A couple of days ago George R. R. Martin announced the first few stops for the book tour for A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series (available on July 12).  The first few appearances will be in Boston, New York City, and Indianapolis, and Martin will also be appearing at San Diego Comicon.  Those planning to attend this year’s Readercon (July 14 – 17) may be interested in the fact that the first event will be at a Barnes and Noble also in Burlington, Massachusetts, on July 12.  So if you have time to leave a little earlier you could go to both the first tour event and Readercon, which would be pretty fantastic.  I was considering going to Readercon this year myself so I’m half tempted, but I highly doubt I will since if I go I’ll be trying to avoid having to take more than one day off from work.

A Dance With Dragons

First, a quick update: This whole past week I was busy every single evening after work so I didn’t make any progress on book reviews.  I’m working on a review of Passion Play by Beth Bernobich and then I have a review of Eona by Alison Goodman to write (it kept me up until 3 in the morning – I absolutely loved it).  At the moment I’m reading two science fiction books – The Fear Principle by B. A. Chepaitis and Embassytown by China Mieville.

This week I bought one of my new most anticipated books of the year (after reading the first book a couple months ago) and received 4 unexpected review copies.  Have to love it when surprise books show up!

Oh, and in case any other Kate Daniels fans are interested – I pre-ordered a signed copy of Magic Slays from Powell’s.  Ilona and Gordon Andrews will be signing copies at the store at Cedar Hills Crossing in Beaverton, Oregon, on May 31  at 7:00 PM along with Lili St. Crow (signing Defiance) and Devon Monk (signing Magic on the Hunt).  If only I lived closer so I could go to the signing… but I was thrilled for the opportunity to order one of the books.  It was a tough decision since that means I’ll have to wait a little longer for it to get here so I can read it, but I decided it was worth it to wait for a signed copy.

On the books I actually got this week!

The Hidden GoddessThe Hidden Goddess by M. K. Hobson

After reading The Native Star earlier this year as part of the Nebula Readathon, I of course had to get the sequel soon after it came out.  I debated whether or not to get it now since I have some other books I need to read and review first, but it’s one I definitely want to have on hand for when I do get a chance to read it.  If it had been out when I finished the first book, I would have read it immediately afterward.  It was one of those books I just loved that much that I wanted the next one NOW.   A recent interview with the author describing it as darker made me want to read it even more.  I was also interested to see from the interview that the next two books will most likely take place about 30 years after this one and will be about Emily’s son.

In a brilliant mix of magic, history, and romance, M. K. Hobson moves her feisty young Witch, Emily Edwards, from the Old West of 1876 to turn-of-the-nineteenth-century New York City, whose polished surfaces conceal as much danger as anything west of the Rockies.

Like it or not, Emily has fallen in love with Dreadnought Stanton, a New York Warlock as irresistible as he is insufferable. Newly engaged, she now must brave Dreadnought’s family and the magical elite of the nation’s wealthiest city. Not everyone is pleased with the impending nuptials, especially Emily’s future mother-in-law, a sociopathic socialite. But there are greater challenges still: confining couture, sinister Russian scientists, and a deathless Aztec goddess who dreams of plunging the world into apocalypse. With all they must confront, do Emily and Dreadnought have any hope of a happily-ever-after?

Promises to KeepPromises to Keep by Charles de Lint

This book will be available in paperback for the first time on May 15. It’s another Newford book about Jilly Coppercorn, and it takes place before The Onion Girl and Widdershins. I’ve only read one book by de Lint (Medicine Road) and I thought it was good, but it wasn’t really a book I personally was crazy about. This sounds very good to me, though, and I find myself wanting to read it.

With the help of a mentor and an anonymous benefactor, Jilly Coppercorn has overcome abuse, addiction, and a stint in juvie. Though she still struggles to stay clean, she has found safety and love in a newly formed family that includes her loyal best friend, a lovely artist, and her caseworker. Temptation comes knocking, however, when her best friend from the bad old days rides in on a motorcycle and takes Jilly to a beautiful, mysterious city full of wonderful opportunities. It seems perfect at first, until Jilly discovers that it was a one-way trip—and she still has unfinished business in Newford. At turns playful and serious, this urban fantasy introduces de Lint’s most enduring character and grapples with the realities of life-changing choices.

