Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cover Art: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

If I believed in the existence of the devil and of a soul then I would probably sell mine on eBay to be the first one to read Joe Abercrombie's upcoming book, The Heroes (Publishers! I don't believe in the devil but I believe in you. So I'd still sell my soul for an ARC. Deal?).

Looking at this cover, that I like by the way, The Heroes is going to be the bloodiest of all of Abercrombie's books. The map on the background, which has almost become a signature, keeps the consistency with the previous books while the reflection of the faces on the blood gives a glimpse of the crowd who shed it.


War: where the blood and dirt of the battlefield hide the dark deeds committed in the name of glory. THE HEROES is about violence and ambition, gruesome deaths and betrayals; and the brutal truth that no plan survives contact with enemy. The characters are the stars, as ever, and the message is dark: when it comes to war, there are no heroes…


Curnden Craw: a ruthless fighter who wants nothing more than to see his crew survive.

Prince Calder: a liar and a coward, he will regain his crown by any means necessary.

Bremer dan Gorst: a master swordsman, a failed bodyguard, his honor will be restored—in the blood of his enemies.

Over three days, their fates will be sealed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill

Title: Apartment 16
Author: Adam Nevill
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Pan
Publishing Information: Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN 10: 0330514962
ISBN 13: 978-0330514965

This review is posted on Speculative Book Review.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Speculative Book Review

It all started a few months ago when Ty (State of Review) and PeterWilliam (Ubiquitous Absence) got together (on-line) to talk about setting up a collaborative blog. After a silent recruiting campaign and tons of brainstorming, our band of reviewers has grown to include Victoria, Cara (Murf61) and myself.

Simply looking at the quality and the diversity of my co-bloggers in Speculative Book Review, I think we'll be contributing to one of the best book blogs out there. I, personally, don't want to say that I'm moving all my blogging to a new site however this may well be what the future holds for me. We'll see...

Currently, Speculative Book Review is in Beta. We will officially launch on April 1st with the interview of one of fantasy's greatest writers. And I'm going to hold on to my upcoming review for another week for this occasion too.

Please bookmark the address of Speculative Book Review and let us know what you think.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Giveaway: Farlander by Col Buchanan

I recently reviewed Farlander and I greatly enjoyed it, just like so many other bloggers (ediFanoB, Liviu, Graeme, the truth about books and our favorite Scotsman).

Now here's a chance for you to discover Farlander. For 5 lucky readers I have 5 copies of Farlander by Col Buchanan to give away thanks to the very nice and generous people of Tor UK (twitter). All you have to do is to drop me an e-mail at betweentwobooks at gmail dot com with your name, your postal address and the subject "FARLANDER".

This giveaway is UK Only and 1 entry per address or per name is allowed. Multiple entries will be disqualified from the draw.

I will be accepting your e-mails until 12:00 on April 1st and I will announce the lucky winners on this blog the next day.


The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.

The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army.

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Rōshun - who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Rōshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the Rōshun orders – their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports . . . into bloodshed and death.

About the Author

Colin Buchanan was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, in 1973. The one constant in his life has been his love of writing. It was writing that lead him to his adopted home of Lancaster, England, where he gained a First in Creative Writing & Religious Studies at the University of Cumbria. In recent years he has mostly settled down, and loves nothing more than a late-night gathering around a fire with good friends. Farlander is the first novel in the Heart of the World series...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Title: Spellwright
Author: Blake Charlton
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperVoyager (twitter)
Publishing Date: 27 May 2010
Paperback: 400 pages
Series: The first book of The Spellwright Trilogy. The second book is called Spellbound and the third book's working title is Disjunction.


At twenty-five, Nicodemus Weal is old for an apprentice and he is far from being the best student Starhaven has ever seen. He isn't particularly good at magic because he is a cacographer who misspells magical texts simply by touching them.

The peaceful lives of Starhaven's inhabitants take an unusual turn when the Magistra Nora Finn, Dean of the Drum Tower, is murdered on the Spindle Bridge by a strange human-like creature. And this puts a great burden on Nicodemus' shoulders, a burden that he's not aware of yet.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

In my opinion, Spellwright is one of those exceptional books with a nicer looking US cover. Furthermore, after reading the book, I really appreciate some the details of the US cover art: The moons, the bridges and the towers on the background, the gargoyle looking over Nicodemus' shoulder, the magic book. The UK cover unfortunately doesn't have any that subtlety. However it can also be said that the US cover is more YA-looking.


