Today I’m thrilled to celebrate the release of Storm Constantine’s latest Wraeththu Mythos novel with a guest post by her! The books in the original Wraeththu trilogy are among my favorite books of all time due to the beautiful writing, memorable characters, and the thoughtful examination of a world in which humanity was being replaced by a new androgynous people. While I haven’t yet gotten caught up on all these books, what I’ve read of the Wraeththu Histories are also excellent, and I was delighted to discover the Wraeththu Mythos stories about new characters: The Hienama, Student of Kyme, and now, The Moonshawl. The Moonshawl is out in paperback today, and it is simultaneously being released for the Kindle with a special promotional offer.

The Hienama by Storm Constantine Student of Kyme by Storm Constantine The Moonshawl by Storm Constantine

My new novel, ‘The Moonshawl’ is a stand alone story, written within the Wraeththu mythos. I wrote it with the intention that readers shouldn’t have to read all previous Wraeththu novels to enjoy and understand it, or any of the short stories. As long as the basic premise of the world is grasped, that’s enough.

Basic premise: Humanity have wantonly destroyed much of their planet and copious amounts of each other. On the brink of their utter demise, the first Wraeththu appear, initially regarded as street gang nuisances, later revealed to be the heralds of a new, androgynous race to replace humanity. But as Wraeththu originally derived from humanity, via a process called inception, they still carry within them the legacies of their ancestors. They must strive to overcome their failings and avoid making the same mistakes humanity made and also not pass on these outmoded traits to their offspring, the pureborns.

The beginning of Wraeththu was certainly no utopia. Hara – as Wraeththu are called – spawned into a ravaged world, where cities were falling to ruin, and human conflict added to the destruction, where voracious pandemics devoured populations. Even the earth seemed to be retching to rid herself of human bugs, through the natural catastrophes of eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Wraeththu emerged wild and crazy from this mess, in many ways superior physically and mentally to humanity, but in others prone to the same weaknesses. Among some tribes, their gifts were squandered in a lust for power and conquest. Humans had to be incepted young in order to survive althaia – the change to har – and many of these feral young creatures cared little for their environment or others. At first. Only a few were enlightened enough to grasp their own potential – and that of all other hara – and these were the individuals who gravitated together to form the Gelaming tribe, still regarded a century after Wraeththu’s arrival as the most pioneering and knowledgeable of all.

I didn’t have to look far to find inspirations for the Wraeththu stories. All around us we can see the rank stupidity of humans, in the destruction of the environment, insatiable hunger to consume, whatever the cost, inconceivable cruelty and brutality to others, and mindless conflicts that should surely never have survived longer than the playground. The antics of humanity, in fact, often resemble those of an immense pack of mean and greedy children let loose to do as they please. I’m not sure whether the situation is worse now than it was when I first began writing about the Wraeththu way back in the 80s. We have mass communication now, and the world is never offline, so information is gouting out at us all the time. Events are not so easily suppressed and hidden. Perhaps too I’m a more politically aware person than I was when I began writing these stories. But whatever the case, what I see about me now is the seed of the world from which Wraeththu arose. I try not to think about that too much, as the implications are terrifying. We were supposed to have some kind of Age of Aquarius weren’t we? – when humanity suddenly became enlightened and an era of peace would dawn. The opposite seems to have occurred. While there are, of course, angels among the beasts within the human race, with the majority of us being at worst ‘fairly harmless’, there is this rancid core, perhaps comprising only a minority, but a powerful one.

When I began writing in the world of Wraeththu, I was thinking, ‘let’s start again.’ Not with some mild, mealy-mouthed do-gooders, or some insipid, easily-attained Utopia, but with a burst of ungoverned potential. Wraeththu could have gone either way – that of the brutal tribes and a reversion to an extremely primitive civilization, or that of the Gelaming, where the gifts of enhanced faculties and bodies were appreciated and used to try and build a better world. In ‘The Moonshawl’ common sense has mostly become prevalent in the Wraeththu world, but there are still pockets of dark, and perhaps always will be.

‘The Moonshawl’ is primarily a ghost story, a mystery, but it is also about consequences and learning. One of Wraeththu’s greatest gifts is that of longevity, because they will live long enough to look back upon the landscape of their own past, learn from it, and then still have the vigour and energy to use that knowledge and experience to advance their world. Perhaps that is humanity’s most tragic failing; we don’t live long enough to become truly wise.

