For a limited time, you can download Samantha Shannon's The Priory of the Orange Tree for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens. The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction--but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic. Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
If you've been hanging out in these parts for a while, then you know that I've always been a big Tad Williams fan. Regardless of the shortcomings that certain readers find so annoying and/or off-putting about the author, I've always managed to overlook them and enjoy Williams' books/series. Seriously, I'm aware of these perceived weaknesses, but Williams has always found a way to scratch my itch, no matter if it's epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, or everything else in between. Having read To Green Angel Tower when it originally came out, I'd been waiting for a very long time to find out what happens next. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn turned out to be a seminal work of fantasy, one of the very best of its era. Like countless readers, I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into The Witchwood Crown.
The Heart of What Was Lost was the perfect companion book for anyone who loved Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, as well as the perfect setup book for The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy. Understandably, expectations were extremely high for this new trilogy. Given how long it took for the author to finally elect to write this sequel, we could expect nothing less.
Needless to say, The Witchwood Crown had big shoes to fill. And just a few chapters into the book, I realized that something was wrong. It was a veritable chore to go through. The slog of slogs, no doubt about it. And although it did get a little better toward the end, in my humble opinion The Witchwood Crown was by far Williams' weakest work to date. Which did not bode well for subsequent installments.
Early reviews opined that Empire of Grass was better than its predecessor. Keeping my fingers crossed that it was the case, I jumped into it with renewed enthusiasm. Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived and it soon dawned upon me that the novel suffered from the same shortcomings that sunk The Witchwood Crown. Ultimately, it's more of the same for the most part, with very little improvement to speak of. There is no way to sugarcoat the fact that Empire of Grass was another disappointing read.
Here's the blurb:
Set in Williams' New York Times bestselling fantasy world, the second book of The Last King of Osten Ard returns to the trials of King Simon and Queen Miriamele as threats to their kingdom loom... The kingdoms of Osten Ard have been at peace for decades, but now, the threat of a new war grows to nightmarish proportions. Simon and Miriamele, royal husband and wife, face danger from every side. Their allies in Hernystir have made a pact with the dreadful Queen of the Norns to allow her armies to cross into mortal lands. The ancient, powerful nation of Nabban is on the verge of bloody civil war, and the fierce nomads of the Thrithings grasslands have begun to mobilize, united by superstitious fervor and their age-old hatred of the city-dwellers. But as the countries and peoples of the High Ward bicker among themselves, battle, bloodshed, and dark magics threaten to pull civilizations to pieces. And over it all looms the mystery of the Witchwood Crown, the deadly puzzle that Simon, Miriamele, and their allies must solve if they wish to survive. But as the kingdoms of Osten Ard are torn apart by fear and greed, a few individuals will fight for their own lives and destinies—not yet aware that the survival of everything depends on them.
As is the author's wont, the superior worldbuilding really shines. In that regard at least, Empire of Grass shows a Tad Williams writing at the top of his game. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn was vast in scope and vision and this new series builds on storylines that already echoed with depth. Several new dimensions are added to what has always been a multilayered work of fiction, and on this front the first two volumes of The Last King of Osten Ard delivered. As I keep saying, the Sithi and the Norns are not your typical elf-like race, and for some reason Williams is the only fantasy author who can bring out the darker nature of the fairy folk in such a fashion. To finally get the chance to discover more about the inner workings of the Norn society was undoubtedly the most fascinating aspect of The Heart of What Was Lost. Three decades down the line, the plans that were put in motion in the heart of Nakkiga are now bearing fruit and we learn even more about them. Queen Utuk'ku has awakened and the world is about to find out that the Hikeda'ya are not the vanquished foe so many people believed them to be. Those hoping to find out more about the Sithi will be pleased to learn that we actually discover more about them in this sequel. Tantalizing hints insinuate that the Garden was another planet and that the Norns, the Sithi and the Tinukeda'ya are the descendants of an alien race that reached Osten Ard via space ships or other means of transportation. It will be interesting to see if this is truly the case or not in the final installment.
Geographically speaking, like its predecessor Empire of Grass takes place in various locales all over Osten Ard. Nabban and the Thrithing lands are the stage for what became major storylines. The same can be said of the Aldheorte forest. As you can see, this second volume is another far-reaching novel that covers a lot of ground. And once again, this is something that doesn't necessarily always work in the book's favor. Indeed, the tale is hitting many of the locales and events from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, often for little or no reason plot-wise, or for reasons that feel a little contrived.