In 1621, in The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton stated: "A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword". We are all familiar with this metaphor or with a similar one. But in The Spellwright Trilogy, Blake Charlton has created a world where words could literally be deadlier than swords.

In his fantasy debut, Charlton masterfully mixes his experience of childhood struggle with dyslexia, his medical background and some software programming knowledge to create one of the most imaginative magic systems I've ever read. As the story progresses, the reader faces more and more clues about how Charlton's background has inspired him in creating some very interesting concepts that make his system unique.

Additionally, the magic system that Charlton tells the reader about in his book is truly multi-dimensional. Sometimes Charlton's spells have a texture like coarse, stiff cloth. Sometimes their soft, muddy texture makes them safe to handle. And another time, a certain spell quickly flicked into the air, careens someone else's and knocks both spells out of existence with a wet pop. That kind of detail creates a heightened sense of realism in the reader's mind allowing her to connect with the story effortlessly.

Furthermore, I was delighted to see that the author uses gargoyles as magical constructs, which are animated beings composed of magical language, in Spellwright. I've always had a penchant for gargoyles and this was another satisfactory touch for me.

The blurb may give the impression that Spellwright contains some fantasy clichés but Charlton twists his story so well that the reader encounters a lot of surprises throughout the book. Along the way, the reader also meets some very vibrant characters who complement the plot beautifully.

Last but not least, a quick word about the fine-looking map Spellwright contains. I absolutely appreciate seeing a high-quality map at the beginning of a fantasy book. Hats off!

Spellwright is without a doubt a very strong fantasy debut from Blake Charlton. I was easily won over by his beautiful style, his colourful characters and his unique magical system. When I turned the last page of Spellwright, I was left with wanting more. I'm looking forward to the second instalment of The Spellwright Trilogy. I am going to be a very happy man when I get the opportunity to read Spellbound.

Rating: 9/10


"Splattering splud!" - Simple John

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Read an Extract from Kraken by China Miéville

Kraken is a book that I've been looking forward to and I'm hoping to read it soon.

In the meantime, I was glad to hear that an extract of the book, which looks like its first chapter is available on panmacmillan.com. Go and get a taste of what's to come!


Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?

For curator Billy Harrow it's the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature he's been preserving is more than a biological rarity: there are those who are sure it's a god.

A god that someone is hoping will end the world.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Read the First Three Chapters of Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov

Alexey Pehov's Shadow Prowler has become one of 2010's anticipated books on blogosphere. Now, thanks to Simon & Schuster UK's generosity, you can read the first three chapters (45 pages) of the book and decide whether it is your type of book. It certainly sounds like the type of epic fantasy that I'll enjoy very much.

Shadow Provler is the first book of Chronicles of Siara series. Published in the US 3 weeks ago, it will come out in the UK on April 1st (Nope! It's not a joke! It is real!).


After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. An army is gathering: giants, ogres and other creatures joining forces from across the Desolate Lands, united for the first time in history under one black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.

Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the Kingdom of Siala. Harold will be accompanied on his quest by an Elfin princess, Miralissa, her elfin escort, and ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world…and by the king’s court jester (who may be more than he seems…or less).

Reminiscent of Moorcock's Elric series, Shadow Prowler is the first work to be published in English by the bestselling Russian fantasy author Alexey Pehov. The book was translated by Andrew Bromfield, best known for his work on the highly successful Night Watch series.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cover Art: Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

I think this is the first time I've been very disappointed with the cover of a book by Guy Gavriel Kay. I can't help but asking myself "Why?". Why did they have to make it look almost like a Paranormal book? Is it just an attempt to seduce a different demographic than the first cover has been appealing to? *sigh* The old cover looks so much nicer:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cover Art: L'Exil & Le Tyran by Fiona McIntosh

I reviewed Fiona McIntosh's Royal Exile (review) and Tyrant's Blood (review) not so long ago. I didn't like the cover arts very much. However when I saw the covers of the French editions, I couldn't help but thinking that French readers must be more demanding.

I read in French (not often enough, unfortunately) but I do almost all of my fantasy, sci-fi and horror reading in English these days. I picked up on the French covers thanks to Mihai (Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews) and looking at these covers, now I seriously think that I should select some of my books among French editions (and maybe even do a few French reviews).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cover Art: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The cover art of Brent Weeks' upcoming book The Black Prism improves on the previously leaked cover. I also think that it's much nicer looking than the covers of the author's The Night Angel Trilogy. I like its dark composition.

