Today I’m happy to welcome E. L. Tettensor as part of the Master of Plagues blog tour! Master of Plagues, the second Nicolas Lenoir novel following Darkwalker, will be released on February 3. While I haven’t yet read these books, I’m quite curious about them—especially after reading reviews of Darkwalker at Bookworm Blues and Not Yet Read and this interview with the author at The BiblioSanctum in which she discussed Nicolas Lenoir as an antihero. Since this aspect of the main character particularly piqued my interest, I’m glad she shared some thoughts on why fictional antiheroes are so compelling in today’s guest post!

Darkwalker by E. L. Tettensor Master of Plagues by E. L. Tettensor
Sympathy for the Devil

“Prepare to dislike him from the start.”

“Probably one of the most unlikeable characters that I’ve run across for a while.”

“We were so angry with him, we almost stopped reading.”

These are just a few of the things reviewers have said about Inspector Nicolas Lenoir, the main character in my debut novel, Darkwalker, and its sequel, Master of Plagues. At first glance, they aren’t very flattering. In fact, they seem like exactly the sorts of comments an author dreads. After all, who wants to read a book with an unlikeable protagonist?

Well, these bloggers, for a start; all three of them enjoyed the book–not in spite of its hero, but because of him. Nor are they alone. A casual glance at the bestsellers list offers evidence enough of the widespread appeal of antiheroes. Not just in books, but in television, movies, graphic novels, and so on. Such is our collective appetite for them that Entertainment Weekly has declared this the Age of the Antihero. Thieves, murderers, tyrants, even cowards–we love them. We root for them shamelessly, even if we don’t totally approve of that time they shoved a kid out the window, or forced some local hoodlum to cook meth. Because, damn it, they’re interesting. We might not condone their actions, but we’re mesmerised by them, like rubbernecking at a car crash.

Why is that, though? What is it about antiheroes that so captivates us?

The conventional answer is that they’re more realistic. Human beings are inherently flawed; to be believable, a character should be too. Realistic characters resonate with us much more deeply. We see a little bit of ourselves in them, and it’s this recognition that draws us in.

I’ll buy that–up to a point. An antihero in the vein of Sherlock Holmes (or Nicolas Lenoir) is not a necessarily bad person; he’s just kind of a dick. A “high-functioning sociopath” with a moral compass that doesn’t quite point True North. Holmes’s arrogance and his inability to connect with people are realistic traits, ones we recognise in the people around us.

But antiheroes don’t have a monopoly on flaws. Tony Stark is an egomaniac. Buffy is needy. Jon Snow is woefully naïve. Those are all flaws, yet I wouldn’t consider any of these characters to be antiheroes. Moreover, the flaws of many antiheroes are actually pretty over the top. If the actions of a Jaime Lannister or a Walter White resonate with you… well, I’m going to stop that sentence right there, because I’m afraid of you.

Seen in that light, the “antiheroes are more realistic” theory doesn’t quite wash. There has to be more to it than that. And I think perhaps it’s something to do with worldview.

Even if antiheroes themselves don’t necessarily resonate with us, the rules governing their lives do. Stories with antiheroes at their centre offer a vision of the world that we recognise, one in which not only do good things happen to bad people, but good things can be actively brought about by bad people. This is both realistic and aspirational, and it’s the latter aspect that I think is most captivating. We love a redemption story. Not in the treacly, he-turned-out-to-be-a-swell-guy-in-the-end sense, but in the sense of great deeds being within the grasp of anyone, no matter how flawed. Being, in other words, within our grasp.

It’s a pretty compelling worldview, with roots sunk deep into the religious foundations of Western culture. It means that however meagre your talents or egregious your past sins, the only thing standing between you and greatness is choice.

And so we cheer for the antihero, knowing that however far into darkness s/he falls, it will only make the climb back into the light that much more satisfying. It’s a journey that’s hard to pull off as an author, but when it works, it really works. Of all the impressive tricks I’ve seen over the years, getting me to root for Jaime Lannister takes the prize. I’m hooked, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

“There is no redemption.” So says the Darkwalker, and Lenoir believes it. Maybe they’re right. But the quest for it makes for one hell of a story.

