Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

May your favorite incomplete series be completed!
May your starts be action packed!
May your endings be the most surprising!
May your protagonists stay with your for years to come!
May your books be remembered forever!

I wish you all the best for the year 2010 and an excellent start.

Monday, December 28, 2009

E-Books and E-Readers This Holiday Season

Did you get an e-Reader or an e-Book as Christmas present this year? It looks like they were popular among shoppers.

Amazon announced that Kindle became the most gifted item ever in their history. The fact that Barnes & Noble's Nook has had shipment problems improved Amazon's sales figures naturally (I heard that Barnes & Nobles offered $100 to anyone who doesn't receive his/her Nook on time, which is a good compensation, I think).

There was another important news in the same Amazon announcement. For the first time in their history, on Christmas day, Amazon sold more e-Books than paper books. Without a doubt, this is a milestone. E-Readers and e-Books are gaining acceptance rapidly. Even though Amazon doesn't release the sales figures for Kindle, it is estimated that 60% of the e-Book readers are Kindles, in the USA. Sony e-Readers come second with 35%. We'll see, in 2010, what kind of market share will Nook be able to steal from Kindle and Sony.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Rating System

I realized that I've never written about the scoring system that I've used in my book reviews. In a way, it's obvious that the scores that I attribute are between 1 and 10, 10 being the most satisfied. However it's probably a good idea to translate the numbers into what I think they correspond to:

1 - Run away, save yourself!
2 -
3 -
4 - Meh! It was just OK!
5 -
6 - I liked it
7 -
8 - I liked it very much
9 -
10 - I loved it

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dan Brown's Lost Symbol tops the Christmas week sales

When I saw the official UK Top 10 I wasn't surprised to see Dan Brown's Lost Symbol at the top of the list. However, what surprised me was to see Stephenie Meyer's Twilight second, her New Moon forth and her Eclipse fifth in the same list. Regardless of the top book, it's clear to me that Stephenie Meyer is the winner of the Christmas week's sales... I hadn't realized that she was that popular. Wow!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Tyrant’s Blood by Fiona McIntosh

Title: Tyrant’s Blood
Author: Fiona McIntosh
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Publishing Date: Sep 2009
Hardcover: 512 pages
Series: Book 2 of the Valisar Trilogy


Ten years later, Leothar, the barbarian emperor is a changed man. The wounds caused by his savage army have healed, the commerce has flourished and the peoples of Set and the Steppes have been integrating into a new style of life promoted carefully by their leader. However the Valisar heir lives and he’s no longer a boy. Would Leothar’s new image and his way of leading be enough to appease the rebellion that’s been brewing slowly?

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

Even though I’m not a huge fan of cover arts displaying a lone caped figure, I must admit that I like the covers created for the Valisar Trilogy. I also think that Tyrant's Blood's cover looks nicer than the first book’s. The colour scheme and the movement of the character make this cover more attractive. I wonder what’s the third book’s cover is going to look like.


I reviewed Royal Exile, the first book of the Valisar Trilogy, 2 months ago. When I finished and put down the book, I felt (or maybe I hoped) that there were more to be discovered in this story in terms of depth. If I had had the second book in my library at that time then I would have started it straightaway.

Well... I’m glad to see that my instincts weren't wrong. Tyrant’s Blood definitely raises the bar. Fiona McIntosh’s usual smooth style coupled with a better-developed storyline creates an easy-to-read page-turner.

Because the story is more mature, requiring fewer introductions, the multiple story lines are more captivating than the first book. I find the sections, switching between various story threads, well balanced, pushing the reader constantly forward. Additionally, the characters are further developed, some becoming more irritating and some more surprising. But the two things that I enjoyed the most were the unexpected twists and the magic system.

Yes! Even though, in the beginning, it looks like McIntosh is preparing us some fantasy clichés, she twists the story to create more than one surprising moments, including the end of the book. I really enjoyed these turns of events. Additionally, we learn more about the magic system in Tyrant’s Blood. It is not that unusual to read about a system where magic is costly to its wielder however McIntosh creates an interesting derivative that’s not so clear-cut. Furthermore she tells us more about the Valisar magic.

Tyrant’s Blood was a page-turner for me. I really enjoyed it and needless to say I’m looking forward to the last installment. One thing that I’d like to recommend is for you to consider the first two books as one and read them together. And if the next book is better than Tyrant’s Blood then it’s going to be a hell of an ending.

Rating: 8.5/10


"As it turned out, revenge is always a cold satisfaction; it never quite lives up to the anticipation" - Loethar

Monday, November 30, 2009

Upcoming Reviews

First, let's start with the real excuse behind this post. I mean, a post that talks about upcoming reviews rather than the reviews themselves is a bit strange, I admit. However I'll be on holidays before the end of the week and I have to finish the project that I'm working on. So far, this has meant working very hard including the last two weekends and late nights.

Anyway, I have my review notes on three books that I really liked. I just need the time to go through them to organize my thoughts:

  • Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson
  • Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
  • Transformation by Carol Berg
And the books that I'm currently reading:

  • Tyrant's Blood by Fiona McIntosh
  • Songs of the Dying Earth edited by G. R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
  • Like Mayflies In A Stream by Shauna Roberts
So... I'm going to be mostly quiet during the first three weeks of December however I'm going to post 6 reviews before the end of the year... This is the plan, anyway :).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Books Received

It's time for me to start to read the books that I very recently received:

Tyrant's Blood by Fiona McIntosh

Tyrant's Blood is the second book of the Valisar Trilogy. I reviewed the first book, Royal Exile, last month and since then I had been looking forward to read it.