About The Moonshawl

 

Ysbryd Drwg… the bad ghost

Ysobi har Jesith embarks upon a job far from home, where his history isn’t known – a welcome freedom. Hired by Wyva, the phylarch of the Wyvachi tribe, Ysobi goes to Gwyllion to create a spiritual system based upon local folklore, but he soon discovers some of that folklore is out of bounds, taboo…

Secrets lurk in the soil of Gwyllion, and the old house Meadow Mynd, home of the Wyvachi leaders. The house and the land are haunted. The fields are soaked in blood and echo with the cries of those who were slaughtered there, almost a century ago. In Gwyllion, the past doesn’t go away, and the hara who live there cling to it, remembering still their human ancestors. Tribal families maintain ancient enmities, inspired by a horrific murder in the past.

Old hatreds and a thirst for vengeance have been awoken by the approaching feybraiha – coming of age – of Wvya’s son, Myvyen. If the harling is to survive, Ysobi must help him confront the past, lay the ghosts to rest and scour the tainted soil of malice. But the ysbryd drwg is strong, built of a century of resentment and evil thoughts. Is it too powerful, even for a scholarly hienama with Ysobi’s experience and skill?

The Moonshawl, an artefact of protection, was once fashioned to keep Wyvachi heirs from harm, but the threads are old and worn, the magic fading, and its sacred sites – which might empower it once more – are prohibited. Only by understanding what the shawl symbolises and how it once controlled the ysbryd drwg can Ysobi even attempt to prevent the terrible tragedy that looms to engulf the Wyvachi tribe.

‘The Moonshawl’ is a standalone story, set in the world of Storm Constantine’s ground-breaking, science fantasy Wraeththu mythos.

Burndive, Karin Lowachee’s Prix Aurora-nominated second novel, is also the second book set in the Warchild Universe. It follows the phenomenal Warchild, a Philip K. Dick Award nominee that was published after it won the Warner Aspect First Novel Award. The third book in this setting, Cagebird, was also a Philip K. Dick Award nominee and won both the Prix Aurora Award and the Spectrum Award.

As the son of Captain Azarcon and Austro Station’s senior public affairs officer, Ryan can’t avoid the spotlight as much as he may wish. When he goes out in public, he has to watch his behavior as he’s ambushed by the press and eyed by people wanting a look at Austro’s “Hot #1 Bachelor.” Ever since he returned from attending school on Earth—and witnessed the deaths of many in an explosion protesting the war against the aliens—he’s just wanted to be left alone to sail Silver, an illegal drug that’s especially difficult to obtain when one is constantly trailed by a bodyguard.

Ryan goes to a flash house on New Year’s Eve after some argument with his mother, who is hesitant to let him attend after recent reports of his father’s encounter with an infamous pirate are all over the media. He spends the evening surrounded by loud music and people, dancing with a cute girl—until he suddenly realizes she’s no longer holding herself up. Her head is covered in blood, and she falls to the floor, dead. Chaos ensues as some party-goers fall, but Ryan gets out alive, even though he’s quite certain the shot that killed his dance partner was meant for him. There’s no doubt in his mind the shooting was connected to his father when news about Captain Azarcon’s recent dealings breaks shortly after the shooting—the captain declared a cease-fire and announced that he was beginning peace negotiations with the aliens and the Warboy, the notorious human sympathizer.

After I finished Warchild last November, it became not just my favorite book of the year but one of my favorite books ever. It’s gripping right from the beginning when eight-year-old Jos Musey is kidnapped by the pirate who destroyed his home, a merchant spaceship. His voice is strong and compelling, and it drew me in just as much as the action. As much as I loved it, I was a little reluctant to read the next book since it was supposed to have a different main character. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Burndive did begin around the same time Warchild ended and built on the same story, but even though I enjoyed it very much, I didn’t think it was as good as the previous book. It took me much longer to become engrossed in the story, and Ryan is not as compelling a character as Jos. Fortunately, he is often accompanied by more interesting characters, including some from Warchild, and this is largely what makes this book a delight to read.

