This week brought five books – one bought last weekend, one digital review copy, one won off Goodreads, and two I wanted to buy with the first one but ordered online instead because one was not in good condition and the other was more expensive at the bookstore. (Recently, we discovered we can get free Amazon Prime since my husband is a student so I got them in two days! With no shipping cost! This could be hazardous…)

As far as reviewing goes, I finished a review of Naamah’s Curse today so that will be going up sometime early this week. Next I’ll be working on a review of The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke.

On to the books.

Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

I was hoping to see this book when I took a trip to the giant bookstore last Sunday, and they had it so I snatched it up. It’s the book I’m mainly reading now. Havemercy (review) was very enjoyable, and I’ve liked the first 60% of this one as well. It has four different main characters and takes place in a different setting, although two of the protagonists are from Volstov and were in Havemercy. I particularly like getting to read from the point of view of Caius.

From the widely acclaimed authors of Havemercy comes this stunning new epic fantasy, set in the chaotic aftermath of a hundred years of war. Here, amidst the treacherous dance of diplomacy and betrayal lie the darkest secrets of all…and a peace more deadly than war itself.

Led to victory by its magic-fueled Dragon Corps, Volstov has sent a delegation to its conquered neighbors to work out the long-awaited terms of peace. Among those sent are the decorated war hero General Alcibiades and the formerly exiled magician Caius Greylace. But even this mismatched pair can’t help but notice that their defeated enemies aren’t being very cooperative.

The truth is even worse than they know. For the new emperor is harboring a secret even more treacherous—one that will take every trick in Alcibiades’ and Caius’ extensive arsenal to unveil. And once it is revealed, they may still be powerless to stop it.

With their only ally, an exiled prince, now fleeing his brother’s assassins, the countryside rife with treachery and terror, and Alcibiades and Caius all but prisoners, it will take the most powerful, most dangerous kind of magic to heal the rift between two strife-worn lands and unite two peoples against a common enemy…shadow magic.

The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

Tia Nevitt, who runs the Debuts & Reviews blog, has her own debut coming out from Carina Press next month. The Sevenfold Spell is a novella based on the tale of Sleeping Beauty and is the first in a series of fairy tale retellings called Accidental Enchantments. There are plans for stories based on Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. I love retold fairy tales so I’m looking forward to this one.

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?

Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P. N. Elrod

I had no idea I’d won this off Goodreads until a surprise copy showed up in my mailbox on Monday. I was very glad I won it since I really, really want to read the story by Ilona Andrews but probably never would have bought this book myself for one small part of the collection. It’s about how Kate met Saiman so it should be very interesting. I haven’t read anything by any of the other authors in this book other than Carrie Vaughn’s contributions to the Wild Card books so it will be fun to get sample these writers. In particular, I’m looking forward to more by Vaughn as well as the Jim Butcher and Rachel Caine stories since I’ve heard a lot about them but have yet to read anything by either.

They’re the last defenders of humanity, the lone wolf bad boys— and girls—who do dark deeds for the right reasons. Modern day knights who are sexy, funny, mad, bad and dangerous to know because they do what most of us only dream about…and get away with it. In this all-star collection, nine of today’s hottest urban fantasy authors bring us original stories of supernatural, modern day knights that will have readers clamoring for more!

The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts

I’ve now heard enough about this book that I’m really curious about it. It’s supposed to be a little hard to read but excellent so I’ll save it for sometime when I’m on vacation or just have more time to read for some reason. At over 800 pages long, it’s also not a short book so I definitely think I’ll need some time for this one.

