Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Summer Sale

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From now until June 23rd, I’ve reduced the e-book prices on both The Bone Flower Throne and Fugitives of Fate down to $.99. They are both available at a wide variety of retailers, so if you click on the book covers, that will take you to a page where you can quickly access the link to your desired retailer.

Bone Flower redo 3Gods, Blood, Magic

A darkness has taken control of Culhuacan, one of the Toltec’s most powerful kingdoms. The bloodthirsty sorcerer god Smoking Mirror has sent her patron god—the benevolent Feathered Serpent–into exile, but the Feathered Serpent is determined not only to regain his sacred city, but also to end human sacrifice all together.

Princess Quetzalpetlatl barely escaped Culhuacan with her life, but when the Feathered Serpent tasks her with helping his mortal son Topiltzin fulfill his divine mandate, she eagerly embraces her destiny. Finally she can avenge her father’s murder at the hands of the Smoking Mirror’s high priest, and return home.

Yet the price for involving herself in a war among the gods is high, paid in blood and loss. But for Topiltzin—who’s more than just a brother to her—she’s willing to do anything. Even sacrifice her own heart.

Tenochtitlan, Mexico 1526—but not as history remembers it…

Driven by fiery visions of the end of the world, Aztec Emperor Cuauhtemoc averted the Spanish Conquest, and now he seeks to end the inter-tribal fighting that would have condemned the empire. When he discovers a woman from his visions working in his palace, he knows he must win her trust: only the infamous La Malinche can help him turn his enemies into allies.

Malinali has spent her whole life in slavery, passed from one abusive master to the next, and to her, Cuauhtemoc is no different than the other noblemen who’ve made her years miserable. Cuauhtemoc, however, is a determined man, and with time and work, her suspicion turns into trust, and trust grows into love.

But is love enough to truly change destiny? Especially when the shadow of unraveled history threatens to turn them into the enemies they were meant to be?

Both books make excellent summer reading getaways, so get your copy now!

New Aztec West Novella – Death’s Good Dog

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DeathsGoodDogThe first brand new, never before published Aztec West novella, Death’s Good Dog, is now available for sale on Amazon. Because I’m trying out KDP Select, for at least the next three months it will only be available on Amazon, but if you use an ereader other than the Kindle, never fear! The file is DRM free, and so you can convert the Kindle file to the format of your choice using programs such as Calibre. Because the novella is enrolled in KDP Select, it can also be borrowed for free by Kindle Unlimited users.

So what’s the novella about? Here’s the blurby goodness:

In 1521, while the Spanish were conquering the Aztec people, the Archangel Michael defeated their gods. Three hundred years later, the fierce, bloodthirsty gods of Ancient Mexico still sit dead on the shores of the Black Lake in the underworld, watched over by the only two gods the angels spared: Lord Death and his servant, the Black Dog Xolotl.

When Xolotl accidentally resurrects the old gods and unleashes them on a world that’s long forgotten them, he must return them to the underworld before Michael finds out, or he will be the next god sitting dead on the Black Lake. It shouldn’t be too difficult to wrangle them up though; newly reborn gods don’t remember who they are, or that feeding on human blood will reawaken their powerful magic.

But he might pay dearly for that underestimation when he matches wits with a god driven by a thirst for children’s tears, and the certainty that Xolotl is a traitor against his own kind….

A little background on this story:

About four or five years ago, shortly after I wrote “The Hearts of Men”, I wrote another story set in that same milieu but following a different god than in HoM. It didn’t turn out very well, and I thought it was much too dark and Xolotl was a horrible, horrible character. I put it aside for a few years while I worked on other things, mainly finishing Bone Flower Throne, but while shopping for an agent, I decided I wanted to write a novel-length work in the 1850’s sword and sixguns milieu of HoM.

