Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, I have 3 copies of Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey to give away!  This is the final book in the Naamah trilogy and the ninth Kushiel’s Legacy book, although it’s not necessary to read the first 2 trilogies before this one.  It will be released on June 29th.

I’m about a third of the way through Naamah’s Blessing right now and am really enjoying it. As usual, Jacqueline Carey’s writing is beautiful and even though this book is about 600 pages long, those pages are flying by!

About Naamah’s Blessing:

Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey

Returning to Terre d’Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old Desirée is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances.

As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée’s oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest.

Another specter from the past also haunts Moirin. Travelling with Thierry in the New World is Raphael de Mereliot, her manipulative former lover. Years ago, Raphael forced her to help him summon fallen angels in the hopes of acquiring mystical gifts and knowledge. It was a disastrous effort that nearly killed them, and Moirin must finally bear the costs of those bitter mistakes.

Giveaway Rules: One entry per person.  This giveaway is open in the United States and Canada only and will end on June 24.  Three winners will be randomly selected on June 25.  If any of the winners do not send their address by the end of the day on June 27, a new winner will be selected in their place.

If you’d like to enter to win Naamah’s Blessing, fill out the form below and you’ll be entered into the giveaway! Thanks and good luck!

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

Stupid Ned Stark

For now, at least, it’s all over but the wailing*: tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones on HBO was the season finale.  But for those of us who have been four books ahead of the television series all year, the main event is still to come.  The fifth book in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Dance with Dragons, is set to be released on July 12th.  But oh, it’s been a long, long wait–long enough that I’ve forgotten a lot of the intricate details that have made the books so great to begin with.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go re-read the 4.5kg of books that have come so far.

This…is a problem for the Internet.

And as expected, the Internet is on top of things. If you’re in my situation, here’s a few sites that will help:

The Tower of the Hand:  A huge site with an extensive, chapter-by-chapter recap of the story thus far and some fun speculative essays.  It also has a really great scope filter that allows you to hide information on character and history pages based on how many books you’ve already read.  If somebody would implement this filter across the entire Web, it would mark the dawn of a golden age.  The clouds would part, trumpet-bearing cherubim would descend to play a fanfare of glory, and the light would be so wondrous it would make Edward self-immolate like the real vampire he isn’t.  Alas.

A Wiki of Ice and Fire:  Part of the westeros.org empire, it’s exactly what it says on the label–a wiki of ASOIAF info.  Though I find it a bit harder to navigate than The Tower of the Hand (wikis are meant for searching, not browsing) it’s got just as much info.  Several other parts of westeros.org are great too, including the forums and the vaguely-stalkerish So Spake Martin.  (The fun kind of stalker, not the creepy kind…I think.)

Wiki:  Yeah yeah yeah, it’s Wikipedia, moving on then.

Wertzone:  As of earlier today, Adam at The Wertzone was apparently thinking along similar lines and has begun a recap of the last 12,000-odd years, part 1 of which is now up.  I took one look at it and said “screw that”, you’ll get links and you’ll like them.  He’s a better man than I.

And, um, well…that’s it.  Not entirely of course, but I started this post expecting to Google about a bit and find a bunch of sites that had recaps and I’m not finding much.  Maybe those two sites are just so encyclopedic, and the story itself so long and involved, that anybody who was tempted to make their own just saw the existing sites and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  Or maybe my Google-fu is lacking.  Either way, what I didn’t find was a site that fit somewhere in between the volumes of the first two and the brief gloss of Wikipedia.  A nice, thorough-but-not-exhaustive review site would be welcome.  Any thoughts, Internet?

* The wailing.  Oh, the wailing of those who haven’t read the books.  Since I’m putting up links, here’s a couple for those who want to watch the fallout…I suspect that the twitterplosion won’t be quite as fun for episode ten as it was for nine, but nonetheless:

The Television Without Pity forums

The TV Club newbies thread

Live Twitter feed for #gameofthrones (click the chart on the right to go back in time to the end of the episode).