The beginning of Burndive is slow as it spends some time setting up the story and characters. This is very different from the opening of Warchild, which throws readers right into the action. As a result, I found it took me much longer to become interested in Burndive, but it did become more captivating later even though it remained lighter on action and excitement than the previous book overall. By the halfway point, I had a difficult time putting it down because despite not being terribly invested in Ryan, many of the other characters Ryan meets and interacts with keep the book quite readable and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed reading about the characters from the previous book, and because of that I would not recommend reading Burndive before Warchild. It could stand on its own, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much were I not already familiar with some of the other characters such as Captain Azarcon.

Burndive was about war and family with a particular focus on Ryan’s relationship with the father he’s rarely seen since he spends most of his time in space. Captain Azarcon’s character and past are expanded on, and I thought he was the most fascinating and complex character in this book. He’s an intelligent man who has no patience whatsoever with idiocy, which often leads to some pretty good lines of dialogue, and he’s simultaneously a hard and compassionate man: he does a lot to help others coming from difficult circumstances, but he’s also quite ruthless when it comes to maintaining order on his ship. I enjoyed learning more about him and seeing him interact with Ryan and members of his crew.

Unfortunately, Ryan is one of the least interesting characters in the book and his voice and story fall short when compared to Jos’ in Warchild. I think this is mainly because Ryan is a much more passive character who observes but rarely seems like a participant in his own story, which focuses on the consequences of war and fame. He witnessed tragedy, first when he saw the destruction of the embassy on Earth, then later when assassins killed the girl he was dancing with at the New Year celebration. His response to these terrible events is to take drugs and distance himself from others, often by lashing out at them, and his biggest obstacles are dealing with trauma and letting others in. He doesn’t do a whole lot other than react as a character. Ryan isn’t a spy or a war hero, but a fairly ordinary person caught up in large events and his major role in this is observer.

Despite feeling this made him an uninteresting character, Ryan’s reactions are realistic and he’s a believable character. I even felt that my emotional detachment from him fit with his characterization since he did keep others at a distance. He does undergo some character development through the course of the story as he learns the world is not as easily categorized as he’d thought, and he’s not the same person with the same worldview at the end as he was in the beginning. Yet his earlier anger and treatment of others makes him a very difficult character to like at times, even though I could feel some sympathy for him due to the tragedies he endured. I don’t think every character needs to be likable if they have other qualities that make them worth reading about, but I didn’t find Ryan a terribly complex or intriguing character, either.

I enjoyed reading Burndive very much, but I can’t help comparing it to Warchild and feeling it falls short. While I admire the fact that it is a very different book with a very different main character, Ryan and his story are just not as captivating as Jos and his story. It’s a self-contained book, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one for that reason—its major strength depends on having some knowledge of the characters from the previous book.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a gift from my husband.

Read an Excerpt

Reviews of other books in this series:

  1. Warchild
Sci-Fi November

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.

Sci-Fi November

Today is officially the last day of Sci-Fi November. I didn’t do as much for it as I’d hoped, but I still have a review of Burndive by Karin Lowachee for it in the works that should go up in early December. Even if I didn’t do as much as I wanted, it was a lot of fun, plus there were a lot of interesting posts to read as part of it. Thanks to Rinn, Asti, Kelley, and Leanne for putting it together!

On to this week’s books!

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrombie

This middle volume in a fantasy trilogy will be released on February 17, 2015 (hardcover, ebook). I enjoyed the first book, Half a King, very much and am pretty excited about reading the next book in the series! There also will not be a long wait between the second and third book since Half a War is scheduled for release in July 2015.

 

New York Times bestselling author Joe Abercrombie’s thrilling new series continues in the follow-up to Half a King, which George R. R. Martin hailed as “a fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

The King's Deryni by Katherine Kurtz

The King’s Deryni (The Childe Morgan #3) by Katherine Kurtz

This fantasy novel, one of many Deryni novels and the final book in the Childe Morgan trilogy, will be released on December 2 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).  The previous books in this trilogy are as follows:

  1. In the King’s Service
  2. Childe Morgan

I haven’t read any of the Deryni books, but I’m very interested in reading them now after looking at this one and looking them up. Even though this is a prequel to the original books, it sounds like this trilogy isn’t the best place to start from some of the reviews I read. The impression I got is that I should probably start with the first of the Chronicles of the Deryni, Deryni Rising. If you’ve read the Deryni books, does that seem like a good starting point?

