So many things to do/read!

My awesome rep from Orbit brought this little goodie in for me yesterday!

I’d actually asked him for it a while back – but I don’t like to complain 😉

Unfortunately I can’t start it right away. This weekend I need to finish a beta read for an awesome Aussie author, I want to make more headway into ToM and I need to nail chapter 37 of my own nightmare book, as well jump back into Azeroth and try and get more quests done so I can get my Loremaster achievement before Cataclysm comes out.

I’m also ‘reading’ Side Jobs, and want to finish The Quantum Thief so I can get onto Corvus, Before They are Hanged and Crown of Crystal Flame.

So many things to do… work is so overrated 😛

Worldbuilder

From the Archives:

The Heart of the Mirage
Mirage Makers #1
by Glenda Larke
BUY IT

One of the things that excites me about a writer is when life philosophies – whether the author’s own or not – and personal wisdom, insightful commentaries and generosity (or even meaness) of spirit is fleshed out in distinctive characterisation that has the story, as well as the characters, leaping off the page. Coupled with an amazingly vivid world that has been painstakingly constructed, yet is expressed with such ease that it never overwhelms, but rather creeps up on you, Larke has granted the reader a near-perfect escape into a breathtaking adventure.

Heart of the Mirage is so real, your pulse will race and your breath catch as nail-biting tension and hard-hitting action abound, giving you a book that takes hold of your heart and mind.

Set in an empire that spans the known world, the Exaltarch rules Tyr with an iron fist of devastating military might and socially unjust laws that are hidden behind the veil of ‘civilisation’. Among the Empire’s many enforcers, none are more feared than the secretive Brotherhood, a legion of spies and interrogators whose word is law.

Ligea Gayed is one of the Brotherhood’s most successful agents. Though not a native Tyran by birth, she has lived a privileged life as the adopted daughter of the Empire’s most celebrated General. In a world ruled by men, she has left behind a legion of enemies because she is an educated woman, a foreigner and has a preternatural ability to always know when she hears a lie. Having been crafted unknowingly, by both her father and the Exaltarch, as a secret weapon of retribution for their most humiliating military defeat, she is sent to her native homeland of Kardiastan to find a rebel leader and bring him to Imperial justice and in so doing, betray her native heritage. But the long sands of the Kardiastan Shiver Barrens hold many secrets and ancient powers and a separate destiny awaits her that has little to do with the honour of the Tyranian Empire.

Larke has composed a compelling tale of duty, honour and redemption set in a Byzantine empire filled with betrayal, passion and greed. There are only a few Australian writers, I believe, that can stand up against the big international ‘name’ authors. And yes, by now I have reviewed at least one book by each. So let me add Ms Larke to that illustrious, but short, list. To my mind, Larke’s self-assurance, insight and guts – much in the traditon of Robin Hobb, Carol Berg and even Elizabeth Moon – firmly places her on the list as one of the very best Australian writers of fantasy fiction.

I’m such a Geek

I play World of Warcraft.

Not as much as I used to – hell if I was raiding like I used I would not have hit the 220,000 word mark on my manuscript (but that’s another post entirely).

But I do play, I’m still an Officer in a Raiding Guild (albeit one who is an ‘administrator’ rather than raider) and I am 37 quests of my Loremaster achievement – which I have to get before the cataclysm expansion comes out in December.

What does this have to do with books?

Well…. we received in the shop today The Shattering by Christie Golden, a World of Warcraft novel and prelude to the events of the Cataclysm!

Squee!

So, now I am finishing The Blade Itself asap and starting The Shattering! 😀

If you ask, she will answer

The Steerswoman’s Road
By Rosemary Kirstein
BUY IT

When the steerswoman Rowan discovers a small, lovely blue jewel of obviously magical origin, her innocent questions lead to secret after startling secret, each more dangerous than the last—and suddenly Rowan must flee or fight for her life. Or worse, she must lie.

With every wizard in the world searching for her, Rowan finds unexpected assistance. A chance-met traveler turned friend, Bel is a warrior-poet, an Outskirter, and a member of a barbaric and violent people. Or, so it would seem.

For Bel, unknowing, possesses secrets of her own: secrets embedded in her culture, in her people, in the very soil of her homeland. From the Inland Sea to the deadly Outskirts, surrounded by danger and deceit, Rowan and Bel uncover more and more of the wizards’ hidden knowledge. As the new truths accumulate, they edge closer to the single truth that lies at the center, the most unexpected secret of them all. . . .

If you ask a Steerswoman (and some Steersmen) a question, any question, she will answer. If a Steerswoman asks you a question, any question, you must reply. A Steerswoman will speak only the truth to you (provided she knows the truth) and you must do the same for her. If you refuse to answer her question, you will be placed under the Steerswomen’s Ban and no Steerswoman will answer your questions – ever. So for centuries, the Steerswomen – questioning, searching, investigating – have slowly learned more and more about the world through which they wander, the Inner Lands. All the knowledge that the Steerswomen possess is given freely to those who ask and they have assisted mankind’s expansion through the land, pushing their boundaries – physical and mental – ever outward.

This is an interesting world and the reader would be easily forgiven for assuming it was medieval. I did. But as the story unfolds, it turns out that the Inner Lands are far more than they seem. I find myself pausing here, wondering just how much I can say without venturing into the dreaded realm of the spoiler. It’s not so much that I’m worried about giving away huge twists in the plot, but rather that I don’t want to spoil Kirstein’s wonderful way with the slow reveal. One thing this book is not is high fantasy. From the blurb on the back, you may think so, but no it’s not. This by no mean detracts from the story. In fact, when it took such a dramatic turn from what I was expecting, I was too caught up in the tales unfolding to care.