I wanted to delve deeper into the underpinnings of Mextli’s and Coyolxauhqui’s return from the dead, and thought back not only to that other story I’d written a few years earlier, but even further back to a story I’d actually published back in 2007, “The Divine Conquest of Mexico”. The basic premise of that story was Quetzalcoatl finally decides to return from exile in Europe and travels back to Mexico as a member of Hernan Cortes’s crew, but once he arrives, he finds the angels are planning the conquest of his fellow gods, to ease the way for their human followers to conquer the Aztecs and their allies. I liked the idea of bringing the two religious/mythological traditions into conflict with each other, as a kind of explanation for why the Aztec empire crumbled so quickly, and so decided to peel that element out and use it as the basic building block of the HoM milieu. I also decided that rather than creating the universe completely anew, I’d just make it a natural progression from what I was creating in the Bone Flower books. That way I could continue exploring the changing lives of characters I’d grown to love in the Bone Flower books. So I wrote the first draft of a novel that followed the adventures of the god Xolotl, the cowardly servant of the god of the dead, who accidentally raises all of the other gods from death and he must collect them all before the villainous archangel Michael discovers what he’s done. Episodic misadventure than ensues.

I ended up setting the novel aside though. My agent didn’t want to touch it, since we were having difficulty finding a buyer for Bone Flower Throne and this was more of the same, just even more uncategorizable than BFT. Eventually I stepped away from my agent to go it alone, and shortly after landed a deal with Panverse for BFT, but in the meantime, I set aside the Xolotl novel to focus on Bone Flower. But I always wanted to come back to it and see if it was salvageable, and having reread it a few months ago, I thought parts of it could easily be broken out into shorter pieces and reworked. Death’s Good Dog is the first part of that novel.

More shorter works will come in the coming months, including one telling Coyolxauhqui’s side of the side of the story, and another where we meet Coyolxauhqui and Mextli’s mother, Coatlicue, who is a two-headed snake who controls an army of the undead. I’m very excited to be working on this series again, and I hope fans of the Bone Flower books enjoy these stories while they wait for the final book in the trilogy.

Misogyny in SF/F – Some Thoughts

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This last weekend I attended the local MALcon just a few minutes down the road from my house. I only went on Saturday, to see if it was something I’d like to participate in in the future, and with departure for Loncon just days away, I didn’t want to spend too much time away from home. On the whole it was rather enjoyable; quite small, but there was a good variety of panels on writing and topics of interest to me.

DCF 1.0I was particularly interested in the panels on powder keg topics and misogyny in SF/F. The latter one had only two men scheduled to be on the panel, so I was invited to join them up front, but I declined because I’m not good talking about political topics, even the ones I’m passionate about. They did find a really well-spoken woman from the audience (I’m pretty sure she was a scientist) to join them in the discussion. My one disappointment though was that the topic got so derailed onto gender differences being cultural vs genetic that we seemed to spend very little time actually discussing misogyny and bigotry in the SF/F field. Near the end, the discussion turned finally to the problems women and minority writers face in the field, but mostly to talk about how boys won’t read female narratives and how women writers can get boys to engage with their SF/F. It was suggested that writers could start out with male characters then ease them into female characters.

While I’m in favor of trying to get boys to read more female narratives, my personal feeling is that this method is just more of the status quo: female characters must be propped up by male characters. And what about adult fiction? Must we hand-hold men lest they scoff and close the book? Should I have made the Bone Flower Trilogy a mixed narrative of both Quetzalpetlatl and Topiltzin’s POV, even though Topiltzin’s story has been told over and over again, in hundreds of years of myths and even in modern books such as K. Michael Wright’s Tolteca or Kenneth Morris’s The Chalchiuhite Dragon? Maybe I should have, then I wouldn’t have been told by a big publishing house that my story was “too feminist” for their predominately male epic fantasy audience. Despite all this, I have no regrets about making Bone Flower Quetzalpetlatl’s story rather than Topiltzin’s; her voice was one lost to time and reduced to little more than a tool for the amusement and ambitions of male gods. This method of couching female narratives through the filter of men and their experiences feels an awful lot like telling stories about native cultures through the eyes of their white colonizers, so the perceived predominately-white audience has someone to grab onto and relate to without having to do any work on a personal and cultural level (and man did discussion of this particular literary device cause a yelling match on a panel at WorldCon in Reno a few years back! I thought one panelist’s head was going to explode when a female panelist said that was a crappy way to write about alien cultures, or other human cultures, for that matter).