This week brought 3 new review copies, but I’m only going to write about 2 of them.  That is because I received the finished copy of a book I already mentioned when I got the ARC.  Also, I will be talking about that book on Monday when I give away some copies!  (Plus I’m reading it now so I’d say this book is already pretty well covered for discussion here, and I don’t want to mention it so many times you all get sick of hearing about it!)

Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa FrohockMiserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

This debut novel is scheduled for publication on July 1, but it appears to already be available on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  It is Book 1 of the Katharoi and there will also be a book 2 and a book 3 according to the author’s website.  They will be titled Dolorosa: A Winter’s Dream and Bellum Dei: Blood of the Lambs, respectively.  Chapters 1 – 4 are available to read online.

I’m really looking forward to this one a lot.  It’s supposed to be character-driven dark fantasy, which is a special favorite for me, and I also love to discover new authors to read!

Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina’s soul, but Catarina doesn’t want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina’s wrath isn’t so easy to escape!

The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. LansdaleThe Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale

This collection of 20 urban fantasy stories is divided into three main sections, each with an introduction: Mythic Fiction, Paranormal Romance, and Noir Fantasy.  It will be released in August.

I’m not always a short story person, but the list of authors so intriguing that I’m really excited about reading it.  Here’s the breakdown by section:

Mythic Fiction contains stories by Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull, Jeffrey Ford, and Peter S. Beagle.

Paranormal Romance contains stories by Charles de Lint (again!), Patricia Briggs, Carrie Vaughn, Kelley Armstrong, Norman Partridge, Bruce McAllister, Suzy McKee Charnas, and Francesca Lia Block.

Noir fantasy contains stories by Holly Black, Joe R. Lansdale, Thomas M. Disch, Susan Palwick, Steven R. Boyett, Tim Powers, and Al Sarrantonio.

Star-studded and comprehensive, this imaginative anthology brings a myriad of modern fantasy voices under one roof. Previously difficult for readers to discover in its new modes, urban fantasy is represented here in all three of its distinct styles—playful new mythologies, sexy paranormal romances, and gritty urban noir. Whether they feature tattooed demon-hunters, angst-ridden vampires, supernatural gumshoes, or pixelated pixies, these authors—including Patricia Briggs, Neil Gaiman, and Charles de Lint—mash-up traditional fare with pop culture, creating iconic characters, conflicted moralities, and complex settings. The result is starkly original fiction that has broad-based appeal and is immensely entertaining.

Samus says Women can do SF&F

Today I learned about the Russ Pledge from this week’s SF Signal Mind Meld post, which addressed the importance of it in science fiction today. In case you don’t know what it is, it was proposed by Nicola Griffith and it’s a very simple idea – it simply means making an effort to talk about female writers and their work.  The name comes from Joanna Russ, who wrote the book How to Suppress Women’s Writing.  This has been a hot topic of late, and has also lead to the inception of the SF Mistressworks site.

I wanted to write about my personal experience with this because I actually took this pledge before it had a name, and it is something I strongly believe in.  I had thought maybe it was becoming less of an issue than when I first decided to make an effort to find and talk about women writers of fantasy and science fiction, but these posts, along with the ones that inspired them and a recent post on Freda Warrington’s blog about her research for an Eastercon panel, are making me rethink that theory.  It may just be that the sites I now tend to pay attention to are the ones that do discuss books by women quite often.  Or maybe it really is getting better, but we’re just still not there yet.

Back in the days before I ever even had a blog, I remember a conversation coming up somewhere online that got me thinking about this.  I don’t remember much about it at this point other than it mentioning female authors of fantasy and science fiction – and I realized I couldn’t think of many at all off the top of my head.  So I asked John if he could think of any, and he also couldn’t think of many.  We could think of Nancy Kress, one of John’s favorite authors whose Beggars trilogy I’d also read on his recommendation, and Robin Hobb, whose books we had both read.  I remember wondering if there just weren’t that many women writing fantasy and science fiction.