The second instalment of Fiona McIntosh's gripping epic fantasy, set in a world torn by revenge, love and ancient magic. Ten years have passed since Loethar, the barbarian warlord from the Likurian steppes, devoured the Devona Set with his army of mercenaries, decimating their ruling families and settling in their primary kingdom of Penraven. Believing the Valisar heirs of Penraven to be dead, he has styled himself as emperor and continues his efforts to integrate his people into the native population. But abandoning his more violent methods of persuasion hasn't quelled the undercurrent of rebellion; for the Valisar heirs do live. Hidden from the barbarian's wrath by loyal allies who risk everything for the future of their kingdom, they are bound to return and seek a tyrant's blood for the havoc he has wreaked.

Songs of the Dying Earth (Stories in Honour of Jack Vance)

This anthology simply looks amazing. With contributors like Neil Gaiman, Tad Williams, Dan Simmons and George R.R. Martin, it promises to be a delight.


Return to the unique and evocative world of The Dying Earth in this tribute anthology featuring the most distinguished fantasists of our day. A dim place, ancient beyond knowledge. The sun is feeble and red. A million cities have fallen to dust. Here live a few thousand souls, dying, as the Earth dies beneath them. Just a few short decades remain to the long history of our world. At the last, science and magic are one, and there is evil on Earth, distilled by time ! Earth is dying. Half a century ago, Jack Vance created the world of the Dying Earth, and fantasy has never been the same. Now, for the first time, Jack has agreed to open this intriguing and darkly beautiful world to other fantasists, to play in as their very own. The list of twenty-two contributors eager to honour Jack Vance by writing for this anthology includes Neil Gaiman, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Hand, Tanith Lee, Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, and George R.R. Martin himself.

Like Mayflies in a Stream by Shauna Roberts

I really like historical fiction and Shauna Roberts' Like Mayflies in a Stream is one such book. Ancient history of Mesopotamia has always intrigued me so I'm looking forward to read the Epic of Gilgamesh with Shauna Roberts' touch.


In the great city of Uruk, there is no peace when Gilgamesh is restless, and he is never at rest. Shamhat, a priestess of Inanna, goes into the wilderness to find and civilize a match for Uruk's violently active God-King. Like Mayflies in a Stream brings new life to the Epic of Gilgamesh, diving into one of the earliest conflicts between civilization and wilderness, civic order and freedom, romance and sexuality.

Malazan Quotes: Memories of Ice

"In a world full of pitfalls and sinkholes, you dance around the edges. Only fools jump feet first, and fools don't live long besides." - Ganoes Paran

"The soldier's moment, now, before the battle begins - who would choose such a life? You stand with others, all facing the same threat, all feeling so very alone. In the cold embrace of fear, that sense that all that you are might end in moments. Gods, I've no envy for a soldier's life" - Gruntle

"Every gift is edged." - Tool

"Names are not for the asking, mortal. Names are earned." - Tool

"The harder the world, the fiercer the honour." - Dancer

"As my father warned us - in success, we shall find seeds of despair." - Cafal (son of Humbrall Taur)

"Never admit your unwillingness to rule, Malazan. What you fear in yourself will cloud your judgement of all that your successor does. Your fear will blind you to his wisdom and stupidity both." - Humbrall Taur

"You are the plains bear at our side, urging us to lock talons with the southern tiger. A hunter always knows the mind of a tiger, but never the mind of a plains bear." - Humbrall Taur

"Teach him what? How to live beneath the burden of command? That's something I can't manage myself. I need only look into Whiskeyjack's face to understand that no-one can - no-one who has a heart, anyway. We learn to achieve but one thing: the ability to hide our thoughts, to mask our feelings, to bury our humanity deep in our souls. And that can't be taught, only shown." - Paran

"If you can, dear friends, do not live through a siege" - Ubilast (the Legless)

"Fights like a boar? Gods, no, this man is a big, plains-hunting cat. He has bulk, aye, but it passes unnoticed behind a deadly grace. Fener save us all, the Tiger of Summer's ghost walks in this man's shadow." - Itkovian

"Thick silence, swirling as if not yet settled by the sounds of violence, as if somehow still trembling, still shivering..." - Whiskeyjack

"Sooner or later, she now understood, we are all naught but food. Wolves or worms, the end abrupt or lingering, it mattered not in the least." - Mhybe

"What the soul can house, flesh cannot fathom." - Imarak, First Destriant

"The void of lost faith is filled with your swollen self." - A long-dead Destriant

"We are all pushed into a world of madness, yet it must now fall to each of us to pull back from this Abyss, to drag ourselves free of the descending spiral. From horror, grief must be fashioned, and from grief, compassion." - Itkovian

"The loss fills the shadows we cast. Know this, soldier, the enemy you left to us was brittle." - The Barghast Spokesman