E.L. Tettensor likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited more than fifty countries on five continents, and brought a little something back from each of them to press inside the pages of her books. She also writes traditional fantasy as Erin Lindsey. She lives with her husband in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Web: www.eltettensor.com
Twitter: @etettensor

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week brought three books, but I’ve already talked about two of them before (and I do plan on reviewing both of them since they’re books I’ve been looking forward to reading). So I’m just going to write about the one that showed up that I haven’t already covered before.

For reviews, I haven’t had a chance to start a new one since posting my review of Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith on Wednesday. I’m still trying to decide if I should review Dust and Light by Carol Berg or The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman next. Both of these were books I very much enjoyed.

There is also still time to enter to win a copy of Impact Velocity by Leah Petersen in the international giveaway! The last day to enter is Wednesday of this week.

On to this week’s book!

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link’s latest short story collection, Get in Trouble, will be released on February 3 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). There is a book tour for this release with events in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, California, and Michigan. Check out the list of Get in Trouble events on the publisher’s site to see if there’s an event near you!

I haven’t read any of Kelly Link’s short stories yet myself, but I’ve heard they are wonderful.

 

She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction” and by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure.” Now Kelly Link’s eagerly awaited new collection—her first for adult readers in a decade—proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have.

Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty—and the hidden strengths—of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.

Since moving to Vermont, I’ve become aware of the Vermont SF Writer’s Series featuring science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors from the state. I haven’t attended any of the events since there haven’t yet been any near me, but I wanted to pass along the details of their first event of 2015 in case anyone in the Montpelier area was interested. For news about the series, keep an eye on the upcoming events page on the Geek Mountain State site or follow the Vermont SF Writer’s Series on Facebook!

vermont

Geek Mountain State is pleased to announce the next installment of the Vermont SF Writer’s Series: Vermont Stories of Imagination!, which will take place on January 24th at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier at noon. Authors included in this event are Sean Patrick-Burke, Brett Cox, Kane Gilmore, Mike Luoma, Aimee Picchi and Ginger Weil.

This event follows a very successful year in which hundreds of listeners listened to dozens of Vermont storytellers in places such as Quarterstaff Games, Phoenix Books, The Fletcher Free Library and the headquarters for the Burlington Writer’s Workshop. This first event of 2015 will also move the series out of Burlington for the first time to Montpelier.

The Vermont SF Writer’s Series is designed to designed to promote and encourage local authors who specialize in all types of speculative fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror), by hosting an event with a partner organization and bringing authors before a live audience. The series has been run by Geek Mountain State since 2013.

Event attendees for the Montpelier event will be provided a discount on museum admission for the day.

Sean-Patrick Burke‘s short fiction has been published in Fox Cry Review and Trans Lit Magazine; his non-fiction won the first annual Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library essay contest. He lives with Amelia, his wife, and their four daughters, and can be found on twitter at @Sea_Bunker. He spent his first paycheck (at the age of 12) on the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS, and has never regretted it.

F. Brett Cox‘s fiction, poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications. With Andy Duncan, he co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (Tor, 2004), and appears in War Stories: New Military Science Fiction. A native of North Carolina, he is Associate Professor of English at Norwich University.

Kane Gilmour is the international bestselling author of The Crypt of Dracula and Resurrect. His work was recently featured in the Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters anthology from Ragnarok Publications, and he also writes the sci-fi noir webcomic, Warbirds of Mars. He lives with his family in Vermont.

Mike Luoma writes and publishes science fiction and comics, creates the weekly Glow-in-the-Dark Radio podcast and hosts middays on The Point, Vermont’s Independent Radio Network, where he’s also the Music Director.