Later, when I actually did start my blog and was just reviewing every book I read, I came to a realization that most of these books were written by men.  At this point, I was solely reading books I bought myself because I heard they were good, and it seemed like a lot of the fantasy and science fiction books being talked about were written by men.  It made me pay more attention to recommendations for books by women, and I did find out there are a LOT of women writing fantasy and science fiction.  I just had to work a little harder to find them because their books didn’t seem to be talked about as much.  I made it a personal mission to read and review some of these books to do my own small part to try to bring awareness to some of these authors and have discovered so many wonderful writers along the way.  These  include the following (some of which I really need to read more by since there are a few on this list I’ve only read one book by!):

  • Sarah Monette
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Freda Warrington
  • Catherynne Valente
  • Catherine Asaro
  • Joan D. Vinge
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Lane Robins
  • Barbara Hambly
  • C. S. Friedman
  • Ekaterina Sedia
  • Storm Constantine
  • Vera Nazarian
  • Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
  • Lyda Morehouse
  • Jacqueline Carey

That’s just a few of them – there are so many more with lots more on my list of authors to read a book by!

It’s something I like to try to do in general, talking about books/authors that I’m not seeing discussed as much. That doesn’t mean I only read books by female authors and never, ever read popular books (sorry, all, but when A Dance With Dragons is finally out I’m reading it as soon as possible and I’ll be talking about it right along with the rest of the world!).  But often when trying to decide which book to review next out of a few books I want to read I make my decision based on just how much I’ve seen the book being discussed – and pick the book I haven’t seen reviewed very much.  Sometimes I select a pool of books to choose from specifically because I haven’t seen any of them talked about much.

That’s my view on it, and that’s why I think that this is a real issue.  I noticed it myself and in my own reading habits when I tended to just read the books it seemed I was hearing about the most.  I don’t think the pledge means trying to read a certain ratio of books written by both genders or getting all worked up about making a formula for reading a certain number of books by women.  It simply means being aware of the issue and doing what you can to make a difference just by reading and discussing at least some books written by women.  That’s the only way the cycle of women’s books seeming invisible will be broken – by more people reading them and recommending them so more people read them.

 

Song of Scarabaeus, a debut science fiction novel by Sara Creasy, was nominated for both the Philip K. Dick Award and the Aurealis Award for Best SF Novel.  Its sequel and the conclusion to the story, Children of Scarabeaus, was released earlier this year.

When Edie has to leave lunch to look into a freight car that stopped working properly, she figures it’s all part of the job.  Instead, her guard is knocked out by a woman carrying a weapon and she is informed that it was all a setup to get Edie there – because they have a job for her themselves.

Edie attempts to escape but is knocked out and kidnapped.  When she awakens, she’s informed that they came for her because she is the most successful cypherteck, whose mission is to terraform planets for habitation by humans.  The Crib Colonial Unit (CCU), the corporation Edie has a contract with, is slowly taking over the galaxy with their monopoly on terraforming technology.  In order to keep these planets habitable, those who live there must pay the CCU large sums of money frequently to keep them running. Edie’s kidnappers want to earn some money for themselves working against the CCU.

Edie is given a choice: she must either cooperate with these rebels or they’ll get rid of her.  There’s no guarantee she’ll be as valuable to her new captors, and her life depends on it.  In order to leave the planet she was born on, Edie has to have a neuroxin implant refilled every once in a while containing an element inhabitants of her homeworld receive naturally through their food. If she runs out of neuroxin, she will die.  Edie decides to remain with her kidnappers, but soon finds they are even more despicable than she thought.  While she was unconscious, they linked her internal tech to that of Finn, her new guard, and if he strays too far or doesn’t prevent her own death, he’ll die himself.  Edie determines to at least free Finn from this fate, but soon she also finds herself contending with a world from her past.  The crew’s first mission concerns Scarabaeus, the world Edie considers to be her one failure.

Song of Scarabeus has been on my radar ever since even before it was released thanks to an endorsement from Linnea Sinclair, and since then I’ve heard more and more praise for it.  So when I was looking for a book to read on the way to Book Expo America, I decided it was time to finally read it.  While I really enjoyed it for most of the book, I did find my interest waning as I got closer to the end.  At first I wasn’t quite sure why not other than the fact that I found myself growing less attached to the characters.  After rereading parts of it today I think it’s also because much of the basic storyline felt very familiar to me from some other space operas or even just general speculative fiction I’ve read.