The Chaos CrystalThe Chaos Crystal by Jennifer Fallon

The fourth and final title in the Tide Lords series will be released in hardcover and as an ebook in the US on May 10.  The first three books in the series are The Immortal Prince, Gods of Amyrantha, and Palace of Impossible Dreams. I’ve been wanting to read a book by Jennifer Fallon for a while now, so I was thrilled to find this in the mail – until I read the dreaded “book 4 of a series” part. I did see that the hardcover version of the first book in the series is a bargain book on Amazon right now so I am tempted since I have some Amazon gift cards from my birthday last month.  But I’m still considering it (since I did want to get the new Mercy Thompson book, the new book coming out by Catherynne Valente this month, and Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay and none of those are cheap mass market paperbacks – plus this book still is about the trade paperback price as a bargain book).  Has anyone read the series?  What did you think of it?

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.

Degrees of FreedomDegrees of Freedom by Simon Morden

The third book in the Samuil Petrovich series will be released on May 31.  The first two books are Equations of Life and Theories of Flight.  This series sounds pretty interesting, but I don’t have the first two books so it’s not something I’ll be likely to read anytime soon.

The Six Degrees of Petrovitch

Michael is an AI of incalculable complexity trapped under the remains of Oshicora tower. Petrovitch will free him one day, he just has to trust Michael will still be sane by the time he does.

Maddy and Petrovitch have trust issues. She’s left him, but Petrovitch is pretty sure she still loves him.

Sonja Oshicora loves Petrovitch too. But she’s playing a complicated game and it’s not clear that she means to save him from what’s coming.

The CIA wants to save the world. Well, just America, but they’ll call it what they like.

The New Machine Jihad is calling. But Petrovitch killed it. Didn’t he?

And the Armageddonists tried to kill pretty much everyone by blowing the world up. Now, they want to do it again.

Once again, all roads lead back to Petrovitch. Everyone wants something from him, but all he wants is to be free…

The Map of All ThingsThe Map of All Things by Kevin J. Anderson

The second book in the Terra Incognita series will be available in mass market paperback on May 31.  The first book in the series is The Edge of the World.  The third book, The Key to Creation, will be released in July.

After terrible atrocities by both sides, the religious war between Tierra and Uraba has spread and intensified, irreparably dividing the known world. What started as a series of skirmishes has erupted into a full-blown crusade.

Now that the Uraban leader, Soldan-Shah Omra, has captured the ruined city of Ishalem, his construction teams discover a priceless ancient map in an underground vault – a map that can guide brave explorers to the mysterious Key to Creation.

Last year I discovered the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews and devoured them all.  I loved the third book so much that I was very glad I’d taken the advice of waiting until the fourth book was out to read it.  Because once I finished it, I had to have the next book right then and no other book would do!

Now I’ve been longing for the fifth book. Fortunately for all of us Kate Daniels fans, Ilona Andrews comes out with new books pretty regularly and Magic Slays will be released on May 31.  As if I wasn’t excited enough about this, I read what Ilona Andrews has to say about it on the website.  Now I am ready to start counting down the days and compulsively start checking the bookstore for early copies!  (It’s 27 days 22 hours and 0 minutes as I am typing this.)

Magic Slays

Warning: Spoilers below for books 1 – 4.

About Magic Slays (from the author’s site):

Plagued by a war between magic and technology, Atlanta has never been so deadly. Good thing Kate Daniels is on the job.

Kate Daniels may have quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but she’s still knee-deep in paranormal problems. Or she would be if she could get someone to hire her. Starting her own business has been more challenging than she thought it would be—now that the Order is disparaging her good name, and many potential clients are afraid of getting on the bad side of the Beast Lord, who just happens to be Kate’s mate.

So when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. Turns out this is not an isolated incident, and Kate needs to get to the bottom of it—fast, or the city and everyone dear to her might pay the ultimate price . . .