Because of the direction of the panel for most of the hour, we didn’t get into much discussion about the negatives of this approach, or what other options are available to writers, which is a pity. These are important discussions to have. From my own experience, there’s multiple points where blockades are put up against women/minorities and their stories; most are cultural and will be extremely difficult to overcome, but some are inherent to the capitalistic nature of publishing and are perhaps a bit more easily changed. Readers can only read what is available to them, and if publishers are not publishing women/minority writers/stories, then readers aren’t going to see them. The chance for exposure and change is being cut off at the source in favor of narratives that are “safe money-makers”. I often hear people defend the status quo by telling those complaining, “Well, if you don’t like it, why don’t you go write the stories you want to read then?” Newsflash: lots of writers do this, but those stories aren’t being published because they aren’t the safe, time-tested product that publishers know they can rely on to sell. Thank goodness for self-publishing and small presses these days, or else truly deserving and compelling narratives–like Sabrina Vourvoulias’s Ink–would never see the light of day. I’m torn on the whole publisher part of this equation; I understand their need to turn a profit so they can publish more books and not go under, but at the same time that very factor is contributing to the silencing of important narratives and stalling the expansion of the art form, based mostly on an inkling of what does and doesn’t sell (not to mention that often when they do take a chance on a non-status quo book, they don’t put the necessary push behind it to help it succeed in the competitive marketplace because of fear of investing too much money and losing it all).

file4501243625430Culturally speaking though, we need to teach boys from a young, young age that women’s/girls’ stories are worthwhile, and provide them with a multitude of narratives throughout their early lives, and get away from the whole “this is for boys, this is for girls” BS. Girls are already being taught from early on that men’s narratives are as worthwhile as women’s narratives (sometimes even more so than women’s), so we should be doing the same with boys. To me, it comes down to parenting, and is supplemented by teachers at the elementary school level. The more we expose children to a multitude of view points, the more open-minded they will be as adults.

One of the panel members mentioned a comic he saw on Facebook where two skeletons were sitting at a table holding beers and the caption said something like “what happens when men sit down to try to understand women”, and pretty much every woman in the room agreed that it was stupidest thing they’d ever heard, but also not surprising. Boys are taught from a very early age that they should only immerse themselves in things considered male while avoiding things perceived as female lest it taint their masculinity, so no wonder they grow to view women as mysterious. Quite honestly, if men want to understand women better, they can start by reading women characters and writers, and reading those genres supposedly geared towards women. Read a romance, read an epic fantasy that follows the lives of female characters rather than male characters, read mysteries with female sleuths–like Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books–and read literary fiction centered around female characters. And even better, seek out books from minority female writers about the female experience. One will soon find out that women are not inscrutable and mysterious, but are in fact human beings, and in turn their relationships with their mothers, their sisters, their girlfriends, their wives, their daughters, and their female friends will greatly improve. This doesn’t mean giving up reading the comfortable male narratives they enjoy, just expanding their reading horizons to include more challenges to one’s view of the world. Let us teach our sons that not only is Harry Potter’s story awesome and meaningful to their lives, but so is Katniss Everdeen’s; Superman and Batman are awesome, but Buffy kicks ass too. If we do this, then there will be more demand for Katnisses and Buffys, and then maybe publishing will take more chances on female narratives in epic fantasy, comics, and hard science fiction (places where androcentrism is currently at its strongest).

Men, stop living your whole literary life in safe comfort and the selfishness culture has taught you, because your comfortable reading habits are making things more difficult for those of us who don’t have the privilege of being white male cis. Be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And women and minority authors, continue writing your narratives and trying to get them heard, no matter what publishing or the broader culture tries to tell you about their worth. Keep fighting the good fight, for your stories deserve to be told and heard.

Review: Five Dances with Death by Austin Briggs

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I’m on a quest to read as much Aztec-related fiction as I can find, to get a feel for what other authors have done and learn a bit–to help me in my own writing–and since much of it doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, I’d like to start reviewing these works I read on the blog. I’d like to do one a month if possible, and if you know of any books you’d like to see reviewed, drop me a line–even if its your own book (though I’ll make no promises to review it). To get started, I’m going to reprint some reviews I’ve already posted on Goodreads.

Mostly I will focused on how well authors use the source materials of the mythology and history versus stereotype, but writing style and skill will be addressed as well when necessary; after all, poor writing can kill even the most intriguing of ideas. I’m not making distinctions between traditionally-published books and self-published ones; I’ll read either kind.

So, without further ado, onto the review!

Five Dances with Death

Title: Five Dances With Death

Author: Austin Briggs

Publisher: Helvetica House (sp)

Pub Date: 2011

258 pages

My rating:  5 stars

Genre: historical fantasy

From the back cover:

In the days before the Conquistadors, Xicotencatl (Angry Wasp) is fighting to keep his family and his small Aztec nation alive.