This is not to say there were not a lot of original details, particularly when it came to the science fiction elements in the story.  There is a bit of technical detail overload at times, but the social dynamics and setting are fascinating.  It’s set in a universe in which a huge corporation is monopolizing the galaxy by terraforming worlds and then forcing people to give them large sums of money in order to continue to keep those planets habitable.  Because of this, there is the rebel group who wants to recruit the main character, Edie, a person with a great talent for terraforming planets.  There are also groups of eco-rads, people who kill cyphertecks like Edie because they believe the worlds should be left alone to evolve without interference. There’s a lot of specifics about the ingrained technology that allows cyphertecks to transform these seeds into a world humans can live on.  Also, Edie’s situation was quite interesting – having biological requirements from the planet she was born on that made it difficult for her to leave.  Since she no longer receives nourishment from the food there, she has to wear an implant containing the substance she needs to survive and replenish it frequently.

The main plot elements are rather typical with some tropes, though.  A woman who has a great ability is kidnapped by a rebel group who wants to use her ability to go up against a big, evil corporation.  Not only does this woman have a useful ability, but she is the best ever at it to the point where she is able to perform tasks that no one else has ever been able to do before.  She even surprises herself with her amazing skill.  Yet she can’t do the one thing that would be inconvenient to the plot – cutting the leash that keeps her and Finn together.  This way they get to learn to work together and build trust for each other.  (That’s not to say this book is a romance.  I’d heard it labeled as science fiction romance and also heard it wasn’t really one from people who had read it.  I have to side with the latter – while there is a little bit of romance here and there, it’s not the main focus.)

If the characters had really worked for me, I may have been able to get past this enough to love this book as much as many others have instead of just liking it.  While I found Edie’s stubborn nature and attitude very admirable and really enjoyed gradually learning more about her past, there was nothing about her that really endeared her to me as a character.  She didn’t stand out – she was another heroine with lots of determination, defiance of authority, and an ability better than anyone else. Likewise, Finn was sort of the stereotypical man who may be bad news with a mysterious past.

Song of Scarabeous was an entertaining book with some excellent science fiction ideas and decent enough writing if a bit overly technical at times. While enjoyable to read, I did want more from both the plot and characters, especially as I got closer to the end and became less enamored of it than I had been earlier.  The pacing was decent, but certain plot elements were ones I’d read more than once before, and the characterization also utilized some common tropes.  It had enough going for it that I’d like to read the next book at some point, but I’m not a big hurry to read it with all the other books that are out there.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Excerpt

Other Reviews:

Since this is a few books into a series, there will be spoilers for the previous books in this review starting with the second paragraph.

Magic Slays is the fifth book in the Kate Daniels series written by Ilona Andrews, the pen name for a married couple who write together.  The previous four books in this urban fantasy series are (in order): Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, and Magic Bleeds.  There are seven books total planned for the series.

Now that Kate is no longer with the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, she’s struggling to get her own business off the ground.  Unfortunately, she has no clients so she finds herself going in to the office day after day without a whole lot to keep her occupied.

That is, until the day Ghastek calls her to inform her that a vampire is loose and heading her way.  Kate warns people in the area and heads out to prevent it from doing too much damage, leading to a run-in with some trigger-happy members of the PAD.  In order to protect the People, who showed up to collect their wayward vampire, Kate brings them to her office.  However, PAD refuses to go away until Andrea shows up and saves the day by flashing her Knight of the Order credentials.

While Andrea is advising Kate on weaponry, some members of the Red Guard come to visit.  They have a problem and they want to hire Kate to work on a confidential case: the man they were guarding and the device he was developing were both taken.  Examining the scene makes Kate believe the volhvs (Russian priests) are involved.  She can’t go directly to them, so she seeks the help of the witch Evdokia, starting her on the path to learning of a devastating threat to a decent percentage of the population.