The stunning first volume in Janny Wurts’s epic tale of two half-brothers cursed to life-long enmity, now re-released with a striking new cover. The world of Athera lives in eternal fog, its skies obscured by the malevolent Mistwraith. Only the combined powers of two half-brothers can challenge the Mistwraith’s stranglehold: Arithon, Master of Shadow and Lysaer, Lord of Light. Arithon and Lysaer will find that they are inescapably bound inside a pattern of events dictated by their own deepest convictions. Yet there is more at stake than one battle with the Mistwraith — as the sorcerers of the Fellowship of Seven know well. For between them the half-brothers hold the balance of the world, its harmony and its future, in their hands.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

So I’m probably one of the few people left in the world who hasn’t read this, further evidenced by the fact that this is currently #20 in books on Amazon, the sequel Catching Fire is at #14 and the newly released Mockingjay is at #1. I suppose I should remedy this, especially since it sounds very interesting.

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Today I am pleased to present an interview with Ginn Hale. Her work includes Wicked Gentlemen, the newly released Lord of the White Hell: Book One and the novella Feral Machines. Wicked Gentlemen (review) was one of my favorite books from last year and I enjoyed Lord of the White Hell: Book One (review) even more. For more information about Ginn Hale and her books, visit her website or read her journal.

Fantasy Cafe: Currently, you are working on Lord Foster’s Devils, a sequel to Wicked Gentlemen. How much time has passed since the end of Wicked Gentlemen at the beginning of the new book? Will it also be split into novellas with one from Belimai’s perspective and one from Harper’s third person perspective?

Ginn Hale: It’s always tough to talk about current projects because the stories are still so fluid while they’re being written. I try not to make any promises until the story is done.

That said, what I’ve written so far takes place two years after the end of the first book. Harper’s inheritance of the Foster estate has been contested by a distant relative. He and Belimai return to the capitol to secure their home but soon become entangled in the political maneuvering of ruling powers, blackmailers and prodigal crime lords.

It’s all one story but moves back and forth between Harper and Belimai’s points of view, since they each play separate parts and move in different circles as they attempt to protect each other and themselves.

FC: On your site, you had mentioned that originally the sequel to Wicked Gentlemen was supposed to take place at least 10 years afterward with different main characters before you decided to write a direct sequel instead. Are there still plans to write this book or any others set in the same world without Harper and Belimai as the primary characters?

GH: Yes, my original idea for a sequel followed Nick Sariel and Bastard Jack as they collided and collaborated in Hells Below. It focused quite a lot on arms smuggling and the thin line between crime and freedom fighting.

I very much liked the way the outline came together, so even if the story doesn’t end up being written about Hells Below, I think I will still write it in some form.

FC: After Lord of the White Hell: Book Two is released in September, what is your next story that will be released?

GH: Well, my novella, Feral Machines will be released digitally and be on sale at Weightless Books in the very near future. This novella was originally published in Tangle (Blind Eye Books) but the digital book is a standalone. Then there’s The Rifter, which will also be a Blind Eye Books digital release, also for sale at Weightless Books. It’s a ten book serial fiction that follows two men who are transported from modern America to a theocratic world in the throes of a revolution. There’s lots of witchcraft, battles, forbidden love and snow.

I’ve also been batting around an idea for an urban fantasy anthology of linked stories featuring agents working for the State Department and dealing with a multitude of unearthly, magical realms. Irregulars, is what I call them, because it has a nice euphemistic ring to it. (Also I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes and like to make references to the stories when I can.)

Anyway, Josh Lanyon, Nicole Kimberling, and Astrid Amara have all expressed interest. So that might be showing up in the next year or so.

FC: Your forthcoming short story “Blood Beneath the Throne” is about escaping a job as an assassin for Shakespearean fairies, which makes me think of nothing more than fairfolk mafiosos. What is it like to work for the fairy mafia and what kind of measures do they take to ensure no one leaves their employ?

GH: Heh. I’m not sure I can answer that question without spoiling the story. I can say that it was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream wherein Oberon cheats, casts spells and resorts to blackmail to get his hands on an orphaned child. And he’s pretty explicit about what he wants the boy for, “…a little changeling boy to be my henchman.”

I built the story from there, trying to stay true to both fairy lore and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while also bringing something of my own to it. It’s a little odd and at times violent but I’m pretty fond of the story all the same.

