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Friday, September 29, 2017

The Difference Between Fantasy and Science Fiction by Julie Czerneda (#againstthedark)

Dear Bob,

I wish to make a personal response to your post about my work during Little Red Reviewer’s “Julie Appreciation Party” blog, to help launch Book #2 of Reunification, #8 in the Clan Chronicles, and my latest work of SF.

You wrote: “I know that Julie is best known for her Clan Chronicles (which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and appreciated on a number of different levels), but I have always been a fantasy fan first, and a science-fiction fan second…”

Really.

I’ll admit, I stopped there. Was I insulted? Hardly. Was I surprised? Not at all, you’ve told me - and the world - of your love for my fantasy novels which is something I treasure.

Still? Really. What’s the big deal? Fantasy. SF. I can see you shaking your head and you’re right. It is a big deal. When I thought what to do for my guest blog for you this year (thank you for hosting, by the way), I realized there was only one response.

Here, for you, Bob, is my original take on the difference between fantasy and science fiction, first posted December 29, 2011, on my SFF newsgroup. I wrote it because someone asked me then what I thought was that difference. What was the big deal? Why was I continually saying I was now writing one, not the other? I answered as I did because I was in the early stages of writing my first work of fantasy, A Turn of Light, having deliberately postponed Reunification.

I did it, to ease my heart.

The difference between fantasy and science fiction?
What's that expression? You know what's porn to you when you see it?
Silly aside, to me it's like this. There's literature that is fantastic, aka, insists on an imaginative leap by the reader from what the reader believes to be real and known about the world. (Covering the fact that advancements in knowledge constantly modify that worldview. For some, anyway.)
Within fantastic literature thus falls a vast amount of stuff--in fact, more than isn't, I'd venture. And it's not read by folks who have lost or numbed their imaginations. Kudos to us.
Horror fiction is interesting. You can argue that since horror is about how the reader feels--that dread, the scare, the twist on what's safe--anything can be horror, as anything can be romance. Yet horror writers do have their tropes and subgenres. So I'd define horror as that literature in which horror is the goal, regardless of setting. I'd define romance and mystery and humour lit the same way.
Fantasy and SF, however, are vast sprawling beasts, gobbling up all they can. Within each, there are works that wouldn't suit readers of the other. I think those are the only ones where a good definition becomes useful and certainly more helpful to booksellers, librarians, and marketing folks. There are many who will gobble up Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Twilight who will not, EVER, be interested in watching Moon, Star Trek, or Inception. (Author Note: Proof this was written in 2011.) And vice versa. Nothing wrong with that.
But why? Because of what the story does to the reader. It's always about that.
For me, the very best fantasy takes hold of my heart and conscience. My imagination soars wild and free, yet I care, intensely, for the characters working through that fantastic landscape and their choices. Once I put the book down, I've been changed in a fundamental way. Whether it's a renewed passion for life or an awareness that even a small person can change the world, I am different and love it.
The very best SF? Oh, it demands I use my mind and awareness of this world, and that I'm open to new ideas and consequences about it. It can, absolutely, engage my emotions, but--and this is key--SF can still work brilliantly without that engagement, so long as the idea itself is powerful or cool enough to come with me from the story and make me look at my world differently forever. What if. I can't be satisfied by science fiction that doesn't pose that question and answer it in a way I hadn't imagined.
How fantasy and SF accomplish the above is where we start talking about world-building and character and underlying ideas and credibility. But to me, it's about what I take away from the story. Have I been renewed inside or has the outside world taken on a new shape?
So the question of which is which does matter. When I write, I consciously choose to aim for my reader's heart or mind. The story I'm telling in TURN is about love, honour, family, and sacrifice. It's about making a new life and forgiveness for the old. To tell that story, fantasy offers the intimate power and scope I need. I hope readers put it down, cry a bit, and go hug their family. The story I'm telling in the Clan Chronicles is what if a species bred for power despite ultimate cost. It goes into the fragility of bonds among species of intensely divergent goals and will lead to consequences that destroy civilizations. SF gives me the tools I need to set this scenario in motion and to explore those ideas in a way I hope will make readers walk away and think. Okay, there could be tears there too.
Which goes back to the very beginning. A great story grabs heart and mind, no matter its genre. But not everyone enjoys or understands the same story-telling approaches. Fair enough. There are too many books for any one lifetime, so you have to pick on some level. You know what's for you when you read it.
My take on the question.