"Victory is an illusion. In all things." - Mhybe

"Hood's marble balls on an anvil..." - Whiskeyjack

"And it seems you've no idea of how to forgive - not her, not yourself. Guilt has become a chasm-" - Paran

"The heart of wisdom is tolerance" - Paran

'If that would help. More directly, however, you seem to forget my… experience. For all that I seem to grate upon all of you, I have walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'
'Yes. You never learn, Kallor.' - Kallor & Caladan Brood

"We were brittle. Destroyed months ago, outside Pale, it's just taken this long for the few of us left to realize it. Hedge, Trotts, Detoran. Corpses who kept saluting-" - Picker

Saturday, November 21, 2009

K'ell Hunter

I don't know you, but when I read a novel, I always have a clear enough picture of the protagonists. The same goes for the different races in fantasy novels. I'm about to finish Steven Erikson's Memories of Ice (the 3rd book of the Malazan book of the Fallen series). One of the races that I keep hearing is the K'ell Hunter (K'Chain Che'Malle - the first race on the Malazan world to evolve intelligence).

Here's a representation from Spindrift: K'ell Hunter. I think it's very good!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Malazan Twibbon

The Malazan community on twitter has been very active and rapidly growing. So, if you're a Malazan fan and if you have a twitter account, this could be of interest to you:

When you accept and click on "show my support now", this application will simply modify your twitter avatar.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Over the last few weeks, I've been connecting with more and more Malazan fans on Twitter. They are really a great bunch of people. One of the first ones that I had the pleasure to meet was Rahul Vohra.

Recently, Rahul had the brilliant idea of putting together a Web site that aggregates Malazan-related tweets: is a great tool to see who else is reading Steven Erikson's and Ian Cameron Esslemont's Malazan books and what they're thinking about them. Furthermore, it also allows one to selectively connect with like-minded people because most of these guys and gals are avid (fantasy & sci-fi) readers.

There also seems to be a group of gamers among us. I'm not counting myself in this group as my last serious gaming attempts died down after my college years. When it's about video games, I have an addictive personality and it looks like I change universe or dimension because 20 minutes of game time take approximately 2 hours in the real world. I never know when to stop... Actually I have to correct this: I know when to stop: in 20 minutes, which translates into sleepless nights and zombie-mode unpleasant work days. So I opted out! I'm not a gamer, full stop. :)

Anyway! Give a try when you get a chance!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Roadmap: What To Read Next?

Do I always know what to read next? Yes. At any given moment, I know exactly what my next book is going to be. The fact that I regularly get/buy more books than I can read doesn't mean I don't have a list in my head. And it's also nice to do a recap every now and then. Here's how it looks today:
Obviously this list keeps changing, mostly according to the review copies I get therefore I only commit to the first 2-3 :).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cover Art: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite writers. I blogged about his upcoming book 3 months ago and now we have the pictures of its cover for the UK and the US edition:

US CoverUK Cover

In general, I like the UK covers of books however this time, without a doubt, I prefer the US cover. I like its subtlety and its quiet suggestion of a far eastern setting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free On-line Reading: Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner

About Nekropolis

His mean streets are the city of the dead, the shadowy realm known as Nekropolis. And in this first case, Richter must help a delectable half-vampire named Devona recover a legendary artifact known as the Dawnstone, before it’s used to destroy Nekropolis itself. That is, if he can survive the myriad horrors that infest the city itself.

You can also watch Nekropolis' trailer on Tim Waggoner's site.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Free e-Books: The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol 1: Crimson Shadows...

Suvudu's November free e-books include Robert E. Howard's Crimson Shadows. I, for one, am looking forward to reading it. And as usual, the e-books are in multiple formats.

The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 1: Crimson Shadows by Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard is one of the most famous and influential pulp authors of the twentieth century. Though largely known as the man who invented the sword-and-sorcery genre-and for his iconic hero Conan the Cimmerian-Howard also wrote horror tales, desert adventures, detective yarns, epic poetry, and more. This spectacular volume, gorgeously illustrated by Jim and Ruth Keegan, includes some of his best and most popular works.

Inside, readers will discover (or rediscover) such gems as "The Shadow Kingdom," featuring Kull of Atlantis and considered by many to be the first sword-and-sorcery story; "The Fightin'est Pair," part of one of Howard's most successful series, chronicling the travails of Steve Costigan, a merchant seaman with fists of steel and a head of wood; "The Grey God Passes," a haunting tale about the passing of an age, told against the backdrop of Irish history and legend; "Worms of the Earth," a brooding narrative featuring Bran Mak Morn, about which H. P. Lovecraft said, "Few readers will ever forget the hideous and compelling power of [this] macabre masterpiece"; a historical poem relating a momentous battle between Cimbri and the legions of Rome; and "Sharp's Gun Serenade," one of the last and funniest of the Breckinridge Elkins tales.

These thrilling, eerie, compelling, swashbuckling stories and poems have been restored to their original form, presented just as the author intended. There is little doubt that after more than seven decades the voice of Robert E. Howard continues to resonate with readers around the world.

Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father's only child to buck tradition by choosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it's no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can't hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It's adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family's misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down.

Expelled from the Academy in disgrace-and returning home to her humiliated family, a storm of high-profile media coverage, and the gaping void of her own future-Ky is ready to face the inevitable onslaught of anger, disappointment, even pity. But soon after opportunity's door slams shut, Ky finds herself with a ticket to ride- and a shot at redemption-as captain of a Vatta Transport ship.