Slavers have kidnapped his daughter. His wife has turned to powerful sorcery. His people have challenged Montezuma’s dominance and now face extinction. And the Spaniards have begun their march inland.

Now Wasp must rely on his military prowess, wit and even dark magic to regain his family and protect the independence of his nation, as he begins a desperate journey that will forever change the fate of the Aztec people.

I wasn’t expecting much going into this, with it being self-published and all, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I don’t have much trust in the quality of self-published stuff, but I’m willing to give anything about Aztec history and mythology a chance, so I downloaded a sample to see if it was something I could like. The writing style and pacing convinced me to buy. And I ended up quite enthralled with it.

Really, there’s isn’t much to not like about this book. The research shines through elegantly and is rarely delivered in clunky ways; it pretty much blends seamlessly in with the story. I wasn’t overly fond of Angry Wasp in the beginning and there are some inconsistencies with his character (like him having no concept of rape as a tool of power…yeah, not buying that. He’s a man of power who’s fought in many wars and seen horrible things. Him not agreeing with its use, yes, but not realizing it could be used that way, no.), but he grew on me after a while. At no point did I feel bored with the story and was disappointed that there was no more for me to read once I got to the end.

I would have preferred the author use the actual Nahuatl names for the cities and the historical characters, such as Moctezuma the Younger and Cuauhtemoc, but being familiar with the names, it’s just a personal preference. I would have also have preferred to get the full 5 parts in one book rather than broken up, since this really isn’t a very long novel, and if each part is a similar length, it’s still nowhere near as long as Aztec. It does break at a good point though, and I will be looking for the rest of the installments.

Finally, the author calls this a “paranormal”, but I think it’s closer to fantasy than paranormal. The magic is concrete with rules governing it, and it’s taken as matter-of-fact and accepted in the culture as portrayed. And Angry Wasp uses it a lot and gets himself in trouble with it. And the god Tezcatlipoca is an actual character in the book. It might be nitpicking, but it’s the difference between say X-Files (paranormal) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (fantasy). I don’t mind that it’s more fantasy than paranormal, since I love fantasy and am more inclined towards it than paranormal, so the fantasy elements didn’t in any way impeded my enjoyment of the book. If anything they enhanced it.

Note: the author was planning four more installments when I first read this, but in the three years since then, there’s been no movement on that front. Readers should be aware that this is not a complete story, so it might not appeal to those who are wary of incomplete series. I’m still hopeful that Briggs will continue the series at some point in time.

Ten Books…For Your Holiday Shopping List

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Everyone’s been doing this meme about 10 books that have stuck with you, but I don’t like to play by memes. However, with the holiday season upon us, perhaps you’re looking for books to buy for your book-loving friends or loved ones, or even for yourself (because you’re going to need that escape from the realities of holiday stress), so I give you ten books I’d like to promote. I may or may not have read them, but this is the season for giving, and authors need as much exposure as they can get. So, onto the books!

Channel Zilch by Doug Sharp

From the publisher’s website: Stealing a space shuttle was the easy part.

“Hel claims that her hacker friends are a bunch of freaking geniuses. A Sidewinder up the tailpipe would be a brutal way to learn that Hel overestimates her geek pals’ expertise.”

Channel ZilchFired by NASA for stunt-flying a space shuttle during re-entry, ex-astronaut Mick Oolfson now spends his unhappy days spraying manure over soybeans from his ailing DC3, dreaming of returning to space. So when testosterone-surfing geek goddess Heloise Chin offers him an astronaut gig on Channel Zilch, a pirate orbiting reality show, Mick jumps at the chance. What Heloise doesn’t mention is that the dream gig involves stealing the space shuttle Enterprise.

Getting back into space is worth a little risk, but Mick never signed on for Russian gangsters and nightmare journeys on reeking Turkish freighters. He also didn’t expect Tobias Ishwald, the relentless head of NASA Security—and the man who got him canned—to try to ruin his dreams a second time. Trusting Hel will probably get him killed, but with a little fancy flying Mick just might see the stars again.

A near-future, hard-science thriller with heart and purpose, CHANNEL ZILCH is a smart, fast-moving adventure you won’t soon forget.