In his first novel, 2006′s Vatican Assassin – science fiction set during an interplanetary Western/Muslim war – title character “BC” kills for the New catholic Church in 2109; there’s also a Graphic Novel adaptation with artist Cristian Navarro, and the audiobook, narrated by Mike, is available through Audible. The ebook of the original novel is available for free at most fine online bookstores. BC’s story continues in Mike’s Vatican Assassin Trilogy.

Mike will be doing a preview reading from the 3rd novel in his series The Adventures of Alibi Jones – Alibi Jones and The Hornet’s Nest – coming this summer. The first two books, Alibi Jones and Alibi Jones and The Sunrise of Hur are available now.

You can listen to Mike read his work free each week – look for Mike Luoma on iTunes for his Glow-in-the-Dark Radio podcast and free, downloadable audio books from Podiobooks.com. Find out more at http://glowinthedarkradio.com.

Aimee Picchi is a freelance writer for CBS MoneyWatch, and has been published in the Boston Globe, Bloomberg Markets, MSN Money and Seven Days, among other publications. Before freelancing, she worked as a media reporter for Bloomberg News in New York. Her fiction has been published in The Colored Lens, Flash Fiction Online and is forthcoming in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. She also slush reads for the Hugo-award winning Clarkesworld magazine. A classically trained violist, she is a graduate of the Juilliard pre-college program and the Eastman School of Music.

Ginger Weil grew up in Vermont, where she picnicked in cemeteries and played tag in corn fields. The first things she looks for in a new town are a library and a coffee shop. She’s worked as a bookseller, baker, librarian, and office manager. Her fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine.

Additionally, the Vermont SF Writer’s Series will be shifting from a bi-monthly schedule to a monthly schedule. Our next event will take place at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction in February, Quarterstaff Games of Burlington in March, the Fletcher Free Library of Burlington in April, and additional locations to come.

Radiant, Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut novel, is set in the same world as her Nebula-nominated short story “An End To All Things.” It’s also the first book in the Towers Trilogy, which will be completed in 2015. Defiant is scheduled for release in May and Towers Fall will follow later in the year.

Xhea has never been like everyone else—she has no magic, the power tied to life itself. Survival is tough for those without much magic and even harder for Xhea since many ordinary tasks require it. However, Xhea scrapes by the best she can by collecting and selling artifacts and performing services related to her unique ability to see and hear ghosts. She can also cut the tethers that keep ghosts bound to people after they die, freeing the living from the constant sensation of a ghost’s presence.

When a man approaches her with money and the ghost of his daughter drifting in his wake, Xhea agrees to unbind the spirit from him and bind the dead girl to herself for two days. This is not particularly unusual business for Xhea, but the more time she spends with the ghost, Shai, the more extraordinary the situation seems. A ghost should no longer have any magic at all, but Shai sometimes glows brightly with it. The only other time Xhea encountered a ghost radiant with magic like Shai, someone was trying to resurrect him and the ghost’s end was agonizing. The memory of this continues to haunt Xhea, and she vowed to never allow this to happen to another ghost if she could help it. She cannot abandon Shai, this girl with the painful past who would be completely alone without Xhea, to a similar fate. Yet as Xhea’s determination to do what she can for her new friend grows, so does her newly discovered magic—a dark, uncontainable power that she must learn to control if she’s going to help Shai.

Radiant is a strong debut novel, and I was particularly impressed by the worldbuilding, writing, and its overall uniqueness. It did have some problems with pacing that may have been partially due to setting up the rest of the trilogy since there was a lot to introduce: the basic world and its social structure, Xhea and Shai’s developing friendship, and both girls’ different powers. Throughout the book, a tantalizing mystery builds surrounding Xhea’s burgeoning abilities, especially as it becomes clear that others have some knowledge about them even if she and Shai do not. Since I did find parts of the first half slow, Radiant wasn’t my favorite debut of 2014, but it has the distinction of being the one I admired the most for its originality and thoughtful composition—and for these reasons, Karina Sumner-Smith is absolutely an author whose books I will be looking out for in the future.