I’m hoping Lethe Press will release the anthology that it is in soon.

FC: How is work on The Rifter going? I’m curious about the process of building a serial novel; why did you choose to structure the story in that way?

GH: The serial structure was a result of the story itself. The idea for The Rifter–a story of two people moving back and forth through the timeline of each other’s lives and how, as they alter the past, they draw one another inexorably closer to their fates—came to me about eight years ago. I knew it had to be as vast, dark, and mysterious as the series of dreams that inspired it.

But even as I was visualizing the monasteries of holy assassins and armies of witches and reanimated bones, I realized that the story would be impossible to get published, and nearly impossible to even write. It was just too big.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it and dreaming about it.

So, one evening I spread an 18×24 sheet of newsprint across the floor and started laying out the two timelines that make up the plot. Steadily, I refined and tightened the story to ensure that I really knew what I was doing at every point.

One timeline followed John, (the modern American ecologist who discovers that in another world he’s the destroyer incarnation of a god), and the other followed Kahlil, (the holy assassin who’s hunting John). I worked out a cast of secondary characters who would link up both timelines and become pivotal when the two lines converge at the end.

Once I had the entire plot completely nailed down I broke it into smaller story arcs, each of which had its own sub-plot that moved the overall story closer to the conclusion. Then I cut those apart and pasted them down so that the two timelines would play off each other and keep the reader entertained and informed.

And then I spent five years writing the entire thing.

Amazingly, it only took a couple years to find a publisher and I’m now in the midst of edits.

FC: Which of your characters do you empathize with the most and why?

GH: I try to empathize with them all to some extent just so I don’t create villains and secondary characters who act like they know they’re bits of fiction in a book that isn’t about them. I like background characters with their own plans and desires—even it they aren’t touched upon in the course of the story.

But as for the main characters I empathize with most, that’s hard to really say, because it changes with each project. I try not to get fixated upon any one character after a book is done. I do sometimes wonder what Belimai’s paintings look like. And it makes me smile to myself to think of how excited Kiram might be after constructing a vacuum pump. He’d be beaming.

FC: You have written a lot of short form science fiction but your longer work has been fantasy. Is that for a particular reason or it just how things have happened? Have you ever thought about writing a science fiction novel?

GH: I hadn’t noticed that before, but you’re right.

Maybe it’s because most of my thoughts about science fiction center on a technology (such as the idents in Feral Machines) that lends itself to a simple single conflict. When I write a fantasy novel I’m usually pondering social dynamics and those generally require a longer form to fully explore the variety of conflicts involved.

FC: Which author do you admire so greatly that praise from them about your book would keep you sleepless with excitement for weeks?

GH: Honestly, I’ve been stunned and flattered to receive praise from every author who has been kind enough to write to me. I’m always surprised at how generous these people can be. Lynn Flewelling, Marjorie M. Liu and Josh Lanyon were all incredibly encouraging to me. Both Nicole Kimberling and Astrid Amara are writers whom I admire and they were immensely supportive when we worked together on the Hell Cop anthologies.

But I have to admit that even as giddy as I felt after being contacted by each of those authors, I did eventually fall asleep.

Hmmm. I haven’t quite answered your question, have I?

If Mary Renault—who passed away in 1983— were to rise up from the shadows of my bookshelf and place her misty, cold hand on my heart and then tell me that she had been reading my work and enjoyed it, that would certainly keep me up for days, even weeks. That might freak me out too much to ever sleep again… Though I think eventually I might start badgering her ghost to write another book like The Charioteer, or at least autograph my copy.

FC: Which book do you remember most fondly as being the one that made you a reader and why?

GH: I had very few books available to me as a child. The ones I remember most clearly are The Riverside Shakespeare, an I Ching, the tattered paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a battered dictionary.

If I had to say which one really made me a life long reader I’d have to honestly say it was the dictionary.