Let me explain. You see, Steerswomen are not the only holders of knowledge. Other men and women (called wizards by the people) hold sway over a knowledge that gives them miraculous powers. Called magic, the wizards won’t share their knowledge. For centuries, they have been under the Steerswomen’s Ban for refusing to answer the Steerswomen’s questions. So when the Steerswoman Rowan begins to search for the origin of a small blue jewel that hints at the magical, her questions spark a chain of events that see the wizards of the Inner Lands seeking her death. The precise sets of questions and formulae used by Steerswomen to draw the truth out of story and observation are part of what made this book so appealing to me. Moving through a world with no means of instant communication, Steerswomen rely on highly trained powers of deduction, matched with a broad education in basic science and the principles of logic.

Part adventure, part detective story, this book is a fantastic read that actually kept me up till the wee hours. Kirstein displays a great sense of plotting, vivid characterisation and sets her tale to explore contemporary themes.

Hurry up with the rest of the series Ms Kirstein – please!

Snippets

From the Archives:

The Fall of Lautun
Arrandin Trilogy Book 3
by Marcus Herniman.
In this triumphant conclusion to The Arrandin Trilogy, the author completes the weaving of his tale with a sure hand. The stirring of the Ancient Enemy gathers in strength and armies of the Souther Empire threaten the Six Kingdoms from across the sea, while the movement of the Vashtar priesthood to eradicate the worship of the elder gods gathers momentum, spilling over into the enclaves of the Mage Council itself.
Kellarn and his companions continue to search for the pieces of the Old World weapon that, once united, will give the Lautun Empire a chance to defeat the Enemy and his minions.

Mage Councillor Rhysana continues on the path to discovering the key to the teachings of Archmage Illana, which will unlock access to a magic unseen since the Golden Age of the Council.

This is a great story and I can’t wait for more from Mr Herniman.

Gilfeather
The Isles of Glory Book 2
by Glenda Larke.

The second book in the Isles of Glory Trilogy continues Blaze Halfbreed and Flame Windrider’s dangerous quest to rid the Isles of the evil dunmaster Morthred.

Picking up where we left off in The Aware, Larke introduces us to a new character, Kelwyn Gilfeather, whose remarkable gifts in sensing both Sylv and Dun magic make him as impervious to both as one of the Aware folk.

In this book, Larke reveals more of the Isles unique and treacherous beauty, while the sharp prose and witty dialogue creates a steady pace that moves this unique story along without a hitch. This is a great series and quite different to your run-of-the-mill quest Fantasy.

Hold on to your hats!

From the Archives

To Ride Hell’s Chasm
by Janny Wurts
BUY IT

A stand-alone novel – written by Wurts while taking a break from the mammoth Wars of Light and Shadow series – this rollercoaster of intrigue and mystery is not a book you could call a light read. Set over the period of one week, so much happens in this novel that you question just how much you can fit into one day! The Kingdom of Sessalie is a land-locked mountain Kingdom that longs for an outlet to the sea. To this end, its King and Chancellor have arranged a marriage for Princess Anja with the High Prince of Devall, which will give Sessalie access to Devall’s seaport, as well as offer a Royal Alliance between the realms. As Devall’s High Prince arrives for his upcoming nuptials, the city opens its arms in welcome and wild celebration. But when Princess Anja suddenly disappears before her betrothal banquet, King Isendon assigns the task of recovering his missing daughter to two men – and for them to determine if she has been kidnapped or has simply run off.

The warriors charged with recovering the kingdom’s beloved daughter are Taskin, Commander of the Royal Guard, and Mykkael, Captain of the Garrison. As the Crown’s right-hand man, Taskin’s competence and lifelong record of service to the Kingdom has earned him the respect and support of the court. Mykkael, though, is a stranger. He is unproven and new to the post of Captain and to the Kingdom itself; though he is a veteran soldier with a legendary reputation in the field of combat, his foreign breeding is held in suspicion by court society. As the princess’s trail vanishes outside the citadel’s gates, anxiety and tension escalate. Wurts’ masterful use of language, rhythm and pace grabs hold of the reader and doesn’t let go! Mykkael’s investigations lead him to a radical explanation for the mystery, but he finds himself under suspicion from the court factions. It remains to be seen whether Commander Taskin’s famous fair-mindedness will be enough to unravel the truth behind the garrison captain’s dramatic theory (that the resourceful, high-spirited princess was not taken by force, but rather fled the palace to escape a demonic evil?)

Wurts writing is always multi-layered. On the surface, you have the intriguing mystery and the engaging adventure, as well as vivid descriptions and superb characterisation that create a real world and believable characters. Every character you encounter has their own insight and vision. Limited or experienced, their passionate views and choices are woven seamlessly into the tale, with high-stakes action and more than survival set on the outcome. Below the surface of this high fantasy adventure, there is the opportunity for the reader to explore – in as little or as much depth as they wish – larger questions that are as pertinent to our own society today as they are in this medieval fantasy setting: Where does the right and true course of the warrior lie, when the man bearing both sword and responsible knowledge must tread a collision course between the ethics of human justice and law, when not all things are as they appear and the disappearance of a young princess catapults a small kingdom into a crisis beyond precedent? This book is a fantastic read. Each time I re-read it, I pick up more. It is also the perfect place for anyone new to Wurts writing to jump on board.

Enjoy the ride!