As to the tale’s inspiration, it evolved in my mind over a long period of time. As a child, I was struck by Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Frost Giant’s Daughter.” It was Howard’s attempt to write something with mythic resonance for Conan, inspired by the Greek tale of Leda and the swan. Conan is the sole survivor of a battlefield and spies a beautiful woman, who tempts him to follow her to where her brothers – both enormous frost giants – are waiting to kill him. The story does succeed in invoking a dream-like, mythological that reminds you of legends of Greek and Norse gods, though as a kid I found it unfair that the female frost giant is human-sized while her brothers are significantly larger. As an adult, I’m much more bothered by a one-dimensional character whose sole purpose in a narrative is to use her body to trap a man, and a protagonist who isn’t bothered by that. I wanted to explore the idea of a strong female character who was half-frost giant (my solution to problem one) but who was written to be a laudable, three dimensional character in her own right that women could respect and admire (my solution to problem two). I wrote a short story about an adult adventurer who was half-human, half frost giant. Well-intentioned but the story was terrible, truly. Really not good. And I got to wondering if maybe I needed to understand her backstory before I tried again. Around the same time, my son was starting to read middle grade fantasy novels that were of interest to me as well, and as my interest in the genre grew, I wanted to write something they both he – and eventually my daughter – could read and enjoy. Suddenly, I realized that the backstory of my half-giantess was the actual story, and that it was the book I was looking to write for my two children. I set everything aside, threw out what had come before, and spent three months just world-building before I returned to plot. By which time I realized I wanted to pair her with a human boy, and the second half of my duo was born.
There’s a feast of deals this week in SFF! These are all under $5, but as usual, double check the Buy button before you click. Enjoy!
The Kills (Sutler) by Richard House (Picador, August 5th, 2014)-The Kills is a novel in four parts (originally published as four stand-alone books in the UK), and that’s how I’m going to cover it, as much for my sanity as yours. I don’t mean that in a bad way, at all, but at more than 1,000 pages, The Kills could be called…intimidating. It’s certainly heavy. But don’t let that scare you away. Seriously, don’t, because after Sutler, I’m more than ready to dive into the next three books (The Massive, The Kill, and The Hit.) Sutler mainly covers the exploits of one man, John Ford (aka Sutler), who works for US contracting company HOSCO. He’s been ostensibly hired to help oversee the construction of a brand new city in Iraq, nicknamed The Massive (it’s also the title of the 2nd book). Saddam is dead, and it’s time to rebuild. Sounds all well and good on the surface, but when a lot of money goes missing, and Sutler is set adrift (and his departure isn’t without tragedy), with the promise of a hefty $250,000 payday, he sets his mind on distancing himself from the project, and holding onto the account numbers that he’ll need to transfer his money when he’s given the official go-ahead. Ford certainly isn’t out to make friends, but inevitably he does have some significant human contact, including a couple of rather bumbling (of the not so funny kind) journalists and a group of filmmakers , one of which is young Eric Powell, who has a few secrets of his own, and is drawn to Ford. Cat and mouse ensues when a man named Parson is hired to find Sutler. As Parson follows Ford’s rather dim trail, he starts to wonder just who it is that really hired him, and begins to suspect games are being played, so he begins a dangerous game of his own.
I like House’s style a lot, and while Sutler certainly has the meat of a crackling spy story, it also heads into existential territory and explores anonymity and boundaries of the literal and personal kind. Ford is persistently at war with himself. We’re never really sure what his real name is (all we really know is that it’s definitely not Sutler), and he finds that he’ll do things as Sutler that he’d never do as Ford, and he grapples with his sudden untethering, dreaming still of the regimented time he spent with HOSCO. House’s narrative is unsettling, and he seems to be able to extract the underlying menace in just about any situation, even the most ordinary-seeming gesture or conversation. There are a lot of very cool touches, and among the peril and chase, it’s the little things that stand out. This is good stuff here, and I can’t wait to see how all four books tie together. He’s certainly done some setting up of The Kill in Sutler, with a book-within-a-book concept (murder and mayhem?), and before reading this, I really had no concept of what goes on behind the scenes with US contractors and the military projects they work on. It’s actually fascinating stuff, and although Sutler doesn’t leave off neatly, it left me melancholy, and intrigued, and more than ready for the next book. Next up: The Massive.
Looking to get your fill of mystery, especially of the hard-boiled kind? I’ve got you covered here, and in the process of today’s curating, I stumbled on the fact that Hard Case Crime seems to have a metric ton of their awesome titles on sale, and quite a lot are listed at $1.99 or less. Also, those covers-and you can’t argue with titles like “The Corpese Wore Pasties.” But I digress. If you haven’t discovered the awesome that is HCC, now’s the time, but once you grab one, I dare you to stop. Also, as you get closer to the bottom of the list, quite a few of Peter Robinson’s superb Inspector Banks novels are on sale, so be sure to snap those up, too.
