Today I am pleased to have a brief interview with fantasy author K. J. Parker, whose books include the Engineer trilogy, The Folding Knife, and The Hammer. Sharps, K. J. Parker’s newest book, is out this week. Since I really enjoyed The Folding Knife, I was excited to have the opportunity to read Sharps a little early and ask the author a few questions about it. I also enjoyed Sharps because of the intelligent themes and well-written conversations and dialogue touched by a rather dark sense of humor (my review). Hope you enjoy the interview!

Sharps by K. J. Parker

Fantasy Cafe: Sharps is set in a world other than our own but does not have a lot of typical fantasy elements or magic. The same can be said for the other book of yours I have read, The Folding Knife. What draws you to writing these types of books and why do you choose to create your own world rather than writing historical fiction?

K. J. Parker: If you write historical fiction, you’re horribly constrained by what actually happened. I’m not sure I could handle that; I’d want the Teutonic Knights to make mincemeat of Alexander Nevski and the Zulus to win at Ulundi, because the consequences would be so much more interesting to write about. I guess what I write is a sort of synthetic history; fiction made with history, the same way supermarket own-brand sausages are made with meat; just enough to make it taste right. I borrow heavily from history – names, aspects of cultures and civilizations, incidents from the lives of real people – but I need to be in control of the story, the driver rather than a passenger.

FC: One thing that really impressed me about Sharps was the realistic setting with its cultures, politics, and religions. It’s definitely not the same as our world, yet it’s also not completely unfamiliar or difficult to grasp. How do you approach creating cultures, politics, and religions? What fundamental principles that you’ve observed do you keep in mind when developing these?

KJP: There are two ways of doing fantasy; the WETA Workshops technique, or CGI. The CGI approach means you can have dragons, elves, any effect you want so long as it’s amazing to look at. The WETA Workshops approach, as exemplified in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings, is to have each prop, each cup, shoe, sword, stirrup-iron, handmade by craftsmen. The average movie-goer probably doesn’t consciously notice the stitching on the shoe or the way the light plays on the glaze of the hand-thrown plate; the effect is mostly subliminal, but it builds up to give an impression of authenticity, which in turn engenders belief, which is what the creator of fantasy would sell her grandmother to the dogmeat company to obtain. You don’t get belief with the CGI approach, which appeals to the imagination but has difficulty in getting the audience to sympathise and empathise with the characters. I guess it’s a question of what you want to achieve. In my case, give me D W Griffiths over Batman Returns any day.

FC: You have quite a few books published, including both stand alone books and series. Where do you recommend readers new to your work begin?

KJP: On the strict understanding that you’ll go back and buy the earlier ones (buy them; you don’t have to read them), start with the Engineer trilogy and then follow on chronologically.

Read more interviews with K. J. Parker:

Read an Excerpt from Sharps

Sharps is the latest book by K. J. Parker, who has written a great number of fantasy books including the Engineer trilogy and The Folding Knife. This is a stand alone book so you can read it even if you have never read a book by K. J. Parker before.

Since Sharps is a book with some mystery surrounding it that is best read without knowing too much about the plot, I’m going to keep this one short. As can be gleaned from the title and cover, it is a book in which sword-fighting plays an important role. Four men and one woman from Scheria are either blackmailed or bought into joining a fencing team that travels to Permia, a neighboring country. Permia and Scheria haven’t always been on the best of terms, but the Scherians would like to make an effort to endear themselves to the people. Can these five survive without causing a diplomatic incident?

When it comes to reviewing a book, I quite often mentally argue with myself between two things – how much I feel I should have liked it and how much I actually liked it. Sometimes there is a part of me that thinks a book is wonderful yet I don’t quite connect with it. Other times I enjoy a book immensely yet feel like maybe I shouldn’t have liked it as much as I did. At times, I reread a book when reviewing and change my mind completely about my initial impressions.

Sharps is one of those books I’m having trouble reviewing for those reasons. While I was reading it, I was carried along by the witty dialogue and writing, although toward the end I did find my enthusiasm waning a bit from where it once was. There are some intelligent, sharp observations in this book that I really appreciated and enjoyed reading. Yet, after reflecting on it and rereading a bit of it, I’m finding I think it relied too much on dialogue and observation and did not spend enough time on plot or characterization to be truly phenomenal.

What impressed me the most about Sharps was the intelligent writing, conversations, and dialogue that are touched by a rather dark sense of humor. The way it was written at times made me laugh, and I found some of the situations characters got themselves into and how these scenes were written quite entertaining. There were some great themes about history and some of the statements that came up about human nature throughout the story were quite interesting. Parker has a definite gift for writing darkly humorous scenes and conversations that keeps this book very readable.