A large part of what makes Radiant different is its world. The Towers Trilogy is set sometime after a great change occurred, making humanity reliant on magic. Everyone is supposed to possess at least a little magic, and the leftover power can fuel machinery or be used as currency. Those with an abundance of magic are well-off and live in the towers, and those with little to spare can barely survive on the ground. As the only person she knows without any magic, Xhea can barely make it by and is well aware that most people consider her some sort of freak. I loved the contrast between Xhea and Shai’s lives and what was shown about the world through their differing experiences: Xhea’s story shows the cost of having too little power while Shai’s shows the cost of having too much.

The world is complex and isn’t always explained thoroughly, but I loved that the author didn’t try to over-explain the details or fill in too much of the past before Xhea’s time. The narrative is told through her third-person perspective, and I felt like I saw the world just as she saw it. Once in awhile, there was a reference to the “before-times” but there weren’t big infodumps filling in the gaps of what happened—the information revealed seemed to be what was important to Xhea’s thoughts and situation at the time. Of course, I am curious to learn more about what happened and hope it’s revealed in one of the other two volumes in the trilogy, but I thought the way information was parceled through her perspective was quite fitting.

Another aspect of Radiant that sets it apart from a lot of fantasy I’ve read is that the relationship in the series given the most focus is the friendship between Xhea and Shai, two women. Xhea has no significant other, friends, or family, only business contacts and acquaintances—until Shai enters her life. At first, Xhea views Shai as a spoiled rich girl, and she wishes for her to stop talking so she can just drag her around with some peace and quiet for a couple of days, earn her pay, and then return the ghost girl to her father. Yet as Xhea gets to know Shai, she comes to see she’s had a deeply difficult life despite her wealthy family and she sympathizes with her as someone who is now alone, just as Xhea has been for so long. The two face many challenges together, and the lengths Xhea goes to in order to help Shai are quite touching. Initially, it seems as though she mostly wants to help her out of moral principles and the thought of Shai facing her fate without anyone at all, but later it’s much more than that—Shai is Xhea’s friend and she will fight for her.

The dialogue is straightforward and natural, but the prose is often quite picturesque and lovely. For example, the first two paragraphs painted a vivid image:

 

Curled in a concrete alcove that had once been a doorway, Xhea watched the City man make his awkward way through the market tents, dragging a ghost behind him. Magic sparkled above his head like an upturned tulip, deflecting the heavy rain and letting it pour to the ground to trace a circle in the puddles at his feet. He was, of course, watching her.

It was not his attention that had caught Xhea’s notice, nor his poor attempt to blend into the crowd, but the ghost tethered to him with a line of energy more felt than seen. The dead girl couldn’t have been much older than Xhea herself—sixteen, Xhea supposed, perhaps seventeen—and she floated an arm’s span above the man’s head like a girl-shaped helium balloon.

As impressed as I was by Radiant, I did think that it was bogged down by too much narrative at times, especially in the first half. While Xhea’s thoughts and observations fit naturally, they were often in large chunks that could have used some dialogue to break things up more. This works in the sense that Xhea is alone a lot of the time or with just Shai—who isn’t always talkative despite Xhea’s early impression of her as a talker—but it did slow down the pacing a lot. Toward the end, this was better as more happened and Xhea spent more time with other characters (some of whom were quite compelling and will be interesting to learn more about).

Radiant is one of the more unconventional speculative fiction books I’ve read recently. Some of the elements are familiar—technology being replaced by magic, a main protagonist who learns she’s extraordinary, and yes, even the walking (un)dead—but Karina Sumner-Smith created a world that is entirely unlike any I’ve encountered before. I feel like I keep using this word, but “unique” really sums up Radiant in every way: the prose, the focus on two remarkable heroines, and the setting with its ghosts, magic, and towers. It may not have been as much of a page-turner as I would have liked during the first half of the book, but it certainly left me eager to read Defiant—or any other book the author writes.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Other Reviews:

Today I have one ebook edition of Impact Velocity by Leah Petersen to give away! While it’s the third book in The Physics of Falling series (following Fighting Gravity and Cascade Effect), it can be read as a stand alone. This science fiction romance series—with a romance between a man with unclass status and the emperor himself—sounds interesting and I’ve heard good things about it. Since this is an ebook giveaway, it is open internationally!