So…  Who else can’t wait?

This week I bought two of the books I wanted to read for the Nebula Readathon.  Then I looked at the rest of my books and wondered what I was thinking.  Even though neither of these should take all that long to read (my reasoning for originally thinking I could read them in May), I want to read Embassytown by China Mieville, Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle, and The Fear Principle by B. A. Chepaitis in May.  Plus I want to read some of the books I have by authors I’ve never read before who will be at Book Expo America (such as books I have by Cinda Williams Chima, Carrie Vaughn, and Deanna Raybourn).  I’m already quite sure I won’t get through all of the latter, but oh well, at least one of the ones I got for the Readathon was a bargain book so it was a good time to get it anyway!

(As a side note, I am so ridiculously excited about the fact that Laini Taylor will be signing Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Vernor Vinge will be signing Children of the Sky at BEA this year!)

For reviews, I’m working on a review of Passion Play by Beth Bernobich and reading Eona by Alison Goodman so I have a book to review after that one is done.

On to the books…

A Conspiracy of KingsA Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

This is the fourth book in the Queen’s Thief series and the only one currently available that I haven’t read yet.  I liked The Thief (#1), and I loved The Queen of Attolia (#2) and The King of Attolia (#3), so I’m really looking forward to it.  It’s the type of young adult series I love because it’s not about teen issues – it’s just a great series with some excellent storytelling.  Also, in addition to being a nominee for this year’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, it was just awarded the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature.

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

White CatWhite Cat by Holly Black

This is the first book in the Curse Workers series, and the second book Red Glove was released in April.  I’ve wanted to read it for a while now, both after reading reviews of it and reading a sample of the first two chapters I got at last year’s BEA.  Getting nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy was just the incentive I needed to finally pick up a copy!

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.

To celebrate the release of Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making as an illustrated hardcover book on May 10, this book is available to download for free through the evening of May 2 (Monday).  The book started as a web serial and won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  If you have not read a book by this amazing author, it’s a perfect opportunity to sample her work.  I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve now read 3 of Valente’s books and they’ve all been beautifully written and creative.

Even though I downloaded the PDF version, I’ll probably wait for the physical book to read it.  It looks gorgeous:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

About The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

Dragonsbane is the first novel in the Winterlands series by Barbara Hambly.  Originally released in the 1980s, Dragonsbane has been out of print for a while now, but it was recently re-released as an ebook along with several other books by Hambly.  The rest of the books in the Winterlands series are as follows: Dragonshadow, Knight of the Demon Queen, and Dragonstar.

Gareth is on a quest: to find Lord Aversin, the only man alive who has ever successfully slain a dragon.  The kingdom Gareth resides in has an unwelcome guest in the shape of a huge, black dragon, and no one has been able to defeat it thus far.  Having studied all the ballads dedicated to the great deeds of Lord Aversin, Gareth is confident he will heroically come to their rescue and dispatch the threat to the land.

On the outskirts of Lord Aversin’s land, Gareth meets his mistress, Jenny, a 37-year-old witch who is not particularly extraordinary.  Of course, Gareth wants to know all about John, Lord Aversin, and is quite dismayed when Jenny tells him the details of the dragon slaying and dashes his notions of the glory of being a dragonsbane.  Instead of foolishly facing the dragon with honor and a sword, John used the method he thought was least likely to get himself killed: a harpoon dipped in poison.  Gareth is further disappointed when he meets John for himself and discovers he’s not as lordly as he’d imagined.  He’s not handsome or imposing, and he’s standing in the mud next to a pigsty like it’s perfectly normal – because it is normal for him.

After some effort, Gareth eventually manages to convince John it’s in his best interests to help remove the pesky dragon.  However, once John and Jenny return to the kingdom with Gareth, they discover the dragon’s not the only threat after meeting the king’s mistress – a beautiful, powerful sorceress who has been creating some mayhem of her own.