I had the privilege of reading this book in my critique group and I can tell you it is a quirky riot. Doug and I went to Clarion West together back in 2002, and what makes this book so special is that it’s proof of Doug’s indomitable spirit. You see, Doug suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Central Pain Syndrome, which can make life a living hell for those afflicted with it, but he hasn’t let this stop him from achieving his dreams of publication. He wrote at length about his struggles to write this book over at John Scalzi’s Big Idea, and you should know that a portion of every book sale goes to the Central Pain Syndrome Foundation, for research for a cure.

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Indiebound

The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney

From the publisher’s website: For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….

Golden CityWhen her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana survives because of her heritage, but she is forced to watch her only friend die.

Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….

I’ve started reading this one but like so often happens, it’s been temporarily set aside because I have writing to do (I don’t read books while I’m working on a novel). What I have read so far is fantastic, and historical fans will really appreciate the vivid attention to detail in this alternate Portugal.

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Divinity and the Python by Bonnie Randall

From the publisher’s website: “The driver’s window—perfectly intact when she and Andrew had arrived this morning—was now a shattered chrysanthemum of broken glass, and a weapon, a hammer, hung like a calling card from the frame. She grabbed her cell. Their quarry was clearly on the loose. Finger on speed dial, she reached with her free hand for the hammer.”

Divinity and the PythonThe Python is the hottest nightclub in freezing Edmonton: all skin, no substance, and definitely no spirituality. Bartender Shaynie Gavin knows better—all things have a soul, and on an evening she’s come to call Hellnight, The Python left a dark stain on hers. Now Shaynie’s moving into another place that’s more than what it seems—Divinity, the old morgue she’s refurbished into a Tarot lounge. With all her passion focused on launching the venture, Shaynie is rattled when Divinity appears to orchestrate a connection between her and superstitious hockey star Cameron Weste.

Shaynie’s reaction is nothing compared to The Python’s. Vandalism, violence, an omniscient stalker— the parallels to her lost, bloody Hellnight in the club are unmistakable. But equally undeniable is the protection emanating from her old morgue.

All things have a soul, and Divinity’s seems aligned with Shaynie’s own—but whose is twinned with the Python? As Shaynie starts hunting her stalker, it’s clear only one soul will survive.

A fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, supernatural mystery, “Divinity and The Python” grips the reader from the first page to the shattering climax.

I haven’t had a chance to start this one yet, but man, that’s an awesome title! And the cover is beautiful, a kind of Stephen King/Harry Potter mash-up. As I understand it, it’s a kind of urban fantasy/paranormal romance story, with hockey and buildings possessed of spirits both good and evil. So if you’re a fan of either urban fantasy or paranormal romance, but are growing tired of the same old tropes, this could be the right book for you; in fact, I’m so not a fan of UF or PR because of those tropes of vampires and werewolves, and I picked this up because it didn’t have any of that.

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Indiebound

The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin

From the publisher’s website: Former Emperor’s consort Ling Suyin is renowned for her beauty; the ultimate seductress. Now she lives quietly alone–until the most ruthless warlord in the region comes and steals her away….

Dragon and the PearlLi Tao lives life by the sword, and is trapped in the treacherous, lethal world of politics. The alluring Ling Suyin is at the center of the web. He must uncover her mystery without falling under her spell–yet her innocence calls out to him. How cruel if she, of all women, can entrance the man behind the legend….

Jeannie Lin writes historical romance set in Tang Dynasty China for Harlequin, and everything she writes is absolutely top-notch; there is not a single book/story she’s written that I didn’t like, but of all of them, this one is my most favorite. It defied my expectations on many levels; the hero was a character I’d absolutely loathed from a previous novel, and yet here Lin turned him into my favorite hero of all her books–so weird, huh? While reading Butterfly Swords, I found myself muttering, “OMG, someone kill him please!” but once I was through with this book, I couldn’t even fathom why I had ever thought that. Plus the heroine is not what you think she is…. The cultural immersion is really fantastic here as well. If you’re a historical romance fan and you haven’t read Jeannie Lin yet, why are you wasting your time reading this blog? Go and buy her entire backlist and binge on it like I did when I first found her last year.

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Indiebound

Aegean Dream by Dario Ciriello

From the publisher’s website: A true story set on Greece’s real ‘Mamma Mia’ island of Skopelos.

