Monthly Archives: April 2014

Talus and the Frozen King

talus_and_the_frozen_king_250x384Talus and the Frozen King
Graham Edwards
mass market paperback, 336 p., $7.99
ebook $6.99 Kindle Nook

Talus and the Frozen King is the start of a new series, and one that I’m looking forward to. It’s a genre blending work of heroic fantasy and mystery.

The hero, known only as Talus, is a wandering bard. He and his companion Bran are looking for the source of what we would call the Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights. They enter a village on the island of Creyak, where they discover that the king has been murdered, his body left out in the cold and frozen.

Because of the timing of their visit, they aren’t allowed to leave. The king left behind six sons. Each of them had a motive to commit murder. Continue reading

And Now the Award Shortlist You’ve All Been Waiting For

I’m referring, of course, to the David Gemmell Awards.

david gemmell

David Gemmell

What, you were expecting a different award?  Everyone around here knows that the only awards worth paying attention to are the Gemmell, the Shamus, and in a good year, the World Fantasy Awards.

The shortlists are as follows (I’ll comment at the end): Continue reading

Walk the Path of Anger

The Path of AngerThe Path of Anger
Antoine Rouaud
Tom Clegg, trans.
paperback L14.99 UK
$11.38 US (pre-order, pub. date Aug 14, 2014)

The Path of Anger is an impressive debut. Antoine Rouaud has created an enthralling novel in which the things you think you know aren’t necessarily so.

The Empire has fallen. In its place the Republic has risen. This doesn’t sit well with everyone. For instance, the Fangolin monks don’t like it since people are choosing not to follow their teachings anymore. One of those beliefs is that the destiny of mankind has been recorded in a book, a book that has been lost for centuries. The very concept of free will is frowned upon.

Dun-Cadal Daermon was a general in the Imperial army, some would say the greatest of his generation, who devoted his life to defending the Empire and his Fangolin faith.. Now he spends his time in taverns getting drunk in the southern city of Masalia where he mourns the fall of the Empire and the death of his apprentice, waiting to die. He was rumored to have stolen the Emperor’s sword when the Empire fell. From time to time he sends treasure hunters to the eastern parts of the kingdom, telling him that’s where he’s hidden it.

The book opens with an attractive young historian from the capital finding him. She’s also interested in the sword. But her interest goes far beyond treasure hunting. At first Dun-Cadal tries to brush her off.

There’s a major holiday coming up, though, and this year all the representatives are meeting in Masalia. Dun-Cadal realizes he knows many of them. They were once the generals and nobles who fought alongside him trying to preserve the Empire. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Mostly.

No sooner do the representatives begin arriving than they start dying. Someone dressed as the late Emperor’s personal assassin is targeting them. The post of assassin was one Dun-Cadal held before being promoted to general.

Now Dun-Cadal finds himself being drawn back into battle. He may get his death wish sooner than he thought. Continue reading

I Look at Lilith by George MacDonald

Lilith Back Cover HRMy latest post of Black Gate on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series is George MacDonald’s Lilith.  This one is an allegory that has some really weird passages in it.

The book also had a major influence on C. S. Lewis.  There’s some speculation that MacDonald’s use of mirrors to travel to other worlds may have influenced The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.   And of course, MacDonald was friends with Lewis Carroll, so Alice may have influenced George.

Blogging Northwest Smith: Nymph of Darkness

Gosh Wow“Nymph of Darkkness”
C. L. Moore

For years, “Nymph of Darkness” was one of the rarest Northwest Smith stories. The reason was because C. L. Moore refused to give permission for the story, first published in 1935, to be reprinted. It wasn’t until the 1981 Worldcon that she relented. The first book reprinting occurred the following year in Gosh! Wow! Sense of Wonder, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman.

Ackerman, it turns out co-wrote the story with Moore, although she retained 75% of the rights, meaning it wouldn’t be reprinted without her permission. A technicality in the copyright for the story actually allowed it to be reprinted once against her wishes.

“Nymph of Darkness” first appeared in Fantasy Magazine in April 1935 and was later reprinted in Weird Tales in the December 1939 issue. It wasn’t included when most of the other stories were published in the 1950s by Gnome Press.

I’m not sure why Moore didn’t allow for its reprinting. The story, in my mind at least, is a good story. It’s not as long as most of the others, but still, it’s solid. Continue reading

RIP, Miguel Martins

Al and Miguel

Al Harron (left) and Miguel Martins atop Caddo Peak, Howard Days 2011

I’ve begun to hear from people in Robert E. Howard fandom that Miguel Martins has passed away.  I don’t have any details at this time.

I only met Miguel once, at Howard Days in 2011.  I liked him immediately.  Miguel was one of the first people to follow this blog.  When I met him, he complemented me on it.  That meant a lot to me, as I had been blogging for less than a year, and at one point a few months prior I had considered shutting it down.

This was the year that the Conan movie was released.  Miguel asked for my thoughts after a presentation on the movie Saturday afternoon at Howard Days.  I was somewhat caught offguard and babbled something.  It couldn’t have been too incoherent because Miguel took a drag on his cigarette and gave a reply that showed he had listened and seriously considered what I’d said.  That also meant a lot to me because I wasn’t as involved in Howard fandom then as I am now.  Someone who was much more involved wanted to know what I thought, and listened carefully.