The only flaw I see with this cover is that the angle of the moonlight on the blade and on the man's face are totally contradictory... unless those are different light sources, of course. But then, the man's face wouldn't be this dark.

The cover artist is Richard Jones.


Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

Title: The Left Hand of God
Author: Paul Hoffman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Publishing Date: 7 Jan 2010
Hardback: 448 pages


The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a tasteless, pleasureless and hopeless place where boys are reared according to vicious and fundamentalist religious rules. Thomas Cale has survived in this environment until now by trusting no one but himself, by keeping away from the others... and by being special. His life takes an unexpected turn when he decides to follow two other boys who are his closest things to friends.

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover, But...

I have mixed feelings about this cover art. On the positive side, I really like the color scheme and the aquarelle-looking composition. The character on the cover reminds me of Turkish Whirling Dervishes and his stance is notable, especially his left hand and his head. However, as a whole, it fails to impress me because it follows an overused idea - a cliché if you will.


The Left Hand of God was one of the most anticipated books of this year. There has been so much talk and publicity around it that it was hard not to have high expectations. Furthermore, religious notions always arouse my curiosity and as this book's promise was based on a heavily fundamentalist Redeemers concept I was expecting a good read. However, the book falls very short of all expectations.

On the positive side, Hoffman shows that he can tell his story in a captivating way, even though the reader doesn't experience these precious moments often enough in The Left Hand of God. I particularly liked the way Hoffman uses flashbacks with full dialogs, almost as if they were part of a movie. They add real color to the story. He also shows excellent imagination around the religious concepts that render the Redemeers as fundamentalist fanatics.

Unfortunately, all in all, the negative side seemed larger. The biggest disappointment for me was the setting. It felt like the story took place during the Middle Age somewhere in Europe. References to Saint Stephen of Hungary, Jesus of Nazareth, Jews of the Ghetto, Ark of the Covenant gave it a touch of historical fantasy however some other details totally disoriented me: "Dollar" as the currency was an odd choice. Mentioning "to be shipped to Middle East's leper colony" was another odd one as during the Middle Age, Middle East was a more civilized and clean place than Europe. The strangest of all was when IdrisPukke and Cale was sitting on a veranda, IdrisPukke "opened another beer" and handed out to Cale. There was no mention of an aluminium can, though.

Throughout the book, the author tells how dangerous Cale is but to the reader, it doesn't really feel that way. The author also tries to paint the picture of a mysterious character in Cale however most of the times it comes across very awkward and artificial. At times, the author's 3rd person point of view is too revealing, leaving less to be discovered. Or something that could be discovered indirectly was told bluntly. Doesn't the author trust the wit of his readers?

Sometimes, the language of the book seemed disappointingly juvenile and the introduction of new characters was done somehow clumsily. The most notable character was IdrisPukke, who was also very irritating in some places.

Culinary sections were very boring and really lacked imagination. Especially the hunting cabin experience seemed very implausible with all sorts of food cooked by IdrisPukke. Another odd detail was about fried potato strips because historically potato was brought to Europe during the late 16th century.

All in all, The Left Hand of God is a book of contradictions and it is a book that I failed to like. Its main idea sounds great but an unstable setting, not-so-well-developed characters and an occasionally juvenile narration spoil the story. Sometimes, Hoffman shows us how to do good story-telling however they don't happen often enough to make The Left Hand of God a truly enjoyable book.

Rating: 5/10


In the book, one of the redeemers says "Burn them and let God sort them out!". This reminded me of Arnaud Amalric, a Cistercian monk. When he was asked by the Crusaders what to do with the citizens of Béziers who were a mixture of Catholics and Cathars, he spilled out one of the most horrific quotes of history: "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius (Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.)", which is the origin of the modern phrase "Kill them all and let God sort them out."


"We are like water spilled on the ground that cannot be gathered up again" - Redeemers' Book of Proverbs

"Every philosopher can stand the toothache, except for the one who has it" - IdrisPukke

"To desire love is to desire to be chained to a lunatic" - IdrisPukke

"Even the bleakest, cruellest soul can have its tender spots. Even the harshest desert has its pools, its shady trees and gentle streams."

"If history teaches us one thing, My Lord, it's that if you're prepared to sacrifice your own life you can kill anyone" - IdrisPukke