 

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Kurtz’s novels of the Deryni have been hailed by Anne McCaffrey as “an incredible historical tapestry of a world that never was and of immensely vital people who ought to be.” Now Kurtz weaves a thrilling conclusion to the epic Childe Morgan trilogy, in which bonds of both magic and loyalty will be put to the ultimate test…

Alaric Morgan always knew his purpose in life—to stand alongside the king of Gwynedd. The old king knew that whichever of his sons succeeded to the throne would benefit from having a Deryni at his side. Alaric and the young Prince Brion Haldane were bound together by magic—a magic to be called upon when Brion was most in need.

Now eighteen, Brion has ascended to the throne and seven-year-old Alaric has come to court. Through the coming years, both will grow to manhood and come to realize their destinies. Brion will strive to solidify his power and position, seek out a bride to secure his legacy, and ultimately, when faced with an unbeatable foe, call upon Alaric to fulfill his oath.

Meanwhile, Alaric slowly learns the extent of his powers and how to use them, and will face the prejudice that many have against Deryni in its ugliest form. He will experience bittersweet first love, great personal loss, and the hard lessons one gains from both. And he will be there to unleash the full power of his Deryni magic at Brion’s command.

For Alaric is—and always will be—the King’s Deryni.

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.

Sci-Fi November

Before I get to this week’s books, a quick update on Sci-Fi Month posts! On Monday, Martha Wells shared some older science fiction books that were a big influence on her. They all sounded really good—I already had one of them in the to-read pile, but the rest were quickly added to my wish list! On Friday, I was part of a blogger panel at Oh the Books! discussing the representation of science in science fiction. This was fun, and I love that these panels were added to this year’s Sci-Fi November! I have been working on a review of Burndive by Karin Lowachee, which I enjoyed very much even though I didn’t love it as much as her first novel set in the same universe, Warchild. It’s been a busy week so I haven’t made much progress on reading, but I did start my first book by C. J. Cherryh, Kesrith.

On to this week’s books!

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones

This classic fantasy novel is being re-released in paperback on December 16, and it’s also available as an ebook. There is currently a US/CA giveaway of Deep Secrets on Goodreads.

I’ve only read two books by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle and Dogsbody), but I enjoyed them both and need to read more by her! Deep Secret sounds like a fun book.

 

All over the multiverse the Magids, powerful magicians, are at work to maintain the balance between positive and negative magic, for the good of all.

Rupert Venables is the junior Magid assigned to Earth and to the troublesome planets of the Koyrfonic Empire. When the Emperor dies without a known heir, Rupert is called into service to help prevent the descent of the Empire into chaos. At the same time, the senior Magid on Earth dies, making Rupert a new senior desperately in need of a junior. Rupert thinks his problems are partially solved when he discovers he can meet all five of the potential Magids on Earth by attending one SF convention in England. However, the convention hotel sits on a node, a nexus of the universes. Rupert soon finds that other forces, some of them completely out of control, are there too….

Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret is classic adult fantasy novel by an award-winning author, back in print

King of Assassins by Jenna Rhodes

King of Assassins (The Elven Ways #3) by Jenna Rhodes

This fantasy novel was released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook). The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Four Forges
  2. The Dark Ferryman

I’d never heard of this series before I opened a package containing this book earlier this week, and I’d be interested in hearing what others thought about the first book in the series.

 

Thrown into exile on Kerith by a sorcerous act of war, the Vaelinars have used their own unique talents to gain power over the races native to this world, and to create magical Ways that remold Kerith forever. But now their war has followed them, ripping holes in the fabrics of both universes. The Vaelinars stand at a dangerous threshold as old and new betrayals threaten the destinies of the peoples of two worlds.

Against this background of betrayal and ever-shifting alliances, two star-crossed lovers—the half-breed Sevryn and the orphaned, goddess-touched Vaelinar, Rivergrace—must escape the fury of a desperate ruler. The Warrior Queen Lariel, having accidentally revealed to Sevryn the forbidden powers that gained her the throne, has begun a vicious manhunt to destroy him. Fleeing her wrath, Sevryn and Rivergrace find no safe haven as the world’s magic begins to disintegrate around them and the old Gods wake.

In the midst of this chaos, Sevryn is charged with finding the King of Assassins—a quest that may consume him. And only Rivergrace has any hope of discovering the means to save both Sevryn and the world she loves.