Impact Velocity by Leah Petersen

About Impact Velocity:

Jake has finally found peace and a family with the man he loves. But when the unimaginable happens, Jake finds himself on the run with his greatest enemy and the man who betrayed them both. If he can’t find a way to bring down the man who now wields the power of an emperor, he’ll lose not just his own life, but his daughter’s as well.

I have one copy of the Impact Velocity ebook to give away! This giveaway is open internationally, and the winner has a choice of either mobi or ePub format.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Impact Velocity Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from any country are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Wednesday, January 21. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me to verify the correct email address).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Due to traveling for the holidays and general holiday busyness, I’m woefully behind on these posts. It would take a long time to go through all the books since most of my Christmas gifts this year were books from my wish list. To get caught up, I’m just going to cover this week’s books I haven’t discussed before and a few other books from the last couple of weeks. I’ll be back to posting as usual next weekend.

Before I get to the books, an update on next week. Tomorrow there will be a giveaway for Impact Velocity by Leah Petersen. I’ve also been working on a review of Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith and expect that to be posted sometime this week.

On to (some) of the books!

Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear

Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear

This novella is set in the same world as the Eternal Sky trilogy beginning with Range of Ghosts. I’ve read the prequel novella, Book of Iron, and I enjoyed it very much so I was thrilled that my husband got me the signed edition for Christmas! I was also happy to see that Elizabeth Bear is working on another story about Bijou, “The Bone War.” She said the following about it on her blog: “It’s a Bijou story, it involves paleontologists and making fun of academics, and I’ll let you know when you can read it somewhere!”

 

Dark magic is afoot in the City of Jackals…

Eighty years Bijou the Artificer has been a Wizard of Messaline, building her servants from precious scraps, living with the memory of a great love that betrayed her. She is ready to rest.

But now her former apprentice, Brazen the Enchanter, has brought her a speechless feral child poisoned by a sorcerous infection. Now, Messaline is swept by a mysterious plague. Now the seeping corpses of the dead stalk the streets.

Now, finally, Bijou’s old nemesis–Bijou’s old love–Kaulas the Necromancer is unleashing a reeking half-death on Bijou’s people. And only Bijou and her creatures wrought of bone and jewels can save the City of Jackals from his final revenge.

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger

Prudence, the first book in a new series by Gail Carriger, is about the daughter of Alexia from the Parasol Protectorate series. I was quite interested to see this since I had a lot of fun reading Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless (nothing against the last two books in the series—I just can’t keep up with ALL THE BOOKS and haven’t read them yet!).

Prudence will be available on March 17 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook) with the second book, Imprudence, to follow in 2016.

 

From New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger comes a new novel in the world of the Parasol Protectorate starring Prudence, the daughter of Alexia Tarabotti.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Crumpet and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

The World of Ice and Fire

The World of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson

This is a gorgeous hardcover illustrated book containing information on the history of the world of the Song of Ice and Fire books. My husband got me a signed copy for Christmas. I haven’t read much of it yet, but it certainly was pretty to flip through!

 

If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin’s masterwork—the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time—warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice and Fire.

This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that’s been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org—perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator.

Collected here is all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers. It is a chronicle which stretches from the Dawn Age to the Age of Heroes; from the Coming of the First Men to the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror; from Aegon’s establishment of the Iron Throne to Robert’s Rebellion and the fall of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, which has set into motion the “present-day” struggles of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens. The definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s dazzlingly conceived universe, The World of Ice and Fire is indeed proof that the pen is mightier than a storm of swords.

Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant

Red Moon and Black Mountain (House of Kendreth #1) by Joy Chant

This out-of-print fantasy book won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1972. The other two House of Kendreth books are The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes (which also won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award).