Saturday evening at Howard Days is the barbeque and hike up Caddo Peak for those willing to brave the heat, the snakes, the prickly pear, and the steep climb.  I climbed the peak with Al Harron and Miguel.  We had a great time, managed to avoid any snakes and the copious thorns on the prickly pears that covered the top of the peak.  They asked me to take a picture of them, which I did.  It’s the one at the top of this post.  It was one of the best years as far as company on the hike, and company in general, was concerned.

I didn’t hear from Miguel after that, and he drifted away from Howard fandom over the next few years.  Since he was from France, I wasn’t surprised that I never saw him at Howard Days again, although I always hoped he’d be back.  Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Jeff Shanks has posted a tribute here.  Al Harron’s is here.  Barbara Barrett’s is here.  I’ll post other links as I become aware of them.

Graveyard Rats for Kuttner’s Birthday

kuttnerHenry Kuttner was born on this date in 1915.  His first published story was “The Graveyard Rats”, which appeared in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales.  It has been reprinted at least 35 times, the latest being in Zombies from the Pulps, edited by Jeffrey Shanks, which where I recently reread it.Zombies from the Pulps Front cover

Kuttner started out as part of the Lovecraft circle, and “The Graveyard Rats” is very much in the vein of Lovecraft.  The story concerns Masson, a gravedigger in an old cemetery in Salem.  The man has a profitable little sideline going, digging up the bodies and removing any valuables buried with them.  The problem is the rats which infest the graveyard.  They’ve dug a series of tunnels and steal the bodies themselves.

When the rats literally pull a fresh corpse out of the coffin and into the tunnels as Masson is opening the coffin lid, he decides to follow them in and retrieve his prize.  This isn’t the smartest move he could have made…

Terror in the HouseKuttner became a prolific author, writing some of his best work for Weird Tales, Astounding, and Thrilling Wonder.  He wasn’t afraid to take chances and stretch himself as a writer and wrote horror, fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fiction, and mystery.  After his marriage to C. L. Moore, the two collaborated on almost everything they wrote.

Haffner Press has been bringing Kuttner back into print, but even so, there are a number of his stories that are still in crumbling pulp magazines that deserve to be reprinted.  I’ll be looking at some of those tales later this year.

The Enemy Within is a Taut Political Thriller

Enemy-Within-ebook-cover-lighter-webThe Enemy Within
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing
Trade Paper/ebook $18.99/$7.99, 290 pp.

I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that some of the best writers are those who write in multiple genres. These writers seem to be the most versatile, capable of mixing elements of different genres to create something fresh but with enough elements of the familiar that readers aren’t put off by the new.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is such a writer. She’s written in a number of genres under multiple names. These include science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, thrillers, and romance at all lengths from short stories to novels, both stand alone and long running series. I’m probably leaving something out. What I do know is that I’ve enjoyed and been entertained by almost everything I’ve read that she’s written.

Her latest novel is a blend of mystery, political thriller, and alternate history. It was a compelling read I had trouble putting down. (Because of this blend, I’m posting this review on both my mystery blog and my fantasy blog since it should appeal to readers of both blogs.)

Ms. Rusch takes us back to the early days of 1964. The country is still reeling from the Kennedy assassination. Seamus O’Reilly, a NYPD homicide detective, gets a call in the middle of the night. There’s been a double murder outside a notorious gay night club. The victims? J. Edgar Hoover and his assistant Clyde Tolson. Assigned to the case as the FBI liaison is Frank Bryce. Bryce was once a rising star in the New York branch of the Bureau but lately his star is falling. This case is his chance to redeem himself. Continue reading

Gemmell Award Nominees

I’ve been reading for some reviews that won’t go up for a couple of weeks plus trying to finish George MacDonald’s Lilith, which is my next Ballantine Adult Fantasy post for Black Gate, I’ve not put much up.

Part of the problem is I’ve gotten into the habit of reading more than one book at a time, something I’ve only been doing over the last 6 months.  I’m not sure how I got into the habit, but it’s got to stop.  It feels like it takes forever to finish anything.

thepathofangerWhat’s this got to do with the Gemmell Awards?  Well the nominated I title I requested for review arrived today.  That would be The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud.  I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I’ve just started Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards.  It’s a bronze age murder mystery.  I may put it aside for a day or so to focus on the Gemmell Awards.

I’ve got several titles that are on this year’s ballot sitting on the shelf.  These include The Grim Company (Luke Scull), Herald of the Storm (Richard Ford), Black Sun Light My Way (Jo Spurrier, whose debut novel Winter Be my Shield was one of my favorite reads last year), and The Republic of Thieves (Scott Lynch).  Plus another of my favorites, Promise of Blood (Brian McClellan) was reviewed here recently.

The ballot closes on April 13, so I’m not sure how many of these I’ll be able to finish.  I should be able to finish The Path of Anger at the very least and will try to finish Black Sun Light My Way.  I’ll put a post a brief review at the Gemmell Awards and a more in depth review here.  And while I won’t finish all of them in time to post a review on the Gemmell Awards site, I’ll review all the ones listed above sometime in the next few months.