The giveaway for 1 copy of The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman is over, and a winner has been drawn. The winner is:

Memory

Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy the book!

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. 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.

Fade To Black by Francis Knight

Fade to Black (Rojan Dizon #1) by Francis Knight

This debut novel will be released in February 2013. The US release date is February 26th, and it will be released in trade paperback and ebook.

Here’s what the author has to say about it on her website (linked to above since this is right on the home page of her website):

 

Suffice to say the noirish trilogy features a cynical, snarky main character, a femme fatale and lots of rain. Oh and magic, yes, that too. Not very nice magic, it has to be said.

I really like the sound of the characters, the layered city, and the not very nice magic, so I’m quite curious about this one!

Mahala: a city built in the dark depths of a valley. A city built up in layers, not across – where streets are built upon streets, buildings balance precariously upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from its lofty perch at the sunlit summit & where the forsaken lurk in the shadowy depths of the Pit.

Rojan is a bounty hunter trying to make his way in the city. Everyone knows he’s a womaniser, a shirker of all responsibility, but they don’t know he’s also a pain-mage: able to draw magic from his own & other people’s pain. He’s not keen on using it (not least because it’s outlawed), but when his niece is abducted and taken to the dark depths of the Pit, he may just be forced to unleash his power . . .

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

The Daylight War (The Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett

The Daylight War will be on sale in hardcover and ebook on February 12, 2013. It follows The Warded Man (titled The Painted Man in the UK) and The Desert Spear. This is not the end of the series, which will have five books total.

Excerpts from the first two books are available:

  1. The Warded Man
  2. The Desert Spear

With The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett surged to the front rank of contemporary fantasy, standing alongside giants in the field like George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Brooks. The Daylight War, the eagerly anticipated third volume in Brett’s internationally bestselling Demon Cycle, continues the epic tale of humanity’s last stand against an army of demons that rise each night to prey on mankind.

On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead him to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.

The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.

But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.

Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.

The Hydrogen Sonata
by Iain M. Banks
528pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.79/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.98/5
 

The Hydrogen Sonata is the tenth Culture book by Iain M.Banks, joining the ranks of eight other novels and one short story collection. This latest Culture novel was just released this year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first Culture novel.

This is one of those series that often leaves new readers confused about where to start, but each book is supposed to stand alone very well. The entire list of Culture books in publication order can be found on the author’s website (it’s at the very bottom of the page). Many people do recommend beginning with a book other than the first published, Consider Phlebas, since it’s generally not considered to be as good as the other books, and The Player of Games is often recommended as a decent place to start. This is where I started, but I’d suggest checking out this helpful overview of the series on Kirkus, which includes a general description for each book with the recommendation to just pick one that sounds interesting and start reading.

The Gzilt people are counting down they days until they will Sublime, leaving the Real behind and transcending to a new state of existence. With only twenty-three days remaining until the big event, Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont continues to attempt to complete her life task in the time that remains. Vyr’s chosen achievement is playing an extremely difficult piece of music perfectly from start to finish. T. C. Vilabier’s 26th String-Specific Sonata for an Instrument Yet To Be Invented, otherwise known as “The Hydrogen Sonata,” requires four arms to play properly on the instrument that was eventually invented for it—and is renowned both for its near impossibility to play and its rather unpleasant sound.

During one of her practice sessions, Vyr is visited by Commissar-Colonel Etalde, who informs her that she is being recommissioned for an emergency so secret he doesn’t even know what it is. Once she arrives at their destination and is briefed, Vyr learns that a visiting ship had a confession to share before the Gzilt left the Real behind: the Gzilt have been lied to and much of what they believed is not true. This message mentioned that a man by the name of QiRia would be able to verify its claim to be true. QiRia is quite possibly the oldest man alive at over nine thousand years old, and he was present for both the formation of the Culture and the Gzilt’s sudden decision not to join the Culture. Vyr met and befriended QiRia when she was an exchange student and was even given a copy of his mind state, though it’s no longer in her possession. Now she, her familiar Pyan, and an android who thinks it’s in a simulation are sent on a dangerous mission to discover what QiRia knows about the past of the Gzilt people, while some Culture Minds are doing some investigating of their own.

Banks has a very engaging writing style, and he has developed a fascinating universe in the Culture books. The Hydrogen Sonata is lighter (er, not literally, since it’s a bigger book) and less thoughtful than either of the other Culture books I have read, The Player of Games and Use of Weapons. While I preferred these other two books to The Hydrogen Sonata, it is also very enjoyable and reminded me that I need to read more of the Culture books.