It's a simple assignment: escorting one of the Vatta fleet's oldest ships on its final voyage . . . to the scrapyard. But keeping it simple has never been Ky's style. And even though her father has provided a crew of seasoned veterans to baby-sit the fledgling captain on her maiden milk run, they can't stop Ky from turning the routine mission into a risky venture-in the name of turning a profit for Vatta Transport, of course.

By snapping up a lucrative delivery contract defaulted on by a rival company, and using part of the proceeds to upgrade her condemned vehicle, Ky aims to prove she's got more going for her than just her family's famous name. But business will soon have to take a backseat to bravery, when Ky's change of plans sails her and the crew straight into the middle of a colonial war. For all her commercial savvy, it's her military training and born-soldier's instincts that Ky will need to call on in the face of deadly combat, dangerous mercenaries, and violent mutiny...

A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton

"My name is Meredith Gentry, but of course it's not my real name. I dare not even whisper my true name after dark for fear that one hushed word will travel over the night winds to the soft ear of my aunt, the Queen of the Air and Darkness. She wants me dead. I don't even know why."

Meredith Gentry, Princess of the high court of Faerie, is posing as a human in Los Angeles, living as a P.I. specializing in supernatural crime. But now the Queen's assassin has been dispatched to fetch her back-whether she likes it or not. Suddenly Meredith finds herself a pawn in her dreaded aunt's plans. The job that awaits her: enjoy the constant company of the most beautiful immortal men in the world. The reward: the crown-and the opportunity to continue to live. The penalty for failure: death.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Free Short Fiction: People of Leaf and Branch by Jay Lake

Maribel ran along the top boards. The planks went from roof to roof, along the ridges, with a jumping-space to reach the peaks of the round huts. She didn’t have the skill of a danseuse, nor the grace of the best of the girls from the stone city below her, but among the woodkin, she was often accounted the most lithe and best.

The Tower Wander was ahead, with Shrike House clinging to its neck like a collar. The old wall had long since been swallowed by the spread of the stone city, gone from defense to landmark to landform in the space of a few generations. The Duke of Copper Downs had forbidden the woodkin to enter the abandoned towers, but their exteriors had never been under such a rule.

So the seven surviving towers acquired names, and superstructures, and held the long, narrow village that ran from the Broken Gate to the Tower Harbor. The towers were part of the stone city, but the houses were the woodkin’s memory of another time and place.

She slipped through the roof of Shrike House, dropping to the floor in a shower of dust and straw.

Monday, November 2, 2009

World Fantasy Award Winners 2009

As Science Fiction Awards Watch reports, here is the list for World Fantasy Award Winners 2009:

Lifetime Achievement: Ellen Asher & Jane Yolen
Best Novel (tie): The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (Morrow) & Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin; Knopf)
Best Novella: "If Angels Fight", Richard Bowes (F&SF 2/08)
Best Short Story: "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss", Kij Johnson (Asimov's 7/08)
Best Anthology: Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, Ekaterina Sedia, ed. (Senses Five Press)
Best Collection: The Drowned Life, Jeffrey Ford (HarperPerennial)
Best Artist: Shaun Tan
Special Award – Professional: Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant (for Small Beer Press and Big Mouth House)
Special Award – Non-Professional: Michael Walsh (for Howard Waldrop collections from Old Earth Books)

The judges for 2009 were: Jenny Blackford, Peter Heck, Ellen Klages, Chris Roberson & Delia Sherman.

Free Short Fiction: Ghost Technology From the Sun by Paul Jessup

Master told us that the earth was hollow, and that we lived on the inside of it, clinging to the top of the crust. Below us was another world, a world inside the world, a glowing bright sun of a place. What Master called the summerlands. That is where the dead live, he said. That is how we can talk to them, he said. They send us signals across the air, and the mediums pick them up and drink them in.

And when the words came in, we had to speak them. We cannot deny the dead our voices–the dead would be angry if we did. And nobody wanted the angry dead to fly their zeppelins up from the sun and attack us crust dwellers.

That wouldn’t do anyone any good.

Master knew this because he is an ambassador to the land of the dead. At night he walked through the door of the dead, and it beamed his body down above us, into the summer sun inside of the earth. That is where he talked to them, worked out trade between our two peoples.

The dead have a lot to offer the living.

He came back with schematics.

Ways of building circuit boards.

Ghost technology from the sun.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Free e-Book: There Was A Crooked Man by Edward Morris

Welcome to the world of master fabulist Edward Morris, where History has been pulled down a Hieronymus Bosch rabbit-hole and everything makes far too much sense. In this first volume of Morris's alternate history tour de force, on an East Coast two centuies after Armageddon, a rogue soldier throws himself back in Time to wreak havoc upon History and feed on the blood in the streets. He lands in the New World with the first white settlers. The Irrakwa try to stop him. And from two centuries ahead, the law tries to follow him back...

You can download a copy of There Was A Crooked Man as a PDF or Mobi file. I'm not sure why the ePub version is not enabled. It's a pity!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Malazan Quotes

Malazan books are full of hidden pearls. Following a recent conversation with a few friends, I'm going to try to collect here quotes and worthy sections that appear in the Malazan books. Please feel free to drop a comment if you have a quote that you want me to add in the list or if you just have something to say.