 

The Starlit Land of Kendrinh fell to Fendarl, the banished Lord of Black Mountain. He was the evil Enchanter of Star Magic. Nowhere in the stricken land was there a champion who could stand against him, who could fend off the black sorcery that became a horrifying reality with each rising of the Red Moon. But unbeknownst to Fendarl, a child was being raised by the Hurnei. A child who would grow to become their greatest warrior. A child who would become a man and learn the paradox of conquest and victory–and the dangers of a prophecy preordained to triumph!

Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman

Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman

This fantasy was nominated for a Nebula Award in the Best Novel category in 2009. The next two books are Weight of Stone and The Shattered Vine, respectively.

Between the Nebula nomination and the description mentioning magic wine, how could I not want to read this?

 

From acclaimed bestselling author Laura Anne Gilman comes a unique and enthralling new story of fantasy and adventure, wine and magic, danger and hope….

Once, all power in the Vin Lands was held by the prince-mages, who alone could craft spellwines, and selfishly used them to increase their own wealth and influence. But their abuse of power caused a demigod to break the Vine, shattering the power of the mages. Now, fourteen centuries later, it is the humble Vinearts who hold the secret of crafting spells from wines, the source of magic, and they are prohibited from holding power.

But now rumors come of a new darkness rising in the vineyards. Strange, terrifying creatures, sudden plagues, and mysterious disappearances threaten the land. Only one Vineart senses the danger, and he has only one weapon to use against it: a young slave. His name is Jerzy, and his origins are unknown, even to him. Yet his uncanny sense of the Vinearts’ craft offers a hint of greater magics within — magics that his Master, the Vineart Malech, must cultivate and grow. But time is running out. If Malech cannot teach his new apprentice the secrets of the spellwines, and if Jerzy cannot master his own untapped powers, the Vin Lands shall surely be destroyed.

In Flesh and Fire, first in a spellbinding new trilogy, Laura Anne Gilman conjures a story as powerful as magic itself, as intoxicating as the finest of wines, and as timeless as the greatest legends ever told.

The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

I’ve heard that this fantasy based on Japanese folklore is beautifully written. And it’s a stand alone novel!

 

Yoshifuji is a man fascinated by foxes, a man discontented and troubled by the meaning of life. A misstep at court forces him to retire to his long-deserted country estate, to rethink his plans and contemplate the next move that might return him to favor and guarantee his family’s prosperity.

Kitsune is a young fox who is fascinated by the large creatures that have suddenly invaded her world. She is drawn to them and to Yoshifuji. She comes to love him and will do anything to become a human woman to be with him.

Shikujo is Yoshifuji’s wife, ashamed of her husband, yet in love with him and uncertain of her role in his world. She is confused by his fascination with the creatures of the wood, and especially the foxes that she knows in her heart are harbingers of danger. She sees him slipping away and is determined to win him back from the wild … for all that she has her own fox-related secret.

Magic binds them all. And in the making (and breaking) of oaths and honors, the patterns of their lives will be changed forever.

Undertow by Elizabeth Bear

Undertow by Elizabeth Bear

I want to read everything by Elizabeth Bear. I haven’t read much of her science fiction and this is also one of those all-too-rare stand alone speculative fiction books.

An excerpt from Undertow can be read on the publisher’s website.

 

A frontier world on the back end of nowhere is the sort of place people go to get lost. And some of those people have secrets worth hiding, secrets that can change the future–assuming there is one. . . .

André Deschênes is a hired assassin, but he wants to be so much more. If only he can find a teacher who will forgive his murderous past–and train him to manipulate odds and control probability. It’s called the art of conjuring, and it’s André’s only route to freedom. For the world he lives on is run by the ruthless Charter Trade Company, and his floating city, Novo Haven, is little more than a company town where humans and aliens alike either work for one tyrannical family–or are destroyed by it. But beneath Novo Haven’s murky waters, within its tangled bayous, reedy banks, and back alleys, revolution is stirring. And one more death may be all it takes to shift the balance. . . .