Aegean DreamComic and tragic by turns, Aegean Dream is a story of love, resilience, and the power of friendship. A compelling window on the daily life of a small Greek island and the spirit of its people, this book also provides striking insights into the broken institutions that would soon shake the entire global economy.

– What’s it really like to live on a tiny Greek island?
– Why is the Greek economy so messed up?
– What IS ‘The Secret’?
…and what do mysterious skulls, Russian prostitutes, President Bush the elder, and Pierce Brosnan have to do with it all?

Dario Ciriello’s ‘Aegean Dream’. All story. All true.

Dario and I went to Clarion West together too, and we’ve kept in touch since then, first with our critique group Written in Blood (which he started) and most recently with his publishing venture Panverse Publishing. A few years back, he decided to pursue his dream of living on a Greek island, so he and his wife moved to Skopelos; Aegean Dream is the story of that journey, and it’s compelling as all-hell; you will laugh, you will cry, you’ll wish you were there, you’ll feel glad you aren’t. I read it for critique while on a camping trip in mosquito hell in the mountains, on a stack of paper printed out in trade paperback format, and I pretty much forgot I was in Colorado instead of the Mediterranean for the duration of that trip. A good one for non-fiction fans who like good human drama.

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Obsidian and Blood by Aliette de Bodard

From the publisher’s website: A massive fantasy omnibus containing all three novels in the Obsidian and Blood series:

SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD
Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Obsidian and BloodHARBINGER OF THE STORM
The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.

MASTER OF THE HOUSE OF DARTS
The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming…

The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere forty prisoners of war – not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favor of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, ACATL, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.

Yes, this is actually three novels in one, and they are near and dear to my heart, for obvious reasons. Aliette is a dear friend and a member of my critique group Written In Blood, so I got to see all three of these books at the pre-publication stage. We often complain that fantasy is very white and western in flavor, but Aliette’s Obsidian and Blood series takes you outside that pseudo-European zone and plunks you down in the middle of something you’ve probably not read before. For those who’ve read The Bone Flower Throne but not any of Aliette’s novels, our books might share a similar cultural setting, but they are very different types of stories. If you like mysteries in unfamiliar settings, you would probably like these books; if you like fantasy following the lives of non-European characters, you’d probably like these books; if you like to mix the two, jackpot.

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Strangers in the Land by Stant Litore

From the publisher’s website: Stant Litore’s The Zombie Bible retells biblical tales and ancient history as episodes in humanity’s long struggle with hunger … and with the hungry dead.

Strangers in the LandFour must stand against the dead. The aging prophetess Devora. Hurriya, the slave girl. Zadok, a legend among warriors. And the widower Barak, who has sworn to defend his homeland from a migration of walking corpses greater than has ever been seen.

Devora is all too familiar with the unclean dead. She was there when her mother was pulled screaming from her tent by zombies. And when her mother rose, famished for flesh, it was Devora’s hand that ended her hunger. Now Devora has struck an uneasy alliance with those she fears most among the living. Yet the strangers in the land must stand together if they are to rid the land of its curse.

I’m no usually a fan of zombies–never even had any desire at all to watch The Walking Dead or the plethora of other zombie movies or shows out there–but this one drew my curiosity because it’s not post-apocalyptic, but rather historical. And anyone who knows me knows that history is my thing. Stant and I were on a panel together at MileHiCon this last October, on Non-Western Fantasy, and when I heard he was writing Bible stories with zombies, I knew I had to give it a try and see what the angle is (and it turns out it’s really quite interesting). I’m not finished with this book yet, but so far it rocks. He has a newer one out, that 47 North is releasing as a weekly e-serial through Amazon, and for US readers it’s only $1.99.

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The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg

From the author’s website: Anne de Vernase rejoices that she has no talent for magic. Her father’s pursuit of depraved sorcery has left her family in ruins, and he remains at large, convicted of treason and murder by Anne’s own testimony. Now, the tutors at Collegia Seravain inform her that her gifted younger sister has died in a magical accident. It seems but life’s final mockery that cool, distant Portier de Savin-Duplais, the librarian turned royal prosecutor, arrives with the news that the king intends to barter her hand in marriage.