I can still remember pouring over the entries and simply loving the sensation of all that information unfolding from black letters and lighting up my mind. That was my first real awareness of how powerful reading could be. It felt like magic.

FC: Maybe it’s just me, but I kept wondering: why is the white hell a specific color? Are there hells of different colors other than white? What do the other hells do that is different?

GH: Good question. I wasn’t sure if anyone would notice that or not.

The multiple hells in Cadeleonian theology are a Cadeleonian re-interpretations of older religions that are foreign to them. The red hell, for example, is a Mirogoth Witch’s Forge, which produces a blood red flash when it is passed from one witch to another.

I chose the color white for Javier’s hell, (which is really a Bahiim shajdi), because I wanted to evoke a luminous purity existing between life and death. I also wanted it to be a color that is powerful but also readily polluted, something that could represent Javier himself at his best and worst.

FC: In both Wicked Gentlemen and Lord of the White Hell, it seems like you set up a pair of opposing monocultures and then look at how they collide. Is your intention to focus on those societies, or are the societies intended to be tools used to create certain characters?

GH: As a rule I begin with the major social structures that will be in conflict in my novels and then ask myself who, within these societies, would be the most interesting to follow. Who would cross lines and stir up the kind of trouble that makes for an exciting book?

Thank you so much for sharing your questions. I hope my responses didn’t ramble on too long.

FC: No, not at all – I found your answers very interesting. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions!

Lord of the White Hell: Book One
by Ginn Hale
362pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: N/A
LibraryThing Rating: 5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.73/5

Lord of the White Hell: Book One by Ginn Hale was just released on August 15. Fortunately, there is not a long wait for the conclusion to this fantasy duology – Lord of the White Hell: Book Two is scheduled for publication only a month later on September 15. The first book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger so this is very good indeed, especially since book one is absorbing enough that I added the finished copy to my wish list.

Kiram, a gifted seventeen year old, is the first full-blooded Haldiim accepted into the prestigious Cadeleonian Sagrada Academy due to his work with machinery. It is an honor to be chosen as a hopeful for winning the Crown Challenge, but it is also difficult as Kiram must contend with prejudice and superstition from the beginning of his time at the school. None of the other boys dare sleep in the same room with a heathen Haldiim, which leaves him sharing space with Javier Tornesal, a duke who commands the white hell and is therefore also not a desirable roommate. One of Javier’s ancestors traded his soul and opened the white hell to destroy some invaders, and those of the Tornesal family still keep the pact. While Javier is generally well-liked and respected, no student wants to have his soul exposed to the white hell while sound asleep.

Fortunately for Kiram, he does not believe in the hells or Javier’s lack of a soul and instead avoids Javier because he thinks he is taunting him with his flirtatious behavior. Homosexuality is forbidden by the strict Cadeleonian religion, and although Kiram finds Javier attractive, he does not want to be deemed responsible for corrupting a Cadeleonian. Soon the two do strike up a friendship due to their mutual fondness for Javier’s simple-minded cousin Fedeles, who used to be a normal young man until the familial curse of the white hell is said to have changed him. As Kiram and Javier become involved in a more complicated relationship, Kiram learns more about Javier’s situation and realizes just how much danger they may all be in – and wonders if there is some way he can save both Javier and Fedeles from their cursed fate.

Lord of the White Hell: Book One had the same strengths that made me enjoy Ginn Hale’s earlier work, Wicked Gentlemen – compelling characters facing a clash caused by belonging to two very different social groups. In Wicked Gentlemen, there was a dissonance between Belimai’s demon ancestry and life in Hells Below and Harper’s role as a part of the Inquisition. Lord of the White Hell features a pair of young men who come from completely different cultures. As a Haldiim, Kiram was brought up in a matriarchal society that is open-minded about sexuality and does not follow strict religious rules. Javier and the rest of the Cadeleons tend to be very devout (or at least concerned with appearing to be devout) about practicing their religion. They must atone for their shortcomings through penance, only show interest in the opposite sex and uphold certain standards. As the two are attracted to each other, their different attitudes about socially acceptable behavior provide a source of conflict.