As was the case with the first volume, one of the most important shortcomings of Empire of Grass is the decidedly weak political intrigue. As I mentioned before, Tad Williams excels in many different aspects when it comes to writing novels, but politicking is definitely not one of them. This was true then, and sadly it remains true now. Instead of playing to his strengths in The Witchwood Crown and this new sequel, likely to have more appeal to fans of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and other politically-involved fantasy series, Williams put political intrigue at the heart of a number of major plot threads. Which, due to the clumsiness in execution of such intrigues, put the Hernystir, the Nabban, and the Thrithing plotlines on very shaky ground. Add to that the fact that Simon and Miri continue to make for particularly inept and occasionally dumb rulers who have surrounded themselves with not necessarily the brightest of people at court, and you have an incompetent government so totally unprepared to deal with any sort of crisis that it is second only to the Donald Trump administration in that regard. Ultimately, since a large part of Empire of Grass hinges precisely on political intrigue, it can be quite a setback at times. As I've said before, not everyone can be a politicking master like Martin, Katherine Kurtz, or Jacqueline Carey. Tad Williams took quite a risk when he chose to go down that path. In my last review, I opined that time would tell if he could pull it off. But based on The Witchwood Crown, it would be an uphill battle and the odds were stacked against him. It's now evident that Williams has built a fragile house of cards with political intrigue as its foundation. Which means that the whole thing can come crashing down at any time.
One more, the novel's biggest flaw is the characterization, which is habitually one of the aspects in which Williams truly shines. As was the case with The Witchwood Crown, this second volume is a veritable mess of points of view. I remain convinced that this book would have benefited from a lesser number of perspectives. I lost track of exactly how many POVs there were in the first installment and Empire of Grass features even more of them. While some storylines are engaging, at times some perspectives are downright boring, which bogs down the narrative with pointless scenes that go nowhere. Why Tad Williams elected to introduce readers to so many disparate characters and give them their own POV, I'll never know. But it continues to kill momentum as you skip from an interesting sequence to an unnecessary conversation or info-dump that brings little or nothing to the tale. Plotlines featuring Tiamak, Binabik, Qina, Eolair, Cuff, Vorzheva, Jesa, and Princess Lillia in particular often make you want to throw the novel across the room. This poor characterization precludes any kind of tight focus on any of the storylines, and in the long run it once again hurts this sequel in a myriad of ways.
Like The Witchwood Crown, Williams' latest also suffers from a manifestly poor cast. Simon and Miriamele continue to be only shadows of who they once were in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Middle age has enfeebled and made them fearful. Especially Miriamele, who was such a strong female lead in the first series. She's a little better in Empire of Grass, yet the Nabban storyline shows just how far she has fallen. How such a couple with a deficient court held on to power for so long defies comprehension. How they could remain so unaware of what goes on in and around their kingdom when the writing is on the wall, so to speak, remains shocking. Prince Morgan, heir to the High Throne, continues to be a great disappointment. Yes, I know the author is setting him up as a complete dumbass so that we can experience his transformation and root for him when he finally has his coming-of-age moment. Problem is, it appears that he will not bloom any time soon. Until the second portion of Empire of Grass, when his situation changes and things finally get interesting (though Morgan himself remains an idiot), I came to dread any chapter featuring him. POV protagonists include all the familiar faces from The Witchwood Crown, as well as a number of new ones. Again, that's just too many POVs. And even the most engrossing and thrilling plotlines from the first installment, such as those of Viyeki, Nezeru, or Jarnulf, fail to captivate in similar fashion this time around.
One would have thought that with most of the groundwork already laid out, Empire of Grass would have been a more fluid read. Alas, the pace is atrocious for the better part of the novel. It is a tedious read, every step of the way. Another slog of slogs. The mess of perspectives doesn't help, true. Nor does the info-dumps or all the extraneous stuff that bogs down the narrative in many a chapter. Did we really need the full back stories of both Tzoja and Vorzheva? The pointless bantering scenes featuring Binabik, his wife, his daughter, and Little Snenneq? The 3-year-old princess' point of view? Jessa worrying about everything in every scene she appears in? Simon, acting like a beffudled old man who can't even tie his own shoes and a monarch completely clueless of what goes on at his court? Yada yada yada. A good 150 pages could probably have been excised without the plot losing anything important. All Tad Williams novels are overwritten to some extent, but these last two have been quite problematic in that regard. Everything moves at a snail's pace, with good and exciting sequences few and far between. There are some compelling scenes and storylines, no doubt about it. And yet, it's a chore to get through to them because very little actually happens in most chapters and all the good stuff is buried so deeply under superfluous scenes that it robs them of most of the desired impact. As I said, I've always been a big fan, but I've never had such a hard time reading anything by Tad Williams.
The Witchwood Crown turned out to be little more than a vast introduction to an even bigger and more complex tale. As such, it introduced a panoply of characters, concepts, and plot threads, but it offered very little in terms of resolution. Given the way Empire of Grass was going, I expected something gripping and exciting to close the show. It looked as though Williams had a grand finale in store for his readers and the rhythm picks up in the final portion of the book. Alas, it was not to be. Once more, I reached the last page and could only shake my head in disappointment. There is no showdown. No big payoff. No resolution of any sort. Every single plotline ends in a cliffhanger. I'm so sad that this turned out to be another underwhelming novel.
You can now download Kevin Hearne's Hounded, the first volume in the Iron Druid Chronicles, for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
The first novel in the Iron Druid Chronicles—introducing a cool, new, funny urban fantasy hero. Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
I'm giving away my review copy of Chuck Wendig's Wanderers to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival. Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead. For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.