Gardens of the Moon

"Such tears had been shed before, and would be again - by others like her and yet unlike her. And the winds would dry them all."

"Betrayal was the greatest of all crimes in Rallick's mind, for it took all that was human within a person and made it a thing of pain."

"Kallor said: 'I walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'
'Yes,' said Caladan Brood, 'you never learn.'"

"Out of your depth, Captain? Don't worry, every damn person here's out of their depth. Some know it, some don't. It's the ones who don't you got to worry about. Start with what's right inf ront of you and forget the rest for now. It'll show up in its own time." - Toc the Younger

"When the time for action comes, all doubts must be discarded."

Deadhouse Gates

"Name none of the fallen, for they stood in our place, and stand there still in each moment of our lives. Let my death hold no glory, and let me die forgotten and unknown. Let it not be said that I was one among the dead to accuse the living." - Duiker

"Names to faces are like twinned serpents threatening the most painful bite of all. I'll never return to the List of the Fallen, because I see now that the unnamed soldier is a gift. The named soldier--dead, melted wax--demands a response among the living... A response no one can make. Names are no comfort, they're a call to answer the unanswerable. Why did she die, not him? Why do the survivors remain anonymous--as if cursed--while the dead are revered? Why do we cling to what we lose while we ignore what we still hold?" - Duiker

"Show me a mortal who is not pursued, and I'll show you a corpse. Every hunter is hunted, every mind that knows itself has stalkers. We drive and are driven. The unknown pursues the ignorant, the truth assails every scholar wise enough to know his own ignorance, for that is the meaning of unknowable truths." - Heboric

"We are all lone souls. It pays to know humility, lest the delusion of control, of mastery, overwhelms. And, indeed, we seem a species prone to that delusion, again and ever again." - Fiddler

"It's our nature, isn't it? Again and again, we cling to the foolish belief that simple solutions exist." - Kalam

"You dream that with memories will come knowledge, and from knowledge, understanding. But for every answer you find, a thousand questions arise."

Memories of Ice

Book Review: Royal Exile by Fiona McIntosh

Title: Royal Exile
Author: Fiona McIntosh
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Publishing Date: 5 Jan 2009
Paperback: 456 pages
Series: Book 1 of the Valisar trilogy


The barbarian horde of the Likurian Steppes moved from the east and conquered the Denova Set. Cremond, Barronel, Gormand, Dregon and Vorgaven fell before Loethar’s barbarian army. Penraven, the most powerful kingdom of the Set is the the last one standing, however the end is near. King Brennus of Penraven has to take difficult decisions in order to preserve the life of the only Valisar heir, Prince Leonel.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

What I see is a bleeding cape but I would have preferred to see the same soldier facing us. On a second thought, maybe it is representing a bleeding flight... I think I like it. Especially after having seen the cover of the second book, I like what they’re doing with the covers of the Valisar Trilogy.


I hadn’t read any of Fiona McIntosh’s books before and I was pretty excited when I received a review copy of Royal Exile. As I’ve been reading the books of the Malazan of the Fallen series, I’m always looking for interesting books to alternate between two Malazan books. So I was hoping to find an interesting story in Royal Exile. Especially when I read what Robin Hobb had to say about Royal Exile, it raised my expectations for Fiona McIntosh’s work.

Fiona McIntosh’s style is very smooth and easy to get used to. That makes the book very easy to read. The first hundred or so pages, the introductory chapters, went without much excitement. Just when I was getting worried that it was going to be a story full of clichés and not enough action, things sped up and the book gained a steady momentum. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the pages were turning fast with my desire to know more.

I love complex world building in fantasy & sci-fi books. However the world building in Royal Exile is probably done at a bare minimum to keep the story going with some hidden secrets left for the future. I’m hoping to hear more about the Set and its surroundings in the future installments.

My feelings towards the characters in the story have been very mixed. I cared for a few of them. Some others didn’t seem believable enough. In more than one occasion, I scratched my head asking myself "would I or anyone do that in the same situation?" On the other hand, I welcomed the late-introduction of other protagonists, and interesting ones in that, who promise a superior upcoming book. Royal Exile started mainly with a single story thread, however, to my joy, Fiona McIntosh carefully crafted multiple parallel threads in the second half of the book.

Royal Exile is a well-written, easy-to-read book. Its plot is captivating despite the shallowness of the world building and of most of its characters. The first book of the Valisar Trilogy is a promising one and I, for one, am looking forward to read the second book.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free e-Book: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

For a limited time, you can download an electronic copy of Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson from Barnes & Noble for free.

About the Book

In James Patterson's blockbuster series, fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it's like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the "flock"—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel—are just like ordinary kids—only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any when Angel, the youngest member of the flock, is kidnapped and taken back to the "School" where she and the others were experimented on by a crew of wack jobs. Her friends brave a journey to blazing hot Death Valley, CA, to save Angel, but soon enough, they find themselves in yet another nightmare—this one involving fighting off the half-human, half-wolf "Erasers" in New York City. Whether in the treetops of Central Park or in the bowels of the Manhattan subway system, Max and her adopted family take the ride of their lives. Along the way Max discovers from her old friend and father-figure Jeb—now her betrayed and greatest enemy—that her purpose is save the world—but can she?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Barnes & Noble's new eReader

Last week when I heard about Barnes & Noble's upcoming color eReader, I was very skeptical. It's just the video below didn't really convince me. No offense but it felt like a salesman pitch disconnected from the reality. I guess time will tell...