Sci-Fi November

This year’s Sci-Fi November has included some blogger panels in which a group of bloggers are asked to answer the same question. I participated in the third blogger panel on representation of science in science fiction along with Nara from Looking for the Panacea, Kayla from The Thousand Lives, Lina from Every Book a World, and Jorie from Jorie Loves a Story. Here’s the question we were asked to answer:

 

How do you feel about the representation of science in science fiction? Does it ever bother you when it’s portrayed as ‘evil’?

Our thoughts on this are at Oh the Books!

The first two blogger panels were on defining sci-fi and scientific knowledge. The fourth blogger panel on how panelists got into the genre will go up at Rinn Reads on Friday.

Sci-Fi November

Today’s post for Sci-Fi Month is by fantasy and science fiction author Martha Wells. She’s written the Nebula-nominated novel The Death of the Necromancer, Wheel of the Infinite, Star Wars: Razor’s Edge, Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary, Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement, and much more. My introduction to her work was the first of the Books of the Raksura, The Cloud Roads, and I was immediately drawn in by the story of Moon, a young shapeshifter separated from the rest of his people. The Raksura society is fascinating, the characters are interesting and likable, and the books are difficult to put down! My favorite is the third book, The Siren Depths, but I haven’t yet read her latest book about the Raksura, the recently-released Stories of the Raksura: Volume One. As a fan of her books, I’m thrilled she’s here today to recommend some older science fiction books!

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells Star Wars: Razor's Edge by Martha Wells Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary by Martha Wells

For SF month I wanted to recommend some older SF, a few books that were a big influence on me.

Zelde M'Tana by F.M. Busby
Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee
(Omnibus Edition)

Zelde M’tana by F.M. Busby was published in 1980.  It’s set in the future, and is the story of Zelde, the daughter of a diplomat from an African country.  She is orphaned when the repressive corporation that now acts as the government for a large portion of earth has her family imprisoned.  Zelde escapes, grows up in a street gang, is captured and shipped out on a spaceship as slave labor, helps the crew mutiny and becomes a space pirate, and eventually captain of the ship.  I read this when I was sixteen, and was probably way too young for it.  It’s gritty and raw, it depicts sexual violence, as well as every other kind of violence.  But as a kid who had been told all her life that girls just can’t be fighters, can’t captain spaceships, can’t do this, can’t do that, just can’t, it was important to me to read a book where they could.  Maybe it was even more important that it was written by a man, and he clearly thought girls could too.

Don’t Bite the Sun/Drinking Sapphire Wine by Tanith Lee, was published in 1976-1977.  These two short novels work best when read as one long work.  They’re set in the far future, among a culture of pleasure-seeking gender-switching young adults in a utopian society on what seems at first to be a deserted, dying world. Their technology allows people who are killed (or who commit suicide) to be instantly restored, so there are nearly no consequences to their actions, and the narrator’s peer group is mostly interested in sex and causing trouble.  The narrator starts to search for meaning, or at least something meaningful to do, and begins to discover just how repressive her society is.  In the second book she ends up exiled outside the domes, and is startled to realize she can actually build a life there.  These books are funny and touching, and the narrator is deeply sympathetic, despite the strangeness of life in her world.

A Judgment of Dragons by Phyllis Gotlieb
Mirabile by Janet Kagan

A Judgment of Dragons, by Phyllis Gotlieb, was published in 1980.  The book is a collection of related stories from the perspective of two cat-like aliens who have become agents for a galactic federation.  I absolutely loved these stories, and I know they were a big influence on my writing, and on trying to write from an alien perspective.  In the first story, the characters accidentally time travel back to 19th century earth and have to prevent a pogrom against the Jewish residents of a Polish village that has fallen under an alien influence.  In later stories there’s a murder mystery, and a visit to the main characters’ home planet.  All the stories explore the differences between alien and human culture, and they’re engaging and gripping stories.

Mirabile by Janet Kagan, published in 1992 is another series of linked stories.  It’s about the descendants of a terraforming colony ship, who successfully managed to land and settle on an alien planet, but accidents while in transit have disrupted their terraforming database.  This has resulted in occasional bizarre genetic mutations of plants and animals, sometimes harmless and sometimes dangerous.  The main character is a woman who is in charge of the response group who deals with the mutations, and the stories are basically problem-solving mysteries dealing with genetics and biology.  This is one of those books that you read and then run out looking for the rest of the series, and are disappointed to find out that this is it.  I think it would be a great book for anybody, in particular a YA audience.