Although there is focus on the relationship, it is certainly not the only source of contention in this novel. Kiram faces many challenges common to young people, especially those leaving home for the first time to go to college – being accepted, making friends, becoming independent, and struggling with subjects one may not be as good at. While Kiram excels at mathematics and science, he does have difficulty with sword-fighting and horseback riding, mainly due to a lack of exposure (and I did appreciate that whenever he did improve, he did so at a realistic pace and was not suddenly the master of everything in the known universe and beyond). Other challenges are not as common – there’s also the mystery surrounding the white hell and Kiram’s desire to save his friend Fedeles from his curse.

Kiram was very easy to feel sympathy for. He’s a young man leaving his home to go to a distant school in a foreign land and a lot of hopes on his shoulders since he’s supposed to have the potential to win the Crown Challenge for the academy. From the moment he thought one of his new teachers didn’t like him too much, probably because his first impression of this supposed great thinker was his falling out of a carriage into the mud, I felt for Kiram. The other characters were also wonderful – Javier with his mix of charm and arrogance he used to cover up any vulnerability, the artist Nestor with his kind-hearted good nature and Fedeles with his childlike sweetness. It is an all-male school and there are almost no female characters and none of the few there are appear for very long.

As this is the first half of the story, there is a cliffhanger ending that left me desperately wanting the next part of the book. It was one that wormed its way into my heart and made me really care about these characters and what happened to them, making it rather difficult to have it end without knowing how everything wrapped up.

Lord of the White Hell: Book One made me eager to read the second book. Spending time with the characters in their world was an enjoyable experience, and I look forward both to discovering more about the white hell and finding out what happens to Kiram, Javier and Fedeles.

My Rating: 9/10

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

Other Reviews:

Tomorrow there will be an interview with Ginn Hale discussing topics including her upcoming projects, some of her favorite books from childhood, the thought process behind the cultures she creates and the role of empathy in writing.

Since I’m going on a shopping trip on the day I’m posting this and there’s a book I may get to read soon, this week’s edition may actually be longer than what is below. I’ll have to save it for next week if I do, though, because I don’t expect to have much time to get this post ready on Sunday and am therefore writing it beforehand.

So for this week, I have two review copies (one of which I will be reading very soon).

Killbox by Ann Aguirre

This would be the book I’ll be reading pretty soon. This fourth book out of six total in the Jax series will be released on August 31 (according to Amazon) or September (according to Ann Aguirre’s website). I really enjoy this series because it is just so much fun – fast-paced space opera adventure that maintains a great balance between action and character development plus some romance (more in some books than others). The first chapter is available online.


Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers—out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

Factotum by D. M. Cornish

This is the third book in the Monster Blood Tattoo series. It’s coming to Australia and New Zealand in October and the United States on November 11. I’ve had the first book in this YA series on my TBR for a little while. I have to admit the series name put me off a bit since it sounds gory to me, but the reviews I’ve read (which have all been very positive) seem to indicate this is not the case.

Rossamund Bookchild stands accused of not truly being a human at all, but of being a monster. Even the protection of Europe, the Branden Rose the most feared and renowned monster-hunter in all the Half-Continent might not be enough to save him. Powerful forces move against them both, intent on capturing Rossamund whose existence some believe may hold the secret to perpetual youth.

An excerpt from The Republic of Thieves, the next Gentlemen Bastards book by Scott Lynch is available online. However, consider yourself warned – it ends on a horrible cliffhanger and the book is not supposed to be out until next year!


You know how I mentioned yesterday that CryoBurn, the next Miles Vorkosigan novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, was to be released in its final hardcover format in November? Lois McMaster Bujold announced today that the publication date has actually been moved forward to October 19. She also said that she will be starting the book tour on Saturday, October 16 at Uncle Hugo’s in her hometown of Minneapolis.