However, what seems to be true is that their new eReader is pretty good looking. Yesterday, in a article, we had the pleasure to see their new device:

Its look will probably evoke a Kindle or an iPhone. It also looks like it has a bottom LCD part that is indeed in color however the main screen is the regular gray-scale e-Paper screen (EPD display). That's how much color we're going to get for now, I guess... On the other hand, having two screens may prove a useful feature. It opens up a bunch of possibilities. Especially if they can achieve a truly responsive menu then they would satisfy a lot of users.

Regarding the price, it's said that it's going to be cheaper than the Kindle. It would be amazing if that's true because I would not expect this device to be cheaper than $300 normally.

And finally, I'm not sure what kind of formats will be supported by the Barnes & Noble eReader however I hope ePub is in the list.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Review: Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Title: Deadhouse Gates
Author: Steven Erikson
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bantam
Publishing Date: 1 Oct 2001
Paperback: 959 pages
Series: Second of ten novels of the epic fantasy series, the Malazan Book Of The Fallen.


In and around the Seven Cities, the wind blowing from the holy Raraku Desert carries the warnings of a rebellion brewing in the whole continent. As Sha'ik unlocks the Whirlwind and sends her followers out on a holy war, the continent becomes a very dangerous place for the Malazans.

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

I must admit that I love Steve Stone's artwork on the covers of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series and Deadhouse Gates is no exception. The warriors spawned by the whirlwind in the desert and the hounds announce a captivating book.


We were in Darujhistan when we turned the last page of the Gardens of the Moon. However in Deadhouse Gates Erikson brings us to the Seven Cities, on a different continent.

As soon as I decided to read Deadhouse Gates, the first question that came to my mind was: "Will I read about the same characters in this book?" Well... If you're asking the same question then let me tell you that the only characters from the Gardens of the Moon that we encounter in Deadhouse Gates are Fiddler, Crokus, Apsalar and Kalam. The story of the first three is told in one of the story threads as Erikson masterfully manages four main story lines in parallel. We find the charismatic Kalam in the second story thread. The third thread is about a trio who just fell into slavery: Felisin Paran, a noble teenager (whose family name should be familiar), Heboric, an excommunicated priest of Fener the Boar God, and Beneth, a brute. The last main story thread revolves around the imperial historian Duiker (whose name was mentioned in the first book) who accompanies the Seventh Army in a perilous journey. Contrary to Gardens of the Moon, though, the characters in each story thread in Deadhouse Gates are most of the time separated by very long distances.

From the first page to the last, Deadhouse Gates progresses as a runaway train that imprisons the reader's attention. The parallel story lines are well crafted and have well balanced weights. These stories pull the reader in different directions, most of the time in different parts of the continent. Furthermore, Erikson continues his world building without overwhelming the reader. He's not afraid of showing gore and blood, and he proves that he is one the best fantasy writers to describe martial action and battle scenes.

I also noticed two things after reading the second book of the series: There is not any deep romance in Erikson's books, at least not in the first two books of the Malazan book of the Fallen. And Erikson seems to be just like George R. R. Martin in that no protagonist is safe in his books. There's something good about being caught off guard that way but it's also sad to see one of your favorite characters disappear.

All in all, in Deadhouse Gates, Steven Erikson raises the bar one more notch. It was an incredible read and I'm definitely thirsty for more. My mind is already set on Memories of Ice. I can't wait...

Rating: 9.5


"Name none of the fallen, for they stood in our place, and stand there still in each moment of our lives. Let my death hold no glory, and let me die forgotten and unknown. Let it not be said that I was one among the dead to accuse the living."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Free on-line reading: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic (Discworld 1)

You can now read Terry Pratchett's The Color of Magic on-line using HarperCollins Publishers' Browse Inside site.

Book Description

Terry Pratchett's profoundly irreverent novels are consistent number one bestsellers in England, where they have garnered him a revered position in the halls of parody next to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett's maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins--with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kindle International Edition

It had been rumored for a while and today came the official announcement: Ladies and gents! Amazon Kindle 2 is now internationally available in 100+ countries (but bizarrely not in Canada - anybody knows why?).

As of today, you can pre-order it from the site for $279 and Amazon will begin shipping them on 19th October. Even though the device is current sold from the .com site, a UK store is forthcoming. Currently the list of UK publishers whose books are available to Kindle 2 users include Atlantic Books, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Faber & Faber, Hachette, Harlequin, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet, Penguin, Profile Books, Quercus, Simon & Schuster and Wiley. It looks like the talks between Amazon and Random House are ongoing so Random House is not currently on the list. The number of available titles is supposed to be more than 250.000.

According to The Register, the Kindle international edition seems to be using GSM technology only. If this is true, the Kindle International may not be working everywhere in the world. Furthermore, the UK coverage map resembles 3's network, even though the operator denied having an agreement with Amazon.

What's this fee of $1.99 per book about?