The Kate Daniels series has been at the top of my urban fantasy favorites list ever since reading the phenomenal third and fourth volumes.  While I didn’t feel Magic Slays was quite as good as those two for various reasons, I did think it was still very good and better than the first two books.  It also set up a lot for the final volumes, and it ended on a note that made me eager for the next book.  It wasn’t quite a cliffhanger since the main storylines were wrapped up.  However, the way it was wrapped up left me with some questions that are begging to be explored further and with the promise of a storyline from a previous book being followed up on very soon.

As a fan of the series, there was plenty to enjoy since reading Magic Slays was like catching up with old friends – finding out what happened to Andrea, seeing how Kate and Curran manage to not kill each other now that they are officially together, briefly catching up with Saiman and learning how Curran exacted his revenge, and spending some time with Derek.  I love the uniqueness and diversity of the various characters, and I like that there’s focus given to friendships in addition to the central romantic relationship (which has matured since the last book).  There were also some great new additions to this cast with this book’s focus on Russian mythology, which forced Kate to spend some time with Evdokia and the volhvs, who were quite hilarious together.

Kate also retains her trademark sense of humor which makes everything even more fun to read, such as her evaluation of one of the volvhs after noting his dark features and goatee:

 

The overall effect was decidedly villainous. He needed a black horse and a barbarian horde to lead.  That or a crew of cutthroats, a ship with blood-red sails, and some knucklehead heroine to lust after. He would fit right into one of Andrea’s romance novels as some evil pirate captain. If he started stroking his beard, I’d have to kill him on principle. [pp. 126]

When he does indeed start stroking his goatee, Kate informs him:

 

You look like Rent-a-Villain. [pp. 127]

While this novel did have all the adventure, humor, mythology, and characters I’ve come to love, it did take this book a little longer to pick up the pace and it wasn’t until about one third of the way in that I was truly hooked. The very first page had me cracking up and there was some great dialogue within these pages, but there was no real fluidity to the storyline at first.  It seemed to meander a bit from one event to another as it got the people that needed to be together in place and the main plotline going.  The primary reasons I love these books are the mythology and learning more about Kate’s family and abilities.  I fear the amount of this in the last two books may have spoiled me, and I wanted more about them.  Once the main mythology became clear and the witch Evdokia told Kate a little more about her family history, I started to settle in and enjoy it.  From this point on, I had a lot of fun with this book and the last third especially made it nearly impossible to put down.

In a lot of ways, it did still feel a lot like a setup book for the last two even once it got going. It brought up a problem with Kate’s eventual meeting with Roland, and then worked it out to provide a solution (a little too conveniently but I also suspect it will end up so interesting that I won’t care). While a lot did happen, it seemed to actively progress the overarching storyline less than the previous two books did since until the very end it didn’t seem to do much to move the book closer to the finale.  After the appearance of Hugh in the third book and the fourth dealing so much with Kate’s aunt, the books had seemed to be moving Kate closer to Roland. In Magic Slays, there was very little that actually revealed more information about Kate’s abilities and Roland’s history (although there were some interesting tidbits about Kate’s mother and stepfather).  One of the infodumps about Kate’s first relationship and how she had to be careful as Roland’s daughter was even the same story we’d already read before in another book in the series.  What we did finally get for new information about Kate’s magic was pretty intense, though, and this book had one riveting conclusion that kept me on the edge of my seat.  There are some serious implications for what happened at the end of this book and I simply cannot wait to see how they play out in the remaining two volumes.

Although I felt that Magic Slays was doing a lot to set up later books and could have been tighter in the first third, I did really enjoy reading it for all the reasons I love this series – the humor, mythology, characters, and action.  After the last two books, I was hoping for more insight into Kate’s magic and Roland than there was initially, but what there was toward the end promises exciting times ahead.  The last third of the book was phenomenal, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about what the ending means in the next book.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought a signed copy!

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of Magic Slays:

Reviews of other books in the Kate Daniels series:

  1. Magic Bites
  2. Magic Burns
  3. Magic Strikes
  4. Magic Bleeds