The first 100 – 150 pages of The Hydrogen Sonata were fantastic. The opening chapter describing the confrontation between the Gzilt ship and the alien ship bearing unfortunate news to the Gzilt was very intriguing, and I very much enjoy Banks’s writing style imbued with a sharp, intelligent sense of humor and images such as these:

 

The Gzilt ship dwarfed the alien one; it looked like a thousand dark broadswords gathered into a god’s fist and brandished at the skies. [pp. 2]

At times, there is a tendency toward overlong sentences; for instance, the sentence immediately after that is about 8 lines long and there were a few others I had to stop and read a couple of times due to their length. There were also quite a bit of infodumps, but this is a case where they did not bother me in the least. In fact, these were some of my favorite parts of the book since I found the details of the Gzilt civilization and their religious book, other civilizations, Subliming, and the Simming Problem fascinating. The Culture books have grand science fiction ideas, and I love how they show the vastness of space and possible societies. The ones in this particular book are not necessarily original science fiction ideas with the hodge-podge of AIs, downloadable people who can live on once the body has died, and ship avatars, but they’re still very compelling and fleshed out well, particularly when combined with the inner workings of the different people involved.

The Gzilt society and their problem was a great setup. I found myself really eager to see where it all went and a little disappointed with the middle section of the book, which often seemed rather unfocused to me. First of all, the book bounced around from character to character a lot. Vyr, various Culture Minds, a Gzilt government official, QiRia’s former lover Tefwe, and more receive some focus in the book. This allowed for some interesting insights, but there were a couple of viewpoints that seemed at least somewhat unnecessary (or at the very least like they could have been shorter). The second problem was that the search for QiRia dragged on for so long that I did find myself often just wishing SOMEBODY would just find him already so I could find out what was going on. Vyr’s frequent flashbacks to conversations with him were really interesting, and I just wanted to meet him and find out what he knew instead of spending so much time reading about people trying to figure out what he knew.

Toward the end was very action-packed and exciting, but the conclusion seemed a bit hastily explained and was a bit of a letdown since not much was learned that hadn’t already been speculated about. After so many pages were spent on the importance of QiRia’s information, I was expecting to discover much bigger and better things by the end than were in fact revealed.

That probably makes it sound like I didn’t like this book very much, but that’s very far from the truth. Books can be weird. Sometimes I read one that I can’t see many flaws with, but it doesn’t gel with me for some reason. Other times, I read books I think are flawed, yet I still really enjoy reading them. The Hydrogen Sonata falls into the latter category. Despite the meandering plot and lackluster resolution, the writing, the frequent amusing lines and dialogue, and the details of the universe kept me turning the pages. While I do think the other two Culture books I’ve read are better, I still finished this book feeling like it was time well spent.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.

Read Chapter One

Interview with Iain M. Banks

Other Reviews of The Hydrogen Sonata:

Reviews of Other Culture Books:

Today I am giving away one copy of The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman, the sequel to The Half-Made World. I haven’t read either of these books yet, but I’ve heard they are excellent!

About The Rise of Ransom City:

The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman

This is the story of Harry Ransom. If you know his name it’s most likely as the inventor of the Ransom Process, a stroke of genius that changed the world.

Or you may have read about how he lost the battle of Jasper City, or won it, depending on where you stand in matters of politics.

Friends called him Hal or Harry, or by one of a half-dozen aliases, of which he had more than any honest man should. He often went by Professor Harry Ransom, and though he never had anything you might call a formal education, he definitely earned it.

If you’re reading this in the future, Ransom City must be a great and glittering metropolis by now, with a big bronze statue of Harry Ransom in a park somewhere. You might be standing on its sidewalk and not wonder in the least of how it grew to its current glory. Well, here is its story, full of adventure and intrigue. And it all starts with the day that old Harry Ransom crossed paths with Liv Alverhyusen and John Creedmoor, two fugitives running from the Line, amidst a war with no end.

Read an Excerpt from The Rise of Ransom City

To learn more about the author and his work, visit Felix Gilman’s website. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Ransom City.” One entry per person and a winner will be randomly selected. Only those with a mailing address in the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, December 7. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: The form has been removed now that the giveaway is over.

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. 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.