Since the announcement, there has been a big debate about the international prices, especially about the $1.99 that the international users are supposed to pay per book downloaded. It turns out that this fee is payed only by the US Kindle users buying books outside the USA. International users won't pay that fee even if they use their Kindles outside their registered countries. I'm sure, that's precisely the reason why the international titles' prices will range between $11.99 and $13.99 rather than %9.99 like in the US. It looks like the extra fee is bundled with the book price for the non-US customers already.

As you can guess, it was all about releasing the Kindle 2 well before the holiday season. Q4 has always been the busiest quarter for Amazon so they wanted release the device early in October. Is that a half-baked solution? Will there be a lot of confusion about where to buy it and for how much? We'll see it pretty soon. In the meantime, competition is good for us, the consumers. I believe Sony's e-readers are better devices but we'll see if Amazon can break Sony's market dominance outside the US.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Free e-Book: The Demon Awakens by R.A. Salvatore

Suvudu are giving away 2 more e-books in various formats:

The Demon Awakens
by R. A. Salvatore

The Demon Awakens is the first book in the first DemonWars Saga trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. The book is also the first out of seven books in the combined DemonWars Saga.


In The Demon Awakens, bestselling author R. A. Salvatore creates an astonishing new world for readers to explore—and an intrepid hero to lead the way: Elbryan Wynden, who must confront the dark tides of destiny in his epic search for justice and peace...

A great evil has awakened in the land of Corona, a terrible demon determined to spread death and misery. His goblin armies and fearsome giants ravage the settlements of the frontier, and in the small village of Dundallis their merciless attack leaves behind two shattered orphans: Pony and her lifelong friend, the youth Elbryan. Taken in by elves, Elbryan is raised to become a formidable ranger—a fateful role that will lead him into harrowing confrontation.

Meanwhile, on a far-off island, a shower of gemstones will fall onto the black sand shores. These heaven-sent stones carry within them an incredible power—the key to all that is good in the world and all that is evil, and it is up to one young monk to liberate them from the corrupt monastery that harvests them. Pray that they don't fall into the wrong, clawed hands...

Starfist: First to Fight
by David Sherman and Dan Cragg

"Marines, we have just become a low-tech deep recon patrol..."

Stranded in a hellish alien desert, stripped of their strategic systems, quick reaction force, and supporting arms, and carrying only a day's water ration, Marine Staff Sergeant Charlie Bass and his seven-man team faced a grim future seventy-five light-years from home. The only thing between his Marines and safety was eighty-five miles of uncharted, waterless terrain and two thousand bloodthirsty savages with state-of-the-art weapons in their hands and murder on their minds.

But the enemy didn't reckon on the warrior cunning of Marines' Marine Charlie Bass and the courage of the few good men who would follow him anywhere—even to death...

E-Book Universe

I came across a diagram prepared by technology news site techflash: The diagram, entitled E-Book Universe, shows the companies involved in e-book business, various readers, online libraries and various technologies. The relationships between the entities on the diagram are of type:
  • Reading Device
  • Wireless Provider
  • Mobile App
  • Content Provider
  • Acquisition
I think it's great to try to capture the significant part of the booming e-book industry in one diagram.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lost in the vastness of the Malazan world?

Fantasy Book Review just published an interview done with Steven Erikson, the author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series and the co-creator of the Malazan world.

If you're like me and time to time felt overwhelmed by the vastness of the background information in the Malazan books then you should read this excerpt taken from the interview:
One of the things both Cam and I were agreed on regarding this series, was to write in a style that conveyed a sense of vastness, with a strong flavour of realism where not all answers are forthcoming, not all truths survive their utterance, and sometimes mystery abides no matter how desperate we all are for an end to the questions. That said, there will be plenty of resolutions, but the world will not be wrapped up with a pretty bow.

As for the events that have been recounted in the books, well, things are always open to interpretation, and I am also rather pleased to learn from readers that the books fair well in re-reads. I am a writer obsessed with layering my narrative, so there’s plenty to find for the reader even after the raw events of the story are well-known.

For the complete interview please see "Steven Erikson interview (September 2009)".

E-book Search and Price Comparison Engines

If you are an e-book reader, you may find the following two sites very handy:

Inkmesh is an e-book search engine. Its search index includes sites such as Sony eBook Store,, BooksOnBoard and Fictionwise. The complete list is supposed to grow to include other sites such as or

I find the overall usability of the site pretty good. They've done a good job. I like the search result presentation. Some quick enhancements that come to my mind are:
  • Sorting or searching according to device type or alternatively according to e-book format.
  • Inclusion of non-english sites
  • Ability to configure the number of books a search page contains is a price comparison site for e-books. I love the idea, even though I didn't quite like the site design (which is definitely secondary in my mind). One can use as a search engine or a comparison engine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Free e-Book: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

You can read Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist on-line for a limited time.


Will Henry is an orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet. Critically acclaimed author Rick Yancey has written a gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does a man become the very thing he hunts?