The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "WANDERERS." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.
Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.
Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB. Good luck to all the participants!
For a limited time, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Kameron Hurley's excellent Apocalypse Nyx for only 1.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.
If you find yourself in need of a primer, so to speak, something that works as a great introduction to one of the most badass heroines in SFF history and to one of the best science fiction series of the new millennium thus far, then Apocalypse Nyx is just what the doctor ordered. And if you're already a fan, download this book ASAP!
Here's the blurb:
Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx. Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter Nyx is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey—it’s a living. Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx’s mind, it’s also justified. After all, she’s trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices. Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future—but only if she can survive. Apocalypse Nyx is the much-anticipated print edition of Kameron Hurley’s five newest Nyx novellas, as well as the first e-book collection of her gritty, exciting adventures.
You can now get your hands on the digital edition of George R. R. Martin's The Ice Dragon for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.
Here's the blurb:
The Ice Dragon is an enchanting tale of courage and sacrifice for young readers and adults by the wildly popular author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin. Lavish illustrations by acclaimed artist Luis Royo enrich this captivating and heartwarming story of a young girl and her dragon. In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember. Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara's home. And only a winter child—and the ice dragon who loved her—could save her world from utter destruction. This new edition of The Ice Dragon is sure to become a collector's item for fans of HBO's megahit Game of Thrones. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
You can also download Gene Wolfe's The Knight for only 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.
Here's the blurb:
A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm that contains seven levels of reality. Very quickly transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Able and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, a sword he will get from a dragon, the one very special blade that will help him fulfill his life ambition to become a knight and a true hero. Inside, however, Able remains a boy, and he must grow in every sense to survive the dangers and delights that lie ahead in encounters with giants, elves, wizards, and dragons. His adventure will conclude next year in the second volume of The Wizard Knight, The Wizard. Gene Wolfe is one of the most widely praised masters of SF and fantasy. He is the winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Nebula Award, twice, the World Fantasy Award, twice, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the British Fantasy Award, and France's Prix Apollo. His popular successes include the four-volume classic The Book of the New Sun. With this new series, Wolfe not only surpasses all the most popular genre writers of the last three decades, he takes on the legends of the past century, in a work that will be favorably compared with the best of J. R. R. Tolkien, E. R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, and T. H. White. This is a book---and a series---for the ages, from perhaps the greatest living writer in (or outside) the fantasy genre.
Finally, you can download Margaret Weis' Mistress of Dragons for 2.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.
Here's the blurb:
As Anne McCaffrey is to science fiction, Margaret Weis is to fantasy . . . for she is the genre's Mistress of Dragons. Mistress of Dragons is the first volume in an epic fantasy trilogy entitled The Dragonvald. Here is a world where men and dragons coexist amid political intrigue and dark magic, where the uneasy balance of power between the two is on the verge of becoming undone, threatening to unleash waves of destruction that will pit humans against humans as well as dragons against men for the domination of the world. Humanity's very survival is at risk . . . . The power to hold the chaos at bay, the terrible secret that maintains the balance, rests in the hands of a new and inexperienced Mistress of Dragons.
You can download J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: One Volume for only 2.99$ here!
Here's the blurb:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion. When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider. This new edition includes the fiftieth-anniversary fully corrected text setting and, for the first time, an extensive new index.
You can now download Helene Wecker's excellent The Golem and the Jinni for only 1.99$ here!
Here's the blurb:
Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom. Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice. Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
You can also download Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood for only 2.99$ here.
Here's the blurb for the first volume:
The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it. It's a bloody business overthrowing a king... Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces. It's up to a few... Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. But when gods are involved... Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should... In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan. Winner of the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut Fantasy.
You can also get your hands on the digital edition of R. A. Salvatore's Timeless for only 1.99$ here.
Here's the blurb:
At long last, New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore returns with one of fantasy's most beloved and enduring icons, the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, in an all-new trilogy full of swordplay, danger, and imaginative thrills. Centuries ago, in the city of Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, the City of Drow, nestled deep in the unmerciful Underdark of Toril, a young weapon master earned a reputation far above his station or that of his poor house. The greater nobles watched him, and one matron, in particular, decided to take him as her own. She connived with rival great houses to secure her prize, but that prize was caught for her by another, who came to quite enjoy the weapon master. This was the beginning of the friendship between Zaknafein and Jarlaxle, and the coupling of Matron Malice and the weapon master who would sire Drizzt Do’Urden. R. A. Salvatore reveals the Underdark anew through the eyes of Zaknafein and Jarlaxle—an introduction to the darkness that offers a fresh view of the opportunities to be found in the shadows and an intriguing prelude to the intriguing escapes that lie ahead in the modern-day Forgotten Realms. Here, a father and his son are reunited and embark on adventures that parallel the trials of centuries long past as the friends of old are joined by Drizzt, Hero of the North, trained by Grandmaster Kane in the ways of the monk. But the scourge of the dangerous Lolth’s ambitions remain, and demons have been foisted on the unwitting of the surface. The resulting chaos and war will prove to be the greatest challenge for all three.