Another aspect of Sharps I enjoyed was the world, which is pseudo-historical. It’s certainly a made-up setting, but there are no fantastical elements to be seen making it almost seem more like historical fiction even though it is not. I love reading about magic, but sometimes it is nice to take a break from it and get lost in a world with its own unique cultures that still seems familiar in a lot of ways. Although it has its own cultures, religions, food, and arts that flesh it out as a place separate from earth, there’s no exposition necessary to understand the basics of how the world works. It has its own cultural differences and political clashes, but they’re pretty straightforward. The world has its own unique aspects without seeming completely unfamiliar and alien. Sometimes it’s a nice change of pace to read fantasy where magic isn’t a means of power and characters have to survive based on their wits and abilities just like everyone else.

When it comes to the plot, I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it did keep me interested for the most part and it had a sort of mystery that made me curious about the outcome. On the other hand, there were quite a few times when I felt like not much had actually happened considering the number of pages I’d read. For awhile, the dialogue and writing were enough to make me look past this, but there were times when I wanted more to actually happen. There is a lot of traveling and talking with a few fencing matches here and there, and there were some interesting developments toward the end, although I did find the answer to which person was involved rather predictable, even if not the overall result.

While I often enjoy books that have a lot of dialogue and conversations between characters, I do want to see it contributing to plot advancement or fleshing out the characters. In this particular case, I ended up feeling like the characters had more style over substance. They said things that sounded good and served as sharp-witted foils for each other, but they seemed more like conduits for the dialogue than real, three-dimensional people with distinct personalities. The characters seemed to exist to serve the story instead of being a natural part of it. That’s not to say I minded the darkness or the ruthlessness of many of the characters; I just would have preferred to know more about them as people than I did. It’s obvious it had to be this way to an extent for this book to work, given that there was a bit of a mystery involving one of the main characters and each had his or her own perspective. Yet there wasn’t quite enough of a human element for me personally with this distance.

In addition, there were a lot of character perspectives and a few of the transitions felt clunky. Some of that may be due in part to the fact that I did not read a finished copy since there was one spot where it really suddenly changed perspectives two paragraphs down in the same section. However, there were a lot of somewhat short sections dedicated to one character before switching to another. While I enjoyed getting the different perspectives, I also thought it switched too quickly between them at times and this could get tedious.

From all this, it probably sounds like I didn’t like Sharps, but it’s really more of a case of it didn’t amaze me or live up to my expectations. Considering I really enjoyed K. J. Parker’s The Folding Knife, I had high hopes for this one. However, it’s been a couple of weeks since I read Sharps now and what I’ve found is that it’s less memorable than I originally thought when I read it. While it was an entertaining story with some fantastic dialogue and humor, the story or characterization that would have set it apart as something special for me were buried under all the cleverness.

My Rating: 7/10

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

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews of Sharps:

I’ve been debating whether or not to do one of these posts since I haven’t read as many books as this point in the year as I normally have. After thinking about it, I decided to just do a condensed version containing the two books that I think stand out from all the rest, plus one honorable mention.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

My #1 spot belongs to The Killing Moon, the first book in The Dreamblood duology by N. K. Jemisin. The writing, worldbuilding, story, and characters were all excellent, and it’s my favorite of N. K. Jemisin’s books so far. (Review)

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

The #2 spot goes to Range of Ghosts, the first book in the Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear. While the writing styles are very different, this novel and The Killing Moon actually remind me a little bit of each other, mostly in that they have very vivid world-building and are set in a non-European fantasy world. (Review)

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Honorable mention goes to Discount Armageddon, the first InCryptid book by Seanan McGuire. This is great fun and might end up being urban fantasy series #4 that I must keep up with. (Review)

These books are all by authors I already loved so one thing I’ve been trying to do lately is find more books by new-to-me authors to enjoy. Not that I haven’t found any at all this year since I discovered a couple of books published before this year by new-to-me authors I liked (Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara, which is my favorite book not published this year, and Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal). Yet I haven’t had a lot of luck with discovering new to me authors this year, even though I’ve been trying to lately. In a pile of books by new-to-me authors I still need to write about I have one I thought wasn’t bad but wasn’t really all that great, one I didn’t like, and one I couldn’t finish. So I am hoping by the year’s end I’ll have some more books on the list by authors I wasn’t already a fan of! (I also need to read more science fiction. I’ve only read one SF book this year.)