Friday, September 18, 2009

ABC interviews Fantasy Author Steven Erikson

ABC interviews Fantasy Author Steven Erikson
I write four hours a day, usually in the afternoon (I’m a late riser), at a local pub or cafe — the ones run by friendly, accommodating people who don’t object to my taking up a table and occasionally plugging in my laptop.
A nice interview but Erikson is still not smiling on the picture, though! ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

E-book of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol outsells the hardback on Amazon

With a romantic touch, maybe we can consider this day being the beginning of a new era in publishing: E-book of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol outsells the hardback on Amazon.

This is not a small accomplishment. I hope that it is a true indicator of e-book reader usage and what can be achieved with an appropriate pricing model. I'm sure people are going to argue about publisher's margins etc. but there are more and more e-book readers sold. It's a healthy market. We just need to solve a few important problems (such as appropriate pricing, DRM and common formats) for it to become mainstream relatively quickly. But for now, I'm savoring the moment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Title: Gardens of the Moon
Author: Steven Erikson
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bantam (UK & Canada) & Tor (USA)
Publishing Date: 1 April 1999
Paperback: 752 pages
Series: First of ten (or maybe more) novels of the epic fantasy series, The Malazan Book Of The Fallen.


The story starts with the encounter between a boy called Ganoes Paran and the Sergeant Wiskeyjack during the final year of the Emperor Kellanved's reign. Ganoes, who's in Malaz City with his father, witnesses the raiding of the Mouse Quarter. During their conversation, Wiskeyjack disapproves the young Ganoes' dreams of becoming a soldier.

Then the book fast forwards seven years: Emperor Kellanved and his ally called Dancer have been assassinated. Since then, the Empire has been ruled by the Empress Laseen whose eyes are set on the Genabackis continent. The Malazan 2nd army is besieging Pale, one of the two free cities remaining on this continent. And we find Wiskeyjack and Ganoes Paran among the many characters whose lives are touched by these events.

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

I know that there have been various different covers depending on the editions. Those are my two favorite ones. I really like both and they would be the type of cover that makes me pick up a book and have a look. The first cover doesn't tell much about the martial aspect of the book however it creates a better mystery. From this point of view, I think that the second cover makes more justice to the story. Furthermore, the person on the second cover is Anomander Rake, Lord of Moon's Spawn and the leader of Tiste Andii. He is an extremely cool character.


Wow! I just discovered that reading Erikson is a very fulfilling experience, in many ways. It's like drinking a pint of Murphy's (if you're asking "a pint of what?", it's like Guinness but it's better :). It's a superior stout from Cork, Ireland): It's tasty, it's rich, it has character, it has depth...

Gardens Of The Moon had been on my to-read list for a long while and I don't quite know why, I had always had something else to read. I mean, I don't know why I preferred to read something else but you know how it works. You have a list in your mind and depending on your mood you reshuffle that. Or you have a nice blog that you follow, you read a new review and bang! The list is reordered.

Anyway... I'm glad that I decided to plunge into the Malazan world. After a few dozen pages, I put the book down and I asked myself "Have I missed a few introductory chapters? Was there a book before Gardens Of The Moon?" It seems that it's normal to feel a bit lost in the beginning. It turns out that Erikson tells a story as it happens without constant background information giving. This becomes a very interesting style. On the one hand, potentially boring introductory chapters are avoided and it creates further mystery, and on the other hand the book reads like a real life event. Almost like the reader is a true witness to the story unfolding before her eyes but because she just arrived, she doesn't have much background information, naturally. So, at this point, if the reader is patient enough to follow Erikson's lead, she's rewarded by a window opening onto an incredible universe. I understand, now, what the author himself meant by saying "you either like it or you don't". Luckily I liked it very very much.

My first introduction to fantasy happened when I started to read my uncle's Conan comic books during my childhood. I still enjoy reading Conan, every now and then. The richness and the possibilities offered by the universe and the setting in Gardens Of The Moon reminded me of the Conan universe. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that the storylines or the styles are similar. It's just that the world created by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont is so rich with martial action, diverse races, deities, magical warrens, types of magic wielders, demons, armies, long forgotten civilizations, myths, etc. that the comparison came to me naturally, I guess.

The book has parallel stories running at the same time. Jumping from one story to another one is very frequent. And as I've already mentioned, it is rich in characters. My favourite ones are Anomander Rake, Whiskeyjack, the mysterious Kalam and Quick Ben who seems to be so much more than a simple mage. There are so many others: Irritating Tattersail, the confusing Ganoes Paran, the fat Kruppe, the young Crokus, Rallick Nom the assassin, Toc the Younger (I have the feeling that we're going to meet him again in a later book)... there are so many of them who make the whole book a delight to read. Furthermore, I found it was easy to connect with most of the characters.

Despite feeling lost in the beginning, Gardens Of The Moon ended up being a brilliant read. So much so that I had to continue with the second book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series immediately after finishing the first one. I've never been afraid of ambitious books and Gardens Of The Moon certainly starts like the first book of a very ambitious series. So, if you're like me, you are going to love it.

Rating: 9/10


"Such tears had been shed before, and would be again - by others like her and yet unlike her. And the winds would dry them all."

Question: Why does Steven Erikson never smile on pictures?

Final Note: Even though I haven't been playing for a few years, I played role-playing games for a long time (mostly table-top and on-line – not much video games). I can clearly see the creative minds behind such a rich world and how this whole universe can relate to an RPG world. I believe it would truly be a wonderful experience to role-play in a game GMed by the author.