Soul MirrorAnne recognizes that the summoning carries implications far beyond a bleak personal future – and they are all about magic. Merona, the royal city, is beset by plagues of rats and birds, and mysterious sinkholes that swallow light and collapse buildings. Whispers of hauntings and illicit necromancy swirl about the queen’s volatile sorcerer. And a murder in the queen’s inner circle convinces Anne that her sister’s death was no accident. With no one to trust but a friend she cannot see, Anne takes up her sister’s magical puzzle, plunging into the midst of a centuries-old rivalry and coming face-to-face with the most dangerous sorcerer in Sabria. His name is Dante.

This is actually the second book in the Collegia Magica series, but it’s my favorite of the three. I do think it stands well enough on its own that it’s not entirely necessary to start with the first book The Spirit Lens, but a reader will get so much more out of this book if they do. Carol has been writing a wide variety of fantasy for Roc for a number of years now and everything of hers that I’ve read is very good, so you couldn’t go wrong picking anything from her backlist. She also has a new series coming out in August of next year.

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Oz Reimagined, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen

From the publisher’s website: FOREWORD BY GREGORY MAGUIRE, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF WICKED.

When L. Frank Baum introduced Dorothy and friends to the American public in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz became an instant, bestselling hit. Today the whimsical tale remains a cultural phenomenon that continues to spawn wildly popular books, movies, and musicals. Now, editors John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen have brought together leading fantasy writers such as Orson Scott Card and Seanan McGuire to create the ultimate anthology for Oz fans – and, really, any reader with an appetite for richly imagined worlds. Stories include:

  • Oz ReimaginedFrank Baum’s son has the real experiences that his father later fictionalized in Orson Scott Card’s “Off to See the Emperor.”
  • Seanan McGuire’s “Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust” finds Dorothy grown up, bitter, and still living in Oz. And she has a murder to solve – assuming Ozma will stop interfering with her life long enough to let her do her job.
  • In “Blown Away,” Jane Yolen asks: What if Toto was dead and stuffed, Ozma was a circus freak, and everything you thought you knew as Oz was really right here in Kansas?
  • “The Cobbler of Oz” by Jonathan Maberry explores a Winged Monkey with wings too small to let her fly. Her only chance to change that rests with the Silver Slippers.
  • In Tad Williams’s futuristic “The Boy Detective of Oz,” Orlando investigates the corrupt Oz simulation of the Otherland network.

And more…

Some stories are dystopian…Some are dreamlike…All are undeniably Oz.

Includes stories by these authors: Dale Bailey, Orson Scott Card, Rae Carson, David Farland, C.C. Finlay, Jeffrey Ford, Theodora Goss, Simon R. Green, Kat Howard, Ken Liu, Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Rachel Swirsky, Robin Wasserman, Tad Williams, Jane Yolen

I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading short fiction in the last couple of years, so I haven’t read this, but many of these stories sound pretty interesting, and there’s some quality names attached to them. I just might have to give it a try myself. Doug Cohen is a good friend who used to be an editor with Realms of Fantasy and he’s since turned his attention to his own writing, but I’m glad to see him still keeping a foot in the editing hot-tub, and especially pleased to see him pairing up with the already fantastic anthologist John Joseph Adams. This one is sure to be a winner.

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One Night with the Laird by Nicola Cornick

From the publisher’s website: Can true love be born from scandal?

One Night with the LairdShe is young and beautiful and fashionable, Edinburgh’s most flirtatious hostess. But within the merry widow beats a grieving heart. Lady Mairi mourns the husband she lost two years before—and no matter how accomplished a lover Jack Rutherford may be, their wanton night together was an encounter of the body only, and Lady Mairi would prefer to forget it.

But when Mairi is threatened by a blackmailer, Jack is the only man who can protect her. As they work together to uncover where the danger lies, their passion reignites. Little by little, the masks they wear burn away, and their most private secrets come to light….

This post is actually the first time I’ve heard of this book, so you’re probably asking why it’s here. Well, I decided to reserve one slot on this list for a book by one of my twitter followers, picked at random; I closed my eyes and scrolled through the follower list, and after several times of landing on folks who either weren’t writers, or were writers but had no books published, I landed on Nicola, who–to my joy–writes historical romance for Harlequin. Historical romance is the only genre of romance I read, and I haven’t heard of Nicola before, so I’m going to give her a try; and, in my experience, 9 times out of 10, Harlequin puts out good, entertaining reads.

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