What are your favorite books you’ve read so far this year?

 

Range of Ghosts is the first book in Eternal Sky, an epic fantasy trilogy by Elizabeth Bear. It was just released a couple of months ago in both hardcover and ebook. The next book, Shattered Pillars, is scheduled for release in March 2013.

After the death of the ruling Khagan, a bloody battle for succession has been reduced to two main contenders: the former Khagan’s brother Qori Buqa and Temur, a nephew who inherited his claim to the throne when Qori Buqa killed his brother. Following a battle he barely survives, Temur is woken by a horse he names Bansh and rides south to hide among clans where he will be safer from his uncle’s assassins. Though he manages to blend in with the clans, he and his uncle both know that the other survives since their moons still show in the Eternal Sky, so the hunt continues. Eventually, Temur’s camp is attacked and a young woman he has befriended, Edene, is captured.  Temur determines to get her back and leaves the very next day to try to find her.

In the meantime, the Once-Princess Samarkar of Rasan is undergoing the arduous process of becoming a wizard. In order to even have a chance of gaining magic, she had her ability to have children surgically removed. It is a dangerous procedure for a woman, and there is no guarantee that there will be results even if she manages to survive it. Regardless, even if it is unsuccessful, she will join the wizard caste and leave her life as a princess behind forever. While this lowers her chance of getting involved in the kind of succession battle that threatens Temur’s life, it significantly raises the chance of nasty encounters with undead cults.

Range of Ghosts was one of my most anticipated books of 2012. For one, Elizabeth Bear is one of my favorite authors because of her lovely writing and intelligently crafted stories full of myth and wonder. Also, the way she described it in an interview I did with her in 2011 made me desperately want to read it. It did not disappoint, and I actually think Range of Ghosts is even a little better than my previous favorite book by Elizabeth Bear, The Sea Thy Mistress.

Range of Ghosts is an immersive fantasy book, one that so vividly portrays the world and characters that they come to life. I love that life here is not sugar-coated and shows the harsh reality of those vying for and trying to preserve power. From the opening scene with Temur struggling to keep himself going after the battle in which his brother was killed, Bear’s characters learn that glory is not as common as mud and blood. Similarly, Samarkar’s first appearance evoked the same sort of emotions as it showed the lengths she went to for even the chance to gain magic. The risks she took, both in body and in the life she will now have to live, are heartbreaking:

 

She had chosen to trade barrenness and the risk of death for the chance of strength. Real strength, her own. Not the mirror-caught power her father, his widow, her half brothers, or her dead husband might have happened to shine her way.

It seemed but a small sacrifice. [pp. 38]

Range of Ghosts is set in a world packed with myth and history, but unlike many doorstopper fantasy books Bear’s skill allows her to create this world in a short, beautifully written tale. I loved how Samarkar and Temur both came from distinct cultures with palpably different histories, yet their stories still manage to mirror each other and create interesting parallels. Rasan’s princesses were not helpless but sturdy and determined, doing what they have to do to survive without complaining. They were not spoiled royalty, and Temur’s history has taught him to respect such powerful individuals.

The princesses, like many of the people in this story, had prescribed roles within their culture. But one thing that I consistently see in Bear’s books is that the characters are not defined only by those roles. Nor are they are defined by a single overriding characteristic, but it is clear that they all have a purpose and will that goes beyond the lot they are handed. Samarkar is shown with a bit of a ruthless streak, and Temur is filled with grief, but neither of them are limited to those qualities as they are drawn as fully three dimensional people.  And Bansh was the best horse ever.

Magic in this world was given an intriguing twist as well. Rather than being the ultimate weapon that unbalances every battle, most wizards never attain any kind of great power and even tiny amounts require huge sacrifice.  Some wizards never gain any magic at all, which just makes them more interesting.  They are not viewed as failures and sent away, but instead become scholars or teachers and continue on in the order.  Many people on the outside never even know which wizards have true magic and which do not.  It is a practical, real-world tool for solving problems, and advanced knowledge can often be used to solve problems just as much as mystical arts.  Wizards are not the only users of magic in this world, though, and when other forms of it show up they can be properly epic in scope.

Range of Ghosts has a well-developed setting that makes you feel like you’re there with all the little touches filled with details you can sink your teeth into. It also has realistic and well-developed characters and beautiful prose. It may seem to move a little slowly on occasion largely because it seems to be setting up the rest of the trilogy, but it is a fantastic book and I’m looking forward to the next one.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher. (I also received an e-ARC from the author, but I read the finished copy when it showed up in the mail.)