Hope everyone who celebrates it had a Happy Thanksgiving! Due to the holiday week, I didn’t have much time to do blogging during the last week in the evenings after work, but I’m hoping to start getting caught up this week. I’m currently working on a review of The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks (which I enjoyed even if it’s not my favorite Culture book I’ve read), and I also need to review Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. For reading, I just started The Siren Depths, the third Raksura book by Martha Wells, and am loving it (no surprise there since I loved the first two).

This was a great week for books since I bought a few, including a couple that I’ve been eager to read for awhile that were just released. There were also a couple of ARCs and a review copy that showed up that were quite a pleasant surprise – all of them are books I REALLY want to read! The only problem is that I want to read all of these right now (or the first book in the series in one case).

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

This science fiction novel is the second novel by Karen Lord, whose debut novel Redemption in Indigo was very well received. It was nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and it won the Frank Collymore Literary Award, the William L. Crawford Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. Karen Lord was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The Best of All Possible Worlds will be released in hardcover and ebook in February 2013, and there will be a second book published in 2014.

I’m very excited about reading this one. Not only is the author supposed to be fantastic, but the book itself sounds very intriguing:

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

Bard's Oath by Joanne Bertin

Bard’s Oath (Dragonlord #3) by Joanne Bertin

(The above image is not the final version of the hardcover, which doesn’t seem to be available online yet.)

Bard’s Oath will be released in hardcover and ebook on November 27. This is the conclusion to the series, following The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix, respectively. The second of these books was released over 10 years ago and the print versions of these books seem to be out of print, though they are available as ebooks.

There is an excerpt from Bard’s Oath on the publisher’s website.

The first two books in this series were actually among the first fantasy books I read when I started reading fantasy and science fiction. I enjoyed them a lot and used to search frequently for news about Bard’s Oath and its release date. After no news for a long time, I’d forgotten about it, but I am thrilled that it’s available this year! I’m also pleased that there are a few pages in the front of the book about the story so far since it has been so long since I read them that I don’t remember much about them (and I borrowed them so I don’t even have copies to refer to).

In The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix Joanne Bertin created a world unlike our own, where Dragonlords soar in the skies above the many realms of the land. The Dragonlords’ magic is unique, giving them the ability to change from dragon to human form; to communicate silently among themselves; and other abilities not known to mortals.

For many millennia, the Dragonlords have been a blessing to the world, with their great magic and awesome power. And though they live far longer than the humans who they resemble when not in their draconic state, these fabled changelings are still loyal to their human friends. Now in Bard’s Oath, their magic is not the only power abroad in the world. And not all the magic is as benign as theirs.

Leet, a master bard of great ability and vaulting ambition, has his own magic, but of a much darker nature. Years ago, death claimed the woman he loved, setting him on a course to avenge her death, no matter the consequences. Now, mad with hatred and consumed by his thirst for revenge, Leet has set in motion a nefarious plot that ensnares the friend of a Dragonlord, using his bardic skills . . . and dark powers only he can summon, to accomplish his bitter task.

Raven, a young horse-breeder friend of the Dragonloard Linden Rathan, is ensnared by Leet and under the bard’s spell, is one of the bard’s unwitting catspaws. When accused of a heinous crime, Raven turns to Linden, and while Dragonlords normally do not meddle in human affairs, Linden comes to Raven’s aid, loath to abandon him in his time of desperate need.

But Raven, and others victimized by Leet, are at the mercy of human justice. Can even a Dragonlord save them from a dire fate before it is too late?

Blood's Pride by Evie Manieri

Blood’s Pride (Shattered Kingdoms #1) by Evie Manieri

This fantasy debut novel will be released in hardcover in February 2013 in the US. This title, the first book in a trilogy, was released in the UK earlier this year.

There is an excerpt from Blood’s Pride available on the author’s website.

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.

Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

This thrilling new epic fantasy is set in a quasi-Medieval Mediterranean region, drawing together the warrior culture of Vikings, the wanderlust of desert nomads, and the oracles of ancient Greece. Blood’s Pride is an intricate, lush book full of taut action, gut-wrenching betrayal, and soaring romance.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

This slim YA book is now out of print, but I heard it was a good one and snatched up a new copy I found online for only $5. Ever since reading Patricia McKillip’s short story collection, Wonders of the Invisible World, I’ve been frantically adding her books to my wish list. I must read them all!

There was a review of The Changeling Sea at The Book Smugglers this week if you want to learn more about it – plus they are giving away a copy of this along with The Lost Conspiracy/Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson as part of The Ultimate Thanksgiving Giveaway! It’s also possible to read an excerpt from The Changeling Sea using the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.