So, Bob, you can see why your post last year not only made me smile, but made me remember something precious. Why I wrote fantasy when I did, and how I did. It was to take a breath, stretch my writerly wings, and put off what was coming in Reunification until I was ready. Renewed. House toads and Jenn Nalynn gave me the strength to plunge into the final chapter of Sira and Morgan’s story, to give the past three years to the Clan Chronicles, and to complete the scenario I’d begun so long ago. They are connected, you see, despite being different.

Really.

Yours in story,
Julie Czerneda

PS. Yes, Bob, I promise there’ll be more Night’s Edge. (Three more, in fact.)
PPS. Not next, Bob. It’s Esen’s turn to shine. Or explode, depending on the moment.
PPPS. And thank you, Bob, for being a reader who “gets” the difference yet loves them both.

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About the Author

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners, the latest being SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Next out will be an anthology of original stories set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis, out in 2018. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, lands in stores October 2017.

When not jumping between wonderful blogs, Julie’s at work on something very special: her highly anticipated new Esen novel, Search Image (Fall 2018). Visit www.czerneda.com for more.

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About the Series

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification concludes the series, answering these question at last. Who are the Clan? 
And what will be the fate of all?

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Enter your comment below to be entered to win latest book in hardcover, To Guard Against the Dark, plus a mass market of The Gulf of Time and Stars (US and Canada only).

PLUS!!!

To enter the tour-wide giveaway of the entire nine-book series, click here:

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NetGalley Reader Spotlight

Hey, if you happen to get a chance, check out this month's NetGalley Reader Spotlight.

It's Sci-Fi & Fantasy spotlight this month, and they happened to interview this Bob Milne guy from some blog called Beauty in Ruins.

I don't know what it is, but I kinda like him. :)


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Horror Review: Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish

My third encounter with the dark imagination of Catherine Cavendish in as many years, Wrath of the Ancients is a book that (rather fittingly) has the feel of a much older story. Like the darkest stories of Poe, Stevenson, and Doyle, it is a slow-burning tale of claustrophobia, madness, secrets, and myths. It may feel oddly structured to some readers, especially with the way it so abruptly departs from Adeline's story to explore other owners of the house, but it all pays off in the end.

This is a story that starts deep in a lost Egyptian tomb, and ends deep within a secret Victorian basement. It is a story of death, obsession, and occult powers . . . a story where nothing is to be trusted, not even your senses. Although slow-burning, it does have its share of scares, with some great scenes of supernatural horror that grab you by the throat and overwhelm you with the putrescence of death.

Where the story kicked into high gear for me was in the second half, when Adeline confides in someone outside the house and they embark upon an enthusiastic purging of the basement and its haunted horrors. There is so much action and drama in that arc, so much advancement of the overall mysteries, that you appreciate the lull that follows as a chance to catch your breath.

If there is one downside to the novel, it's that it relies a little too heavily on coincidences. The fact that Adeline is such a perfect candidate to see Dr. Emeryk Quintillus' final wishes carried out is an excusable one, but there were a few later on (particularly one involving a train) that stretched the old willing suspension of disbelief to a near-breaking point. Really, though, that is a small quibble in an otherwise highly entertaining work of period horror.

If you have yet to read Catherine Cavendish, then Wrath of the Ancients is a perfect place to start.


Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Expected publication: October 24th 2017 by Lyrical Underground

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale
Expected publication: October 31, 2017 by Subterranean

Before Bubba Ho-Tep, there was Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.

Part of a secret government organization designed to protect civilians, Elvis Presley and a handful of hardcore warriors set out to save the world from an invasion of hive-minded, shape-shifting vampire-like creatures from a dark dimension who have taken up residence in a New Orleans junkyard.