Fortune's Blight by Evie Manieri

Fortune’s Blight (Shattered Kingdoms #2) by Evie Manieri

Fortune’s Blight will be available on February 17 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from the first book in the series, Blood’s Pride, is available on Tor.com.

 

The second book in a compelling epic fantasy series takes place after the Shadari revolution, as danger beckons across the sea—a stirring adventure in the vein of Karen Miller and Robin Hobb.

Victory for the Shadari rebels has come at a terrible price. Hardship, superstition, and petty feuds poison King Daryan’s young reign, and entire families are vanishing without a trace. Help is nowhere to be found, for their Nomas allies have troubles of their own and the Mongrel, plagued by the sins of her violent past, has disappeared.

While Daryan struggles to maintain the peace, Eofar and Rho are racing to their northern homeland to plead—or fight—for the Shadar’s independence. But Norland has changed, and they soon find themselves embroiled in the court politics of an empire about to implode. Meanwhile, the Mongrel’s path carries her deep into Norland’s frozen wastes to redeem a promise—one that forces her into the heart of the growing conflict.

As the foundations of the two far­flung countries begin to crack, an enigmatic figure watches from a tower room in Ravindal Castle. She is old, and a prisoner, but her reach is long, and her patience is about to be rewarded….

The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #2) by Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire will be available on January 13 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The prologue and the first six chapters can be read on Tor.com, as well as the first seven chapters from The Emperor’s Blades, the first book in the series.

 

Brian Staveley’s The Providence of Fire, the second novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series.

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

Having learned the identity of her father’s assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy. Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire’s most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

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

Unbreakable by W. C. Bauers

Unbreakable (The Chronicles of Promise Paen #1) by W. C. Bauers

This debut military science fiction novel will be released on January 13 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Unbreakable is available on Tor.com.

 

The colonists of the planet Montana are accustomed to being ignored. Situated in the buffer zone between two rival human empires, their world is a backwater: remote, provincial, independently minded. Even as a provisional member of the Republic of Aligned Worlds, Montana merits little consideration—until it becomes the flashpoint in an impending interstellar war.

When pirate raids threaten to destabilize the region, the RAW deploys its mechanized armored infantry to deal with the situation. Leading the assault is Marine Corps Lieutenant and Montanan expatriate Promise Paen of Victor Company. Years earlier, Promise was driven to join the Marines after her father was killed by such a raid. Payback is sweet, but it comes at a tremendous and devastating cost. And Promise is in no way happy to be back on her birthworld, not even when she is hailed as a hero by the planet’s populace, including its colorful president. Making matters even worse: Promise is persistently haunted by the voice of her dead mother.

Meanwhile, the RAW’s most bitter rival, the Lusitanian Empire, has been watching events unfold in the Montana system with interest. Their forces have been awaiting the right moment to gain a beachhead in Republic territory, and with Promise’s Marines decimated, they believe the time to strike is now.

Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers is character driven, military science in the tradition of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock

The Whispering Swarm (The Sanctuary of the White Friars #1) by Michael Moorcock

The Whispering Swarm will be released on January 13 (hardcover and ebook with audiobook release on February 10). An excerpt from this upcoming novel is available on Tor.com.

 

Back in the Thirteenth Century, King Henry III granted a plot of land in the heart of London to an order of Friars known as the Carmelites. In return, they entered into a compact with God to guard a holy object. This sanctuary became a refuge for many of ill-repute, as the Friars cast no judgment and took in all who were in search of solace.

Known as Alsatia, it did not suffer like the rest of the world. No Plague affected it. No Great Fire burned it. No Blitz destroyed it. Within its walls lies a secret to existence – one that has been kept since the dawn of time – a bevy of creation, where reality and romance, life and death, imaginary and real share the same world.

One young man’s entrance into this realm sends a shockwave of chaos through time. What lies at the center of this sacred realm is threatened for the first time in human existence.

Science fiction and fantasy legend Michael Moorcock launches his first new trilogy in ten years with The Whispering Swarm.