While it was a somewhat slow paced book, Dragonsbane managed to pull me in immediately with the way it introduced the characters in the very first chapter.  Throughout the novel, they continued to be one of the highlights, along with how Hambly took what felt like a very traditional fantasy story and made it unexpectedly unique.  The plot begins with a quest to slay a dragon and stop an evil sorceress, and although the sorceress storyline was fairly typical, the dragon-slaying story was not.  The dragon was one of the most interesting characters, and what happened with this part of the plot offered a look at humanity and choices that culminated in a beautifully handled bittersweet ending.  Either result of the decision at the end would bring both happiness and sadness, and there was no perfect, correct choice – and this is part of what I loved about the end.  The other part was how the meaning of the title changed throughout the course of the story and what it turned out to truly represent.  It’s rare that I read a book where the conclusion is the part that really stands out to me, and I think it’s difficult to find endings that are truly done well.  Dragonsbane had one of those rare, memorable endings that was part of what made the book so wonderful.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to recommend the book until the final pages, though, since part of what makes that ending so momentous is the main character, Jenny (as well as the dragon, but since he doesn’t actually play a prominent role until over 50% of the way through I won’t discuss him to avoid spoilers).  Jenny is a 37-year-old witch who is not as powerful as she wishes, largely due to the fact that she hasn’t completely given herself over to her studies because of her relationship with John, Lord Aversin.  While she doesn’t live with John or their two children in order to pursue magical knowledge, she still devotes enough of her time to them for it to be a hindrance to her magical abilities.  By trying to compromise and dividing her attention between love and her magic, Jenny is constantly wondering what might have been.  If she’d given up John completely and devoted herself wholeheartedly to learning, would she be the powerful mage she yearns to be?

In contrast, there is the evil sorceress Zyerne, who is everything Jenny could ever dream of being – young, beautiful, and an immensely powerful mage. For the most part, I didn’t find Zyerne a compelling part of the story since she didn’t have any great depth of character, but I think she did serve well as a look at what Jenny may have been able to accomplish had she been willing to completely give up love.  Because Jenny is a person who is perfectly capable of jealousy and insecurity, she has to wonder if she could have been more like Zyerne had she just made some different choices in her life.  Her vulnerability is part of what makes her such a sympathetic character, and I also liked that the story featured love, but not the oft-seen romance.  It was about established, mature love that’s existed for a while, not an exciting new relationship but a more familiar one.  It was a nice change to read about a couple who has been together for a while instead of romance filled with significant glances and conversations and wondering when/how the two people would end up together.

Even though there is a lot to admire about Dragonsbane, it’s not a perfect book.  The first chapter and the way it sets up the characters – who Jenny and John are and Gareth’s expectations of what a dragonsbane is – was wonderful, but it could be rather slow paced at times, especially since the dragon didn’t actually make an appearance until a little over halfway through.  Other than Jenny and the dragon, none of the other characters seemed nearly as notable although John had some interesting qualities.  He was a warrior, but a very scholarly one, and I also liked how he didn’t take himself too seriously.  When he came to the kingdom and discovered everyone thought he was a hick, he had quite a lot of fun just playing along with that.  As mentioned previously, Zyerne also seemed rather one dimensionally evil, although I do think she also demonstrated what putting power before all else could lead to.

On a technical note, there was one point toward the end of the book where I ended up completely confused.  There was a paragraph where it made a very abrupt switch, including someone talking who was not actually there at the time.  This made me think that I was missing part of the book, and I stopped reading at that point to check my original PDF to make sure something hadn’t gone wrong with the Kindle conversion.  After seeing it looked the same and reading on, it appeared it just had been missing some sort of formatting to indicate that this was the start of a new scene and not a continuation of the previous one.

In spite of some slow pacing and a flat villain, Dragonsbane was well worth reading for several reasons.  It had a fantastic ending tinged with both joy and sorrow that completely transformed the meaning of dragonsbane.  Furthermore, it had a realistic main character with very human weaknesses and dilemmas, and the exploration of the choices she made throughout the story was quite poignant.  I’ll definitely be reading more by Barbara Hambly after this novel.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Ebook review copy from the publisher.

Read the first chapter