Besides Elvis, among these righteous warriors is a hammer-wielding descendent of John Henry of railroad fame, a Blind Man who sees more than those with sight, Jack, a strategic wizard, and Elvis's right hand man and journal writer, Johnny, all thrown in with Raven (real name Jenny) a female recruit who is also a budding pop star, and like Elvis, high on the charisma chart.

Their leader is none other than Colonel Parker, Elvis's cutthroat manager, and a warrior himself, directly in contact with President Nixon, or possibly one of his doubles.

It's an unnerving peek into a secret world, and a possible delusion. It's what happened before Elvis, aka Sebastian Haff, found himself in an East Texas rest home, mounted on a walker, fighting an Egyptian mummy and worrying about a growth on his pecker.

Strange monsters, wild fights, sex with a beautiful ghost, a drug-induced trip into another dimension, and all manner of mayhem ensue, along with a Mississippi riverboat ride on a giant paddle wheel, and of course, there will be 3D glasses, fried peanut butter and 'nanna sandwiches, and a few hard working zombies.

Bring the kids, but plug their ears and blindfold them. This is one wild and nasty ride to the dark side, but with laughter.


The original Bubba Ho-Tep is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and one instance where the movie was just as good as the book, so I'm eager to enjoy a Halloween revisit with the character. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Horror Review: Shadows & Teeth Volume 3


If you remember when horror was dark and supernatural, free of pop culture nods and knowing smirks to the reader, with twist endings that absolutely eviscerated your imagination, then Shadows & Teeth Volume 3 is sure to be right up your alley - your dark, foggy, cobblestone, garbage-strewn alley.

Guy N. Smith's Cannibal House was a great twist on both haunted houses and cannibalistic slashers, starting and ending with creepy discoveries.

Nathan Robinson's Tree Huggers was a fun story that put a gory new spin on the concept of horror in the woods, complete with a brutally cold ending.

No Thanks, by Antonio Simon Jr., was probably my favorite story in the collection. The telling of it was fantastic, the pacing perfect, the black humor on point, and the very concept of "no thanks" simple, yet brilliant.

R. Perez de Pereda's Bernadette was an unexpected pleasure, a well-told story of a medieval priest, a deal with the devil, and a young woman who refuses to stay dead.

David Owain Hughes' Picture Not So Perfect was a slow-burning sort of tale, one with a tragically human element, an interesting twist of expectations, and a monstrous finale that has more than a few surprises.

Cruciform, by S.J. Deighan, was another favorite - a story of occult secrets, dark rituals, and the unfortunate consequences of summoning a demon to do your bidding.

A solid collection with only a few stories that didn't really work for me, Shadows & Teeth Volume 3 is a perfect read for fans of slasher flicks, splatterpunk, and Twilight Zone endings.

ebook
Published June 15th 2017 by Guy N. Smith

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About the Author

Born in Cuba in 1941, Ramiro Perez de Pereda has seen it all. Growing up in a time when then-democratic Cuba was experiencing unprecedented foreign investment, he was exposed to the U.S. pop culture items of the day. Among them: pulp fiction magazines, which young Ramiro avidly read and collected. Far and away, his favorites were the Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard. Ramiro, now retired from the corporate life, is a grandfather of five. He devotes himself to his family, his writing, and the occasional pen-and-ink sketch. He writes poetry and short fiction under the name R. Perez de Pereda. He serves Darkwater Syndicate as its Head Acquisitions Editor—he heads the department, he does not collect heads, which is a point he has grown quite fond of making. Indeed, it’s one reason he likes his job so much.


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About the Book


Horror

Date Published: June 15, 2017
Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.

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Out of the shadows and meaner than ever, volume three of this award-winning horror series packs international star power. Featuring ten brand-new stories by the legendary Guy N. Smith, the prolific Adam Millard, master of horror Nicholas Paschall, and others, this collection is certain to keep you up at night. Take care as you reach into these dark places, for the things here bite, and you may withdraw a hand short of a few fingers.


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Reading Addiction Blog Tours

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Expected publication: October 24, 2017 by Tor Books

They thought the war was over. They were wrong.