Since the day her father’s fishing boat returned without him, Peri and her mother have mourned his loss. Her mother sinks into a deep depression and spends her days gazing out at the sea. Unable to control her anger and sadness any longer, Peri uses the small magic she knows to hex the sea. And suddenly into her drab life come the King’s sons-changelings with strange ties to the underwater kingdom-a young magician, and, finally, love.

The Daemon Prism by Carol Berg

The Daemon Prism (Collegia Magica #3) by Carol Berg

Since Carol Berg is one of my favorite authors I’m a bit ashamed to say I haven’t even read the first book in this most recent trilogy by her. I’m a bit of a stickler about having all the books in a series in a matching format so I made sure to get the trade paperback of this to go with the other two. And I had no qualms about getting the last book before even starting the first since I have yet to read a book by Carol Berg that I didn’t enjoy! (The Rai-kirah trilogy is my favorite, though, and I recommend Transformation, the first book in that trilogy, as a good place to start with her books.)

There is an excerpt from The Daemon Prism online, BUT it does contain spoilers for the first two books. The first two books in this trilogy are:

  1. The Spirit Lens (Read an Excerpt)
  2. The Soul Mirror (Read an Excerpt)

All the books in the series are available in trade paperback, ebook, and Audible audiobook formats. The first two are also available in mass market paperback with the third to follow suit on December 31, 2012.

“Thou’rt Fallen, Dante. Born in frost-cold blood; suckled on pain. Thy repentance was ever a lie…”

Dante the necromancer is the most reviled man in Sabria, indicted by the King, the Temple, and the Camarilla Magica for crimes against the living and the dead. Yet no judgment could be worse than his enemies’ cruel vengeance that left him crippled in body and mind. Dante seeks to salve pain and bitterness with a magical puzzle – a desperate soldier’s dream of an imprisoned enchantress and a faceted glass that can fill one’s uttermost desires.

But the dream is a seductive trap that ensnares Dante’s one-time partners and unlocks his own deepest fears. Haunted, blind, driven to the verges of the world, Dante risks eternal corruption and the loss of everything he values to unravel a mystery of ancient magic, sacred legend, and divine truth…

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors and I LOVED Daughter of Smoke and Bone so of course I had to get a hold of the sequel once it became available. Days of Blood & Starlight is now available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. The first seven chapters can be read online, but I wouldn’t recommend reading them if you haven’t read the first book! If you haven’t read the first book but are interested in the series, here is an excerpt from Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

The description below does contain spoilers for book one.

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura #3) by Martha Wells

The trade paperback version of this is shipping now, but the ebook won’t be available until the official release in December. There is an excerpt from The Siren Depths available on the author’s website and a chance to win a copy on Goodreads (for those living in US, CA, GB, AU, or NZ).

The first two books in this series are as follows:

  1. The Cloud Roads (My Review | Read an Excerpt)
  2. The Serpent Sea (My Review | Read an Excerpt)

The Kindle version of The Cloud Roads is only $1.99 right now.

I loved the first two books in this series so I purchased a copy of this immediately and started it soon after it arrived. I was glad to see there will be four Raksura novellas released as ebooks after this book. Right now I’m nearly halfway through The Siren Depths, and it makes me happy to know it won’t be the end of the time spent in this world with these characters (at least the first two novellas will be about the same characters).

All his life, Moon roamed the Three Worlds, a solitary wanderer forced to hide his true nature — until he was reunited with his own kind, the Raksura, and found a new life as consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud court. But now a rival court has laid claim to him, and Jade may or may not be willing to fight for him. Beset by doubts, Moon must travel in the company of strangers to a distant realm where he will finally face the forgotten secrets of his past, even as an old enemy returns with a vengeance. The Fell, a vicious race of shape-shifting predators, menaces groundlings and Raksura alike. Determined to crossbreed with the Raksura for arcane purposes, they are driven by an ancient voice that cries out from . . . .The siren depths.

The winners of the Shattered Sigil giveaway and The Shattered Dark giveaway have been drawn. They already know who they are, so this is just a heads up for anyone else who was wondering if winners had been selected for either of these giveaways yet.

The winner of the signed copies of The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer is:

Sue

The winner of The Shattered Dark by Sandy Williams is:

Lysette

Congratulations, and I hope you enjoy the books!

There will be a chance to win another book next week!