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews:

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. 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.

Sorry it’s been so quiet here lately. I had no Internet at home for a couple of days and I was sick for about a week and a half and only really started feeling normal again Friday. This weekend I’ve been working on a review of Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear so I’m hoping to (finally!) get that up sometime over this next week. Since I have 4 more books to write about after that, I’m reading a very long book while I try to get caught up!

This week brought 1 ARC and 2 review copies, and I also bought one book the week before that I didn’t end up writing about with being really sick last weekend.

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

Although its official release date is July 10th, this already seems to be available in some places. House of Shadows can be read as an ebook or trade paperback. The only excerpt I could find is the preview on Amazon.

While Rachel Neumeier has written some young adult fantasy, this one is not considered YA. It is a stand alone, although the author does say on her website that she has an idea for a sequel.

Right now, there is a chance for US residents to win a copy on Goodreads.

I have been interested in reading one of Rachel Neumeier’s books for a long time and I really like the sound of this one. Of course, that means when the author contacted me about participating in her blog tour, I eagerly accepted. You can expect a review of this one in August or September as part of the blog tour.

Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.

Sweet and proper, Karah’s future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life… if she agrees to play their game.

Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage’s offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I missed this one at BEA because N. K. Jemisin’s signing was at the same time, but I bought a copy. A science fiction retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion sounded pretty intriguing, and I have been hearing over and over again how good it is.

This young adult novel was recently released in hardcover and ebook. An excerpt from For Darkness Shows the Stars is available on the publisher’s website. A prequel entitled “Among the Nameless Stars” can be read online for free. It’s about Kai and takes place 4 years before the novel.

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, “For Darkness Shows the Stars” is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Fate by L. R. Fredericks

Fate by L. R. Fredericks

Fate will be released in the UK on July 5 in hardcover and ebook. The prologue and first chapter are on the author’s website.

I actually hadn’t heard of this book or author before it showed up the other day, but it sounds like it could be interesting. This is the second book in the Time and Light series following Farundell. Fate is supposed to stand alone and only be loosely related to the first book, though. Neither of these books appear to be available in the US.

FATE is the story of Lord Francis Damory’s quest for the elixir of immortality. Set against the magnificent background of the eighteenth century where science and magic, death and beauty meet in the gilded salons of the decadent nobility and the brothels and debtors’ prisons of London, Francis tells of his many love affairs and his deadly duels, his encounters with courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists, Rosicrucians, visionaries, monsters, charlatans, spies and assassins. His travels take him through France, across the Alpine passes to Venice and the pirate-infested Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, Cyprus and distant, exotic Constantinople on the trail of his mysterious ancestor Tobias who might - just possibly - still be alive.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

This stand alone companion novel to Sisters Red and Sweetly will be released in September (hardcover and ebook). According to the press release I received with the book, it is “a dark, modern reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid.’” I love fairy tale retellings, especially if they keep the darkness from the original so I’m a bit curious about this young adult book. After reading the first couple of pages, I’m not sure if the writing style with so many sentence fragments will work for me. I should probably try to give it more of a chance than 2 pages, though!

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant — until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn’t know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea — a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid — all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she’s becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she’s tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude’s affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.

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. 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.

This week I’m catching up since I missed a couple of these due to BEA. There are two books I bought at my local bookstore, two ARCs, and one review copy here. Only one of these books is actually one that came in over the last week, but next week should be back on schedule. (And now that I’m caught up on BEA posts, I’m hoping to write about some of the books I’ve read piling up next to me.)

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott

The Golden Key by Kate Elliott, Melanie Rawn, and Jennifer Roberson

The Golden Key was a World Fantasy Award finalist in 1996, and after reading the Spirit Walker books I now want to read every book with Kate Elliott’s name on it. A large part of the reason I picked this up now was because it had been on my out of print book wish list, but it appears that this was a recent reprint to go with the recent release of The Diviner, a prequel written by Melanie Rawn. (According to my copy of this book, it’s a sequel, but Rawn’s site and reviews both indicate The Diviner is a prequel so I’m going with that.)

The Golden Key is available in mass market paperback and some ebook formats (I found an ePub version but not a Kindle one).

It sounds like it was a lot of fun for the authors to write, and I’m particularly intrigued by this description on what appears to be Kate Elliott’s old website:

 

We decided early on the focus would be on painting, and on a particularly gifted artist’s peculiar journey from apprentice to master to . . . sociopath.

Goodreads has a link to Google Preview below the book cover that allows you to read some of the book from the beginning.

In Tira Virte, art is prized for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriages to treaties. Yet not even the Grand Duke knows how extraordinary the Grijalva family’s art is, for certain Grijalva males are born with the ability to alter events and influence people in the real world through that they paint. Always, their power has been used for Tira Virte. But now Sario Grijalva has learned to use his Gift in a whole new way. And when he begins to work his magic both the Grijalvas and Tira Virte may pay the price.

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett

Ariel (Change #1) by Steven R. Boyett

I came across Ariel when browsing the bookstore and couldn’t resist getting it after reading about it in N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to the Women in SF&F event. Unfortunately, the more recent edition no longer has a cover that defies gender expectations but has a sort of typical cover depicting a boy with a sword and a burning city in the background. No unicorn is in sight even though her name is the title of the book. There is an author’s note and an afterword in this new edition.

Even though Ariel was released almost 30 years ago, a sequel titled Elegy Beach was released just 3 years ago. Ariel is available in mass market paperback, ebook, and audiobook. You can both read samples online and listen to samples online.

It’s been five years since the lights went out, cars stopped in the streets, and magical creatures began roaming Earth.

Pete Garey survived the Change, trusting no one but himself until the day he met Ariel, a unicorn who brought new meaning and adventure to his life.

America Pacifica by Anna North

America Pacifica by Anna North

This is the paperback release of a debut dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel from last year. I somehow missed this book until it showed up in my mailbox (probably because I don’t read a lot of these types of novels). After adding to Goodreads I saw some of my friends on that site really liked it and I started to get curious about it. Here are a couple of reviews:

I was also intrigued by this article about it, “Feminism and Science Fiction Meet in Anna North’s America Pacifica.”

America Pacifica is available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook. An excerpt from chapter two can be read on io9.com.

Eighteen-year-old Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica–one of the last places on earth that is still habitable, after North America has succumbed to a second ice age. Education, food, and basic means of survival are the province of a chosen few, while the majority of the island residents must struggle to stay alive. The rich live in “Manhattanville” mansions made from the last pieces of wood and stone, while the poor cower in the shantytown slums of “Hell City” and “Little Los Angeles,” places built out of heaped up trash that is slowly crumbling into the sea. The island is ruled by a mysterious dictator named Tyson, whose regime is plagued by charges of corruption and conspiracy.

But to Darcy, America Pacifica is simply home–the only one she’s ever known. In spite of their poverty she lives contentedly with her mother, who works as a pearl diver. It’s only when her mother doesn’t come home one night that Darcy begins to learn about her past as a former “Mainlander,” and her mother’s role in the flight from frozen California to America Pacifica. Darcy embarks on a quest to find her mother, navigating the dark underbelly of the island, learning along the way the disturbing truth of Pacifica’s early history, the far-reaching influence of its egomaniacal leader, and the possible plot to murder some of the island’s first inhabitants–including her mother.

Rift by Andrea Cremer

Rift by Andrea Cremer

This prequel to the Nightshade trilogy will be released in August in hardcover and ebook formats. I haven’t read the Nightshade trilogy so I don’t know much about it other than that it and the prequel are young adult. More information about both Rift and the Nightshade series, including some excerpts, can be found on nightshadebook.com.

Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer’s internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!

Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother’s life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.

With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

This sequel to The Last Page will be released in hardcover and ebook in August. A lot of people loved The Last Page, but I couldn’t even finish it.

An excerpt from Black Bottle is available on Tor.com.

Tabloids sold in the Duchy of Stonehold claim that the High King, Caliph Howl, has been raised from the dead. His consort, Sena Iilool, both blamed and celebrated for this act, finds that a macabre cult has sprung up around her.

As this news spreads, Stonehold—long considered unimportant—comes to the attention of the emperors in the southern countries. They have learned that the seed of Sena’s immense power lies in an occult book, and they are eager to claim it for their own.

Desparate to protect his people from the southern threat, Caliph is drawn into a summit of the world’s leaders despite the knowledge that it is a trap. As Sena’s bizarre actions threaten to unravel the summit, Caliph watches her slip through his fingers into madness.

But is it really madness? Sena is playing a dangerous game of strategy and deceit as she attempts to outwit a force that has spent millennia preparing for this day. Caliph is the only connection left to her former life, but it’s his blood that Sena needs to see her plans through to their explosive finish.

Dark and rich, epic in scope, Anthony Huso has crafted a fantasy like no other, teeming with unthinkable horrors and stylish wonders.