Runacarendalur Caerthalien has been a master of battle for hundreds of years, but he found himself on the wrong side—the losing side—in the last war. Betrayed by his brother, trapped in a prophecy he does not understand, Runacar flees the battlefield.

Yet Runacar is no coward. In a twist he could never have imagined, the Elven War-Prince finds himself leading a new army into battle—a force of centaurs, merfolk, gryphons, minotaurs, and talking bears who can perform magic. For centuries they have been trying to reclaim their lands from Elven invaders. With Runacar at the helm, they just might manage it.

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s first collaboration, the Obsidian Mountain trilogy, introduced readers to a brilliant, continent-spanning fantasy world of high adventure and epic battle. Civilization shimmered with magic while in the nooks and crannies of the world, dragons and unicorns hid from people who believed them to be nothing more than legends.

The Dragon Prophecy, set thousands of years before that story, illuminates a time when long-lived Elves rule the Fortunate Lands. It is a time of dire prophecy, of battle and bloodshed, of great magics unlike any the Elvenkind have seen before. It is the story of the end of one world and the beginning of the next.


The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy is a definite favorite of mine, and Lackey/Mallory make a great team, so this is a must-read for me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#Horror Review: Reich by Donald Allen Kirch

A year after Hitler committed suicide, a rather cliched message-in-a-bottle was found on the beach in Copenhagen, suggesting he actually died U-boat collision that winter. Donald Allen Kirch's WWI vampire thriller, Reich, takes this obscure bit of WWII history and runs with it, adding a monstrous twist to the interesting alternate history scenario.

Hitler has been called a monster before, but never quite like this. In Kirch's tale, he is an old-fashioned vampire - supernatural, demonic, and unrepentantly evil. In public, he puts on a good face, hiding his true nature from the world, yet allowing it to drive his political ambitions. Outside the public eye, however, he lets his monstrous self loose, including yellow eyes, elongated fangs, a thirst for blood, and garygoyle-like wings protruding from his back.

The bulk of the story revolves around Hitler's secret passage to Norway aboard a German U-boat. As if life aboard a WWII submarine weren't dark, claustrophobic, and dangerous enough, imagine being trapped under the ocean with a hungry monster. What makes for such an interesting story, however, is the way in which Kirch portrays the German soldiers. He starts the story with a high-ranking soldier who sacrifices his life in an attempt to assassinate the Führer, and then carries it through with a U-boat captain whose first loyalty is to his country and his people, pairing him with a second-in-command who believes in Hitler's propaganda, but who is a good man at-heart.

The story develops slowly, with only a few glimpses of real horror, allowing the characters (and their conflicted loyalties) to carry the story. Meyer is a heroic figure from the start, and Starger develops nicely throughout the story. Add in a Norwegian clergyman, Donavon, and his daughter, and you have all the ingredients for a good vampire hunt to end the story - complete with a climactic battle aboard the Nauecilus.

Alternately creepy and thrilling, Reich was a far stronger story than I expected, and one that does justice to the novelty of the concept.


Paperback, 2nd Edition, 178 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by Why Not??? Publications 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#Horror Review: Florida Gothic by Mitzi Szereto

Florida Gothic is a dark little tale, a quiet, intimate, vintage slice of horror. Even when it's at its bloodiest, it's like watching a grainy slasher flick with the sound turned down low, with just the shadows flickering about you. Having only experienced her erotic side, this was something of a change of pace for me, but Mitzi Szereto delivers.
Ernesto enjoys his little routines, his rituals. They make sense of his day, give him a purpose. But death puts an end to that.
Though it doesn’t put an end to Ernesto.
After Ernesto dies, he begins to like other things. Dark things.
Like the best horror stories, Florida Gothic is dark, creepy and violent, but it is also quirky and kind of smug. It is an altogether deceptive story, one that slithers along with the languid pacing of an alligator in the Florida heat, but which bites just as hard and just as fast. With its different points-of-view, it almost gleefully spoils the fate of its villains, letting us in on their moment of demise, before switching back to Ernesto and letting us anticipate what we already know is coming.