Happy Monday! I’ve got a gorgeous galley copy of THIEF’S MAGIC by Trudi Canavan to give away to one lucky US winner, so check out the book and enter your details in the widget, and you’re good to go! I’ll pick a winner on August 12th.
About THIEF’S MAGIC:
In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.
Elsewhere, in an land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it — should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath.
But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands… and not even the people they trust.
Please welcome Henry L Herz to the blog! I loved his new anthology, BEYOND THE PALE, and he kindly answered a few questions about it, and more!
Welcome to the blog! Will you tell us a bit about your new anthology, BEYOND THE PALE?
Twist my arm, Kristin. As you can tell, I’m VERY excited about BEYOND THE PALE. It’s a dark fantasy anthology featuring an amazing cast of talented writers. Here’s what’s included:
You’ve got some amazing names in this collection. What do you look for in a good story, and how do you go about choosing stories for a collection?
I started with a theme, then reached out to authors whom I admire. The theme of BEYOND THE PALE is stories that skirt the border between our world and others. Was that my imagination, or did I hear something under my bed? What was that blurred movement in my darkened closet? There is but a thin Veil separating the real and the fantastic, and therein dwell the inhabitants of these stories.
Beyond the Pale edited by Henry L Herz (Birch Tree, July 2014)-I didn’t skip around in this anthology (because I usually don’t, but that’s just me), and I think it works better that way. It’s a fantasy collection, with a line up that frankly, if you’re a fan of fantasy/urban fantasy, it should blow your socks right off. The ultra talented Saladin Ahmed kicks things off with “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” about a physicker that is asked for help by a supposed mountain hermit, and it’s nothing like he ever could have imagined. This story is a beautifully written introduction to this should-be-a-household-name author. “Even Hand” by Jim Butcher is told from the viewpoint of one of my favorite characters, Marcone, crime boss and frequent nemesis (and sometimes reluctant ally) of Harry Dresden. It reveals a, shall we say, softer (but no less cunning) side of the self-professed “monster”, and as is usual for Butcher, is excellent. Two absolute standouts are “Frost Child” and “South” by Gillian Philip, about kelpies and selkies, respectively. If you haven’t discovered her books yet, read these stories and you’ll rush to buy them all. Trust me. Her writing is lovely and her stories are the stuff of dark fairytales. Just gorgeous. “Frost Child” is actually a prequel to FIREBRAND, so it’s perfect to read before you start the books.
“The Children of the Shark God” by Peter S. Beagle is another one of my favorites and is about, you guessed it, the children of a Shark God, but it’s really a fable about two children (and their mother) longing for a father that is never there, but that loves them fiercely, and it will break your heart. It’s achingly lovely, and if you like fables, you’ll adore it. Heather Brewer has a couple of dark tales in there that will give you chills, and I especially liked the subtly creepy “Misery” about a town appropriately called Misery, built of shades of grey, and a young man that dares to hope for more. “A Knot of Toads” by Jane Yolen is fantastic, witchy, atmospheric fun, about a young woman who returns to her sea swept childhood home to bury her father, and finds out her father died a very unnatural death indeed. Kami Garcia adds a fun story to the mix called “Red Run” and if you think it’s your typical “road ghost” story, think again. “The Adventures of Lightning Merriemous-Jones” by Nancy and Belle Holder rounds things out, and it’s a delightful tale about a mouse and…well, Dracula. Trust me, it’s adorable, and it had me giggling with delight. All told, this is a full-bodied mix of tales from some of the most talented authors in the biz, and is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Elizabeth Little’s brand new book, DEAR DAUGHTER, just came out yesterday, and she stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and much more! Please give her a warm welcome!
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a bit about DEAR DAUGHTER, and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you so much! I’m delighted to be here.
Dear Daughter is the story of Jane Jenkins—who is, as I like to say, a little bit Paris Hilton, a little bit Dorothy Parker, and a little bit Hannibal Lecter. Ten years ago she was a glamorous and well-loathed celebutante at the height of her fame … and then she was convicted of murdering her mother. Now, released on a technicality into a world wholly convinced of her guilt, Jane adopts a new identity in order to travel to a small town in South Dakota, where she hopes she will find the truth about what really happened the night of her mother’s murder—even if that means discovering that the murderer was in fact herself.
Because even Jane doesn’t know whether or not she was guilty. And sometimes she suspects the very worst.
I came up with the idea for Dear Daughter when I received the CNN breaking news alert reporting that Amanda Knox’s conviction had been overturned. As soon as I read the email, I started to obsess about what Amanda Knox would do next. Would she want to lead a public life? Would she try to go back to her old life? Or would she build a new life altogether? And so I began to fixate on the steps an accused murderess would have to take if she wanted to shed her notoriety and clear her name. Eventually I sat down at my computer to see if there was a story in it, and before I knew it I’d written 5,000 words. That convinced me I was on to something!
Here are the new releases in SF, Fantasy, and Horror for August 2014. You’re sure to find something to fatten up your TBR list!
August 1st-11th, 2014: