On one of Carol Berg’s recent Amazon blog posts, she mentioned she was beginning to work on her next trilogy, an epic fantasy with the tentative name of The Sabrian Veil. She has begun writing some about her new story and the writing process on her new personal blog, Text Crumbs, which seems like it will be pretty interesting. I’ve always enjoyed reading her Amazon blog, so I look forward to reading more of her new blog as well.

I am curious to see what she will do with an epic fantasy. Her Rai-kirah trilogy (Transformation, Revelation, and Restoration) is one of my favorite series with its compelling main character and the explorations of religion, perception of reality, and truth. The first half of The Lighthouse Duology (I really need to get Breath and Bone now that it’s out!) was very good as well and Song of the Beast kept me on the edge of my seat.

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Eos books, they are going to be featuring a free e-book to download every two months. The first featured e-book is Shaman’s Crossing, the first book in Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy.

Eos Announcement

Download Shaman’s Crossing

After reading and enjoying Patrick Rothfuss’s debut The Name of the Wind, many were happy to know that the rest of the series had been completed and each book would come out approximately a year apart. However, it was recently announced that the publication date was being pushed back from March 2008 to April 2009, which upset a lot of people.

In this blog post, Rothfuss explains the reason for the delay with the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle. Anyone who reads it should be able to sympathize and understand why he’s had to change the date. Other than the success of The Name of the Wind, it sounds like he’s having the year from hell.

There are some books that just came out this month that sound rather interesting so I thought I’d just make a brief list of some of January’s new releases. (Some of these books may already be out or not yet be out in other countries.) I know a few good ones are coming out in March as well so I’m also going to make a February/March list soon.

The following all came out this month or will be coming out later this month.

Breath and Bone (#2 Lighthouse Duology) by Carol Berg

Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost

Inside Straight (Wild Cards) edited by George R.R. Martin (January 22, 2008)

Hunter’s Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham
Renegade’s Magic (The Soldier Son Trilogy, Book 3) by Robin Hobb

Debatable Space by Philip Palmer

I haven’t read any of these yet, but I may have to remedy that. I really enjoyed the first book in Carol Berg’s Lighthouse Duology, the new Wild Cards book sounds like a lot of fun, and Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors (I’ve been waiting for the last book in The Soldier Son trilogy so I could read the whole thing back to back).

The Skewed ThroneThe Skewed Throne

The Skewed Throne
by Joshua Palmatier
384pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.75/5

Thanks to a contest run by Jeff at Fantasy Book News and Reviews, I recently received a copy of Joshua Palmatier’s debut novel, The Skewed Throne. This is the first book in The Throne of Amenkor trilogy, followed by The Cracked Throne and The Vacant Throne respectively. The final book just came out earlier this month, making this one of those mythical and elusive sets of books – an actual completed fantasy series. After reading several reviews praising this book, I was looking forward to reading it, but I ended up rather disappointed in it. It was not what I would call a bad book; it just wasn’t exactly what I would call a good book, either.

The story is told from the first person perspective of a teenage orphan named Varis, who uses her thief skills to survive on the streets. One of the Seekers, a guardsman who enacts justice by killing those the Mistress orders him to, watches Varis struggle against and kill a murderer. Impressed by her victory, this guardsman, Erick, begins training Varis in how to use her dagger. Erick enlists the aid of Varis in finding marks for the Mistress and she finds and sometimes kills these people.

The Mistress is considered to be rather godlike and infallible, but ever since a strange phenomenon called the “White Fire” fell upon the city, people have begun to quietly question the sanity of their ruler. Due to her ability to see people in colors symbolizing whether they are dangerous or harmless, Varis realizes the Mistress has commanded the Seeker to kill a woman who does not deserve any harsh punishment. It soon becomes obvious to a few citizens that eliminating the Mistress is the only way to save themselves.


The narrative begins with Varis sneaking into the Mistress’s chambers in the present and then repeatedly flashes back to the past events that lead up to it until the end of the book. This was not too jarring and added some much needed tension since not a whole lot interesting happened in the beginning of the book. In fact, it took about 150 pages for the story to pick up at all and this was not a very long book at 384 pages total. There was a lot of repetition as Varis hunted various marks for Erick and the Mistress.

The writing was acceptable for the most part. Earlier in the book short sentences starting with “I” and sentence fragments occurred far too frequently; however, this did occur less as the book went on.

It is a refreshing change of pace – although not unheard of – to see a fantasy book with an independent female lead, but something failed to click for me in regards to the character of Varis. She seemed like a very generic “orphan with a tragic past who discovers she has magical powers” type of character to me. I do not want to give away the ending (which was fairly predictable partway into the book), but it is in direct violation of two fantasy cliches that have been done to death that I can think of.

The Skewed Throne struck me as being mediocre in every way. It was neither challenging nor consistently entertaining, and I saw no qualities that would urge me to recommend it to others above many of the other, better books I’ve reviewed here.

5/10

For a different, more positive opinion of this book, read this review by Jeff at fantasybookreviewer.blogspot.com.

Variable StarVariable Star

Variable Star
by Spider Robinson and Robert A. Heinlein
320pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 3.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.88/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.51/5

Variable Star is, as described in the preface, “a posthumous collaboration, begun when one of its collaborators was seven and completed when the other was seventeen-years-dead.” Happily, it is not the disaster that one might fear would result from such a situation. Most of the reason for that is the sheer level of talent of the two collaborators: the grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein and the man many believe to be his successor, Spider Robinson.

The story opens with Joel Johnston having what he considers to be a very bad day. After a magical night at the prom his fiancée and the love of his life wants to marry him. Jinny wants to marry him so badly, in fact, that she reveals a secret to him: she is not who he thinks she is. Not the poor orphan he fell in love with, with whom marriage would be a financial uphill struggle, but rather the heiress of the largest financial empire in the history of humanity. She whisks him away to the family’s luxurious hidden compound, introduces him to her family (who find him quite acceptable), and can hardly wait to begin their life together. Joel takes the only rational course available to him – he hops on the next colony ship out of the solar system.

It will be twenty years (from Joel’s perspective, Lorentz demands ninety from everybody Joel left behind) before the ship arrives at its destination, a star which was obscured from human sight before civilization expanded beyond the fixed perspective of Sol. During that time Joel has to not only recover from his Bad Day but also adjust to the life of an interstellar traveller and space colonist. Though he is to be a simple farmer and part-time musician he is surrounded by people with remarkable talents. His roommate is a telepath, capable of the only method of communication back to Sol that can bypass that annoying speed limit of c. He is friends with the Relativists, the humans who actually power the ship’s propulsion through meditation. And he works for the Zog, the master botanist who is probably the only person who can keep a small colony fed on a world that is alien to all the crops they bring with them and thus the key to their survival after landing. Assuming, that is, they live to the end of their trip.

Despite the nominal collaboration, it needs to be said that Variable Star is definitely a Spider Robinson book. I do not mean that to be a condemnation or even a criticism; Robinson is an immensely talented writer and I am a fan of his work, but with that statement a number of other facts about the book must follow. There will be a certain amount of late-60’s era optimism and culture, which is wonderful. There will be a certain amount of introspective wrangling and gnashing of teeth, which is OK. There will be a certain amount of punning, which…we’ll not discuss. Clearly, though, most of Heinlein’s contribution was in the setting, characters, and structure of the story. This makes sense, as Robinson’s afterword reveals that he worked from only seven typed pages and fourteen index cards of story notes that Heinlein started but abandoned in the 1950’s.

Judged as a Spider Robinson book, however, it is outstanding. I have never read Robinson’s novels for story or plot as, despite a long list of truly excellent short stories, he never really seemed to nail down the best way to pace and structure a full-length novel. I don’t know if it was the influence of Heinlein’s notes or just due to the love and respect Robinson had for his friend that is obvious on every page, but he manages to mostly solve that problem in Variable Star. There are a couple of places where the story starts to get bogged down by Robinson lingering over his favorite themes, but they are usually resolved quickly enough to not damage the overall impact of the book.

But as with most of his books, the real reason you read Variable Star is Spider Robinson’s prose. And as with the other aspects of this book, the extra love and craftsmanship Robinson put into his writing is wonderfully obvious. This book reads like an alternate-universe-Pratchett book, one where he was born in the Bronx and decided to spend his life writing sci-fi about musicians and Buddhism. Robinson (thankfully) manages to repress his love of overly-complex puns and stick to straight up wit and beautiful, expressive language. Even in the places where the plot wanders a bit or the characters stretch credulity you simply do not care because the words themselves are such a joy to read.

I highly recommend Variable Star not just for fans of Heinlein or Robinson, large as those groups may be, but for anybody who loves reading.

9/10