Similarly, while the initial deaths come quickly, unannounced and unexpected, Szereto draws out the fear and the dread of Ernesto's final victim. This is a story of dark, damaged people, of mortal men with human failings, and of one man for whom death is only an opportunity. For anybody who has ever dreamed of vengeance, ever wanted to use their dying breaths to repay an unforgivable cruelty, this is the perfect read. More than anything else, this is a book of consequences, a story where justice is rarely served, but where fate catches up. In fact, the final twist is one of the best scenes in the book, even if we know it is coming.

Part Poe, part Serling, and part King, Florida Gothic is a dark, powerful, entirely satisfying read.

Kindle Edition
Published June 2017 by Strange Brew Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the authorvin exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

#Horror Review: Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

As the cover blurb says, take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s with Grady Hendrix . . . if you dare! Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction is a gloriously grotesque trip down nostalgia lane that works on multiple levels.

First off, let's talk about the visuals. Browsing through all those bold, garish, blood-soaked covers is worth the price of admission alone. There are so many covers here that I recognized from my younger years, many of which I still have on the shelf today - books like Isobel, Dark Advent, The Possession of Jessica Young, Cellars, Hot Blood, Animals, Ghoul, and XY. Then there were others that caught my eye, making me want to run out and hit the used bookstore to dig them up - books like The Little People, Satan's Love Child, Orca, Slither, and Obelisk. It's not just book cover porn, however, Hendrix also provides some insights and backstories of the artists behind them, many of whom have surprising pedigrees or quirks.

Next, let's talk about the narrative of horror publishing, where Hendrix walks us through the rise and fall of horror publishers, whether they be major or niche. Having read so many of them, and having followed some of them as closely as authors, it was fascinating to learn about who was behind them, how they came to be, and what market pressures and personnel changes led to their demise. As a horror-addicted teenager, the business of publishing was the farthest thing from my mind, even as I noticed the best publishers disappearing from the shelves, but in hindsight I can understand what was happening.

Lastly, and this is the true glory of the book, we need to talk about the evolution of horror themes and tropes. I remember so many of these fads coming and going, seeing similar covers on the shelves, and reading the same stories under different titles, but Hendrix does a great job of setting the stage and exploring the social/political background. From the Satanic panic, through creepy kids, man-eating animals (and plants), haunted houses, mad scientists, serial killers, and more, he explores how each came to be and how the themes develop. Thanks to his insights, I've added The Guardian, Scared Stiff, The Devil's Kiss, Toy Cemetery, and Soulmate to my used bookstore shopping list.

Although I enjoyed it as a digital ARC, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction is one of those books I need to pick up in paperback, just to have on the shelf so I can revisit those covers and dig into some of those themes.

Paperback, 256 pages
Expected publication: September 19th 2017 by Quirk Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda
Expected publication: October 10, 2017 by DAW

The final book in the hard science fiction Reunification trilogy, the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Clan Chronicles

Jason Morgan is a troubling mystery to friends and enemies alike: once a starship captain and trader, then Joined to the most powerful member of the Clan, Sira di Sarc, following her and her kind out of known space.

Only to return, alone and silent.

But he's returned to a Trade Pact under seige and desperate. The Assemblers continue to be a threat. Other species have sensed opportunity and threaten what stability remains, including those who dwell in the M'hir. What Morgan knows could save them all, or doom them.

For not all of the Clan followed Sira. And peace isn't what they seek.

If you're not already reading Julie's work, then you really should be. This is a series that has surprised me at every turn, so I'm curious to see how it all ends.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

#Fantasy Review: Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever (first and second) were a pivotal moment in my early fantasy reading. They were grown-up fantasy, full of moral quandaries and difficult emotions, but they were also stunning works of imagination, populated by brilliant characters. Even when he was writing gothic romance and portal fantasy with Mordant's Need, or sweeping science fiction with The Gap Cycle, Stephen R. Donaldson's work was always marked by those elements - stunning imagination and brilliant characters.

Sadly, that's precisely why Seventh Decimate falls so short. The first book of The Great God's War reads like a self-indulgent short story, big on ideas, but short on everything else. It's a heavy-handed morality tale about the horrors of war and the stupidity of racism/nationalism, couched in a thinly-veiled desert fantasy.

For a man who excels as world-building, this falls so short, it's really quite embarrassing. We get two warring countries, separated by a river . . . or chasm . . . or cliff . . . or something that's never really clear. There is an ocean to one side of them and a desert to the other, both assumed to be impassable - although it turns out the desert is simply a challenge, and hardly an insurmountable one. If there is anything else to the world (and we do get hints later in the story), neither country has the slightest idea.

Similarly, for a man whose fiction is defined by its characters, this falls even shorter than it did in the world-building. There is hardly a likeable character in the book, and none of them have any more depth than a background character. Most importantly, Prince Bifalt, the protagonist of the story, is even more unlikable than Thomas Covenant - a miserable, leprous man who most readers remember for a single unconscionable act. The Prince is a bland, boring, arrogant young man with a single-minded obsession. If only he had demonstrated a sliver of growth, this could have been a far better story, but if that growth is in the cards, it's not in this volume.

Finally, that brings us to the plot, which is the only thing weaker than the world-building and the characters. It is largely a paint-by-numbers story, predictable in every way, with a conclusion so foregone it should just be dropped into the cover blurb. Aside from the opening battle and the scenes involving the mysterious desert caravan of nations, there is nothing here of interest or excitement. There were moments of potential, where the story could have opened up, but it lacks the characters necessary to do so.

I had high hopes for Seventh Decimate, especially after The King's Justice proved to be such a fantastic read last year, but was bitterly disappointed. Unless the digital ARC was a rough draft that was accidentally released, I don't see myself continuing with this.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: November 14th 2017 by Berkley

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tough Travels - Dragons!

Welcome back to Tough Travels! On the first day of every month, Fantasy-Faction leads us on a tour of the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, with the assistance of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, they guide us in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.


With no more ado, this month's topic is DRAGONS.
The Tough Guide advises that Dragons are ‘very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any colour or combination of colours, though green, red and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland aeons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous monsters that had to be exterminated. Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing.’ Or are they?
For me, the love affair with dragons begins with the original Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Said to be the original beings of Krynn, dragons were born of the elements, hence their categorization as Chromatic or Metallic. These, for me, remain the classic archetype of dragons in my fantasy - old, intelligent, full of magic, and able to be harnessed by armies as mounts (and weapons) of war.


Next up would be the dragons of Robin Hobb, which are hugely important to her Realm of the Elderlings saga. In this case, the dragons are creature of legend, magical beasts unseen by mortals for generations, with only the stone statues of their passing to remind the world of their presence. It takes a long time for readers to ever see a dragon, but there is so much mythology wrapped up within them, it is entirely worth reading through to the eventual big reveal in Assassin's Fate.


For sheer nostalgia, The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy from Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory is a series I can't praise enough. It is old-fashioned (some would say tropey and clichéd) epic fantasy, set in the forest and the mountains, complete with humans, elves, unicorns, and dragons. It is very Dragonlance-esque, which is fine, because as much as I do enjoy the grimdark genres, this is precisely what the world needs once in a while.


The Dragon Apocalypse by James Maxey is another series that immediately comes to mind, and not just because the omnibus edition is still staring me down, threatening to attack if I don't make time for a read and review. Once again, this is classic quest-driven epic fantasy, complete with magical artifacts, inhuman races, and (yes) truly epic dragons. From what I understand, dragons are even more prominent outside the first book, so I am eager to get reading.


Skipping ahead through the years, the most prominent use of dragons that I can think of in recent memory is in Marc Turner's Chronicles of the Exile. It is the second book, of course, that introduces us to the idea of Dragon Day, where the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to allow a single sea dragon to escape into the Sabian Sea, and the third book where . . . well, no spoilers, but it is a Dragon Day to remember.


That said, I think it's only fitting that we wrap this up by talking about The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan, in which dragons feature prominently. We're talking mean, vicious, bad ass dragons here, threatening to burn the world to the ground. We're also talking dragon blood, which imbues those who drink it with magical powers of their own, creating a vicious cycle of hunting and consumption.


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